For Goodness Sake: Stop Blaming the Consumer!

thoughts orangutan

So way back in the summer, I saw an article that kind of bugged me. The gist of the piece was that author Howard Jacobson believed that when it came down to literary fiction sales “the problem is the reader”. His argument essentially boiled down to blaming limited attention spans and the consequent need to coerce readers to try more “serious” works.

Aside from the blatant genre snobbery, it will probably come as no surprise that I don’t believe Jacobson is on the right track. Saying that the “novel is in good health” doesn’t make it so. At random I can take a popular genre author like Steven King or Sarah J Maas, have a peek at their ratings on Goodreads and find it’s usually above 3.5 (often above 4 and as high as 4.69 for Maas), whereas a literary author like Jacobson will typically get below 3.5 (some as low as 2.67 at the time of writing). Now ratings aren’t everything, but this doesn’t bode well, especially when you consider the downward trend of sales. One can fairly deduce that people buying the books aren’t satisfied and won’t be repeat readers- which creates an unsustainable business model and suggests a deeper flaw with literary fiction. Remember, these were the people that invested time and money into the book, ergo don’t classify as the so-called lazy readers that won’t touch the stuff (those that might have “lazily” researched the book, its ratings and reviews, and decided they’d rather waste their time with a hefty tome that seems to be doing better).

read-fast

Moreover, the article largely overlooks some vital information. Evidence is that people are reading more, not less (opinions are varied on this, but for instance, this helpful infographic for the US shows how reading was looking like a pretty healthy habit in 2017). We also live in a world where more people are educated than ever before (again, a complex issue, but we’re generally looking at an upward trend in literacy rates). Challenging books, like classics, continue to be explored in the classroom (though of course, this could be promoted further). And, contrary to what genre snobs believe, plenty of books that are not literary fiction involve complex settings, concepts and characters (it seems daft to claim genre superiority in the face of fantasy/sci fi/dystopia, where a great deal of thought has gone into constructing an entire world from scratch). I also disagree with the idea wholeheartedly that a book has to be hard to read (or as Jacobson says “If you read me, you’re going to want to put me down”) in order to be worthwhile. There’s no reason why compulsive reading and concentration cannot go hand in hand. I personally found War and Peace quite the page turner.

Clearly, I think there are other issues at play (aka a flaw with the books themselves), however my problems with the article goes beyond that. Increasingly, I see this trend of “oh you don’t like such-and-such, you must be an *insert insult*” on the rise everywhere. Most notably, it’s taken the big and small screen sectors by storm. Don’t like the new Doctor Who? You must be sexist! Not a fan of the direction Star Wars has taken? BIGOT! While naturally you’re entitled to your own opinions on this and at the risk of starting a FLAME-THROWING-RAGE-FEST in the comments, I am not a fan of what has been done to these franchises- which apparently makes me evil or whatever. Lest we forget:

everyone i don't like is hitler

Now, being the sort of person that will just take my attention and money somewhere else, my opinion shouldn’t really matter all that much. BUT there’s something that has been done with these franchises that pisses me off no end- the fact that a lot of these constant attacks on the consumer are coming from the creators themselves. It’s almost becoming expected for there to be many, many hit pieces on fans from journalists and creators alike. Squabbles among fans are one thing; creators bashing their audience are another. I shouldn’t have to point out why this is a dumb idea- BECAUSE DUH! Why on earth OR in a galaxy far far away would anyone think it’s a good idea to go after the people with the wallets?! This not only makes the creator seem arrogant and out of touch, it seems delusional to me to expect people you’re bashing to part with their money. At the same time, it comes across as an abuse of power- using their position to “punch down” at those they ironically believe they’re punching up at (because yes, an actor/writer/producer/director in Hollywood has more power than your average Joe Schmo on twitter- a fact they simultaneously revel in and contradict with claims about power dynamics… *facepalm*).

star wars facepalm.gif

So to return to the original premise of this post: readers are not the problem, out of touch creators are. It doesn’t really matter if Jacobson believes people are too stupid and lazy to his read his books- it matters that any author would be foolish enough to think patronising their potential audience is the way to go. Not only will this not boost sales, it will alienate them for a lifetime. Literary fiction’s lack of popularity can be explained by an authorship that would hold haughty opinions such as these. If these are the kinds of people writing the books, no wonder people don’t want to read them. This unrelatability and pretentiousness might simply be translating into the work and distance the reader from it.

This of course is speculation- I wouldn’t presume to suggest this is the case with all literary fiction and am not trying to tarnish any other writers here. My point is that this attack on readership will not get anyone anywhere. I hate the spread of hostility towards consumers in general and really don’t want to see it infesting into the bookish world. As a reviewer, I’m used to people taking issue with the concepts of reviews– yet upping the ante to critique all readers that don’t engage with/like your work is far worse. I recently discovered a great piece of advice over on Alex’s blog which tied in nicely- consider following Franzen’s rule instead:

“The reader is a friend, not an adversary, not a spectator.”

So do you agree or disagree? Are readers the problem? Let me know in the comments!

95 thoughts on “For Goodness Sake: Stop Blaming the Consumer!

  1. Your sooooooo right!!! The problem isn’t the reader at all. I for one read just about everything and have come in contact with books that I just can’t get through. Has nothing to do with my ability to read and understand, but with the book itself. I generally do not like when creators bash their would-be fans for their opinion. I feel that if you can not take criticism then you should not be in the business where people are going to critize your work. For a consumer to sit and give their opinion on your piece, that should be a form or flattery. We have taken out not only our money but time to sit read and then let you know what we thought about your work. Let you know like “hey this was good but maybe this part could have been left out, or you could have added more of this.” I think this world is breeding more and more “babies” who think that every comment they don’t agree with is either racist, anti-femist, fascist, etc. But hey maybe there is just something wrong with my reading habits lol.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’m so glad you agree! Yeah I’m the same- so I agree with you there! Me too! Yeah that’s so true and such an important point. Absolutely!! hehe gosh I couldn’t agree more! It’s also great that their reply to any criticism is always to resort to ad hominems- real mature 😉 hehehe! Well then you and me both 😉

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  2. GREAT POST!

    I, for one, would be really interested to take the time to explore why literary fiction is so unpopular. Is it because it’s inherently inaccessible, because the wide access to “easier” books like YA is allowing people to stay in their comfort zone, because people aren’t comfortable reading something that makes them uncomfortable, because readers are increasingly anti-literature snobs? You’re definitely right that his attitude isn’t helping, but it’s easy to see why literary fiction-ists are on the defensive. Sales for their books are down and sales for Angie Thomas’s books are up, and they can’t figure out WHY.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you!

      Yeah I think it’s an interesting question. I mean part of this author’s argument was claiming that it’s because people want to read “easier” books- I just think that’s a very broad brush statement tinged with genre snobbery. I do understand the desire to ask the question and investigate why- but I think it’s probably something to be a bit more introspective about, rather than casting the blame elsewhere. I personally read all sorts of genres, including literary fiction, but frankly read less of it nowadays cos of the difficulty finding quality books in that genre (it’s not cos I’m shy about difficult reads though 😉 ). But that’s just me- like I said, I can’t speak for everyone.

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            1. Well when I got a copy it was in the contemporary romance section… which was just wrong. Fortunately the book was so good I didn’t hold the fact that it was miss-marketed against it. But yeah, I classify that one as literary fiction. (And now I keep seeing it in general adult fiction fortunately)

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              1. The fact that there’s “fiction” and “literary fiction” and they are somehow distinct is definitely the problem. Like, who decides that one book is “literary fiction” and another book isn’t? Why do those people get to decide what books are “good”? It’s all preposterous.

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  3. Hi there. I admire your boldness in this post. I’ve had deep conversations about this with my husband, friends, and my oldest brother. Especially this: “Don’t like the new Doctor Who? You must be sexist! Not a fan of the direction Star Wars has taken? BIGOT!” I didn’t care for the newest Star Wars movies. Not because I’m sexist and not because I’m racist, but because the stories seemed poorly written. For example, I didn’t understand how Luke Skywalker’s hero arc could’ve went so . . . WRONG! Same with Han Solo who changed from an obnoxious (though endearing) rogue to a jerk loser. HOW? WHAT? What happened to characters growing and changing? That aside, you pose a necessary question — who is to blame — supposedly myopic readers or careless creators? I don’t have an answer yet, but I’ll be thoroughly digesting this until I do. Cheers. 🙂

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    1. Thank you so much! I’m in the same boat as you. I’m not a fan of the new star wars movies cos I don’t like the direction of the story or the characterisation. I actually thought that, while basically the old movies remade, Force Awakens allowed the series to have some potential (and thought that Finn’s character could have gone in a great direction) but that was completely spoiled by the last jedi. I HATED what they did with Han Solo though and should have guessed how bad the series was going to get. And don’t even get me started on Luke! It was a travesty!! Thank you very much for reading!

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  4. Reblogged this on adaratrosclair and commented:
    Consider this quote: “The reader is a friend, not an adversary, not a spectator.” 🙂
    And yet another fav line I plucked: “readers are not the problem, out of touch creators are.” That is often so very, very true. I may or may not in the near future write my own post in a similar vein and bleed along the screen/page about my own reflections. Happy Sunday #SharingIsCaring

    Liked by 1 person

  5. 110% agree with this! Despite my high IQ and a constant passion for discovering new favorite authors, I won’t touch literary fiction with a mile-long pole, since I found out a few years ago that they’re mostly all pompous arses. And even when someone doesn’t like my work (mostly for reasons that are very silly, not concrete like they thought it was boring or not well written), I’ll just grind my teeth and move on. Because, while it hurts, it would hurt a lot more to have some knucklehead suggest it’s just not done for my opinion on one of their favorite books isn’t valid. I try to extend the courtesy that I’d expect from others – even if I don’t always get it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. So glad you agree! I totally understand that. I read a lot less of it nowadays, for the same reason 😉 I really, really get that. I totally understand why authors wouldn’t like to hear people didn’t like their books (I’d feel the same way) but that doesn’t mean people aren’t entitled to their opinion. Exactly!

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  6. 👏👏👏

    You’re so right. It makes me think of that Seymour Skinner Simpsons meme. ‘Am I out of touch? Does my challenging writing style simply appeal to some people but not others? No, it’s the READERS that are wrong!’

    And when something DOES have mass appeal, that’s taken as proof it isn’t highbrow anyway – like Dickens, massively popular at the time and only counted as ‘literary’ afterwards!

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  7. Pompous snobbery will alienate more readers than bad writing. A good story, well told, will bring with it readers from any side of the fence, and even those underground. The author who wrote Mystic River (Dennis Lehane) writes both sides of the fence.
    War and Peace is a good story, Gone with the Wind is a good story – what makes them good?
    The difference between literary and classic may help – classic means lots of people liked it, kept reading it, and kept having conversations about them. Were they literary? Maybe not at the time of printing, although it could be difficult to see what else was there at the time and not being published.
    Me? I go for a good story well told every time, whether high-falutin, or kids story, or genre, because no one, whether a literary snob or not, can tell me what I should be reading, how long my attention span needs to be, or how educated I need to be.
    I read for myself, and I hope every other regular reader does the same.

    I’d like to know if the person in question is defining his works as literature as opposed to [something else] because he hasn’t taken the time to find how to put it with an adequate category – family drama, epic [something], social politics, etc.

    One thing I see when browsing through ‘literature’ is that the words are tightly packed, long paragraphs, $100 words, rambling context … and I know if I have to sit down with this my eyes will get sore from the strain of trying to focus on such a large block of text (I have a white ruler to ease the strain) and I also know I won’t be able to read it as an eBook because of that.

    Breaking up lumps of words, using words that don’t take a dictionary (or only using one or two per book, or in a context where the meaning is clear), keeping with the idea of enticing a reader from the first few lines …

    If genre writing has had to adapt over the last few years/decades, maybe literature has to do the same and not stay stuck in the higher echelons of society – and therefore, deliberately out of reach?
    Maybe it is time for the literati to move with the times …

    Liked by 4 people

    1. That’s so true. And yeah I think there is a difference between literary fiction and classic. For instance, I’m not really a fan of the label publishers like to use “modern classic”- because it really doesn’t represent books that are likely to be classics in the future, especially if you can see them falling out of fashion in the 20-30 years since they were written. And obviously there are books that would easily be classified as genre fiction, like gothic literature, which is very much part of the literary canon.
      I’m the same like- I like whatever is good- it doesn’t matter what the genre is. I agree!
      Hehe that’s a good point as well. I think a lot of the time, literary fiction skirts around those genres, by being a softer version of it (a chill thriller for instance, or a not very dramatic family drama for instance) But that’s might just be because I’ve been disappointed too often with the genre 😉
      Hehe I definitely relate to that perspective!
      Hehe I agree that the literati might want to consider moving with the times 😉 I do actually believe that instead of casting stones elsewhere, literary fiction writers might be better off being introspective and considering, like you said, changing a bit. That doesn’t mean they have to change their style of writing, but one thing that struck me in this article was the author’s opinion that his books didn’t have to be pageturners… and that just struck me as daft. Honestly, I’ve read a lot of books that may not be as “commercial” as Steven King, for instance, and loved them a lot more- but if I loved them completely they always got me to keep turning the pages. I’ve never fallen in love with a book that wasn’t a compulsive read. I don’t understand that perspective at all. It’s quite possible to write beautiful prose and still engage the reader. Like I said, they don’t have to change everything, but writing a story people want to engage with would be a start.
      Anyway, thank you for the brilliant comment! Really enjoyed reading your thoughts!

      Liked by 2 people

  8. I think a lot of it also comes down to interests. And frankly, one’s ability to understand a book is not going to change the level to which they are interested in it if the book has a story or plot that they don’t care for. I’ve found plenty of literary fiction novels quite boring, not because it was too difficult to read, but rather because I’m interested in other things. It’s truly demeaning and saddening that authors feel the need to discredit the intelligence of their readers simply because someone might not be interested in reading their book.

    So, no, I don’t think it’s the readers’ faults at all.

    Though, I will say that I do still feel a little appalled at the popularity of novels like 50 Shades of Grey that are difficult to read merely on account of the atrocious writing skills. But, at the same time, I do appreciate that it got a large number of people to read when they hadn’t been, even if I disagree fully with the abusive theme that is supported in it. If only the author had made it a healthy BDSM relationship, I imagine I could really have respected it a lot more due to its ability to pull in new readers, which is quite impressive.

    And even in the above case, it still does no good for a person to criticize readers for their literacy abilities just because they haven’t read their book. Honestly, I feel like people just need to accept that not everyone is going to find their book interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah I really agree with you there. And yeah I’ve found myself less and less interested in literary fiction, because the stories just don’t grab me- and that’s not because they’re more challenging than other genres. And yeah for sure. Glad you agree!
      Hahaha I agree with you there- but I sort of look at that as a cultural phenomenon rather than something entirely to do with the literature world (at least, that’s what I tell myself so I can sleep at night 😉 ) I mean, I guess there is the positive that it got people reading (and watching terrible movie adaptations 😉 ) but yeah, horrible book with abusive themes…. Not great. Shame it was a missed opportunity (to be, well, anything else!)
      But yeah, like you said, it’s very presumptive to assume that people read that cos they “can’t read” (I happen to think that happened more because people didn’t know how to use google for literotica 😉 ) Totally agree!

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  9. This is so true and I see it happening in hospitality and retail too. Fair enough, everyone has their own style but you can’t go explicitly insulting those who support you and expect them to continue doing so. Different things appeal to different people. As a writer, I choose to regard readers as friends. Just as not everyone would want to be my friend, they also wouldn’t necessarily be interested in my writing. It’s a matter of preference and we’re all entitled to our opinion. (Or at least, we used to be.)

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  10. Agreed with your post.
    I’m definitely of the like whatever you want and let me do the same and let’s agree to disagree school. I will say that a creator saying people who “didn’t get it,” or “didn’t like it,” were the problem is usually enough to make me not give them another go. I know I probably shouldn’t personalize it either but seriously if you think I’m stupid or I didn’t like your film because I didn’t watch it correctly I’m probably going to give my time and dollars to someone else next time. Anyway great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you!
      Yeah I’m in the same school 😉 And yeah, I’m the same. haha I know- I don’t really care if it is taking it personally- I’m just going to not bother with a creator like that. It’s not worth my time. Thank you!

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  11. I agree, readers are not the problem. That’s like blaming the movie goers when you make a movie and only 1 person turns up. You can’t blame a consumer for not buying your product. Either it is not as good quality as a similar product, or it is too expensive for what it is, or it is the wrong colour, or nobody knows about it because we have failed with our marketing, or something else. And denial is not going to fix the issue.

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  12. To some extent, I think it could be true that people who read a lot of plot-driven YA are not going to enjoy literary fiction. However, from my anecdotal experience, a lot of YA lovers read almost exclusively YA; they stick with what they enjoy (which makes sense). So I think the Goodreads ratings are interesting because I assume that the readers rating literary fiction on Goodreads are generally going to be people who usually read (and presumably enjoy) literary fiction. The question, then, is do people not appreciate literary fiction or do they not appreciate this particular book? I grant that fewer people probably read literary fiction than YA (where sales are incredibly strong right now), but that isn’t necessarily going to change the ratings for this author’s book.

    So, yeah, basically I’m saying what you are. I don’t think the problem here is that people are inherently stupid and thus don’t like this particular title. I also agree that other types of books can well-written, complex, and thought-provoking. There’s no need to be snobbish! This is really kind of silly and I’m always surprised that we aren’t past this view that being popular means a book must be bad. Maybe it’s popular because it’s good? Or somehow taps into something people like or want?

    Also, as an aside, I watched two episodes of the new Doctor Who. I don’t like it. 😦 Somehow, I don’t find the new Doctor compelling. Her companions are far more compelling than she is actually. But, yeah, I am worried that telling people I didn’t enjoy the show will make people mad at me. :/

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    1. That’s a fair point- but like you said, one would expect the same thing across all genres. I will say that you can test this idea with many literary authors (particularly British ones) and get the same results (I just didn’t want to give other examples, because while I feel like this author is fair game after this piece, I don’t think that means I should drag other people directly). I’d say that, in my experience, people that like literary fiction can have hit or miss reactions to a lot of authors (and that includes me). I do think there are a lot of gems in the genre, but regardless of quality, its a genre that’s certain to be more divisive. I also think that literary fiction attracts a lot of readers that like classics- but given that the two genres diverge quite dramatically, it doesn’t necessarily equate to liking both. And yes, that’s very true.

      Absolutely! I really dislike genre snobbery in general- so this just ticks me off. And yeah, I find it a ridiculous notion. I’m all on board for the idea that there are hidden gems out there- but if a book is popular, I like to think it’s for a reason! (and I want to get to the bottom of that reason, not just dismiss it)/(also I probably want to read it and find out what all the fuss is about). Exactly!!

      Oh I can understand that- personally my interest has just plummeted for DW. It seems like every time there’s a new Doctor now I watch half an episode and give up. I do find it ridiculous that people can get angry at others for not enjoying something :/

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  13. This teaches me some lesson. Thank you!

    I agree with you. I think that Jacobson was so frustrated because of his book didn’t sell and get a good rating/attention as much as he hopes. An author can become over sensitive when things went wrong with their writing, I had this experience before. Until I realize that I can’t blame the readers for what happened. I just have to accept it, and make an improvement or fix it in the next book.

    I also have to recalibrate my motive to write. Only with that, I can keep going and feeling okay.

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  14. I agree with this, it’s really food for thought. It’s important although sometimes we tend to forget to think and try to understand from different people’s perspectives. I’m not really sure how to put it into words, but really, I find it important to address this topic. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this!

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  15. It’s definitely bad form, to blame readers for anything. It’s the author’s job to lure them in and keep them reading.

    This just happens to be a very hard thing to do. And I imagine it can be very embarrassing, if readers or reviewers publicly call you out for doing it (in their opinion) badly. It is probably very tempting to respond in kind.

    I think the outcry by authors that you describe may be partly self-preservation, hoping to discredit or quiet that voice, that threatens their sales and reputation.

    But I think,it is also partly a function of our times.

    Today, more voices speak their mind, and often quite frankly, in a format that can potentially be read by millions. So what was once a single harsh review, by a single paper, with a limited readership, now has the potential to touch and influence any reader, who happens to google your book.

    I agree with the Dickens comment above. Popularity does not disprove literary merit. And vice versa.

    According to the Wikipedia article on literary fiction, it was a category created by the book trade, not by authors. Some, such as John Updike, have chafed at the restrictions the category places upon them, the limited audience it implies and attracts, by definition.

    I personally lament the loss of language and linguistic devices, in a world envisioned by an earlier commenter, where only two words per book need to be looked up. Our news outlets are already dumbing down the vocabulary we use. Should writer’s likewise be limited to a fourth grade vocabulary?

    Anyway, great post, provoking much thought. I just thought someone should play devil’s advocate.

    I wonder

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    1. Yeah really agree with you!
      And I can completely relate to that. But I think at the same time, as tempting as it might be, it’s never a good response.
      Yeah that’s true. And I do think we live in a time when it seems like every creator thinks that lashing out at consumers is a valid and logical response… but it isn’t and they should probably know that.
      And yeah that is fair. I do get the desire to do “damage control”- but there are ways to go about that.
      Absolutely! I really don’t think that popularity makes a difference to how good/bad a book is.
      And yeah I can understand that.
      Hehe that’s very true. I just personally think that there are plenty of books that get classified as genre fiction, with just as sophisticated language (if not more). For instance, I’m currently reading Laini Taylor’s Muse of Nightmares (which is firmly in the YA fantasy genre) and would definitely say that the standard of writing is anything but simplistic. Like I said to them, I don’t think it’s necessarily the issue that these books ought to be simplified. One of the main issues I found with the author’s perspective was that he thought that not every book needs to be a page turner and I very much disagree with that. As a famous British comedian says, “that’s the least I expect from a book” 😉 I mean, regardless of how difficult it is, if I love it, I’ll find it a compulsive read (like War and Peace, or more recently when I was reading Gone with the Wind). Personally, my taste skews more towards complexly written books anyway- but that doesn’t delegitimise anyone else’s preferences and it also doesn’t mean that the book has to be boring!
      No worries, I actually agree with you. I think that there was a way the author could have gone about this and his opinion would have been sound. It would have made perfect sense to me for him to counter a lot of writing advice, which often caters more towards the pared down style for instance, and say there’s room for more complex writing as well… instead he went in the direction of criticising readers and other genres, which I can’t abide!
      Thank you very much for your really interesting comment!

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  16. I love literary fiction, but a lot of it can be pompous navel-gazing dressed up in pretentious prose. And the assumption that a person who prefers the deeply imaginative and complex worlds often present in fantasy/sci-fi fiction aren’t smart enough to understand literary fiction is hilariously arrogant. Good post and great discussion!

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  17. My very first blog post was on book snobbery and I have the opinion that a person should read what they like and no-one should say anything against that.

    I don’t get why people have to be so snotty about another person’s reading choice. A person can like literary fiction, it’s not really to my taste but different strokes and all that. The problem I have is when my reading choices are looked down upon because they’re a specific genre and that’s seen as low brow.

    Also, if an author has created a piece of work that isn’t engaging for the reader then it is absolutely the author’s fault rather than the audience not getting it. You can understand an author’s intent but you don’t have to enjoy it.

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    1. I so agree with you there! I really can’t stand genre snobbery :/

      And yeah for sure. I also think it’s possible to like multiple genres (crazy, I know 😉 ) so I don’t get why people would assume that liking fantasy means you’re not interested in literary fiction. Either way, I don’t like when my tastes are looked down upon either!

      yeah for sure!!

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  18. Oh, bless his little cotton socks. The big clever writer has disappointing book sales and decides it’s because people aren’t intelligent enough to appreciate his genius? Did he stop to consider that people read for all sorts of reasons, not least for leisure and escapism? Maybe he should get off his high horse, knock out some kind of Fifty Shades nonsense then retire in luxury, writing his difficult literary fiction utterly unconcerned by book sales/income.

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    1. hehehe! 😂😂😂 Oh my goodness- love your response!!

      hahhaaha!! 😂😂 He could start by making sure the pages of his books turned (instead of telling writers not to bother with this concept), cos as Michael McIntyre says: “that’s the least I expect from my books” 😉

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  19. I LOVE this piece!! Would like more than once if I could.

    I totally agree that it’s not the reader’s fault. And speaking as someone who isn’t fond of modern ‘literary’ fiction, I find that it’s often because that the author is trying so hard to be clever that the book often falls flat. I don’t seem to have this problem with the canon or older classics, so I’m thinking it’s a recent trend.

    Plus, the genre snobbery doesn’t make me want to try more literary fiction. I love my fantasy, sci-fi, mystery, etc

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much!! ❤

      Yeah I really relate to that. I do like some literary fiction, but find it's very hit or miss for that reason. Absolutely agree with you! That's because a lot of classics had to be "commercial" as well as quality. I think the author in question answered his own question "why is literary fiction not selling" when he talked about his resistance to writing pageturners- there's absolutely no reason I shouldn't be hooked on a book, regardless of its quality/difficulty. I've found that plenty of classics, including most recently gone with the wind, have had me hooked the whole way through.

      hehee totally relate to you there! This doesn't exactly make me reach for the literary fiction 😉

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  20. I completely agree with you – when artists start blaming their audience for being ‘stupid ‘cause they don’t get their art’…. then those artists may as well call it. Because customers don’t like to be told stupid. What a strange strategy. Disengaging with audience is certainly not a way forward. I suspect a hurt ego and a need to tell a story that would somehow repair it may be behind it all…
    Great article! Really loved reading it and I do agree with what you said 100%!

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Ugh, this kind of genre snobbery and putting all blame outside oneself “my writing isn’t bad, you’re just too lazy to understánd me!” makes me so angry! Reading books should be fun. I’ve got a degree in literature and really enjoy analyzing classics in depth etc., but only when I ENJOY doing that. Sure, diving deeper into a book can make you appreciate it more but I’m sick&tired of having to do this for books I have no initial interest in. Ultimately, what makes a good book? Complex application of literary theory or that it makes you want to read on? I choose the latter.

    I really love that the bookblogging comunity seems to be pushing back against this snobbery that we find in so many other places. It feels like we’re claiming reading back from a possibly outdated literary scene and making it much more open & all-encompassing 😊. Yay!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah I so agree with you there!! Absolutely!! I also have a degree in literature- so the idea that I’m too lazy for “hard” books is laughable. And the funny thing is, I do actually read literary fiction, but less and less nowadays, because I’d rather spend time with a classic or other book I’ll actually enjoy (like fantasy- which- for some reason people still think it’s cool to be snobbish about :/ ). I think the bare minimum of what will make me enjoy a book, regardless of genre, is making me want to read on (regardless of complexity). A great book can be enjoyed on multiple levels.

      Yeah me too! 😀 Absolutely!! 😀 Love your comment!!

      Liked by 1 person

  22. Great post! I agree 100% You shouldn’t blame the readers for your book failing! This reminds me of all the articles along the lines of “Why Millennials are ruining ” They don’t ever consider that maybe they need to update their product to be more relevant. Instead its our fault they are failing.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Wonderful post! This was so interesting to read. I really dislike it when someone can’t express an opinion on something without insulting everyone who dares disagree and it’s even worse if it’s the creator doing it. We can all like different things. It’s cool.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Fantastic post. I have to say I agree with you here. Blaming the readers and looking down on folks that prefer genre just smacks of pretentiousness to me. I also don’t agree with attacking the fan base…that’s never made sense. They’re the ones that are buying your stuff! (Neither do I agree with pandering to the fan base either because a lot of times this causes things to go off track–you’re the creator, be creative and do your thing, stop letting other people dictate what you write!) And fans totally have a right to state their opinions, whether that’s good or bad. All that being said, that doesn’t excuse certain toxicity which exists within fandoms either. There’s bad all around in my opinion and no one is really exempt there. We live in interesting times, with the spread of information happening so fast and with creators and fans being able to talk so freely to each other over social media…I’m not sure if it’s always good or bad but it sure is worth examining.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! Yeah for sure- it’s something that really bugs me. And yeah I don’t think it makes sense to attack the fan base either. Including in this case- cos I actually do read literary fiction as well as other genres. and yeah I can see why you wouldn’t want to pander to a fan base (going against what the fanbase wants can sometimes be rewarding and sometimes trying to play into what they want doesn’t wok as well as everyone hoped). But like you said, the fans have a right to respond. True- I don’t really get too involved in fandoms so can’t comment much there. I just think there’s a certain amount of professionalism involved from the creators standpoint that means they shouldn’t start rolling around in the mud (even if that’s what the fans are doing 😉 ). And that is true- it does change the dynamic and explains why there are so many instances of creators going after fans. Absolutely! Thank you for your really interesting comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  25. Great post! So many interesting things to think about. I actually didn’t realise literary fiction was doing badly sales wise. I suppose coming from Australia I always felt there was a preference for it since all the bookstores seemed to put it front and centre (though they were indie ones admittedly) and most awards and grants and festivals favourited literary fiction (as a fantasy reader/writer I felt more in the minority). But I guess when it comes to actual sales figures things are different.
    Anyway, I agree you – I really dislike it when people tell readers what kind of books they should or shouldn’t be reading and enjoying. And I also don’t understand why anyone should read a book that doesn’t make them want to turn the page… doesn’t make any sense to me either!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! Yeah that’s the funny thing about the genre- it doesn’t do that well in sales, but seems to take up the bulk of sales from publishers and is always in the forefront of bookshops (it’s one of the aspects of gatekeeping in the industry that kind of bugs me- cos from a business standpoint, it would make more sense to highlight your best sellers). There are of course exceptions with prize winners- which can boost a book’s sales. And I still think there are some great books in the genre- so not trying to throw shade at it. But in general, I read so many articles talking about the downward trend in sales for literary fiction.
      And yes- I really agree with you! Absolutely!!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh I’m glad to know it’s not just me who gets the sense they are often placed front and centre! Does seem strange if they’re not selling well… but I guess maybe they could use the extra publicity for that reason? And I know what you mean about the gatekeeping thing. It kind of annoyed me because I wanted to support small indie book stores but at some point I realised they rarely stocked and valued the genres I liked whereas the big chains did. I guess I never found my perfect indie fantasy book store! 🙂

        And yeah I also definitely wouldn’t want to rubbish all of it – while I don’t tend to like literary fiction, I have read a few I really liked, so I know there can be ones I appreciate. The main thing is they need to be compelling and not pretentious!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yeah it really does. It does make a certain amount of sense- but then it also begs the question why are so many books that aren’t selling well, despite the promotion, being picked up by publishers so often? It seems like an interesting use of resources to say the least. Yeah for sure! I really relate to that problem! I always found that their YA sections were bizarre and forget about fantasy and sci fi cos they didn’t stock them (sometimes I also get excited that I think I’ve found a good indie place and it turns out to be a chain 😉 )

          Absolutely! And yeah- I think it’s a pity, because I think some books are giving the genre a bad reputation (especially cos too many of them are far too pretentious at the moment!!)

          Liked by 1 person

          1. True, it does seem an odd use of resources… maybe they are hoping to pick the next prize-winner? Who knows.
            Lol!! Well I guess if it feels like an indie book store they are doing something right. Tbh I actually don’t mind chains anymore – if they’re selling and promoting a wide variety of books and providing nice bookish spaces (and treating their employees fairly) then they are also welcome to my money 🙂

            And yeah it’s a shame so many are so pretentious!! Makes me wary to try new ones.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Yeah that’s a good point- seems very likely.
              hehe they really are! Yeah honestly I’m the kind of person that *shock horror* actually likes a nice big Waterstones or Blackwells 😉 Absolutely!
              Yeah that’s the reason I read less of it- not cos I don’t like it anymore. A lot of the time I’ll choose a classic instead of literary fiction, cos I know it’s stood the test of time and less likely to fall into that issue.

              Liked by 1 person

  26. I haven’t read Jacobson’s post that prompted this one (or any of his books either) but just based on what you’ve written in your post I’m actually a little angry myself at what he’s said about readers (and I’m not likely to read any of his books either). Based on everything you’ve said it seems like more and more people are reading, which is great, it’s just in Jacobson’s opinion they’re reading the wrong books (aka not reading his books!)
    In my opinion there’s no such thing as the wrong books, I read what I love reading and I’m happy like that. 🙂
    Great post though, it was interested reading your thoughts on this topic. 🙂 ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  27. This is so interesting. I really enjoyed this blog. It reminds me a bit of the poets who criticize “popular” poetry, like that of Rupi Kaur, and say the same sort of thing about the people who read their works (aka, insert insult about the readers). I read a response to an article on this topic that I really loved. “You don’t have to like what people do, but I think you measure it against its own ambitions.”

    Liked by 1 person

  28. I mean… if you exclude book bloggers and readers who actually keep themselves up to date with author updates on their social medias and what not, I doubt they’d find themselves lured into reading those particular literary fiction too. How they are “sold” is really the issue, more than what readers decide to pick up. I also feel like a lot of literary fiction will only truly attract certain people at certain moments in their lives… Great post to get us to think about the whole issue. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Ummm… what? 😅 I don’t know that author and it’s just as well. I don’t read to torture myself, and what i read is pretty much nobody’s business. But yea, don’t see him making sales by insulting the potential customer…🙈

    Like

  30. Meh… if reader’s are the problem then I’m first in line since if I’m not entertained I don’t want to read it, doesn’t seem to be *my* problem though since it makes no difference to me if his book sells or not….

    Like

  31. Agreed! There are some that think if it creates controversy that it will sell and maybe it will, for a very short time. But you dont make it long term without substance and “relateability”.

    Like

  32. Completely agree. This guy sounds quite strange and, sadly, entitled and arrogant. It’s literally like the equivalent of taking a bad picture repeatedly and blaming it on the lighting, the phone, the camera quality, everything but the person whose picture is being taken. Everybody but himself. And readers don’t like literary fiction? I disagree! I love literary fiction. If his book isn’t enjoyable then it isn’t, it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea unless the themes and characters are mainstream or relatable. If the writing is too “sophisticated” for his readers, then it’s like blaming consumers for watching mainstream films. Books and films are leisurely pleasures and oftentimes, people just want to relax and read/watch something that’s easy to read/watch (that includes the writing style) and light. Dude needs to chill.

    Like

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