Markets would be more rational without human beings: the Dean Koontz Testimony

So I’m re-reading Dean Koontz’s Midnight and there is a new afterword in the mass market paperback version.  It is quite interesting.

According to Koontz, he worked for years as a full-time writer building up his audience.  He had an agent and a publisher who both insisted that he should never expect to write an hardback bestseller because he more “suited” for the paperback market.

Midnight was a bestseller in hardback.  How did his publisher and agent respond?

Koontz recalls that they were both happy for him but they warned him not to get used to it.  They both insisted that it was a fluke.  Don’t get used to it.  Don’t be disappointed if your next book doesn’t make it.  Don’t expect to be able to write another one like this.

Guess what happened to their message after Koontz had repeated his success four more times?

Really.  Guess.

There messages was exactly the same! This is another fluke.  You are better suited to the paperback market.  Don’t expect another hardback bestseller.

Eventually Koontz found another publisher and another agent.

So there it is.  Koontz is making these people money but they would rather have their first impressions of him vindicated than actually encourage him to keep making them money.

The market is not rational because people are not rational.  People do not pursue their best interests.  They’d happily burn their nest, kill the goose that laid the golden egg, saw off the branch they are sitting on, if it means not having to admit they were wrong.

The lessons of this story are numerous.  Young reader, everything your parents have said about you about the importance of a first impression is probably understated.  First impressions are everything.

Why do kids need to move away from home to make something of themselves?  There are a lot of understandable reasons, but this one is more important than anyone acknowledges: You never get to outgrow what people have decided about you when you were a child.  Move on.  Strangers in a strange town are more likely to give you a break.

A prophet is always without honor in his hometown (John 4.44).

In general, if your strategy for success and satisfaction involves changing the opinions that other people hold about you, then you need to change your strategy. Human nature is set against you.  Find people who don’t know you and make a first impression with them.

3 thoughts on “Markets would be more rational without human beings: the Dean Koontz Testimony

  1. Jim

    Midnight? Yuck! Koontz wrote a total of two books. Lightning, and everything else (which is just a rehash of the same typical Koontz elements). 🙂

  2. mark Post author

    I can’t remember which one was Lightning… (His titles don’t really tell you which plot was involved). But I think there has been real diversity. Midnight was different than Mr. Murder, and the Odd Thomas books are different than others, etc.

    Personally, I prefer his late-80s to mid-90s books.

  3. Jim

    Ah. Lightning was the WWII time travel one. My personal favorite (and also the first one I read by him). Other than that I felt he simply rehashed the same plot elements in every story (I stopped reading him after “The Bad Place”).


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