Busy Bee

I’ve been a very busy bee lately, mostly with the day gig, partly with other things. I’ve been reading a lot, and I’ve been listening to the Dixie Chicks’ Taking the Long Way. It’s excellent, and it plays in my head even when I’m not listening to the CD.

The title song keeps reminding me to be true to myself, and not to mind what the outside world says. In the end, I can’t help but be myself, so I might as well get on my own bandwagon as try to make myself over into a pale copy of someone else.

You might be wondering where this comes up. It tends to come up every time I run slap into the ways my fantasy novel isn’t like anything I’ve read or heard of. One of my secondary POV characters is going to make the journey from cynicism to faith, and another is going to struggle with competing, shifting loyalties. There’s a side of me that says this is what happens in the story, and there’s another side that thinks no one’s going to want to read this. People want what’s on the shelves.

Don’t they?

I don’t know. A group of writers I know were talking recently–about blogs and websites, as it happened–and one of the writers mentioned that people are buying fewer books. That writer wondered if websites and blogs were drawing readers away from books. She might be onto something, but I can’t help wondering if the narrowing of the market isn’t playing a part in this.

For example, I love cozy mysteries. One of my favorite series is Sarah Graves’s “Home Repair is Homicide” series. I also like Rett MacPherson’s Torie O’Shay mysteries, which feature an amateur sleuth who’s a genealogist. When I go to the bookstore, however, it seems as if all the cozy series are organized around some kind of craft. There are tea shop mysteries, knitting mysteries, needlework mysteries…and they all seem very alike to me, so much so that when I pick the books up, I put them back down again.

In romance, there are more Regency-set historicals than you can shake a stick at. There’s a limit to how many Regency-set historicals I can bear to read in a month, so that automatically limits my book-buying.

Bottom line? For me, I’m buying fewer books because fewer of the books that are currently being published interest me. It seems to me that publishing is getting more, not less, trend intensive, and that every trend has a limited audience. If every publisher is chasing after the same 25,000 readers (and ignoring the others), sales will go down.

I remember reading an article a few years ago, talking about how TV does this: glut the airwaves with the same kind of show, scheduling something like House against the original House. The writer went on to mourn the loss of counter-programming: if you’re trying to find something to go up against 18-35 year old men, you don’t schedule a program the men will like. Instead, you program something they won’t like, something other segments of the audience will like. You serve the underserved, and they’ll watch you.

(Sadly I don’t remember where I read this article, or who wrote the article–if someone knows, let me know.)

I think this might be something to consider elsewhere in entertainment: don’t do what the rest of the world is doing; don’t chase smaller slices of an already-committed audience. Find the audience that’s being ignored.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Cherry Red
    Jun 21, 2006 @ 00:19:00

    I think this might be something to consider elsewhere in entertainment: don’t do what the rest of the world is doing; don’t chase smaller slices of an already-committed audience. Find the audience that’s being ignored.

    Amen sister! It’s really just common sense isn’t it?

    Personally, I used to drop tons of money on books. No more. I have my few select favorite authors I wait for, but I don’t find much when browsing the shelves any more. I think what you pointed out is precisely the reason why.


  2. Cherry Red
    Jul 12, 2006 @ 01:12:00

    Oh! And I forgot to mention in my original post that I have the Dixie Chicks CD (which still shocks me actually) and there are many songs on it that I really like. My favorite of all, though, is the first song, “Taking the Long Way.” I feel like they wrote it for me.

    “I never seem to do it like anybody else. Maybe someday, someday I’m gonna settle down. If you ever want to find me I can still be found. Taking the long way around.”

    The story of my life.

    And you wanna hear something silly? I adore the line “Six stong hands on the steering wheel.” I feel the power of that sisterhood bond in those words. No matter what I’m doing when the song is playing, I must stop and sing that line. And it gives me chills.

    The power of sisterhood should never be underestimated. Nor should the power of being true to yourself.

    Kim, who really needs to update her own blog…


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