The Unintelligent Audience: What Publishers Think of You

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[Image: Two people at a book store. They are both looking at an open book.]

Scene: A bookstore. Friends Taylor and Jack are looking through books. 

Taylor: Hey, are you finding anything?

Jack: Yeah, I found the latest book from my favorite author, Miriam Goldspun.

Taylor: That’s great! What’s it about?

Jack: It’s a detective story where a fast-talking gumshoe gets a case from a classy dame and has to follow clues which leads him into a mob shootout with his best girl at stake.

Taylor: Wow, that sounds exciting!

Jack: I hope it’s as good as her last book.

Taylor: What was her last book about?

Jack: It’s a detective story where a fast-talking gumshoe gets a case from a classy dame and has to follow clues which leads him into a mob shootout with his best girl at stake.

Taylor: That sounds exciting, too!

Jack: It wasn’t nearly as good as her first book though. That book was a detective story where a fast-talking gumshoe gets a case from a classy dame and has to follow clues which leads him into a mob shootout with his best girl at stake.

Taylor: Amazing. I can see why you love her writing so much.

Jack: Are you finding anything?

Taylor: Oh yeah, I just got a book from this up-and-coming author, Edith Marriner. It’s about a beautiful girl thrown into unfamiliar circumstances and rescued by a dashingly handsome man with a dark past who has to overcome his fear of love to let her into his life.

Jack: Sounds sweepingly romantic. Is this her first book?

Taylor: Oh no, this is her second. Her first book is about a beautiful girl thrown into unfamiliar circumstances and rescued by a dashingly handsome man with a dark past who has to overcome his fear of love to let her into his life.

Jack: Wow, awesome. That sounds like a good read, too.

Taylor: (Leaning into Jack and whispering,) I was reading on the internet this morning and do you know what I heard?

Jack: What?

Taylor: I read that there are these authors, self-published or something, and they write about different things.

Jack: What, like the different characters in different books have different names?

Taylor: No, like, one book they write will be a mystery, then one book they write will be a romance, then they might write poetry, or a memoir.

Jack: (Terrified.) W-what?

Taylor: Yeah, isn’t that crazy? It’s like they’re writing different books and they’re using the same name.

Jack: But they can’t do that! I need the comfort and safety of knowing that when I pick up an author’s book it’s going to be the exact same thing I’ve already read just with different character names! I want authors boxed into writing styles, genres, settings, time periods. I have to have each of them pigeonhole to the point where if they want to do something different they have to publish under a pen name! How can I trust the world when an author whose book I’ve read can write something not entirely similar to that book?!

Taylor: This is why they’re self-published. No publisher would ever allow this kind of chaos. It’s a good thing publishers are here to ensure that those crazy indie writers don’t come into the scene and confuse their audiences like that. Imagine becoming a fan of a writer and then perhaps not liking their next book because it’s not exactly what you’ve read before? How horrible would that be.

Jack: I mean, I might be tempted to read a genre I’m not familiar with. I might have to expand my interests or learn something new or… Oh god, I can’t even think about it.

Taylor: Let’s go back to looking at the regularly published authors and their books. Hey, did you hear about Cynthia Waterman’s new one? It’s about a small-time lawyer who gets pulled into a big-time case and has to make ethical decisions he never thought he would end up making.

Jack: Oh, I’ve heard of that one,  it’s called Blind Man’s Bluff.

Taylor: No, that was her last one. This is her new book, it’s called Blind Leading Blind.

Jack: But is it as good as Turn A Blind Eye?