Thursday, February 19, 2015

Don't Judge a Book by its Fame

I was at an independent book store up in Port Washington, admiring some work from talented authors and illustrators, when a woman walked up to the counter with three novels in her arms.  AS she placed them down and took out her money to pay for them, she asked, "So, are these books good?  I heard the first was good, but not sure about the rest."  After recovering from my immediate anxiety, it took nearly all of my strength to bite my tongue and not say, "Uh, why not think for yourself and do your research to see if you like the plot summary?"  Why did she buy them blindly?  They were famous.  Sadly, they were the 50 Shades of Grey books.  It was pretty much a slap in the face for me as a self-published author that this consumer would read work written using the vocabulary and grammar of adapted fan fiction at a 6th grade level.  I must admit, it bothered me. 

No, relax, it wasn't the book choice that rubbed me the wrong way (though it did). It was the fact that she didn't even know what she was buying.  That is judging a book by its fame.  Many books fall into that famous category--but don't fall into the trap of believing its "good."  Everyone has a different way to read books of various genres.  We're all different and have different tastes.  But it is the media that judges our choices, if you haven't noticed.  Fame is the best marketing tool, as a Yogi Berra fan might suggest.  But was it always like that?

Herman Melville, author of Moby Dick, died knowing that his work had not achieved the fame he had hoped.  In fact, the critics hardly saw it as a potential best seller.  Now, its a classic.  Shakespeare's plays were not acknowledged as masterpieces in his time.  In fact, it was only after his death when some of his biggest fans compiled his work that it had finally became recognized as a must read classic.  Imagine people turning the author of Hamlet, Macbeth, Romeo & Juliet, etc. away?  Well, it happened...and it is still happening today.  This has been the highly competitive literature field for many years.  It isn't easy to compete with those biographies from reality TV stars who promise to reveal their most shocking secrets!  (Most likely written by ghostwriters.)  Tip them please!

Do us self-published, independent authors a service and read the back of the book.  You just might find a concept so exciting, so bold, so original that you just might pick it up and never want to put it down until the ending.    Don't fall into the hype, though its challenging not to.  Book clubs and reading circles are exempt.  That's a bit different.  But, as an individual, search for books that peek your interest, and not just something you HAVE to read because EVERYONE is reading it.  Hey, you might like what everyone else is reading, but I'll bet you were handed a book from a friend once who said, "You'll like this one. Its you."  Word of mouth is true networking of interests--unless the media knows you better.  Now, to finish this excellent novel The Hunger Games. (A kid version of The Running Man)  Yeah, I said it. 

Opinions are fun.  I'd love to hear yours!