It has the cover you like, the title that appeals, the story that takes you places.
You think you make your own choice, but the bookstore manager has done it for you.How? By placing certain books at the front of the store, giving them relevance and appeal and by segregating others in the back.
Why? That’s my million dollar questions. Maybe you do have the answer or an opinion about it, but I have yet to figure out the absolute undisputed reason for it.
I guess the first that comes to mind is the popularity of an author, the genre they write and their style.
The second one is the sort of main character they choose to portray. Is it the type that grabs the “average” reader’s imagination? Or the one that everyone is happy to hate?
The third point has probably a lot to do with the author’s choice to tackle some issues over others.
As a crime fiction writer, the one that raises loads of uncomfortable questions and forces the reader to confront her most ingrained prejudices and ultimately her worst fear the market is hard to break. It is available, but it isn’t for everyone.
And I guess that is the main and only reason for an author’s success, aside from luck of course. Her/his choice of genre and the issues they are comfortable to raise in their stories.
All this brings us to the article that got me to think and write about bookstore managers and their choice of authors, genre, stories.
The article in question is Is ‘urban fiction’ defined by its subject – or the skin colour of its author? | Books | The Guardian and deals with the skin issue that black authors seem keen on bringing to prominence.
I don’t agree with it.
Books get relegated to the back benches for a variety of reasons and some have already been highlighted above.
Many years ago, I remember reading a great story by Sandra Scoppettone. It was a detective story with a lot of soul. And a lesbian MC.
That was enough to get the library to relegated it to a pile in a cardboard box and give it away for .10p.
So as much as I would like to identify with the urban fiction writers, I can’t say their plight is convincing enough.
Authors become famous for a variety of reasons and genre and characters grab the public’s attention for just as different reasons. To make it a race issue is just another way for the black author to call attention to their skin color.
James Patterson and co. sell millions because their characters and storylines sit comfortably with the general public, not because of the skin color of the author.