Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border

Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border
photo by Gene Tunick of Eureka, Montana

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Tip O'Day #361 - Do You Know a "Once Great" Author?

Guest blogger Linda Blevins on the Reluctant Reader/Reluctant Writer.

I sell books. And I don’t mean that I SELL books, like a publisher or an agent. I physically sell books at a small family-owned bookstore in my own neighborhood. I see the same 50 or so people every week, usually at the same time, on the same day every week. I know them by name, where they live, and who their people are. I have secret pet names for my customers that are sometimes nice, sometimes, not so much. My people tell me everything I want to know about what they read, why they read it, and if they want to try something new. They also tell me things that I probably shouldn’t know, but then we wouldn’t be having fun, would we? The point is: I am good at knowing my people.

For instance, Bingo Lady comes in on Wednesdays before lunch. She will only read romances with cowboys in them, preferably Texas cowboys. She is looking for book 6 in the McKettrick series by Linda Lael Miller and she has enough credit to never have to use real money to purchase said book. She’ll also flip you off if you make her mad.

Then there is Creepy Old Guy. He comes in on Thursdays, 4:30 on the dot looking to see if we have marked down even further the price of that collectible book that he will never buy. He also talks for hours about batteries or fire safety or God. He is … interesting.

Why the heck NOT me? I’ll be the reluctant (yet secretly thrilled) writer, stand au natural, and I’ll tell you about the reluctant reader. Perhaps by getting a different perspective, writers will have a new view of their particular piece of work.

I don’t advocate anyone writing for readers because that can be a slippery slope for everyone. Readers are fickle and somewhat spoiled. Sue Grafton writes the A, B, C mysteries and everybody loves them. She is famous for her series and she probably makes a lot of money. What I hear from my customers are things like, “The first 10 books were great!” “I’m disappointed because it seems like the same story over and over.”

I don’t know a single person that wants to be known as “once great, but now mediocre.” I am sure it’s a frustrating little tide pool for Ms. Grafton. The customer will reluctantly ask for that next book in the series, bemoan that the story is played out, and yet insist that they have to read it because they are not done with the alphabet. What?! If I was Ms. Grafton, I’d say, “You are asking for the same story, I’m trying to give it to you. Don’t do me any favors, Miss Fickle!” What the readers are really asking is to read a story that they enjoyed as much as the first one written. They want to feel the same feelings that they enjoyed and experience them again.

I envision that she is as reluctant to write the stories as much as the reader is reluctant to pick up her next piece of work. She is a gifted writer, has worked her paces and deserves more than money and kudos. She deserves to still enjoy her craft! Karin Slaughter has done an excellent job with her series. There are two different storylines, in two different series with a moderate amount of books for both. When the story was all told, she teamed the two stories and made a new one with everybody on the same playground. She does not re-tell the same story, but the readers still get a reminder of all the warm and fuzzy feelings without being resentful. I do want to add that Ms. Grafton and Ms. Slaughter are equally gifted and talented writers with engaging storylines.

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