Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Librarian Has Her Say

Tired of RITA talk yet? Of course you're not! But I had an epiphany today. One of those "A-Ha!" moments that I so rarely have because 1) I'm not that clever and 2) I'm not that clever. That's why this blog gets a hellava lot less traffic than say Dear Author or the Smart Bitches.

I've been a working, professional librarian for 8 years now, (cripes I'm old, when did that happen?) and have been actively working in collection development for 6 of those years. So I kind of like to think I know what I'm talking about when I say this:

Readers don't care about any genre fiction "industry" award. Really, they don't.

Not the Edgars, the Nebulas, the Agathas, the Spurs - whatever. They don't care. And you know why they don't care? Because they're genre fiction readers!

Readers read genre fiction for one reason and one reason only. Ready for it? They want to be entertained. They want likable characters, a good story, and something to take their mind off their own problems. They read genre fiction because while they might feel guilty about it - they like what they like and they don't have any hang-ups about reading for "enrichment" or "enlightenment" or slogging through books because they're "good for you." Yeah, literature is a rich tableau, but wouldn't you rather have a Snickers bar as opposed to brussel sprouts?

As a librarian working in collection development, I do pay attention to all these awards. I make sure we have enough copies etc. I keep an eye on the request list(s). And you know what? They very seldom "jump" up after an award win (but I keep up the pretense anyway because my boss seems to think I should). The books that do garner high request(s) and win awards - well those are mainly coincidence. Frankly, La Nora is going to circulate like gangbusters whether she wins any awards or not. Readers love her regardless, and I think that goes for every other author out there. Readers read you because they like your book(s), not because you're winning awards left and right.

The only exception to this rule that I can find are the National Book Awards and the Pulitzer - but (and this is a big but), the winning books have to have what I call the Book Club Stink on them. Which most of them do, because both of these are literary awards, and frankly book clubs can only read so many Oprah picks before they want to poke their eyes out.

But by and large, genre readers don't care because they simply read for the love of reading. For the love of being entertained and swept away. We aren't reading to "make ourselves better people" (although this is not impossible with genre fiction) and we're not reading to "educate" ourselves. We're reading simply because we love it. We've reached a point in our lives where we're tired of being told what we should be reading. Awards are just a back-door way for "them" to tell us what we should be reading - and that's why we tune them out.

But I concede that authors need awards. It's validation. It's sort of like when I get a good evaluation at work. It is a way to be recognized for all that hard work, blood, sweat and tears. And who doesn't love to have a pat on the back? A "good for you" and a "job well done?" And honestly, authors already get that from readers every time we buy a book, go to a library, or "recommend" books to friends, family and strangers at the airport. We've been doing our part for years. We write you fan mail. We visit your blogs. We attend book signings. We wait with bated breath for your next release. That's our idea of an "award." And while it's not a statue that you can sit on your mantle, and it's not something tangible you can hold on to, take my word for it - while genre fiction readers will likely never care about industry awards, that doesn't mean they love authors any less.


Alie said...

I agree with you on this one! My boss had me doing a book award list for our website (business books mind you). People don't want to be told what's best for them to read, they want to choose for themselves.

Bev (BB) said...

Thank you. :D

Kristie (J) said...

I think writer awards are a great thing too - for fellow writers. But I don't see why some want to get us involved in them when, at least me - could care less. I've won awards at work but other than telling my immediate family and maybe mentioning it to a few coworkers, I didn't tell anyone else because - they really wouldn't have cared and I wouldn't have expected them too.

LinM said...

Tired of Rita talk yet. I am because it is incredibly depressing. But I agree with you - awards are for the authors.

OTOH, I am incredibly grateful to every blogger who takes the time to share their recommendations, reactions, and analysis. I've read some thoroughly enjoyable books which I would not have discovered otherwise.

Nora Roberts said...

This isn't about the Ritas, but it connects to RWA, so it's kind of on topic.

What would you like to hear about in a keynote speech if you were attending the librarian function at RWA's national this summer?

I gotta write this sucker, and it seemed like a good idea to go straight to a librarian before I got started.

Wendy said...

Oh lordy Nora - no pressure there LOL

I still have decide if I'm going to Dallas. The Boyfriend is saying "go" and I'm waffling because of the money. I love attending RWA, but when I have to fly (as opposed to drive) it makes me pause a bit.

I think most of the librarians at the event already know how "cool" romance is - so it's sort of like preaching to the choir. Personally, I'd love to hear why you like romance so much. Why do you keep writing it? I mean, you're NORA ROBERTS (!!), at this point I think you could parlay your talent into any genre/arena you wanted - but you keep coming back to romance. There's got to be a reason right?

Also, you've been in the industry a long time. You've seen things, you've heard things. Let's face it, the business is probably a little different today than it was when you started out. Or maybe it isn't? I'm always fascinated when writers talk about what it was like to start out, and changes they've seen over the years. Sort of like opening a time capsule.

I'm drawing a blank. Seriously. Times like this I wish I was smarter, more clever, and able to string my thoughts together in cohesive sentences. Maybe I'll toss out this request in a future blog post? Have the librarians who read my blog offer some ideas as well....

Rosie said...

And you say you're not clever! I'm going to save this to link to every time I see the RITAs are th subject of another blog. I swear I am.