Monday, July 16, 2007

Just whining

Sometimes when in a writing slump, I look to the web for inspiration. Let's see...ah The National Endowment for the Arts! Yes, I think, they usually have something inspiring. I shake my head as I read that more than half of the adults in the United States won't pick up a novel this year. Sonovabitch.

And apparently that rate of decline has tripled in the last ten years.

Hell. You're being published depends, of course, on supply and demand. If there isn't a demand for your type of literature out there, then why should someone invest in your manuscript?

So who reads? The greatest market is composed of married, middle-age career women who make an average of $88,000 a year and have at least a bachelor's degree, says a new survey. This, from the Chicago Sun-Times.

According to the article nearly 43 percent want to write novels as well.

What does this mean for genres such as horror? spy thrillers? Obviously, romance doesn't have to worry. On another blog I bemoaned the amazing amount of fantasy on the shelves and the shrinking numbed of hard science fiction titles. Of course, science fiction and horror have always been marginal, so I'm not really complaining.

So what's on the Barnes and Noble bestsellers' list this week? 1)The Quickie by James Patterson 2) A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini 3)High Noon by Nora Roberts 4)Lean Mean Thirteen by Janet Evanovich 5) The Judas Strain by James Rollins 6) Double Take by Catherine Coulter 7)The Bourne Betrayal by Robert Ludlum 8) The Bungalow 2 by Danielle Steele 9) The Navigator by Clive Cussler 10) The 6th Target by James Patterson

Do you notice how some of these names seem to be on the bestsellers' list over and over again, summer after summer, year after year? New authors have a hard time squeezing in unless the corporations are willing to back them, and to be honest, would you rather back Danielle Steele or Stewart Sternberg. Danielle Steele is going to guarantee you solid sales, regardless of the quality of her fiction. Sternberg? He's going to guarantee you headaches.

It's harder than ever to have a novel published (congrats, Charles), and publishing doesn't mean success. Consider that the average shelf life of a book at your local store is six weeks. Hmmm...for people who read one novel every couple of years, that means they are going to be missing some major titles.

These statistics shouldn't scare writers away from their craft, but it might help them put it in a more realistic perspective. Selling's a bitch. Writing is a business. Be a writer, but be a businessman, or businesswoman. Yeah, go ahead and hold your nose in the air and say something about art. I don't want to hear it.

Save it for creative writing class. Maybe someone there will care. But for most, they aren't publishers, are they?

42 comments:

Vwriter said...

Hello Stewart:

Here's a horrible thought: publishers are publishing what readers want to buy. The idea that they decide what we want to read is a bit weak, and it skirts to easily the core problem that you and I have discussed- that most people don't like to read what today's writers have to write and they don't care as much for our style of writing when it employs outdated models.

Unless writers work at changing what we write and the way we write it, I'm afraid we're indulging in planned obscelence.

I think that in each generation there has to be a re-invention of the craft. The basic elements are always going to be what they have been as it was in the case of Hemingway's time. Under the influence of Gertrude Stein and his own genius, Hemingway re-invented our approach to writing and captivated his audience. H.K. Rowlings and Dan Brown seem to be re-inventing writing in our own times. Neither of them has paid too much attention to old models, although they have taken what they thought would still work in today's times.

Literary merit? Well, not much. But they are successful in our times because they are writing what people want to read (those few that still do so).

If we want to attract more readers, I don't think we have to point the finger at the publishers, I think we've got to point the finger at our own refusal to write what people will want to read. Are there tons of unpublished authors? Sure. Think how many short stories magazines read, then reject. Not a lot of those stories are rejected because they're too good, and I suspect it's the same case with publishing houses.

We might have to face it that we're dealing with a dwindling market because we aren't offering them enough writing horsepower to gain their attention. H.K. Rowlings solved the problem. Dan Brown did, too. We could learn something from them and show publishers enough quality literary dazzle that they'll take a chance. They know the market. They get it. It's the writers who are still a bit fuzzy on the key points.

Carol said...

I love to read, I always have. I am not much of a writer and always have been awed by people who can write and hold the interest of the reader...much like you do here. I am sorry that I don't comment much here when I visit but I am usually tongue-tied by what I read here :))

Stewart Sternberg said...

If I had the time and inclination, I would do a long posting about reading and the advent of the industrial age. I would further examine how advances in media and variety in leisure activity competes with with books for the attention of the average consumer.

I don't know Rick, I don't think it's so much about quality or style as it is about economics. You're comment was correct, that publishers meet demand. However, I believe that it would be naive to cast aside how the handful of enormous publishing houses control the market by creating demand. I believe that some writers were investments. The corporation saw the potential and sank money into lulling along a readership. I'm not saying this happens in each instance, but I believe if you look at that bestseller list, you can see how contrived and manipulated the marketplace can be.

Carol thanks for stopping by and tolerating my rants and paranoiac ramblings.

Will Kinshella said...

Your bitter, cynical, and sadly realistic views have crippled my youthful writer's spirit.
Shame on you Mr. Sternberg.
Shame on you...

Best,

Will.

Wayne Allen Sallee said...

Patterson is writing with someone else, I suspicion his name is simply being plastered on the book. Ludlum still writes after he has been dead several years and is due for a bestseller again soon. Readers buy what they buy because the majority of them cannot think for themselves, sadly.

Vwriter said...

I've been thinking about what you were saying about publishers creating demand, and the difficulty I have with it is that when you look at the dramatic drop- the almost dizzying drop in the sheer number of readers- it's clear that the reverse is true. Publishers can't create a demand for a product that isn't wanted.

As for the market control issue, any writer with $200 can log onto iUniverse.com or any of the other more respectable POD's and be published in a matter of weeks. Their manuscripts will be listed on Amazon.com right beside Patterson and Ludlum (by the way, the Bourne Betrayal wasn't written by Ludlum, but by Eric Van Lustbader). Anyone that wants to buy them can by them.

I believe that most of the writers who have trouble understanding the changing market are men. Women are the new market leaders, and I really believe that we men need to study their techniques and ideas if we want to be relevant.

Sadly, most of the writers I hear railing against "the system" are men. "It's the publishers, they control everything," men say. Male writers, in the main, are becoming less and less relevant as writers. Why? Because, again in the overall, we don't read. Women are far more literate than men. It was Gertrude Stein who steered Hemingway toward economical writing. This mentorship was a foreshadowing of what we might need to do today. Look to the women, because they actually read.

avery said...

I'd say something deep, but, honestly, I've got nothing. The entire scenario makes me tired. Yes, I try to keep in mind the current trends when I write, hoping to draw in those who've already shown an interest in the market, but I can't just shove myself into a preexisting mold on the off chance I might become a bestseller. I don't have that level of conformity in me. Not anymore.

This isn't about art for me. I'm not protecting some lofty ideal. This is about me following my gut and doing what I think needs to be done. I could be wrong, but, hell, I'm sick of listening to everyone else.

SQT said...

I've worked in television and newspaper and I don't believe the publishers are publishing what will sell, they're printing what's "hot" right now. As soon as there is any evidence that something else will become the 'next big thing' they'll jump on that.

I have tried to read "Eragon" a few times and it just plain sucks. But the kid and his dad marketed the hell out of it and convinced publishers it could sell. And then the big marketing machine took over and pushed that thing relentlessly.

TV still puts Jerry Springer on the air despite the fact that it could be easily replace by something better that could (and probably would) get better ratings. I just think no one has cared enough to change anything.

My point it, you'd think public demand would create what sells and what new authors publishers buy. But I don't think so. I think it has to do with whatever the current trend is. I don't think writers should lose heart. But you are going to have to learn to negotiate through a rough industry.

Vwriter said...

Public demand is what sells. If we don't buy it, it doesn't sell.

And, "I don't believe the publishers are publishing what will sell, they're printing what's hot right now." sort of proves the point. "Hot" is what people buy. Publishers that push books that people don't buy are called "bankrupt."

Avery raises a perfectly valid point, and that is that if we're just writing for ourselves and we don't care if we're read, we can ignore readers. We can just follow our guts and write because we think it needs to be done. If we're not able to show readers why they should read what we right, then at least we've been honest and not written for anyone but ourselves and whoever else shows up.

Again, it is usually male writes who take that attitude. But answer me this anyone, don't you think that ties in with why the overwhelming majority of readers are women? Why is it that women writers are succeeding in amazing numbers and men are not? Why don't men read? And women, by the way, don't just succeed in "female" markets, they succeed in "male" markets as well. Male writers by and large, with few exceptions, are failing in both.

Stewart Sternberg said...

Rick, I don't think publishers can whip demand out of the air. However, they know they can create interest within their limited readership. I think thought Wayne Sallee hits closer to the mark. People are sheep.

And yes, I have been researching women's books, as you know, spending a good deal of time trying to see how to take into account a female perspective when I write some of my fiction.

Avery, I think there has to be a compromise between following one's gut and meeting the demands of the market.

SQT, Rick...I think SQT's comment is closer to my mark...it IS possible to create demand. It is why the advertising industry exists. And Rick, I agree with your statement about readership dwindling because of product. Books cost a hell of a lot of money right now and the quality isn't always there. Still, readership is also falling off because of things I mentioned earlier about technology.

I think the elements that affect readership have come together in a literary "perfect storm"

Stewart Sternberg said...

Regarding male writers...Male writers constitute sixty percent of the marketplace. So men aren't doing that poorly.

The question to ask is why women constitute the bulk of readership in our society.

SQT said...

Vwriter, I get what you're saying and mostly agree. I just think publishers will be like tv producers. They will continue with the "hot" trend well beyond the point of when it's selling well. They will take a long time to realize the public is ready for something different and then they will seize onto a new trend.

I don't know if women are buying lots of books because so many are geared to them right now or if women have always been a huge demographic. I would guess it can change though. No doubt Harry Potter changed the young adult sales demographic quite a bit.

Vwriter said...

The market share of male writers has plummeted to sixty percent because women are finally getting access to a marketplace dominated by patriarchal men who were trying to protect their economic turf. Read Mary Shelly's biography if you want to see how much effort women had to put in to get recognized on their own literary merits, not because of who they were married to.

And SQT, I think that the reason more women read and are taking the lead in writing is because they're showing guts. H.K. Rowlings is my hero because she did what Avery said and wrote what she loved, and yet she positioned her style and content to reach out to millions of people. Let me make a confession- as a writer looking to write better and reach more people, I spend less time listening to what male writers suggest and more time following what Oprah posts on her recommended reading list.

Charles Gramlich said...

In a vain attempt not to mention art, I mention it. If the publishing side is so bad, and so few writers are making much in the way of money, then perhaps writing for art is the only reasonable approach?

Stewart Sternberg said...

I just got back from spyscribbler's blog. She's made a great post about writing after a return from a romance writers' convention.

http://spyscribbler.blogspot.com/

Rick: "I spend less time listening to what male writers suggest and more time following what Oprah posts on her recommended reading list."...I'll remember that the next time I'm sitting across, critiquing your work. Where's that red pencil?

Charles, I think there is something to your comment, which is...if the chance is slim of getting on a bestsellers list, then write for yourself. Art. Or some facsimile.

miller580 said...

I am going to stay out of this except to say...James Patterson, Janet Evanovich, Nora Roberts, Robert Ludlum, Danielle Steele...the literary genius of our time? They must be because they sell. Right? Because that’s the demand right? Do I have this right? Publishers today don't want to smash these out time after time...right? Please tell me I am right. The book readers of America demand these writers? Huh? Really? Or is it that readership has plummeted because of these writers?
Am I getting this right?

So then, based on this, I should write a plot driven story about 225 pages that details the trials of a youngish woman abused by a male figure. She will need to be strong...but not too strong, because looks count to. She's a thinker and she will solve the problem with a little help (mostly muscle) from a roguish 50-year-old white male who though gruff has feminine sympathies without being condescending.

Ok. Done.

But please, please don't put Gertrude Stein or Hemingway in the same category as these "corporate" autHORS. Honestly, is Patterson even writing anymore? Danielle Steele? Isn’t she like 80 years old now? I have watched TV commercials for a few of these monster authors. Publishers most likely spent more on the media buy for Patterson for example than they paid any ten "emerging writers" Why? Because word of mouth isn't going to sell that toilet paper.

I finished a book that I believe has marketability, (Home Land: A Novel by Sam Lipsyte.) In fact it received some buzz, word of mouth mostly. But not enough to make it a smash. This book was different...it didn't follow typical plot structure or narrative style. Its hero was no hero. There was no detective. No cyborgs. But it was still good. It was funny and a commentary on the times—the likes of Napoleon Dynamite (but all grown up). It made me think about life. It made me question society. I think people would like to read it. But yet, it is lost on the shelf. Oprah isn't talking about it. I don't see commercials for it. You know though, I can understand that. The guy is a bad writer—I mean because he can't sell thousands of copies. He is bad because the corporate publishing machine listened to the people and they decided the guy sucks? Or maybe he isn’t bad. Maybe he is a good writer but could only eek out a tree or two from the publisher...no real estate…no Oprah.

Vwriter said...

Hello Miller580:

I'm looking backward through these postings to see where anyone has cited James Patterson, Janet Evanovich, Nora Roberts, Robert Ludlum, Danielle Steele as the literary geniuses as our time and I can't find that. I'm also looking backward to see where anyone has cited sales = literary genius. I don't see that either.

As for this part:
"Because that’s the demand right? Do I have this right? Publishers today don't want to smash these out time after time...right? Please tell me I am right. The book readers of America demand these writers? Huh? Really? Or is it that readership has plummeted because of these writers?
Am I getting this right?"

..... Well, I'm trying to think of another way to measure demand than people walking up to the counter (figuratively in the case of Amazon.com) and purchasing these books. Millions and millions of dollars are spent on these books. If there is no demand, are those people just donating their money? I think they're spending their money on books they want to buy. I for one am glad of it. At least someone is reading something.

I admire H.K. Rowlings, James Patterson, and Dan Brown because they give the rest of us a chance. They keep reading alive long enough for quality writing to get out there.

And I know that many people look down their nose at Oprah promoting books. I just don't.

I think the facts are plain here, women are taking on the writing market and succeeding, men are reading less and men writers are paying a big price for it. There is room for both genders, but we men are too busy being angry and railing against the corporate publishing machines to notice that women writers spend less time railing and more time succeeding. And I believe that they are going to use that financial success to push the limits of literary quality.

Circle of Friends said...

I think it's such a pity when people don't read they are depriving themselves of so many worlds so many journeys so many altherante realities. I feel bad for people who don't like to read for me a book is a chance to escape into a world created by someone else and its a privilege to be able to do so

avery said...

Everyone has made interesting points, and I'm sure at least part of every argument is valid. But, I just can't force myself to care all that much about any of it.

I wrote what I wrote. Some will absolutely lump it in with the authHORs. Some will hate it and call it a further destruction of literature. Maybe even before I get that far the Powers That Be will say its too long and wholly unpublishable. But, that's the risk I'm willing to take. I believe in it, and, to a greater extent (forgive the after school special-ness of this) in myself.

I can't control the market, the publishing houses or what The Oprah decides to snatch off the bookshelves next week and proclaim a miracle in print. I can only do what I'm driven to do. If it makes me money, great. If I have to go get a McJob, then that's what will happen. I'm not changing myself for anyone, and I'm not going to play the "Who-wants-what-this-week" guessing game. Not even for a million-dollar contract.

William Jones said...

Oh, let me come out of the blue here. :)

Decades ago, someone decided to sell rocks (pet rocks, actually). I knew many pet rock ranchers who'd spent years breeding quality rocks. But in moved the big companies and stole the market with their poorly bred stones. They came with names and little box houses. All one could want for a pet rock.

Demand was high, for a while. Now it seems the market has vanished, except for collectors on Ebay. I'm not sure how many pet rock ranchers remain -- or even if they did ever exist. Maybe that was just a trick of the mind or of advertising.

Vwriter said...

I see your point.

miller580 said...

Vwriter

This is why I almost didn’t post the first time. While I would love to get into a discussion about this… unfortunately I can’t, I have too much to do today. (two exams to prep for and a presentation) I guess I could throw point and counter point out there, but then it would be just taking shots…not developing a clear thought process nor a clear argument. (obviously, I missed making my point earlier…serves me right for trying to make a point in the middle of a lecture.)

I will however, quickly address my last post. I was taking a stab at sarcasm here. Basically I took your initial response and applied it “in theory” to Stewarts placement of the best sellers list.

“Under the influence of Gertrude Stein and his own genius, Hemingway re-invented our approach to writing and captivated his audience... H.K. Rowlings and Dan Brown seem to be re-inventing writing in our own times… But they are successful in our times because they are writing what people want to read (those few that still do so)… H.K. Rowlings solved the problem. Dan Brown did, too…”

Basically, if I am to understand you correctly, we as writers simply need to play the game…like rawlings and brown. Because face it, it was not merely the quality of their prose that kept them selling books but rather the media hype and movie tie-ins that keep that machine rolling. I am not dumping on them…I am actually glad for them. Your right they have kept the book industry going. But, you cannot tell me that Dan Brown did anything stellar. He wrote a glorified screenplay that splashed some gasoline and created a controversy. I read that book, and while I liked the concepts and themes, I thought the prose was weak. I can’t talk to Rawlings, because I have not read the books. I will say however, from the movie standpoint the Harry potter series is not revolutionary. When you boil it all down, it is a hero story. Think hobbits and ewoks. But it sells. And that’s not all bad.

I guess where I get bewildered is the concept that writers need to write for the masses AND that authors today suck and they need to elevate the quality.

On one hand there is a call to “write what people want to read” and you will get published. Ok, I get this. Woman want chick lit…women buy chick lit…so woman write chick lit.

But then there is the argument that writers suck and if they would write something better they too would find success. But is that really true? As I said, a lot of the listed authors are popping off homogenized trite and sell books like crazy. Some are not even writing the books, but simply signing their name. What this says to me is that readers don’t want anything better than homogenized trite. Or Maybe that the readership has dropped off because the massive publishers only want to print the “big hit” and therefore better, innovative writing falls off the radar, as does the would be consumer of an elevated reading.

Since you evoked Gertrude Stein, I will invoke Virginia Woolf. She and her husband started their own press in 1917 they saw their press as an opportunity for creative and intellectual freedom. It would enable Virginia to publish what she chose—and thus, more easily, write what she chose—and provide a forum for writers whom more conservative publishers might turn away—such writers as: W. H. Auden, E. M. Forester, H. G. Wells, T. S. Eliot, Robert Graves, Katherine Mansfield, and Sigmund Freud.

I agree that a lot of writing today is bad. I agree that prose needs to be improved. But what happens when someone writes elevated “literature?” Well, if you elevate your writing too much then you are too artistic and pompous.

Face it formula sells. That’s all there is to it. If you don’t have a shtick that can turn into a marketing orgasm…chances are (no matter how good you write) you aren’t getting the gig. This is why smaller presses are needed. To get that elevated voice a place to speak as well as elevated readers something to read.

Honestly, I don’t care one way or the other. I know this going in. If I want to get published, I have to find a niche. I have to create interest. That is my job. So I will write the best I can, and maybe one day I will get published. Maybe one day I will sell thousands then hundreds of thousands of books. Maybe even get on Opera. Maybe I will have fans willing to fight on my behalf on their blog. Maybe I won’t.

Anyway, as I said. I need to hit the books. It was good bickering with you again vwriter. This Christmas we should debate or agree over a few beers.

Peace

Will Kinshella said...

Oh Goddamn it!

i just wrote a three page post comparing great books to a stable relationship and todays writing to casual sex, and your blog decided to reject it!

*sigh* maybe I'll repost later.


Best,

Will.

Vwriter said...

Hi Will and Norm580:

We can get away with whatever we want tonight. I have it on good authority that Stewart is playing Worlds of Warcraft on his computer and is ignoring reality for at least another five or six hours.

Will- I'm looking forward to seeing your 3 page post.

Norm580- let's do it this Christmas. I'll buy the first round! Stewart and Chuck will try to suck you into a Call of Cthulhu RPG, but stand strong.

A couple of points to think about in terms of what the miscommunication is. First, when you say "Basically, if I am to understand you correctly, we as writers simply need to play the game…like rawlings and brown..." my answer is absolutely not. Formulaic writing is not even the point. They broke molds and succeed in getting their works out in front of the public, as did Stephen King. I'm not sure why everyone thinks that getting works published so successfully automatically means formula writing. It is interesting, though, that Stephen King, after having played the game so well, now has the muscle to publish what he wants.

Avery made the point nicely for the other side when she said, "I can't control the market, the publishing houses or what The Oprah decides to snatch off the bookshelves next week and proclaim a miracle in print. " I'm not sure how it is cogent, however, if we're planning to be published. Not paying attention is more likely than not a sure way to end up with a McJob. None of us control the market. And although I can sense the unpleasantness that so many people around the world pay attention to a successful woman's (Oprah) book recommendations, I don't understand it. We don't have to write those types of books. Or read them. I'm scratching my head trying to see where I recommended either. My point is I that I try to learn from her suggestions. People pay attention to her recommendations and follow up by buying books all the way to bestseller status- that should tell us that her judgement and track record merit examining for our own profit as writers. That is my only point. I'm not advising building an altar to either her or her book choices.

What I am recommending and pointing out is that for those of us who would actually like our works to be read, we can learn lessons from those who are successful at doing just that. Harry Potter was not formulaic when it broke through and neither was the Da Vinci Code. Conspiracy novels are commonplace, but his incorporation of the Sacred Feminine made that novel successful. Kind of a big step if you're well familiar with the suspense market stereotypes when he took this chance. Again, it is not their prose that I'm referencing, it's their storytelling abilities. People have responded to them. We should pay attention to that, too.

However, to address your main points: "I guess where I get bewildered is the concept that writers need to write for the masses AND that authors today suck and they need to elevate the quality."

First,if we want people to read what we write, we have to write something they will read. It does not mean pandering, it means creating a successful paradigm to get our works to them.

Second, elevating our writing is not a contradiction to the idea of writing something that people will read. Shakespeare and Dickens were not only popular in their times, they created quality works.

Women not only lead the pack today in their creation of commercial fiction, they are leading the revolution toward quality fiction. What first got me going in Stewart's original posting was his saying, after reading the Chicago paper's survey which revealed how much more oriented toward reading women were than men, that at least the romance market would do well. Women read and write a hell of a lot more than romance.

I love your example about Virginia Wolfe. I am familiar with it, of course, but I thought it a wonderful example of taking a creative approach to getting quality fiction to the market.

Did you know, by the way, that in certain bookstores across the country, a customer can go in, order a book from the stores computer database, and have it printed out before their very eyes in 15 minutes? The publishing industry as we know it is changing dramatically. I can remember when there was no such thing as POD.

miller580 said...

"I'm not sure why everyone thinks that getting works published so successfully automatically means formula writing."

I think that this is a popular thought because of the way the best sellers list looks these days. But even if you look beyond the best sellers list, it seems that for the most part the books that are most successful follow formulas.

Not a slam on Carl Hiassen, but his books are formula. Elmore Leonard...same thing. But there are other successful writers who do not follow a formula. It's just that their names are not in everyday use. And for that reason, they fall from the "scene" and are not thought of when making arguments such as these.

Also, I wanted to mention that I don't really have a complaint about Oprah. I only wish there were more readers wielding that kind of power. In fact, if it wasn't for her book club, I may never have read The Corrections. Funny how Jonathan Franzen was so pissed by being picked by her. It was that controversy that brought my attention to the book...so maybe that was the best thing he could have done. On one hand I can understand why he wanted it clear that his audience was not necessarily hers...but on the other hand, maybe it is.

Anyway, Oprah, if you are reading this, when I finish my book, please Oprah, recommend my book to your minions. I won't complain...not once. I will even come on your show...if you promise not to try and make me cry.

Will Kinshella said...

Okay then, here's my two cents, hopefully Mr. Sternberg's blog won't chew up my comment this time.

Reading the board over again, I see alot of people complaining about the quality of writing todays published authors seem to be putting out.
Now while I'll admit that, on occasion, I've picked up a book and been forced to wonder if the authors first draft had been mistakingly printed instead of his or her finished work, on the whole I've stumbled upon very few books I would label "bad".

Let's start with Janet Evanovich, who seems to have taken a beating here(meaning Mr. Sternberg's blog in general) more than once.
Her writing is sloppy, plotlines are basic, and her books hardly ever contain more than 350 fluff filled pages.
That said, I am an avid fan of her Stephanie Plum series.

Why?

For the same reason I watch the occasional sitcom, because sometimes I don't want to read something "thought provoking" or "gripping". Sometimes I want to just kick back in my chair, and be entertained.

I believe there's a time and a place for any book, and while Evanovich may not be Hemingway, she does take me away from my otherwise boring life for the three or four hours it takes to finish one of her tiny books.
Admittedly, I feel no real emotional attachment to her characters, no burning need to get home quickly to turn that next page, but that could actually be one of the reasons I enjoy her so much.

To put it another way, a great book is like a relationship. When something is really well written, it should truly capture you, make you invest in it and it's characters, you should empathize with their ups and downs, worry about them in dangerous situations, and morne them should they pass away.

And quite frankly, I don't have the energy to do that every day.

The work of today's popular authors however, is like casual sex.
You get in, get a laugh, a shock or a giggle, and get out.
Easy.

I'm not going to say whether that's good or bad, but I will say that Evanovich and Brown will always have a place on my bedside table.
And every once an awhile, I'll give um a tumble.


Best,


Will

DonkeyBlog said...

Are there really that many people in The States who are pulling $88K? That's the most startling stat of all for me.

SQT said...

Will, you are so speaking my language. To me, books are primarily entertainment. I've said it before and I'll say it again. If people like it then it has value.

I think Stephanie Plum is a hoot for what it's worth. But I am known for liking lightweight fiction.

Sidney said...

Even more depressing is the fact that even a phenomenon like Harry Potter doesn't really create new readers.

It's unfortunate that the majority of the public won't do more than sample a few authors.

For me, I build up an immunity to an author over time, so I often slack off even a favorite because I begin to anticipate his/her next move plotwise.

For many readers that's not the case. They're happy reading the same book over and over from their favorite "brand."

avery said...

vwriter -- Think I'm a girl, do you? :)

"I'm not sure how it is cogent, however, if we're planning to be published. Not paying attention is more likely than not a sure way to end up with a McJob."

I didn't say I wasn't paying attention. I just said I didn't care.

I know very well what the market is like. Part of my book even falls into one of the current crazes -- female-led urban fantasy. I could've gone the formulaic route and done first person POV, put in a n endless stream of snarky one-liners and added in a healthy dose of libido. Instead, I chose multiple POV's, third person POV and a very flawed, damaged heroine who is engaged in sex only twice -- one is the most messed up situation thinkable, and the other isn't far behind.

I could have easily followed those who've gone before and cranked out an identical copy of what's currently on the shelves, almost guaranteeing my publication. But, then it wouldn't have been mine.

You're right. There is a balance between lofty ideals and the real world. Living in my head and wishing everyone would come around to my way of thinking isn't going to get me published. But, falling in line and blending with the surroundings so I only stand out as much as everyone else around me isn't an acceptable option, either. My choice was to be aware of what was on the shelves, to take from it what I willed, and then set out from there. I can't say it will be successful, but I can say with pride that my book isdifferent from what's currently in the genre, and I'm willing to take a chance that it will sell.

Vwriter said...

Sorry, Avery, my mistake on the gender issue, particularly since I knew you were a guy. As I get older it's harder to think and chew gum at the same time.

I thought your last posting was interesting and gave me more to think about.

SQT said...

Avery, I like it when men take on female protagonists for some reason. I get tired of female leads who try to be too cute.

avery said...

Vwriter -- It was just a rhetorical question. Like the hooker lurking on the corner, I'll be whatever you want me to be. ;)

Sqt -- For me, it's all about not excluding anyone because of what they've got under the hood. The current contemporary fantasy with female heroes tends to keep the majority of male readers at a distance, many simply because they've been sold to houses that deal solely with women's fiction (and thusly wind up with an overly sexual/feminine cover that men don't want to get near). Again, that's fine if that the market a writer is going for. But me, I'm a greedy little ass, and I want as many people as possible picking up my book.

See Stewart, I don't have my head entirely in the clouds.

Jon said...

Well, here’s a gross over simplification for you.

Once upon a time there were amateurs and professionals in every field, and it was the amateurs who were the quality practitioners. Think of the Victorian era and biology. The professionals who collected and categorized bugs were salary paid workers. They did their job. It was the amateurs who worked the field with a burning effort and love. “Amateur” means one who loves.

Same with writing in many ways. There are those who work at the craft. They apply the formulas and wrap the expected words around them. They are the professional writers. The amateurs write with the fire of love of the art and the story, regardless of recognition and profit.

Sure, sometimes professionals do a bang up job. Sometimes amateurs find big markets and big money. I guess it’s just a question of which definition fits you.

Stewart Sternberg said...

Avery, I am revising a novel right now where the main characters are all women. It's horror. There isn't a snarky line in there, and very little sex. I guess my audience isn't necessarily the Anita Blake group, but those who enjoy a more traditional horror tale or ghost story.

My point is..I agree with you and your stand.

Stewart Sternberg said...

Before we all pile on, let me attack Jon first. You were right, it was a gross simplification. And it was such a gross simplification as to be invalid.

I think most of the amateurs are just that..amateurs. They have little love for their craft. THey are writers who want to be called writers without doing most of the work a writer does. They don't strive to improve. They are content to write and never publish..they cry when criticised and hold onto their pet children as though what they just wrote, without revision, was the greatest thing ever written.

The amateur who is worth his salt tries to improve and sends out work.

Vwriter said...

uh-oh. Stewart's back. Got to go.

Will Kinshella said...

Whew! That first paragraph of his was quite a blow wasn't it?

I hope Mr. Zech is all right...

Vwriter said...

Worlds of Warcraft is a really violent video game and it is wearing down Stewart's warm and sensitive nature. We should all send him positive energy and think unicorn thoughts to help him through his electronic addiction.

Vwriter said...

And... I thought Jno's posting was rather thoughtful. Think of it, for the love of the craft...

Jon said...

There is a difference between the amateur, the dilettante, the dabbler, the rooky and the wannabe. Just as there is a difference between the professional and the hack.

Saturday night softball? No less passion than A-Rod, and more perhaps than Barry Bonds.

Please don’t confuse popularity and money and acclaim with ability.

Stewart Sternberg said...

People confusing popularity and money with ability is exactly why George Bush was elected president.

And as for you Vwriter..run all you want but you sure can't hide.