On reading and listening and books in general
It’s no secret that most, if not all, of the bloggers here at MGC believe that story is king when it comes to writing. We do our best to write stories that will pull our readers in and send them soaring to new places and times. We want our characters to be real people, not simply be there to fill out some artificial checklist someone in an ivory corporate tower said we had to follow. We aren’t anti-message by a long shot. We just think the message should be woven into the story and not be so blatant that it hits the reader of the head over and over and over again. We have encouraged you to try new genres and, I hope, we’ve introduced you to new authors over the years.
Yet, the one thing I keep seeing people say is they won’t read this or that genre because it “isn’t their thing”. I even understand it, to a degree. But what so many of these people don’t realize is that there are very few pure genre novels any longer. Romance has found its way to science fiction. Mystery and fantasy mix. Time travel is everywhere. You get the picture.
Some of the readers most adamant about not reading a lot of genre fiction are those who enjoy literary fiction. How often have we seen them peer down their nose at genre fiction? So imagine my surprise to find this article. To sum it up, the author of the article, Laura Sackton, had a change in situation that allowed her to read a lot more last year. The final tally of books read was over 300. Over the course of the year, she discovered there were genres she really did enjoy, and could read quickly, despite her preconcieved notions about the genre.
“I read so many books in 2017 because I allowed myself to read broadly. I gave myself permission to read all sorts of books I wouldn’t have considered three years ago.”
That sounds familiar. It is much like the advice Sarah has given many of us who she’s worked with over the years. As writers, she tells us to give ourselves permission to write badly. Sometimes you have to create dreck, or what your perceive as dreck, to get the creative juices flowing again. As a reader, Sackton gave herself permission to read books she might have once considered dreck.
Before starting down her road to 300+ books in a year, Sackton read contemporary literary fiction almost exclusively. By her own admission, there might be an occasional sf/f or memoir thrown in but that was pretty much it.
“Friends kept telling me to try audiobooks; I ignored them. I assumed romance would be a boring, cliched waste of time. Picking up a YA novel never occurred to me. In short, I used to be a major book snob.”
Let’s be honest, in a lot of ways, many of us could say that. How many of us won’t pick up a romance book to save our lives? Or how about not reading chick lit or contemporary literary fiction? We all have a blindspot. The key is learning to recognize it and identify why you are avoiding a certain genre.
In Sackton’s case, she realized she was severely limiting the number of books she could reading. So she set out to read across different genres and formats. Her “one requirement for reading a book became: is this experience pleasurable/moving/illuminating?” I don’t know about you but that sounds pretty reasonable to me.
You guys can read the article but, for me, the key to it is this:
I learned that romance novels are not cliched and boring, and that they provide comfort and escape when I need it the way no other books can. I became flat-out obsessed with audiobooks. I discovered comics, and fell in love, hard. Reading so much was mostly a side effect of the thing that really made 2017 the best year of my reading life: daring to try so many books I had previously considered “not my type”.
As an author, I see a couple of takeaways from this. The first is something we already knew. There is an audience for almost anything out there. The key is finding it.
The second is we have to figure out how to write our blurbs in such a way that they will draw in not only regular readers of the book’s genre but those who are, like Sackton, looking to expand their reading experience.
The third is that, as an author, I need to have my books out there is as many formats as possible. I’m working on that right now. I’m in the process of updating formatting on all my books — damn, it’s amazing how much things have changed since Sarah and I first put our heads together to jump on the indie publishing wagon when Amazon first opened the Kindle Select platform. That means not only updating the ebooks but issuing new print versions for each book. Thanks to Vellum, that no longer takes nearly as long as it once did.
But it also means I need to get audio versions of my books out as well. I’ve looked at several options and keep circling back to one option with several sub-options. I am leaning toward going with the ACX. One of the sub-options of doing it that way is to choose a narrator from those who submit reading samples of the book in question and then negotiating a fee with them. Some want an outright payment. Others will do it for a percentage of the audiobook sales. But there is another option available if I go through ACX and that’s finding someone to do the narration and then submitting the narration through ACX. It will have to meet their technical requirements but that shouldn’t be too difficult, assuming the narrator is a professional (Yes, I’m looking at you DJ. You really do need to get your narration business up and running. VBEG)
Simple put, as writers we can learn a lot if we simply listen to readers. That’s been a downfall of many in traditional publishing. Too many in traditional publishing think it is their job to tell readers what they want. They forget that readers are the customers and we need to listen to them. The biggest lesson I’m learning, and not just from Sackton’s post, is that readers are wanting audio books. That really hit home when my son talked about how many audio books he listens to a month. So, that’s another business consideration I have to get serious about.
What about you? As a reader, what do you look for in a book? When you go to Amazon or BN or wherever online to look for a book, do you take the book or author more seriously if there are multiple formats available? Second question: where do you buy most of your books? Third question: what is your favored format for books?
On a housekeeping note, the blog is still undergoing changes. Most of them are taking place behind the scenes right now. One of the issues I’m looking at is the problem a couple of you have had with the sign up feature not recognizing your emails as valid addresses. There are other things in the works that may change as well, some of which you will see and most of which you won’t.
Finally, check back this afternoon for a guest post by Kacey Ezell.