It’s all about the money. As any real writer knows, we write because we’re compelled to. I suspect it’s only after someone tastes success that s/he gets cynical enough to write for money. That doesn’t stop agents and publishers from trying, though.
My Medusa novel was under contract with a publisher. This was about five years ago. After dallying around for a couple of years, the publisher cancelled the contract because the editor who’d signed it up had left the press. That’s hardly a legitimate reason; in fact, it defeats the purpose of a book contract all together. I’ve not been able to find another publisher since.
Nearly every rejection letter says something along the lines of “It’s well written, but it’s not for us.” They mean they don’t see enough dollar signs. I’m not naive—I get it. I would, however, appreciate just a little compensation for the hundreds and hundreds of hours I put into my writing. Self-publishing is too much work on top of work. There’s gotta be a small press out there that likes quirky, well-written, unpublishable novels.
I’m not greedy. I do, however, have bills to pay. Long ago I figured out that the only salable talent I possess is my writing. Seems I might’ve been wrong about that. At least according to the publishers that only want material that’ll bring in big bucks.
I have friends who work in publishing. They tell me most houses don’t make their costs back on many books, but a few punch through and make enough to cover themselves and several siblings. The benefit is that it gives authors a chance to be heard. I’m old enough to realize I’ll never get wealthy from my writing, but it would be nice to get a token payment now and again.
The small publishers don’t like to take chances, although a book on the bestseller list these days is called Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World. Just don’t try to get published if you’re one of them. Nobody’s interested unless they think you can make them a mint.