The book statistics continue to dishearten me. A recent study of 1,007 self-published authors shows that romance authors earned 170% more than the average, while science-fiction writers earned 38% of the average, fantasy writers 32%, and literary fiction authors just 20%. Even though I’m not self-published, these figures matter because they show the trend. Most of the books that are selling are romances, and most of the selling romances are written by well-educated women in their forties. Typically, 75% of the total sales were made by 10% of the authors.
That’s good news for women who write romances, but what about the rest of us? I don’t want to write to make money — I want to make money from what I write, which is something completely different. Considering that my books are genre-benders and that most readers seem to stick with recognizable genres and story lines, it’s not surprising that my books are slow sellers. Even if I wanted to write to sell, I’m not sure I could. Chances are, if I were to start out writing a romance, it would end up being something completely different after I filtered it through my writing voice. (Whatever voice that might be.) We can only write the books that are in us. And romance novels are nothing I have any interest in, either to read or to write.
Oddly, despite what I see as a dismal book climate, I am getting interested in writing again. My work-in-pause — a tongue in cheek apocalyptic novel — is so far out of the realm of any recognizable genre that it would probably be impossible to sell. (Even my father admits that it’s weird, and he likes my books.). But I’ve concluded that selling isn’t the point of writing, at least not for me. Nor is communicating with others. (That’s what this blog is for — to communicate with others.) The point of writing is simply . . . writing. Using my brain. Creating a world that didn’t exist before. (Could that be the point of life? The creation of a world that didn’t exist before? Hmmm. I wonder if there’s a book in that idea.)
I suppose my renewed interest in writing is inevitable. I’ve been spending less time online and more time in the real world. And for me, writing takes place in the real world. Or at least the real world of my mind.
June 3, 2012 at 7:17 pm
Personally, I don’t like genres because they force books that might really be what we used to call “general fiction” and into narrow pigeonholes. I guess you could put a kissing scene into your work in progress and then call it an “apocalyptic romance” and immediately see $10000000000000 in sales. I like telling stories, but I’d rather let the books’ descriptions tell people what they’re about rather than having to paste labels on them. Personally, I stay away from romances because I dislike characters who (in a “typical romance”) spend a lot of time thinking about “Bob’s strong arms” or whether “that hunk at bar might be good in bed.” I want to shout: “move on with the real plot.” I know, though, that I have missed some books I would otherwise like because the “romance” label chased me away.
June 3, 2012 at 7:35 pm
In the adult section of the library I went to as a child, there was a small section of romances, a small section of westerns, a small section of science fiction, a small section of mysteries. And then there was all the rest of the novels, which filled most of the shelves. That’s my genre: all the rest. It’s what I’ve always read and what I write.
June 4, 2012 at 2:17 am
The problem with the boom in self publishing, is that it is watering down the standard of grammar and weakening the status of that beautiful language we call English. Words used in the wrong context, clumsy syntax, lousy punctuation! etc all make the hairs on the back of my neck stand erect.
June 4, 2012 at 11:06 am
When I say such things, people point out that the language is always in a flux, but there is a difference between a flux and a mutilation, and what is going on today. The book in self publishing is not only changing the language, it’s changing the very essence of what a book is. I used to think books were sacred, now? Not at all!!