Tuesday, March 25, 2008

This Book Won't Sell

A comment on a recent blog post grabbed my attention. In my blog post on Is Good Writing Really Enough, Eric made a really interesting comment about how agents and editors know that a book won’t sell. It seems that publishing professionals use those words all the time, but Eric questioned how we could really know that. And that got me thinking: I’m not sure I’ve ever done a post on the criteria of why I don’t think a book is marketable. How do I get that information and where does it come from? Similarly, how does the publisher get that information?

Before I get started I want to repost Eric’s comment and thank him for making it. I thought it was thought-provoking enough to be deserving of a full post. . . .

I'm close to burning up my quota of posts for the week, so I promise I'll clam up after this.

But here's a thought to consider:

In any other industry, the sales people have a clear picture of what they can and can't sell. Their job is, more than anything, to know the customers.

In the book industry, fads are rampant. Every Harry Potter has a thousand, "Just like Harry Potter!" books following it.

If the people who are in charge of knowing what readers want really had their job nailed, they wouldn't chase every single fad. They would work on product differentiation, which is what a real sales strategy looks like, not copycatting.

So when someone tells me that "This book won't sell," I have to wonder how the Hell they think they know that. There's considerable evidence that the book industry does not have its most basic market research down at all.

If someone wants to prove me wrong, they should address the "It's just like Harry Potter!" routine that you will not see in any other industry.

Last thought - I know it rankles book industry people to the point that I am routinely ignored when I compare it to other industries. Yet when it comes to entertainment dollar, that's what the consumer is considering. Why do people read? I've elicited a lot of very useful comments off of my blog recently. The same arguments that tell us that the book industry is about what sells, not literature, can be used to say that this is just another industry that has to understand its customers, trim its distribution system, and control costs.

The truth is that publishing, agenting in particular, is not like most other sales jobs. In the real estate market, for example, you can compare like houses that have recently sold to determine a price point and the selling potential of your house. How many bedrooms? What is the square footage? How many bathrooms? Is it recently updated? What’s the neighborhood or school system like, etc.? But with books it’s much more about personal taste. Few people judge the value of a book by how many words it has or how many characters. And no one can put a value on style of writing or voice since personal tastes all get in the way. I mean, yes, we do value great prose and wonderful writing, but I can’t tell you that you will earn an additional $20,000 because your voice is an A Voice or a B Voice, etc.

But, like real estate agents, we do comparables to a certain degree. For example, if I recently tried to sell an alien cowboy erotic romance only to be told by 30 different editors that they are all glutted with alien cowboy erotic romances and none have been selling well, then it’s very likely I am going to tell an author with an alien cowboy erotic romance that I don’t think I can sell her book and she should probably come up with something new. Or let’s take chick lit, for example. Why am I telling all authors to avoid writing or at least calling your book chick lit? Because every single editor I talk to tells me not to send them chick lit. Who told editors that? You, the reader, when you stopped buying all of the chick lit books they were publishing.

And as for the lack of creativity agents and editors have when looking for books, or the inability to differentiate book choices, when the Da Vinci Code was hot everyone was buying the next Da Vinci Code, and of course the same held true of Bridget Jones’s Diary and Harry Potter. Why is that? Because when readers find a book they like and are excited about they usually want to read more books in a similar vein. For example, right now I’m reading a really incredible historical romance by one of my own clients. I will guarantee that when I finish I will head out to the bookstore to find another historical romance. I’m in that head and I’m excited about what I’m reading. Does that mean we aren’t looking for something new? Not at all. In fact, it often means we are looking harder for something new. Usually because we get almost immediately sick of all the next books we see heading our way. When something becomes hot I rarely spend time looking for the next of that hot book. Instead I will talk to my clients or co-agents about what we can come up with that will dovetail off that trend in a new and exciting way. When vampires first hit the scene, for example, I started talking to my clients about werewolves (and yes, this was before we were bombarded with werewolves).

As for whether or not we see the “just like Harry Potter” mentality in other industries, do you watch TV or movies? What do you think The Golden Compass was, or the dozens of television shows that were “just like Lost”? Or let’s look at the beverage industry . . . does anyone remember New Coke? It was “just like Pepsi.”

The difficult task of an agent is not just to know what is selling now, but to try to guess what will be selling one year from now, and that is contingent on so many things—what else is hot in entertainment (books, movies, and TV), world events, what people are burned out on, etc. I can’t just look at what people want now, because books I sell now aren’t published now. I need to help predict what people are going to be craving one year from now. As for why people read, I’m very aware of why people read, as are most industry professionals. We’re aware for the simple fact that we’re all readers. The problem with that question is that not all readers read for the same reasons. Business book readers usually read to learn about business, but learn what? I read business books to gain new insights and ideas, while others might read them to get an edge on the competition. What about fiction? Some read for escape, others for great prose. Some read for plot, while others read for characters. Publishing is a business, but books are a number of things to readers. They are entertainment, they are art, and they are an escape. The trouble with trying to pinpoint what works and what doesn’t in publishing is that what works and what doesn’t changes not only market-wide, but also individually. Books I used to love and read ten years ago were very different from what I find myself reading today, and I suspect that holds true for everyone.

I don’t mind the comparison of publishing to other industries, but it’s difficult. People buy cars because they need transportation. People buy fast cars for speed, trucks for durability, etc. People buy houses because they need a place to live. What they need in a house might differ, but the basic components are the same. That can not be said of books. Yes, they all have words, characters, and a plot, but how that is built and the needs it satisfies are entirely different to each reader.

This is a very interesting discussion and I’d love to hear more of Eric’s thoughts as well as those of other readers. Why do you read? What are you looking for in a book? What are you sick of or what would you like to see more of? What would you never want to see again? And do you have any suggestions? If someone can give me a more concrete way to evaluate books (and therefore make easy sales) I would love to hear it.



Anonymous said...

Within any given genre (thriller/suspense, horror, romance, mystery, sci-fi, fantasy, etc...) readers of that genre are looking for something that is "the same but different." New voices with new plots written by someone who doesn't color too far outside the lines, so to speak, but who has a distinctive and impressive use of color.

Anonymous said...

As a reader, I love an entertaining plot driven book peopled with interesting and diverse characters from the quirky to the eccentric and everything in between.

But primarily, I read to be entertained.

I don't read to be revolted, have nightmares or be sickened to my soul with gratuitous violence. I can turn to any TV news broadcast for that.

While I enjoy familiar themes, they can become very ho hum so variety is another necessary quotient.

As a writer, I enjoy dabbling in all genres.

And like Jessica I would love a crystal ball so I could concentrate on the next book to take the world by storm.

Aah! I've got it!!

I'll concentrate on writing something completely original. That might work.

Shalanna said...

I'll play the devil's advocate here and say that I truly believe readers would buy a different sort of novel . . . even one that's labeled "unsalable" by the industry now. After all, breakout books are usually "cut loose" books: the Harry Potter books were YAs more than 100K long (when the limit had always been said to be 80K for YA), _Bridges of Madison County_ was too short to be a novel (it was novella length), and the _Da Vinci Code_ was about religion (which had been a tabu topic for years). Readers don't feel limited the way that the industry pros do . . . if a reader picks up a book that agents consider a picaresque without unity *and enjoys the book*, that reader doesn't feel ashamed or say that the book wasn't good or shouldn't be read. The only criterion a reader generally uses is something like, "Did I enjoy the book? Do I feel cheated at the end, or do I feel I've learned something? Did the characters seem real and stay with me?" That's what makes this difficult for industry pros. Readers always bring something to the work. If a writer's work resonates with people for some unidentifiable reason that you can't put into concrete terms for the marketers, then you're stuck with an "unsalable" book. I think we as the reading public are missing out on a number of great reads just because the books can't be pigeonholed and labeled for the marketing gurus.

I'd like to see more novels written by people who have a way with words and who don't try to make everything simple . . . who don't spin out clunky prose in the "no-style style" . . . who don't rely on Too Stupid To Live characters to make the plot twists happen with no regard to what really motivates a person . . . who realize that characters need to be more complex than what's shown in graphic sex scenes . . . who accept that sometimes we shouldn't "kill our darlings," because nothing's better than a quotable passage that makes sense.

Aimlesswriter said...

I read all genres depending on what else is going on in my life. High stress times demand quirky romances.(Evanovich) When life is easy give me scary stuff, suspense and intrique. (Konrath, King, Slaughter)I also read a lot of tech books about crime but thats more for research.
I also belong to the local RWA so I read a lot of those authors regularly. One of our members writes Vampire romances, which can be an interesting blend of spooky and romance.
Loved Marly and Me-are dog books still hot?

I'll basically read anything handed to me. When a book gets hot (Lovely Bones, Divinci) I'll read it just to see why its so hot. Sometimes I think its just marketing. lol

Barbara Elsborg said...

I'd like to see a book written about two people who are trying to commit suicide by drowning but change their minds -oops, sorry, that would be mine!

I'm fed up of the same old thing with vampires.
I don't like elves and wizards and pixies and things in urban fanasies.
I only like funny historicals - like Julia Quinn or excellent stories - Like Wolf on the plains -about Ghengis Khan. Brilliant book.

I haven't read any time travelling ones. By the time they reach the UK, the fad will be over. Odd that vampires, werewolves etc have never taken off in the UK market to the extent that that have in the States? I wonder why.

Our romance market seems different to me. Much more character driven and more details on relationships with other characters. I'd like to see the American romance market take a risk on more wide ranging stories, romances that have grittier plots, a few bodies, unhappy backgrounds, attempted suicide - oops that's mine again!

Spy Scribbler said...

I remember one author suggested looking at all the latest bestselling nonfiction to see where tomorrow's fiction will go.

I've noticed it sometimes works. Paranormal nonfiction was selling a ton before paranormal fiction took off. Some nonfiction subjects seem to sell well for years, though.

Also, we're a product of our culture. If we keep our fingers on the pulse of pop culture--movies, TV, books from a wide variety of genres, current events, etc.--and if truly live in our time, then we're going to produce something that touches people in our time.

I'm also at Borders every Tuesday checking out every new book (in every genre) in the store, and I keep up with the latest deal news.

I don't chase trends or try to write to the market, but I try to let myself be open to being influenced and inspired by all that I see in the market, the media, and the world.

But that's just what I try. I don't think there's an exact science.

Mark Terry said...

Interesting to compare to other industries. Of course, a TV show on cable that's considered a dismal failure will probably still have a couple million viewers. Not so for books.

Anyway, it occurred to me that we don't NEED a flat-panel TV--it's just cool.

Speaking as someone driving an old Saturn VUE who couldn't be convinced to spend real money on a new vehicle ever again (well, never say never), but a lot of people just HAVE TO HAVE a new car every two years or whatever...

Is there a similar phenomenon in publishing? (Aside from Oprah's Book Club?) Was the Da Vinci Code just a book version of a Wii? Gotta have it, gotta have it, gotta have it!

And if it is, does the industry have any clue whatever--or even attempt to create--that kind of buzz? My guess is, uh, "no" to both questions.

Devon Gray said...

As a reader I crave the book that I can come completely lost in- the writer who grabs you immediately and your house crumbles in chaos as you sit in a chair all day ignoring life's little responsibilities. As a reviewer and editor for a book review company I see that there is a LOT of variety out there. Some titles I pick up and sneer through as I pray for the last page to come quickly. Others, I become completely immersed, feeling honored that I will get to write a review raving about this particular author's ability.

As a writer, I am always relieved to hear that I should never write what I think would sell, but what is in my heart; what my creativity demands goes into my laptop. What I am currently working on will undoubtedly have some issues when it comes time to query. It is an erotic novella written in the first person. I have been told first person is hard to sell, but hey, that is how the story evolved in my brain.

Thanks for the great, thought provoking post!

Julie Weathers said...

I agree with Shirley's comments, particularly the one about writing something original.

I have a wide variety of things on my book shelves. Romance, western (very discriminating there, mostly McMurtry), mystery, historicals, several shelves of fantasy and inspirational, a few science fiction, one horror book--Plague of the Dead, ten shelves of research books, gardening, herbs, mineralogy and gold mining, several old bibles, cookbooks and dictionaries, humor, poetry, some literature. I don't do horror, normally, and books about torture.

Quite often I try a new author because of recommendations by friends. I liked Tony Hillerman even though his early books were pretty rough. He had a unique premise and a good story. The copycats, who followed were a pale comparison and went unfinished.

The characters have to grab me. The writing needs to be strong and not cliche. I don't want people experimenting with punctuation for the sake of being literary and unique. Plain and simple is fine. Don't make me notice how clever you were for making a statement with your lack of punctuation. That's like smashing a beer can and mounting it in an expensive frame, then telling me it's art.

Regardless of what genre, the writing and story need to keep me interested. I have to want to find out what happens next. In an ideal book, it's hard to find a stopping place. I don't like cookie cutter fiction. If it's historical, I want the writer to invest some time in research. Don't give me a reason to pop out of the story. If I get thrown out too many times, I won't return.

Books with original ideas and voices thrill me. Cheap gimmicks and copycats, not so much.

Heidi the Hick said...

Having been married to the music biz for almost 20 years, I see plenty of parallels between it and the book biz. When a hot new band gets a lot of buzz, (usually an independent or small label these days) the big labels scramble to sign a similar act to capitalize on that buzz. Now, everything moves so fast a band can be a huge internet success before they even have a full length album out and the major labels can't keep up. By the time all the new bands are ready to go, the buzz is over.

I don't think publishing can move that fast. As my husband says, he records a guy for five minutes playing everything he knows and then edits for two days. Done.

I'm sure buzz does sell books. In the last year or so I've bought 4 books at least because I heard about them through blogs!

I am also attracted to an interesting or beautiful cover.

For the last few years I've become more interested in the author as well. If it's someone I've never heard of, I like to see a photo and short bio on the back.

I want to read about vivid characters who get put through some interesting situations and have to make choices. I don't need a happy ending but I want some glimmer of hope. I want to read something a little bit different, imaginative, and well written. I want to enjoy the way the words are put together.

And I still prefer the experience of the bookstore, even if ordering it is convenient.

Man Candy Fans said...

Jessica wrote, in part: "The difficult task of an agent is not just to know what is selling now, but to try to guess what will be selling one year from now ..."

Because Eric mentioned market research and because I'm a market research analyst, I thought I'd mention something I've learned about consumer behavior to Jessica (this also applies to b2b customers). In general, consumers aren't good at telling you what the next best thing will be. They can tell you what they like now, but the best way to find out possible predictive purchasing behavior is to present them with stimuli (e.g., the *Very Different Book Concept*) and get them to react. I'm curious to know if publishers do conduct focus groups and test new concepts.

Kathleen MacIver said...

I'm a VERY picky reader. I read in several different genres, but it's the writing style and the characters, primarily, that I'm so picky about.

Character-wise... I am very traditional, and I like my characters to have traditional values and morals. I like my hero and heroine to have a strong sense of honor. It's also getting increasingly hard to find books that focus on emotional romance, where the characters fall in love with each other's character, rather than pure sexual chemistry. I'm sorry, but I, personally, find it hard to believe in a HEA that's based almost exclusively on sexual chemistry. Fantastic, mind-blowing sex will not make a marriage last through the difficult years when the "honeymoon stage" is over.

I want to see more stories where the couple become a team, relying on each other's strengths, and compensating for each other's weaknesses. I want to read a story where the couple learn to trust each other and to communicate, rather than using the lack of communication as a plot device that is suddenly and mysteriously overcome in the end of the book. Uh... sorry... it just doesn't work that way in real life! (But maybe people don't know that, hence today's divorce rates.)

In addition, I want my characters to come alive, to be realistic. I will grant that what is realistic to me, is probably unrealistic to someone else whose life and motives for doing things are totally different than my own... which only adds a further dimension to the equation. But I want to feel what the characters feel and see what they see. I like character-driven stories, rather than plot-driven stories. And I HATE stories where the conflict is merely one misunderstanding after another. That is nothing but frustrating, as a reader.

In writing style... I abhor the current trend of concise, clipped writing. I agree that the PLOT should be concise, and no one wants to read a story that drags. But the trend (at least in the RWA contest and critiquing world) seems to be to cut out every single word that's not strictly necessary. The usual result, in my opinion, is ugly prose that does not pull me into a story. What ever happened to paying attention to the rhythm of the sentence structure? What's wrong with adding an extra adjective or making a compound sentence a triple compound sentence because sets of three often flow better than just two?

I never thought of myself as a storyteller until I began writing. Now I think of the flow of the prose constantly. No one would enjoy listening to a story that is clipped and precise... we enjoy the drama of dramatic pauses, of a faster pace in some areas, and a slower pace in others. Yet so many stories read like a battering ram, shoving the story at you as fast as possible. Sorry... those stories lose me in the first couple pages.

This is what I want to read, and I am finding these kinds of stories VERY hard to find now-a-days. I'm constantly happening across others who agree with me in this, too. Just browse Lynn Kurland's boards, and the reviews for her books on Amazon. The whole reason that all of her books, starting in 1994, are still in print, is because those of us who love these kinds of stories are so desperate to find them, that we buy all of hers up as soon as we discover that she is an author we can trust to deliver! The list of "books like Lynn's" that is offered whenever a new reader comes onto the boards, is very VERY small. But when we find one, we recommend them to our friends, who have similar complaints. Believe me... all of us who love these kinds of stories know at least five other avid readers who share our tastes and frustrations.

(And just in case you're wondering, the Inspiration market doesn't keep us happy. We don't like being preached to, and we like real characters, not picture perfect characters cut to fit the Inspirational mold. Like one fellow reader/writer said the other day when a bunch of us were discussing this, "If I wrote my characters to fit within the Inspirational guidelines, their kisses would have to be so tame that I'd wonder why in the world they even wanted to do it!" LOL!)

This is getting long, but I'd like to say that we know we're a minority... but we believe that the sales records of Lynn Kurland, Jan Karon, Debbie MacComber, and the few others that NY has taken a chance on are proof that there's still enough of us to make it worth their while to publish a few more, IF they're good enough writers.

Okay... that got long, but you asked!

Anonymous said...

In a world where multi-tasking is expected, food is served so fast you can idle through a line to pick it up without ever leaving your car, and we can communicate in an instant over the information highway of the internet .....

I like books where I can get lost in their neighborhood and make a few new friends. I don't want 8 characters introduced in chapter one because then I have to keep up with all those new names and it's quite frankly harder than I care to work for entertainment. Let me escape, live with their problems, and then feel exhilarated when they overcome the hurdles. I do like to laugh (I still think about the insulation rubbed on the clothes of the cheater in one of Fern Michaels books, or when the gal in Mary Kay Andrews book Hissy Fit keys the word ASHHOLE down her cheating fiances car...yes she spelled it wrong hahah!)

For me? Keep it simple.

Anonymous said...

Q: What am I sick of in a book and don't want to see more of?

A: Books by authors like James Patterson where marketing, TV spots, and that all-important front table display in bookstores are the key to the books' success rather than the actual writing, characters or plot.

I'm sorry for slamming an author by name, but when he's got OTHER authors co-writing books with him just so he can crank them out faster, dear God in heaven, can you say SELL OUT?

Other commentors, cann I ask you if it is wrong for this to irritate me? Is this sour grapes?

bob said...

I would imagine trying to guess whats going to be big months from now an almost impossible job - so I would think agents/editors would, like Eric stated in his post rather be about a good piece of work and less about fads.

It always seems readers do gravitate to Potter or Da Vinci look alikes right after a huge success but it is the agents/publishers that seem to flood the field, then turning readers off.

As a reader, I myself am a fickled reader. I could never say I'm all this and none of that because if it's good, really good, and has good word of mouth, I'll try it.

Are horror and Sci Fi my thing, not really, but I've read Hannibal with one eye closed and thought it was good writing. I've yet to be moved by any Historical, yet tell me to read Gone With The Wind again and I'm there.

So as a reader, I'd never say never.

The bottom line is to make a deal and make money, it's a business as fickled as the movie industry (too many kids flicks, not enough kid flicks, too many remakes and so on) so I'd hope agents would be more about the product than following fads or trying to cash in on the back wave of a fad.

I don't think that is how it works though, but as both a reader and a writer I would hope thats what most agents would strive for - a good product regardless of fads.

Laura K. Curtis said...

One thing I think is hinted at frequently but rarely stated outright is that while agents/editors often know what *won't* sell, they rarely know what *will* sell. Just because a book is "like" HP doesn't mean it will sell. If anyone knew a formula for figuring out what *would* sell, or even for being as sure of it as they are of what *won't* sell, publishing would be a whole lot easier.

For anyone who thinks an agent/editor is just saying "I like it, but I can't sell it" to be kind (as opposed to "I don't like it, so I can't sell it"), I encourage you to read a post I wrote a year or so ago about my experiences pitching the first mystery manuscript I was trying to sell. I heard the same things when I queried as I did when I pitched, by the way. Many "I like this, but I can't sell it" rejections.

Jessica, who was one of the many who said she liked my first book but couldn't sell it, took me on with the next book I sent her. (I won't say it was the next book I wrote, because it wasn't. Lesson I learned -- when the problem with your first book is that it won't sell due to concept, don't write a second in the same series.)

But for every rule there are exceptions. Just because your book is alien cowboy erotic romance, which doesn't seem to be selling at the moment, that doesn't mean that there won't suddenly be a huge bestseller about alien cowboys, which will suddenly open up every genre to the idea. I know I see that kind of thing happening all the time in my "day job," where--like in publishing--fads run rampant.

bob said...

anon 9:30 I agree with you. I was a huge fan of Patterson in his earlier years. The books were thicker and had more depth. Midway thru his career, I stopped buying them because they were no longer the juicey surprise, it became way to formula driven. And when I saw one page with maybe 200 words on a page as a chapter - I thought forget it.

Unknown said...

When I find a book or series I fall in love with yes, I immediately go looking for more. But I'm not looking for more of the same type of thing so much as more as something else that I can connect with in the same way. That typically starts with looking for books in the same genre and of similar style. So if a story is paranormal, I start by looking at other paranormals. Sadly, I'm almost always dissapointed. Yes, I buy those books because they showed promise, and many are good for spending a few hours with, but they very rarely stay with me the way the original did and I end up feeling hungrier than when I started and I continue my desperate search into different genres, trying new things, searching for that moment of true connection again.

What I've realized is that there's a certain combination of elements that just works for me as a reader and it really doesn't matter what the genre is. If a writer captures enough of that mix, I fall in love.

It's partly a combination of world building aspects and they way they use them to create a unique world, from the SEP's style of world where its always a cheery place, to the way Nora Robert's captures the warmth of a family community (eg. Cheasapeake series). The characters are always vivid, the setting/community is something that seems almost alive. Writing style and tons of little things.

I really think that if the publishing industry would sit down and gather marketing information by getting real readers to help them figure out what it was about certain books that captured their imagination, creating a checklist as it were, it would help in the analysis of how to market a story.

Not so much in whether a story is good or not. But once an agent falls in love with that story, they can then use that same check list to determine what it is was about that book that made them fall for it, then look to see what other stories reader's reported as having a similar effect upon them and then use that to fugure out marketing. Maybe even use one or two of those volunteer readers as test readers for this story. If they love it, it'll also help start that buzz. It'll also help you find where readers of those stories tend to gather on-line. And surely Book Clubs would be influenced by "Our studies show that people that liked X books for Y reasons, are likely to enjoy this one." Especially if they'd given good reviews to those X books.

The thing is, most of my favorite authors were found by word of mouth. They were stories in genre's or sub-genres that I would normally never try. But someone that loved the same Romance I did recommended a noir mystery and a science fiction story and I then fell in love with those. Obviously the two of us fell for the same types of things in a story. Wouldn't if be great to capture the essense of what that is and use it for marketing?

Lorra said...

My reading taste changes depending on my current mood. I may start three different books, set them aside, decide they aren't what I want to read. Then months later, I may pick up one of those books and read it with enthusiasm. It all depends on whether I'm on a literary fiction, thriller or historical novel kick. I have no idea why my reading mood changes.

In thrillers, I need a great plot, of course, but I like the author to pull me onstage so that I can be in the middle of the action, feel the breeze, smell the magnolias, feel the hair stand up on my arms as I share the protagonist's fear.

I loved Laurie King's "Keeping Watch," Tess Gerritsen's "The Bone Garden," and most recently, Douglas Preston's "Blasphemy." Rather than write in short, clipped sentences that appear to assume the reader has stopped learning after the seventh grade, these authors (some more than others) treat their readers as if they might actually have an attention span greater than the average gnat and a vocabulary to match.

My favorite books of all times were Herman Wouk's "Winds of War" and "War and Remembrance," but I'd have to say that Ishiguro's "Never Let me Go" is right up there too. I love Anna Quindlen, Daniel Silva, and the list goes on and on.

I couldn't finish the Golden Compass. I tried. But who knows, a few months from now I may not be able to put it down.

Vikki said...

I really react to books that have a strong voice, it doesn’t really matter the genre (though I tend to gravitate towards quirky women’s fiction). I would think that a book with a unique/strong voice would always sell, even if at first glance it seems like just another Bridget Jones or Harry Potter. But that’s just me. What is unfortunate is that many books that really should be getting published aren’t because they fall into what the industry believes to be a “dead” category (i.e. chick-lit). That’s why I think a writer needs to be very knowledgeable of the trends in the industry. Not saying they should write to adhere to trends, but figure out a way to present your work without immediately being pigeonholed as just another book in a suffering trend.

And I just have to comment quickly on Jessica’s mention of The Golden Compass. I’m sure most know this, but Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials (Golden Compass, Subtle Knife, Amber Sypglass) came out a bit before Harry Potter (I think The Golden Compass came out a couple years before the first HP), and are probably one of the best series ever written. Just wanted to put that out there in case in case someone thought they were just an attempt to be another Harry Potter.

Jen Turner said...

Katie said: "In writing style... I abhor the current trend of concise, clipped writing. I agree that the PLOT should be concise, and no one wants to read a story that drags. But the trend (at least in the RWA contest and critiquing world) seems to be to cut out every single word that's not strictly necessary. The usual result, in my opinion, is ugly prose that does not pull me into a story. What ever happened to paying attention to the rhythm of the sentence structure? What's wrong with adding an extra adjective or making a compound sentence a triple compound sentence because sets of three often flow better than just two?"

First let me say, YES! That's the exact problem with the market today. I don't want a book that reads like a CD on skip, or a telegram (stop). Much like music, there should be a rhythm to a novel. Why has everyone forgotten that?

I'm a lover of paranormal romance, especially vampires. On one hand it's good because they've always been around and always will be, but on the other, everyone is writing them now and most aren't good at all.

What do I want?

I want a vampire series that doesn't go to pot after the third book. Even the bestsellers are starting to wane, and are writing the same stories over and over. I want vampires who have a choice, not one's who are "given" a life mate for an all or nothing theme. I want a world, even if it's fantasy, that makes sense and is completely engaging. I want characters who force me to think, others who spin my moral compass, and at least a few I love to hate.

Is that too much to ask?

I read a lot more than just vampires, but I find myself searching for the same qualities in any genre...and they're becoming harder and harder to find.

Amie Stuart said...

I still haven't read Lovely Bones OR the Davinci Code--I have a tendency to avoid what's super-hot. And not just in reading. I'm FINALLY picking up paranormal and urban fantasy LOL I'll read just about anything as long as it's fiction. I'm not big on non-fiction. I know I shouldn't say this out loud but I LOVE (good) chick lit and I"m a total character ho. If you've got great characters and/or are a great storyteller I can forgive the foibles and weaknesses (and I use the term weakness loosely).

I can't really think of anything I NEVER want to see again but I'm a little burned out on suspense which is funny considering the UF and Paranormal I pick up usually has some element of suspense. And I rarely read historicals anymore. That said, I've read and am looking forward to more of Naomi Novik's historical fantasy books.

I would really really like to see some big fat juicy women's fiction or contemporary romance. I'm sure it's out there; I'm just not finding it.

Anonymous said...

When I read fiction, I'm looking for two things. First, I want to be taken away--anywhere except where I am. And second, I want characters whom I can love and hate, be angry with and sympathize with. I mostly read Thriller/Suspense and mystery because I've found that that is what I write best. Some might say that is because of my close brush with a real serial killer, but I'd like to think it's just that I like to solve puzzles and meet intersting people.
And Jessica, as for a more concrete way to evaluate books, I recently sent you a proposal, which didn't grab you--which is exactly the reason an agent shouldn't represent a book--if you don't love it, you can't sell it, or at least, you can't give it your all. Just keep doing what you're doing. From the looks of your client list, it's working. (And, BTW, after having been exposed to this blog and the website, I'm determined to write something that grabs one of you. Who could want more from an agent than to be successful, and be willing to help any interested writer become successful?)
Vicki Lockwood

Amie Stuart said...

But the trend (at least in the RWA contest and critiquing world) seems to be to cut out every single word that's not strictly necessary.

Katie...I agree but disagree. And this is probably because I just got done judging a slew of entries for my chapter's contest. I've also judged in a lot of contests (and can only comment for myself). There's something to be said for evocative writing, which admittedly, takes more words, as well as experience, but there's a huge difference between evocative and...wasted words or lazy writing.

I also think there's a wide bridge between RWA contests and attempting to get published in that what contests well doesn't always sell and vice versa.

All that said, even though I write erotic romance, I feel your frustration as a reader--I just posted that I'd LOVE to find some big fat juicy women's fiction and/or contemporary romance.

And BTW I"m an old-time Kurland fan. I haven't read her in years but some of her books are on my keeper shelf.

Anonymous said...

First of all, thank you for being so kind to me even when I'm a bit ... blunt. I get excited about this topic because I care about it deeply. A culture without literature is a lost culture, in my opinion.

I realize that the book industry is not like others, but I think comparisons are important. Books are, to me and my nascent personal literary theory, all about the relationship between writer and reader. That goes through a number of filters that were necessary parts of the machinery of cranking out thousands of slabs of dead trees and selling them. While necessary, this process makes the relationship much colder.

I understand that selling books will never be quite the same as selling many other things, but at the same time it is a very personal product and subject to the whims of taste. Most people don't take the time to invite an author into their head unless they have a good recommendation first.

What we can say is that making the most personal connection of all is desirable, and that tools like the internet give us some of the tools to move that direction. How can we make use of them? In all honesty, I'm working with a small publisher right now to try to find that out.

What concerns me is that time is running out on the industry as people like me screw around trying things. I can't tell you how many articles I've read that proclaim, "Literature is Dead! It has been overcome!". Yet, despite that, I know there is a hunger out in the reading world for literature all the same.

I think the problem is as simple as the collapse of the main traditional marketing methods - bookstores and the books section of the newspaper. Both are pretty nearly dead at this point.

I think we have to invent from scratch the way we can get the word out on new books that are truly new and worth taking a chance on because they have literary value - and they are likely to spark a love affair with the readers who get them. That system will likely be more two-way than the old PR methods, befitting our times, and will include a lot of feedback as to what people want to see.

I see the future of literature as being tied to grabbing ahold of the times we live in and making this creeping decline into a new opportunity. We can learn a lot from industries that adapted and didn't quite die, but in the end books are more important and more personal. I think our changing times require more literature, not less, and I'd like to see that case being made with great passion and energy. We just have to figure out where and how we can make that case.

Whoops! I'm over my two-cent allotment again! Thanks again for revisiting this even if I am a bit obnoxious. I hope you all appreciate how important the pending revolution is to me and give me a little slack. Hasta la Victoria Siempre! :-)

Chro said...

When you said, "Some people read for characters" I raised my hand and said, "That's me."

Believable, sympathetic characters are a requirement in any novel I read, and in fact any entertainment media I enjoy. While plots tend to be a mis-mash of former works, every person is unique, and so is every literary character. Every emotion evoked in me through my reading is due to a character experiencing that emotion first.

As a result, I tend to read a lot of series. If I liked the character in the first book, I tend to like them in the following books. That being said, I hate when the author is unable to continue developing the character in later novels, and they become nothing more than predictable actors in the plot.

So obviously, I'm looking for books with compelling characters, whether they're male or female, young or old, human or otherwise. I read a lot of fantasy, and whenever such a novel starts off with 2-3 paragraphs of 'beautiful' description without mentioning a single name, I put the book back and continue on down the shelf.

Diana Symons said...

I love great writing, no matter what the genre. I find it annoying to get interested in a book and find the writing and/or editing is sloppy. I put the book down. I'm picky because of that. I don't want to waste my time so I value honest reviews.

Rachel Glass said...

It's a very interesting conundrum, isn't it, because books that become best sellers later may not be marketable "now". I love originality. My manuscript is now being looked at, and I have high hopes for it, but it's not in a particular category that's popularly selling.

That's kind of the pickle though, isn't it, something fresh, something off the beaten path that is interesting.

I love to read really original things. I think the mark of a truly great writer is one who can paint us a picture, something fresh and new, of something old. Like an abstract artist, a good story should helps show things in a different light.

Characters I can fall in love with is certainly one of the elements I look for. I've read that you 'don't need to necessarily like the main character as long as you can relate to them', but I WANT to like the character, to slip into his/her shoes, to experience their life.

Writing is a beautiful thing.

Deborah K. White said...

What would you never want to see again?

Vampires, werewolves, zombies, etc, in a modern urban setting. Cut the romance-focus: give me my traditional fantasy back! *sob* At least give more of the market share back.

As for what I want, I agree completely with what Katie said. I want heroes and heroines with morals and honor. I want books with true love (non-selfish love that develops into a solid working relationship over time) rather than lust-based romances.

I love worlds that are full, new, and imaginative (which is part of the reason I'm not interested in fantasy set in the modern, real world). Or, heck, I'd even read modern-setting non-fantasy stuff if it gave me a unique sense of a real culture I'd never experienced before.

I read to be entertained, yes, but I also want something more. There's a quote I heard once that goes something like "fantasy isn't great because it tells you about dragons but because it tells you that dragons can be defeated." That's what I like to read: books that, no matter how fantastic or mundane their setting, leave me feeling that I can overcome my everyday troubles.

Kathleen MacIver said...

Thanks for your input on the other side of the contest spectrum. I surmised that it was probably like you said. I know I've had people submit things for critique, and I don't even know where to start in critiquing it. Lazy writing is a good way of putting it.

This is not to say that I'm a perfect writer, by any means. I've learned to cut a lot in my own writing, but I'm learning to do it while still retaining my voice. I just get frustrated when I see submissions for a critique session, and then re-submits... and they all sound like they're written by the same author! It seems to me, that it's usually those extra words here and there that make an author's voice unique and evocative.

But of course, those extra words need to be used skillfully, and there for a purpose... not just there because the author can't think of a better way to tell the story. I've noticed that when I find a book that is getting awesome reviews for the author's voice... well, it makes me smile to see think of how some people would mutilate that author's beautiful writing by cutting it down to the bare minimum.

I'll quit ranting, now. :-)

I do want to say, however (since you said you were an old Kurland fan) to check out her Nine Kingdoms trilogy. Her newer historical and paranormal are excellent writing, but I will admit that I prefer the older story lines better. But Star of the Morning and The Mage's Daughter are absolutely excellent. (They're fantasy.)

Sarah J. MacManus said...

I tend to fall in love with authors, rather than genres, myself, but this is usually based on the author's worldview, sense of humor, gentleness and wit. I'm a big fan of Chaucer - so any author that treats his characters, however conflicted, confused or unlikeable, with sympathy and love - has my attention.

I like interesting and realistic characters dealing with universal life struggles, and I like authors that shed new light, perhaps from a slightly skewed angle, on these universal struggles.

I think if our economy continues in a recessed state, there will be more call for escapist literature, more fantasy, more highflown romance, and a return to some of the traditional human values that become dear when money is scarce - loyalty, honor, integrity, honesty, tolerance. Maybe a bit less "Sex in the City" and a bit more "Sense & Sensibility".

Anonymous said...

I want beautiful prose, vivid settings, and engaging characters who face difficult situations. I prefer enigmatic or bittersweet endings.

Why do I read? To get the same sense of exhilaration I get from attending church service, hiking across moorland, or admiring great works of art - a connection with the divine.

I'll read any genre, and I think this is where the "same but different" approach often goes wrong. If I've enjoyed a brilliant historical romance set in Tudor England, that doesn't mean I'm likely to enjoy a mediocre historical romance set in Jacobean England. I'm far more likely to fall in love with (say) a brilliant political thriller set in present-day Jamaica.

Brilliance is key. I think the marketers forget that.

But I may be atypical.


AmyB said...

I read a lot, and I wouldn't consider myself particularly picky, as I enjoy the majority of the 100+ books I read each year. And I'll read from almost any genre, though I particularly favor SFF and YA.

My frustration with today's fiction is that I like my fiction to include a romance element, but I don't like the romance to be the entire subject of the book. When I've tried to read romance novels, I haven't liked them that much. Not enough happens in a romance novel. I like a healthy mix of internal and external conflict. Most SFF seems to focus on the external, most romance on the internal. I want both in the same story. (This is, of course, the type of story I write.)

While I enjoy most of what I read, very few authors are writing exactly the sort of book I want. Ellen Kushner did it with SWORDSPOINT, which is my all-time favorite fantasy novel. Most paranormal romance doesn't grab me (I don't like vampires, werewolves, or fairies), but I've enjoyed Richelle Mead's succubus series. And in the romance genre, I like Elizabeth Hoyt.

Cicily Janus said...

I tend to get on author and like author kicks when I read. And at just over 100 books a year on my reading list, not including the books I review for lit. magazines, sometimes my kicks can go for twenty or thirty books.

The one author I haven't found a like comparison to is Palahniuk. He's totally weird, fresh and unique. But then again I like Irving, King, Oates and newbies on the scene like Marinovich, Crandell etc...

Anything that can make me stop what I'm doing in Borders within the first five pages, I buy.

And I read for craft, for entertainment and the love of words.

Thanks for the post.


Christie Craig said...

Love the post Jessica.

It goes back to the fact writing/reading is subjective. I'm sure when you sell a book, you don't always get a yes from everyone you submitted it to. Sure, some books/authors may get the dream come true and go to auction, but not all of them. And I've heard that some of the books that were the hardest to sell, are the biggest sellers.

Great post.


Diana said...

Yeah, what Shirley said.

Katie, I think your comment about the trends is in writing style for romances is interesting. I've been listening to audiobook versions of Nora Roberts lately, and I am amazed at how different her newest releases are from the older ones. I know writing styles and tastes change, but The Villa has a a simple elegance, a gracefulness that just isn't trendy right now.

To paraphrase something Lisa Kleypas said in her RWA National speech, I don't need to be reminded that life is hard and things don't always turn out well. I have enough of that going on in real life.

I like to read to escape, and that can include romance, adventure, paranormal, comedy, mystery, and really, anything else that's a good vacation from real life. It's not that I prefer to read fluff, but like shirley said, after a long day at work, I don't need to settle in with something that will give me nightmares.

It doesn't have to have a happy ending, but I need a glimmer of hope at the end. Something that shows the world is still a decent place. I often sway away from literary fiction because I hate finding out everyone dies at the end. I hate feeling like I just wasted four hours of my life reading about them.

I really bond with my characters, and I have to like them to finish the book. This is why I like books with connecting characters. They've become my friends and I latch on to them!

I also have to like the voice. When I'm considering a book by an author I haven't read before, my number one concern is whether or not I'll like the style of storytelling.

I think the reason why books like Da Vinci Code and the Harry Potter series do so well is that they come along at the right time (when we're ready to accept something really different) and they introduce us to a world of new possibilities that intrigue us and play with our imaginations long after we finish the books. Look at how Brown's book stirred interest in secret societies, religion, history, and created this drive in even otherwise non-religious people to wonder about the "real story" behind Jesus.

Amie Stuart said...

This is not to say that I'm a perfect writer, by any means.

Katie...None of us are perfect writers (ME INCLUDED)! LOL That's what crit partners are for. I'm very lucky in mine.

I'm also a sucker for a great voice which is hard to pin down but I think the closest I can come to defining it is HOW you phrase you writing. I know, vague much *ggg*

K J Gillenwater said...

I want more suspense books for women that are not centered around romance. With more female protagonists taking the helm...and not necessarily tough female protagonists.

Also, I will read ANY book that is written well with compelling characters. PLEASE choose books that have this as the main strong point rather than the plot. PLEASE. So many interesting plots have been wasted by uninteresting characters.

Kathleen MacIver said...

It seems that a LOT of us care more about the characters, than the plot. This doesn't necessarily reflect what agents want us to focus on in our pitch, though. Yes, we're suppose to introduce the characters, but then it's plot, conflict, etc. I have never heard/read of an agent say that they want a query letter to give them a good idea of how well the character has been portrayed.

(But maybe that's because it would be quite difficult to portray that in two paragraphs. Hmmmm....)

Anonymous said...

I read an article recently about the flurry to change commercials and news ads immediately after 9/11. Some ads were completely scrapped, while others only needed slight changes in order to resonate with the changes in our lives.

I love great characterization, and I'll put up with a multitude of literary evils to journey with a character I love. But questions of marketability come down to an understanding of human need. Some things are predictable: we want to escape, we want to be entertained, we want to believe in the power of love and we want to know that the bad guys get what they deserve in the end.

The release of the Lord of the Rings movies was beautifully timed. The last-man-standing battle between good and evil resonated with our personal and national struggles. Frodo's journey empowered us to face challenges that seemed bigger than us. His victory became ours.

We may enjoy countless books, and we will buy many that don't have such deep themes. But I think we all know how quickly the market can change. To survive market shifts, a book needs to have a deeper truth beyond "trend". The most marketable books speak long after we've read the last word.

Anonymous said...

Not enough happens in a romance novel.

This is the exact problem that I have with romance. I like romance mixed in with plot as does the poster of the quote above, and I also have a hard time finding books within the romance genre that satisfy me. I get tired of the internal ruminations of the characters on subjects that are just flat out uninteresting (and usually repetitive). I'm tired of all the sex - which after reading a few romance novels becomes unoriginal. I want a good story. I want characters who learn/change/grow as they face obstacles. I want the romance to be the reward for the journey.

I want to be surprised - very few things capture me as much as a good surprise. I want to feel empathy for the characters - even the ones that I don't like. I want to live the excitement/tension/emotions of their lives - which means the story must have excitement/tension/emotions. But not too much because I want the story to be believable as well.

I want language that works. This doesn't always mean beautiful prose (although my favorite author is Dorothy Dunnett). It does mean that the voice has to appeal and that the language is planned rather than accidental.

But I have on occasion tossed all the above out the window because a book that breaks my own preferences really, really works. Beyond rules and likes/dislikes, what I want is a book that captures me heart and soul. A book that I will read and reread because every time I even look at the book's spine I am reminded of what a wonderful experience it gave me.

Do I get that very often? No. But that is why I read. I'm always looking for it. The closer an author brings me to that magical love of a book, the more likely I am to read more of the author's stories.

Anyways... That's my thoughts, spewed forth after several years of pondering this topic.

Anonymous said...

I've looked at this issue from many different angles: as a wannabe author, a former retail bookstore worker, former online bookstore worker, former bookstore owner, and most recently after 10 years in corporate sales.

The problem, as far as I can tell, is that book fads, word-of-mouth, and the "Get It While It's Hot" mentality aren't a year-to-year cycles, or even a season-to-season cycles. It's quite literally a day-to-day cycle, sometimes a week-to-week or maybe a month-to-month kind of thing. Because it takes roughly 18 to 36 months for a book to go from accepted by an agent to published and sitting on the shelf, it's impossible to predict today what's going to be the daily or weekly "hot" book 2 years from now.

I can't even count how many times I've seen a hot new book fly off the shelves, only to be restocked and never sell another copy. Whether it's a radio/TV interview or a reveiw in a respected newspaper, certain promotional plugs generate a tremendous, but short-lived, response from readers.

I think it's easier for an agent and/or editor to say "This book WILL sell," than it is to know which ones won't, because at least then you have some tangibles such as author reputation, sales history, and predetermined cycles like elections and recessions, to focus on.

Anonymous said...

In my publishing area (technology) there is certainly something to be said for author platform.

Even though there may be several similar/competing books - many of which are just plain better, it can sometimes come down to which author has the best platform on which to sell and promote the book.

Linnea said...

Why do I read? I read to be entertained, thrilled, mystified. The books I prefer are plot driven but the characters can't bore me or tick me off with nauseating repetitive pet phrases. (for some reason I've picked up a number of books lately that do this and I simply can't read them) I want to see fewer vampires and werewolves and less soft porn masquerading as romance.
I don't think there's any concrete way to evaluate books as there are too many books that break out of the usual molds and go on to perform like superstars. I think you just have to get lucky.

Christy said...

As a reader, I want something entertaining, decently-paced, well-written with engaging characters. No matter what the genre is. I absolutely think that agents who pass up well-written books because they're unsure of the market for it are either shooting themselves in the foot, or are using 'marketing' as an excuse for something the book lacks. And maybe it's something that they can't put a word to. It was well written but it didn't hold their interest.

As a reader, I am completely appalled at the slow-moving, boring, redundant dreck that's getting published. Especially in the paranormal fields. I've been picking up book after book, especially in the paranormal mystery category, and having to force my way through them. Hasn't anyone ever heard of editors? Too little story being drawn out over too many pages, with characters who aren't quite interesting enough to merit the investment. In other words, not very well written and yet it's published because it falls into the flavor of the month.

As a writer, I would like to see the industry go back to publishing well-written books, regardless of the genre. Instead of muddying up the waters and glutting the market with dreck because they're all trying to catch the wave of what's hot. You know what's hot and what becomes a trend-setter? Something well written that doesn't talk down to its audience. Harry Potter was well-written, with a well-developed world, engaging characters and, most importantly, it never talked down to its audience.

Seems to me that agents and publishers would do better to stop chasing the wave and concentrate on finding well-written, engaging stories. They'd have a better chance of creating the next wave if they stop playing the game and concentrate on quality.

Anonymous said...

I find it interesting that we are trying to decide what all of us would like, but out of over forty posts, I have seen hardly any opinions that match mine.

I don't think that's a problem at all, just the nature of the beast. The only thing I think the majority agree on, is that we all seem to like great characters.

I'd be very concerned if 20 people in a room were deciding the "market" for me. If the twenty posts before mine were that market group, I'd never see another book I like.

Publishing is a risk, and I don't know if there is any sure fire way to minimize that risk. People like what they like, and they'll read and buy what they like.

I guess you have to find your audience, and trust it is out there.

Anonymous said...

Anyone else notice this has now turned into a genre bashing contest?

How can someone who says they don't like or don't read (insert genre), say they never want to see it again?

That makes NO sense. If you don't want to see (insert genre), stop picking those novels up in the bookstore. YOU don't HAVE to see them unless YOU pick them up!

Are they just pissed because they think (insert genre) is taking up the shelf space for whatever other genre they personally prefer?

Or do you think they're pissed because (insert genre) is gobbling up the shelf space they WISH their book was sitting on?

Kathleen MacIver said...

For what it's worth, I haven't seen any bashing... just opinions shared. The variety of the opinions does, I think, highlight the difficulty for publishers to know what the public wants... we all love different things!

But then, this is a good thing. "Variety is the spice of life!" I'd much rather large variety of books be published, so that each of us can search for what we love, than only one kind be published. I know I'm not alone, either.

Jamie Hall said...

What you said about individual people changing their tastes and reading habits is right on.

Among my friends (who were all kids during the 80s) there has been a strong trend to read more nonfiction as we get older, and less fiction.

I've also noticed that rabid fantasy/sf fans (the ones who hardly read anything else) tend to diversify their tastes with time, and break out into other genres.

Anonymous said...

I like thrillers and mysteries, and have for some time. But now, because of things happening within my family, I read more non fiction relating to family issues.

In fiction, I read to escape, which is the same reason I go to the movies.

But more than anything, I truly value my time. When I see a book, if I like the cover and the jacket information, I flip it open and read a page at random. If it is a thick book with small print, I put it back. I know I will not invest the time to finishing it.

As a writer, I remember how I feel as a reader and try not to waste a reader's time.

Shalanna said...

I love y'all. You're the first group who has ever said that they see why "government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth" should not be "tightened down" to "self-government should continue." None of my critique groups ever understood cadenced prose or using words/phrases with connotations that created subtext (they could never understand why connotation was important--only denotation, the actual dictionary definition, made sense to them.)

Anonymous said...

This is a great post...and thanks to Erik for getting the ball rolling with his "thoughtful wrestling" with these issues in a previous post, and this one as well.

Julie Weathers said...

The next "hot" book might be yours if you have enough vision and originality to put it out there. I think a person should set their own trends, not try to chase them. Believe in yourself and your work.

I also believe a skilled agent will pick up on the magic. Not all of them, but the right one will recognize it.

As for the genre bashing post by Anon, I guess I missed it. Expressing a personal opinion about what you like or don't like isn't quite the same as a bash fest.

Anonymous said...

I try to read different genres, expand my horizens past what I'm comfortable reading. And since I've started to do that, I find that I really enjoy a LOT of different books. Memoirs, women's fiction, literary, chick lit...

I get sick of different authors. Since I'm anonymous, I will tell you that I'm sick of Nora Roberts. All her books sound the same to me now, like she has a blueprint for all of them, she just changes the names and occupations of her characters. She's a great author, and in the past I've truly enjoyed her writing, but now that she's turning out several books a year, how in the world can I even expect them to all be different?

Also, I don't usually read the same type of book twice in a row. If I read a heavy literary book, next time I may want to read a chick lit to lighten the mood a little. Then I may want to read a true crime, then I may switch to a romance. I don't necessarily get tired of any one genre, I just don't like to read the same kind twice.

I read to be entertained and as "research" since I am also a writer. I read to see what works and what doesn't, to see how an author creates a certain situation. Also to learn different subjects so that I can be knowledgable when I write myself.

I never "copy" anything that I read. No, there are really no original ideas out there. But I don't go looking for what's hot so i can conform my own writing to fit that. I'm unpublished as of yet, and maybe that's why - I don't have any pressure right now to come up with the "next Harry Potter" or to be the "next Nora Roberts." I write what I write because it's something that comes to my mind, my characters are unique, their stories yet untold. I don't copy anyone's style. I have my own.

Kimber Li said...

Another thing to consider is readers who don't find what they're looking for in the New Releases go to the Used Bookstore and/or Library instead.

Their voice is not heard through the sale of new books.

If editors and agents don't listen to their voice, they can't know what they want. Therefore, readers 'telling' agents and editors what they want through the sale of new books is lop-sided. It may work, sort of, but I think a lot more books would be sold new if authors, agents, and editors considered what drove that group of readers away from the New Releases in the first place.

I hear from this group of readers on a regular basis through my book review blog. In fact, it's one of the reasons I started it.

Anonymous said...

Another thing to consider is readers who don't find what they're looking for in the New Releases go to the Used Bookstore and/or Library instead.

That is a brilliant thought. I've never really considered it before, but it absolutely true. I'm a living testament. Most of the books I read are from the library, and it is not because I don't mind buying them. I actually do buy books, but mostly non-fiction. I find that for my fiction reading, I don't really like what the bookstores stock and prefer the older selections of my library.

Anonymous said...