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.