Don't you hate it when you pontificate, and bloviate, and blather on, and get on your high horse - and then you have an experience that makes you wonder if you know anything at all?
Case in point: Agatho and his taste in books.
I'm forever going on about the manuscripts I'd buy and those I'd toss into the trash can - the tendency of some series writers to phone it in - the generally low quality of writing I often see in submissions - the problem of having boring, stereotyped, formulaic characters and plots - [add additional snooty things here].
I just finished a book that had all of these problems. And yet: I loved it. I mean, I couldn't put it down. I finished it in two nights and immediately went to Amazon to buy more books by this particular writer. I thought about contacting him, because I see he has gone the self-published route. But then I saw that he's a co-author of someone who is particularly vociferous about self-publishing and I thought,"No, better not try - I'll just get a diatribe about how he's doing his own thing and why would he want to share the wealth with a publisher?"
ANYWAY. I should have hated it. All the schlocky formula is there, down to the sick kid in Chapter 1. The writing is pedestrian and serviceable. The plot is outlandish. The denouement is like something out of Hollywood 101: It makes absolutely no sense. The characters' motivations are completely unbelievable, as are their actions. The villain is a cartoon.
But the book was EXCITING. It sped me along from chapter to chapter, and within the boundaries of the formulas, I didn't know what was coming next - right up until the last-page zinger, which also made no sense but which I loved. I found a character, early on - not the protagonist - that I completely fell for. So what if she was the stereotypical gutsy female taking the law into her own hands to protect a loved one - She grabbed me and wouldn't let me go. The book is a bit of a chase, so there are several locations, each realized in just enough detail to make me feel like I was there. I didn't want to put the book down until I found what happened next; and sure enough, there was plenty of schmaltz at the end (just before the big twist, which didn't affect the happily-ever-after quality of the protagonist).
So, based on everything I always say, this is the TYPE of book that would cause me to type up a dismissive little rejection letter as I look down my nose at the pile of paper in front of me. But God! How I wish it had come to me. I would have bought it in a heartbeat. The Amazon reviews are strongly 4- and 5-star, for all the reasons I mentioned above. Of course, there are a few 1- and 2-star reviews in there, and any of those could have been written by me, IF I hadn't enjoyed the book so much.
What lesson is learned here? At the end of the day, it's only the manuscript that matters.
ALSO! I had an epiphany about the differences between mass-market formulaic books and trade paperbacks; but more on that next time.