Tag Archives: JK Rowling

What about the reader

I talk a lot to writers. I’ve been a storyteller for as long as I can remember, but I’ve only really turned myself into a writer over the course of the last year and a half. At first, I was writing pure fantasy because I’ve been into fantasy (and other) rpg’s since grade school (yeah, a while ago).

After two collections of fantasy (Beyond The Mirror 1 & 2), I turned to write some SF. The inspiration for me was the story Greater Than The Gods Intended, which starts out as pure high fantasy and suckers you in quite a ways before you realize it is really hard SF. (And I do mean hard.  All the science is there right now, fully explainable and defensible.)

You’ve heard me kvetch in other places about not being able to find the sorts of fiction I want to read, leading/forcing me to go out and write it. I’ve heard other writers say the same things. In many ways, that is the impetus to become an actual writer instead of just playing.

But what about the reader? What do they want?

Manhattan Publishing (what I call TradPub because it represents the last five major publishers after they ate each other starting around 1990) is busy churning out a slew of new books every year, throwing things at a wall like wet spaghetti to see what sticks. When it does, everyone goes all in, imitation being the sincerest form of flattery meets the cut-throat nature of a very expensive industry.

Thus, two decades ago, young wizards in modern urban fantasy became huge “overnight” after JK changed the world of reading by making stories that grown-ups enjoyed as well. After that, stories about vampires (and all the rest of the previously-“bad” monsters of literature) took over for a stretch. Distopian/Post-Apocalyptic took off after Suzanne’s excellent look at one possible future. And those were just the biggest of the big.

If you come down a notch, Young Adult (YA) urban fantasy or science fiction has never been far from the top. Wander the aisles of your favorite book dealer (new or used) and gander at all the young girls in mid-riff-baring tops, either with a sword in one hand, or and beginnings of a hex, in some dark urban alleyway (presumably New York-ish). Or the dude in the cowboy hat doing the same thing.

Don’t get me wrong. I think it is absolutely awesome that so many people are reading these days. Even if you don’t read my stuff, every person who reads keeps a book store in business. Or talks books with a friend (who may like me, or maybe they find something in a used book store that looks enticing, with my name on it).

What I’m interested in is how the reader approaches their to-read list. (I won’t ever “write to market,” that is, identify what is hot right now and right something specifically geared to sell on that wave. Creative muse doesn’t work that way, anyway.)

Scienticians have identified three general archetypes of The Reader(tm)

The first group is the “Social” reader. This is the person that picks up maybe one book per year, because that is THE book to be reading. This is the person who read the first Fifty Shades book last year, because everyone was reading it and they either wanted to see what the hype was, or, more likely, wanted to be seen reading the latest hip, trendy fashion.

TradPub makes almost all of their money from the Social reader. They may only buy one book, but that group is usually millions of readers. This is the sort of thing that makes a novel enter the cultural zeitgeist.

The second group is the “Casual” reader. This person reads a dozen or two books per year, generally safely within a few particular genre, say, mystery, or SF, or fantasy, and doesn’t necessarily branch out much, unless they get a recommendation from a friend, or find an author has crossed over.

I don’t read a lot of fantasy any more, because I find it frequently formulaic and derivative. But a while back David Drake did his Isles series, so I had to read it all. Mostly enjoyed it, but I prefer his SF. For other readers it is the same way. They might dabble, but they come home eventually.

The third group is the “Voracious” reader. I live for this kind of person. When they find a new author they like, they quickly sit down and read everything that author has published. Woe unto you if you have only a small bakery of selections when they come in the door, instead of  muffins, and donuts, and coffee, and whiskey. I can tell when someone like that hits my back list, because I’ll sell some of the more obscure titles out of the blue. In a week, I’ll see one of everything go. (To date, I have never actually hit a true Otaku-grade collector, because I have one title that has never sold a single copy individually, only as part of one of the Beyond The Mirror collections.)

If you’ve read this far, I’m interested in what kind of reader you are. How many books do you read in a month, or year? What genre lights your fires? How did you come to know me or my works? (As I wind down the first Jessica Keller trilogy, what would you like to see more of?)

I enjoy hearing from the people in range of my voice. PLEASE feel free to drop me a note at blaze at blaze ward dot com and let me know. Who knows, as I’m listening for the next muse in the fall, your voice might be the one that tips me over towards one of about a dozen possible projects turning to gumbo in my writer-brain.

shade and sweet water,