Random observations made at Barnes and Nobles today led me to reflect that there are at least 8 ways to sell out as an author. They include:
- Tack a really eye-catching cover, with lots of pink, onto an otherwise pathetically dull read. (Go ahead and judge a book by its cover…if its pop art glitze with one or more plastic blondes prancing oh so confidently on a busy sidewalk or something…control the urge and walk on).
- Utilize the word “chick” somewhere in your title. There’s “Shopping Chick” and “Sista Chicks,” to name two, each a series of books that chronicle the vacuous lives of shallow, blond chicks. Their conflicts include finding a man, wondering where to travel, and what outfit to buy next…this is what women devour and what keeps the writing market hungry for more…WHY?!
- Follow the trend and make your characters their friends. In every “chick” novel, there is a trio of mid-twenties, early thirties friends/sisters with an unshakable bond who live an exciting, ideal life and do quirky things that are very “Bridget Jones.” In our busy lives-often starved of social time-they pose as our “friends.” Quite sad, really.
- The long bout with self-help. Why are Dr. Phil and Joel Osteen smiling on their book covers? Is it that they are so happy and fulfilled because they want to help us make our fleeting lives the best they can be OR are they thinking about that new Bently and house #20 in Hawaii? Hmmm.
- I am a psychotic mess, mom is sleeping with the Gardener and life is generally a big, unending climax. More “artistically” inclined novels are filled with broken, unfulfilled marriages, homes and women, alluring affairs, and one-parent families either from divorce or the death of one parent. There is no happiness, fulfillment, or in tact house-holds to be found in this breed.
- Remind them that the single life rules… remember? Especially in the Christian (or whatever they call it) section, there are a myriad of books about embracing singlesness and they all say the same thing!! Josh Harris was pretty original…why didn’t it stop there?
- I cut my finger and now I’m going to write about it. Overcoming obstacles, whether it be a disease, identity crisis or death of a loved one, seems to make everyone an author these days! I’m almost beginning to wonder if people intentionally put themselves in situations so that they can hire a ghost writer and make a buck or two!
- Condemn originality to the penniless past. C.S. Lewis, Tolkien,Charles Dickens, the Celts (King Arthur and Gwynevere), Jane Austen, Louisa May Alcott, Lucy Maud Montgomery, and many others were brilliant story tellers who never lived in riches but created masterpieces-as awesome as any Michelangelo-that transcend time, economy and dust. They attest to the true craft form that the novel was created to be. Today though, we as readers have such cheap expectations and subsequently, “writers” prey on us and don’t even try to give us quality any more! They make a pretty penny making fools of us too.