Wednesday, 28 September 2011

What Women Don't Want - The books I write, apparently...

Have you listened to the media over the past couple of days?  Or read those newspapers articles that have been doing the rounds?  The ones pronouncing the end of chick lit, the death of commercial women's fiction; the ones giving all of us authors who write in that genre (be it all the time or just a fleeting visit) cause to weep into our cupcakes? Yeah, those articles.  Here's one such article here http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/features/have-we-fallen-out-of-love-with-chick-lit-2361445.html

'Too Much Trouble in Paradise' - My lighthearted foray into the chick lit genre
And after reading more than a handful of these articles yesterday, I started to feel more than a little depressed.  Am I banging my head against a brick wall, writing book after book that no woman wants to read anymore?  Or should I just ignore the scaremongering and carry on doing what I do, because this is all probably just a storm in a teacup, maybe even a very clever marketing ploy, who knows?

According to those articles, most of us women have grown tired of the funny, romantic goings-on that, apparently, a lot of these novels concentrate on.  We're all after something a lot more "meaty", or at least that's what they'd have you believe.  Personally, I think that's rubbish!  Infact, I think a lot of what has been written in those articles is rubbish.  I'm not saying that some of us don't want something we can get our teeth into (in my case, Keanu Reeves, but we won't go there!), I'm sure we do.  But I'm also sure that the kind of books that appear to be getting a bashing at the minute are still very much sought after too.  After all, who doesn't want a bit of escapism, a little bit of fantasy to take us away from it all?  You can't please all of the people all of the time, but to say that the end of a certain kind of book genre is nigh is wrong.

These articles claim that book sales in the chick lit/women's commercial fiction genre are way down on what they used to be, and maybe that's true.  But what they failed to mention is that book sales across all genres are probably down on what they used to be, and that could be for a number of reasons.  Maybe people just can't afford to buy books the way they used to, we're in tough economic times, and although a book can range from the quite expensive to the very cheap, people still may not see them as a necessity.  Especially the hardback versions.
My husband also put forward a suggestion last night that sales may be down because the kind of books they're talking about are the kind of books you grab in WH Smiths when you're in the airport on your way to some sun drenched destination and you're in need of a "sun lounger" novel, and because less people seem to be going abroad on holiday at the minute, this could account for the lack of those kind of books sales.  And he might be right, to some extent.  Although I'm sure a good "sun lounger" novel works just as well in Cornwall as it does in Benidorm!
But another reason may be, and this is what none of the articles I read mentioned, is that eBooks are becoming more and more popular.  And when they mentioned the demise of sales in the genre of chick lit, they didn't include eBook sales in there.  Wonder why?

'No Matter What' - a romance women want to read? Decide for yourself...
With the advent of Amazon's Kindle, and other eReader devices that are coming onto the market, eBooks are becoming a sometimes cheaper, and certainly more convenient way of gathering together your own personal library.  It doesn't take up half as much room, your books are always to hand whenever you want one and, most importantly - especially for indie eBook authors like me - eBooks give you the chance to discover new authors and their work, with books that might just be a refreshing change from the tried and tested formulas that agents and publishers have been pushing forward for so long.  As independent authors we can edit our books the way we want them to be read, desing our covers the way we want them to look - and not a cupcake or a stiletto in sight, if that's the way we want it!

So, should we female authors be changing what we write just because a couple of newspaper articles tell us that our books aren't what women want anymore?  No.  I don't think we should.  As a writer, I strongly believe that you should write what you feel comfortable writing, not what someone tells you to write because it's apparently in vogue at the minute.  That's pointless, and I couldn't do it anyway.  I mean, I love a good crime thriller or a great horror book as much as the next person but I couldn't write one.  I know where my strengths lie, and I know what I'm good at.  I'm good at creating a story that may contain a little bit of romance, a couple of handsome men, and a lot of girly friendships. 

But I also write tougher romance, stories with more complicated relationships, sagas that take us through decades of the characters' lives, situations that cause great pain as well as happiness - stories with journeys that aren't always happy, and they're certainly not frothy.

I write in a genre that is, to be honest, so large and vast that it's difficult to put a label on it, and I still constantly struggle with putting my books into a bracket.  Because all I really want to write are good stories with characters that people feel something for (be it love or hate!) and that will make the reader want to seek out more of my books, that's all I want.  And I know there's a market out there for my books, I'm sure of it.

Same as I'm sure that there will always be a market for all kinds of books, whatever the genre.  You can never say one particular genre is dead, because that's just not true.  The way it's perceived may be dying, and maybe it's our job as writers to change that perception of commercial women's fiction into something else entirely (don't ask me what, it's mid-afternoon, my blood sugar is low, I can't think too much without chocolate!), I don't know.

'See You At The Show' - Sex, love and rock 'n' roll!

What I do know, though, is that I think we should just let the reader decide what kind of books they want to read, let them tell us whether they think a certain genre is dying or not.  Because, whilst some women may want a more "meaty" kind of book that makes them think, makes them work just that little bit harder as a reader, I bet you those self-same women also aren't averse to a little bit of light relief.  And long may those of us who write that bit of "light relief" reign!  

So, go on.  Check out some indie authors - @Mummy_Misfit and @Laurel_Mayer would be a good place to start, both very talented new authors with great stories to tell - and while you're at it, check out one or two of my books too. :-)  Give some new blood a chance, and then come back and tell us whether you think the chick lit/women's commercial fiction genre is dying.  After all, you the reader are the most important people in a writer's world.  Your opinions matter, not those of a few journalists/publishers/literary agents.  And I'd love to know what you think on this subject.

Right, I'm off to carry on writing another book that, apparently, no-one will want to read...but not if I've got anything to do with it!!

For more information on all of my books, including sample chapters and reviews, please visit my other blog Michelle Betham: Author - It's All About The Books

And if you'd like to check out some eBooks but don't own a Kindle, you can download a free app for your PC/Mac/iPhone etc. here Free Kindle Reading Apps  enabling you to read your eBooks anywhere!



1 comment:

  1. A raise my glass to you on this topic. Women will always want a bit of escapism or a giggle. Kathy Lette (stuidly) said on Breakfast TV this morning that women will go back to the classics. Aren't the likes of Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice early examples of chick-lit? She also said her next book might be on a meatier subject like the menopause - nice! But, of course, she'll get published because she's a dead cert. You keep on doing what you do best, you Fabulous Feisty Indie!

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