Holy ish. I cannot believe the response I received on my last post. I feel a little bad for Nicky Sparks—I wasn’t trying to make him a symbol of the institutional problems of the publishing industry, I just expected him to have a better stock answer to the question “would your career have been different if your name had been Nicole Sparks?”
I’m realizing that the issue of how novels are categorized and the meaning of the various genres is one that a lot of writers think about. I mean my blog and Twitter blew up with opinions on the topic! Yes, that may have been because Jodi Picoult retweeted my post (teehee)—but I don’t think it’s just that. I was retweeted once before by someone with a lot of followers, and my hits spiked to 250; however, when Jodi Picoult retweeted me, I got over 2,000 hits in a single day! I mean, damn. This tells me that this is an issue that really impassions and infuriates a lot of people. In fact, the more I read about this, the more I find articles about writers trying to disassociate themselves from a specific genre–even Danielle Steel denies being a Romance author!
At first the whole thing just confused me, but now I’m beginning to better understand authors’ frustrations. For example, just the other day I was in the airport and found this:
I didn’t capture the whole section—the bottom rows have Danielle Steel and Nora Roberts books. Basically everyone in the “women’s fiction” section is a Romance novelist. Now, I have periodically claimed to be writing a women’s fiction novel; however, if I saw this, I might want to take that claim back. Not because I have anything against Romance writers—it’s just those books tend to have a different formula/focus than the one I’m writing. It would feel inaccurate.
But it gets worse. Then I went to the Ethnic section:
Ok, yes I love Terry McMillan, I’m down with that. And let me not knock Eric Jerome Dickey or any of the authors on here—but is this really the best they could do? What about Taiye Selasi or Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie or Ayana Mathis? Yes, I understand it’s an airport and so people are looking for beach reads, but other parts of that bookstore had more than just beach reads.
It just makes me feel like this is why sometimes “ethnic” genres or “womens” genres get such bad raps—because bookstores like these make it seem like the novels in these pictures are all the new fiction books out there that could be described as “ethnic” or “women’s fiction.”
Oh, and I didn’t even get to the Latino part of the “ethnic” section:
I just don’t have enough time to comment on the problems with this section.
Anyway, it’s all just all so weird. Til next time—adios!