I’ve known for some time now that publishing tends to market some books towards those who aren’t regular readers. This is why their summaries describe the work as “[blockbuster movie] meets [high-rating TV show]”. Or at least this is how they market what they hope will be “breakout” books.
All the covers, tropes, and marketing angles that don’t work for me – irrelevant. I’m not the target audience.
I feel kind of stupid for not noticing sooner that some authors also market towards those who aren’t regular readers. It totally makes sense: Their frequent requests for readers to post reviews on bookseller sites, and their routine anti-pirating pleas. *I know* reviews on bookseller sites go toward “visibility”, and therefore possible ads in super-special places – I know this helps authors. *I know* pirating books and downloading pirated copies are shitty things to do – which is why I don’t do them.
I thought authors were being passive-aggressive in their public posts, but they most likely weren’t even thinking about regular readers. Their target audience were maybe their family and friends who don’t understand publishing, who don’t know what we know.
So if publishers market towards irregular readers, and authors market towards irregular readers…where does that leave us? Are we anybody’s target audience?
(NOTE: I’m well aware that as a cis-het white woman, my demographics are target audiences for many genres – I don’t claim otherwise in that respect.)
Not long after that revelation, conflicting messages in publishing came to mind:
a) It’s often suggested that we do things specifically because they “help authors” (e.g. posting reviews on bookseller sites)
b) It’s often suggested that we separate art from the artist (e.g. when an author publicly supports a convicted child sex offender)
(NOTE: In this case, I’m not discussing book content. I grew up reading a lot of crime fiction; I’m pretty sure those authors don’t condone serial killing.)
So if we’re supposed to be mindful of authors, why is it suggested that we ignore or look away when an author does something shitty? “Authors are human; they’re allowed to make mistakes” – yes, I’ve heard the arguments. But seeing as though words are authors’ careers, I expect authors to be better at using their words than the average human. Authors know what words mean. They know what to say to convey a certain image, evoke a certain feeling. But if readers get the “wrong” image, or experience the “wrong” feeling, we “misinterpreted” – or “interrogated the text from the wrong perspective” – because authors are never to blame for their mistakes or their deliberate deeds. *headdesk*
So are we only supposed to pay attention to authors when it benefits THEM? Are we supposed to deny or ignore when they place themselves in an unfavourable light?
We can’t have it both ways. The relationship between readers and authors is often complex, and we don’t need to complicate it further. We don’t require a consensus, but we should ask ourselves some hard questions, and figure out where we stand – and WHY. The answers may have nothing to do with authors and readers, but about PEOPLE, the abuse of power differentials, bigotry, victim-blaming, as well as other serious topics.
Where do you draw the line? How much will you let an author get away with before you realise that you can’t support them as people anymore, and therefore can’t support their books, either? How do you decide who to support, and who to ignore? Why?
I ranted a lot on Twitter in the past few days. In case you missed them: