So I’m driving around one day listening to Terry Gross on Fresh Air, one of my favorite NPR shows. She’s interviewing this guy whose name escapes me. He’s a big-time literary fiction author, and he’s just done Something Really Daring—he made a trailer for his latest book. Terry asked him why and his answer was, “Well, nobody likes to read these days, so you have to reach them with other things.”
I, of course, was sort of amazed to hear that. Nobody likes to read? Really? That’s not the way I hear it over here in Romanceland. A lot of romance readers are really voracious. I read a couple of books a week myself depending on length, and I know others who read four or five. And lots of us have huge To Be Read piles made up of books we’ve heard about and bought and are now trying to find time to read. So where exactly is Mr. Serious Writer getting this idea that nobody likes to read anymore?
What he really means, I think, is that nobody likes to read the kind of fiction he and his fellow lit fic writers are putting out. Even that’s a gross exaggeration, of course, as the New York Times bestseller lists will attest. However, what really frosts me about all of this is that Mr. Serious Writer probably didn’t even think about romance readers and writers when he made that statement. To the serious literary world, we don’t exist. And the fact that we buy a lot of books, read a lot of books, and write a lot of books is irrelevant to their argument. Readers only count if they read a certain kind of literature. If they don’t, they’re not really reading.
So here’s what I’d like to say to Mr. Literary Fiction, if I had the chance. Okay, buddy, let’s get something straight. We do read. We like to read. Not only that, but we’re responsible for the popularity of a lot of innovations that are currently keeping you and your pals above water, including book trailers. Granted, our book trailers don’t star James Franco, the way yours does, but we’re the ones who made book trailers popular. Moreover, we’re among the ones who helped establish the popularity of ebooks and ebook readers. If you and your crew are smart, you’ll hop onto that bandwagon next, followed, I suspect, by self-pubbing. You and your friends will undoubtedly go on ignoring us and our contribution to the current revolution in publishing, but at least you need to acknowledge we’re out here.
Not that anything I say is likely to make much difference on this topic. No, if the number of readers of this guy’s books continues to decline, he’ll undoubtedly decide that books have simply ceased to matter to the general public. After all, nobody likes to read. Nora Robert? Who’s she?