Thursday, June 7, 2012

Steve Wasserman Compares Readers of Genre Fiction to Drug Addicts


Kris Rusch hit another home run with her Thursday column. Her article will be met with a resounding, "Heck ya!" by any who felt insulted on behalf of E.L. James because of the way she was treated at the Authors Guild Dinner.

In case you missed it, here's the offensive part:
A number of the evening’s speakers, who also included writers David Rakoff and Sarah Jones, made obligatory digs at 50 Shades of Grey, an erotic work derived from Twilight fan fiction and derided as “mommy porn” that has inexplicably topped the New York Times bestseller list.
- Authors hail Teddy Roosevelt, rip ‘mommy porn’ at annual gala
Really? E.L. James is an author whose books have sold well, hers is a success story, but if she thought the Authors Guild would welcome her she was wrong. Instead they act like common schoolyard bullies. Why? Well, I'm guessing it was because her work was self-published in the beginning, before Random House signed her, and because it sold like wildfire.

Where will this bullying end?

In a recent article, The Amazon Effect, Steve Wasserman tucks into writers and readers of genre fiction. What follows is excerpted from Kris Rusch's article.

Kris writes: 
[Wasserman] writes, “Readers of e-books are especially drawn to escapist and overtly commercial genres (romance, mysteries and thrillers, science fiction), and in these categories e-book sales have bulked up to as large as 60 percent.”

In other words, junk sells better in e-book format, something you hear a lot from the folks in traditional publishing these days.

Wasserman then quotes an unnamed traditional publishing executive who says, “But as Amazon’s six other publishing imprints (Montlake Romance, AmazonCrossing, Thomas & Mercer, 47North, Amazon Encore, The Domino Project) have discovered, in certain genres (romance, science fiction and fantasy) formerly relegated to the moribund mass-market paperback, readers care not a whit about cover design or even good writing, and have no attachment at all to the book as object. Like addicts, they just want their fix at the lowest possible price, and Amazon is happy to be their online dealer.”

Is it any wonder that traditional publishing is in trouble, with that attitude? The books that sell well don’t deserve (in their opinion) the respect of good covers or good marketing, and the readers certainly don’t deserve their respect. Apparently, the book collectors who predominate in science fiction and fantasy don’t care about books as objects (that’ll be news to them). Apparently people who read this junk just want their fix, like any other drug addict.

Insulted yet?

No wonder readers who enjoy genre fiction like to read it on their e-readers. The covers from traditional publishers are deliberately ugly, the writing is awful (supposedly—and if so, then what does traditional publishing bring to the table, if they publish any old crappy writer?), and the people who publish it are awfully judgmental. Best to enjoy it in private, without someone leering at the awful cover that the publishers have put on the book.

Go back to that Authors Guild meeting, note that they made fun of a book that first sold well as an indie title in e-book, and ask yourself who those writers identify with? I have a hunch it’s not those of us who write genre fiction.
What's the moral of the story? Is there one? I don't know. I'll admit to being disillusioned when it comes to traditional publishing and the ideals it stands for.

There is good news, though. With the demise of the big bookstore chains there has been a resurgence of independent bookstores. Book sales, both of digital and paper books, are up.

It's always nice to end on a positive note. :)

Cheers.

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