Was it murder--or something serious?
Philip Marlow in Murder, My Sweet

Friday, October 3, 2014

Don't Encourage Them, Paul

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Readers are lovely. Aside from buying and reviewing our books, they send heartwarming emails and cards and even presents. They rejoice with us when we are successful and they encourage and support us when we are down. But one thing readers should not do -- that none of us should do -- is encourage our fellow authors who whine that their lack of success is due to the restrictions and demands of The Genre.

I don’t mean when a book has been misclassified due to the honest mistake of a publisher or a bookseller -- that is a genuine disaster for an author -- no, I mean when the author has chosen to mislabel his work in hopes of attracting a more commercial audience. Categorizing a book as Mystery, for example, when it’s actually a Romance or Literary Fiction. And then whinging because mystery readers complain that the book isn’t a mystery.

Whenever I analyze these posts calling for a redefining of a genre (why must romance have a happy ending?!)  -- and there seem to be more and more of them with the proliferation of self-publishing -- they really boil down to one thing: the author earnestly believes that if readers would just give his book a chance, they would love it.

But this is not the case. Every book is not for every reader. Period.

And most readers who are searching for a who-dunnit will not be charmed and won over by an incorrectly labeled book. Oh yes, once in a while a reader will enjoy the book, but that’s going to be the exception to the rule. Most readers are simply going to be irritated. And probably voice the irritation on one of the many review/social media sites.

An author bitching and moaning that the genre he’s chosen to work in is too narrow for his vision/genius is essentially saying he’s unqualified for the job he applied for. That doesn’t call for sympathy, it calls for reassessment. It calls for course correction.

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