More on ‘quiet novels’

Last July, I posted a blog bemoaning the fact that agents (and presumably publishers) are so reluctant to ‘take a risk’ on what they call ‘quiet psychological novels’. And lo, three months later I discover author Stephanie Butland blogging “In praise of the Quiet Book” as a guest on Isabel Costello’s pages (see guest author ).

She defines the Quiet Book as follows:

  • A quiet book is one not overburdened with sword fights, car chases, twists or uncanny parallels to whatever is currently preoccupying the news media.
  • If you write a quiet book, publishers are less likely to buy it.
  • If they do buy it, bookshops are less likely to stock it.
  • Which means that readers are less likely to find it.

You’ll notice she said readers are less likely to ‘find’, not ‘buy’. Because it is clear there are many thousands of us out there who love quiet books, and Stephanie’s blog had a huge and enthusiastic response. We want novels that do not try to manipulate our emotions,  but are recognisably about real people living realistic lives.

Furthermore, the conversations between readers and blogger emphasised the importance of character – just as I did in my recent blog ‘Truth and Literary Fiction’, supported by those who commented on it. So it would appear that the ‘quiet’ book has become equated with the ‘literary’. And I suspect that herein lies another of the hidden  barriers to publication.

‘Literary’ to make money for a publisher means prizes. Short-list minimum. And how many of us writers ever dream (for more than a fraction of a second) of winning the Man Booker, or the Costa, or whatever? That’s  not what it’s about. And yet, if a publisher (or agent) simply can’t see big returns on their investment in you, your novel will be rejected because ‘too quiet’ – however beautifully written it is.

Readers who love Quiet Books really do need to make their preferences known. Yes, we don’t like to make a fuss, do we? But my experience yesterday is an encouraging pointer. I took my latest paperback into our local bookshop Mostly Books in Abingdon, and had a warmly supportive chat with the owner, who loves and sells lots of Quiet Books; and then I went into the Library, where I chatted with Lynne Moores, the Manager, who recommended other writers of ‘quiet books’ that I shall try.

So we are not alone. Perhaps together we might make a difference..

About Elizabeth Mapstone

Author of novels, short stories, a self-help book that really works and a serious work on the psychology of argument. Former psychotherapist, now retired and writing fiction.
This entry was posted in books, literary fiction, selfpublishing, writers. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to More on ‘quiet novels’

  1. Thanks for this Elizabeth. And we shouldn’t forget ‘Stoner’ by John Williams. A beautiful quiet book about a quiet man. It took 46 years from publication in 1965 for ‘Stoner’ to be recognised as a masterpiece and become a literary bestseller.


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