This is going to be a weird blog. At least some people will think so. If you've read the free workshop on my website, HOW TO ANALYZE THE BOOKS YOU READ, you know that I love bad books.
First off, what's bad to one person might not be bad to another. Taste is subjective. (To say the least.)
Second, before the days of indie publishing, even the worst book had been bought by an editor and that meant there was a reason she'd bought that book. I always believed if I could figure out the reason the editor bought the book, I'd also be figuring out one of the things she was "looking for" for her publisher or line.
For instance, decades ago, I read a book I considered dreadful. Though it was a romance, the hero and heroine were barely together. I thought, "Why the heck did this editor buy this book...or maybe why'd he or she publish it as a romance when it was barely a romance."
It was a real stumper until I went to a conference, back in the day when conferences were "the" place to get information, and an editor from this publisher said, "We are looking for angel books. Send us anything you have that has an angel in it." I thought...Bingo. The book I didn't believe was romancy enough had an angel. And apparently angels were selling.
Though it sounds unorthodox, if you're really trying to crack the code of what a publisher is looking for, take a look at the worst reviewed books for that publisher or line. Recognize that a review is just one person's taste. :) But then look for common denominators among those poorly reviewed books. Are they all baby stories? Funny books? Vampires? Dark. Family-oriented. Populated with secondary characters. Or maybe populated only by the hero and heroine?
Whatever the connection THAT'S what that publisher is looking for. Maybe because they see it as the next big thing? Maybe because that's what's selling for them now? Maybe because that was a specific editor's taste? Who knows? LOL Whatever the reason that's what they're buying.
I'm still a firm believer that a writer should never totally diss a bad book. Especially if it's been traditionally published. First, as I said, it may be a great book that you simply don't like -- in which case you can certainly learn from it. But, second, that book may hold the key to the "likes" or "must haves" or "want to sees" for that publisher or line.
Unless you're going indie, we're all trying to please an editor. Any crack in the code is a good one.