May 24th, 2006
Accountability, craft, art, and service industries

I’m mostly reacting to this post over on Smart Bitches Love Trashy Novels, plus a couple other recent posts. I will tangent from the basic topic because I like to tangent.

I react negatively to the notion that writers work in a service industry even though (in some ways) I think it’s true. The discussion on SBLTN veered off in the direction “who do I blame when I get a book I think is drek? Should I demand my money back? Ect….)

Well, here’s the thing, one person’s drek is another person’s polished diamond. Reading is a subjective experience. When a woman picks up a book she reads it through her personal filter–all of her past experiences, everything her momma and life taught her, all the things she’s ever experienced and learned. Everything is perspective. Sometimes an author’s voice will not mesh with a reader’s filter. That’s just the way it is.

I truly dislike some books and authors out there who are wildly popular with a lot of readers. Do I think the work in question is “drek”? Yeah, maybe, but I’m not going to demand my money back for the book, or write the author or editor a nasty email. I make a judgment about whether to try that author again or not. If the trend is still drek after a second try, I just stop reading her and move on. I’m not going to play the part of the unhappy consumer. That’s not really the way it should work.

Why?

Because by talking about authors and their books in a service industry context we grow dangerously close to asking writers to PANDER and that’s just gross. Not to mention that we risk homogenizing novels so that they appeal to everyone (which mean they would appeal to no one). I have an image of a factory cookie-cutting novels out one after another.

As a reader you take a risk when you buy a book. Because of your personal filter you may not end up liking the story. *shrug*

I think of my writing as part art and part craft. I am a pragmatist and I do enjoy being compensated for the work I do. However I would probably still write even if I were not being compensated. Ever since I was a small child I’ve written. I do it because I love language. I love how the words fit together, how they sound, look and feel. I love creating worlds and people. I love telling stories. If you stopped paying me to do that, I would still do it because it’s a part of me.

But, since I do want to make this a paying career, I do think about marketability when I sit down and plot a book, but I do it within the confines of my comfort area. As long as I can write a book, (and, most importantly, enjoy writing it), within a subgenre that I know will sell well, I’ll do that. I do think about including elements I think the reader will like, but I won’t force myself to write something I don’t want to write just for money. I won’t pander.

You will never see me, for example, write the very popular futuristic “capture and seduce” plot. You’ll never see me write a borderline abusive alpha male character, even though they seem to be beloved by many readers. You will never see me write a stalker hero, or anything even close to rape (even in fantasy). You will see me write books like Water Crystal once in a while, even though I know they don’t sell well, simply because those stories are in me and I love to write them.

So, yes, in a way I think I do work in a service industry…to a point. We aren’t making widgets though, we’re creating characters and worlds for people to lose themselves in and that is a very subjective ART. I craft my books within the scope of my personal likes and abilities and I will not pander.

I’m just damn lucky I love to write erotic romance because it provides a way for me to make a living doing something I enjoy. :)

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