In a blog post at The Millions, my friend and co-author (more about that later), Kim Wright, has posted an eye-opening piece about the switch going on in publishing these days. What switch? The one from writing literary novels to producing genre works. You know, thriller, mystery, romance, suspense, YA … the list goes on.
The point of her post is simply that this switch is happening for one very good reason. Genre sells. So why didn’t this happen before? How come the so-called “literary” novel has been on the new releases table for so long if it didn’t sell? Hmmmm? Lots of reasons. For one thing, agents and editors like well written books. And much of what you find on the genre shelves is — to be frank — mediocre writing. Not all, mind you. Not by a long shot. So how about those literary tomes that make you want to close your eyes and nod off? They may not excite the reader but they do aim to elevate prose. Bottom line is that no genre work is ever going to win the National Book Award or a Pulitzer (I won’t even mention the Nobel Prize — oops I just did).
These days publishers are pulling in the reins on advances for literary books at the same time they’re scouting for genre gems. And genre writers are popping up like mushrooms after a heavy rain. Just take a look at the Indie field on Amazon and you’ll find genre writers by the thousands while literary works are as hard to find as a diamond in a cornfield. There are, to be sure, a few literary works on the Indie roster — mine included — but literary writers have decided that it’s no crime to write a mystery, albeit using some of the same prose techniques that elevates their literary writing.
Kim Wright (see above) and I have co-authored a paranormal romance that will be released on Amazon & B&N by early October. It will be my fourth release as an Indie. It will be Kim’s first, although she has previously published one non fiction work with Random House, one literary novel with Grand Central, is about to release The Path To Publication with Press 53, and her first historical crime novel is in the hands of her agent who will be shopping it to publishers this month.
And that’s how a writer makes a living these days. Writing. All kinds of writing. When you think about it, maybe that’s not really such a break from the past. Writers always had to be flexible and able to use their skill set in many ways just to stay afloat. After all, one of America’s greatest writers — Faulkner — wrote scripts in Hollywood to pay the bills. And he wasn’t alone.
So, without sacrificing the quality prose we all deserve, let’s all climb off the literary high horse and write what pleases readers.