Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Bestseller Or Literary Mode As a Writer?

Do readers and buyers of bestselling books want literary prose? Or do they prefer fast-paced writing without the frills and the deep thoughts?

Do readers expect good writing inside bestselling books? In most cases, I don't. There are some on the bestseller lists who are superior writers. But I would say most aren't.

A writer makes a choice. You write one way or the other. You Write with a different mindset when writing a bestseller as opposed to a work of literature. Combining the two is what passes through most writers' minds. You want both! High quality and high sales!

Great books have been bestsellers. But when I look at the top of the bestseller lists I don't see many that likely will stand the test of time. They will sell a lot of copies soon after publication but eventually will be all but forgotten.

Genre fiction demands that you write in a bestselling mode rather than literary mode, doesn't it? It seems literary prose can work against the necessities of a genre story. Or is it simply that not many writers have the skill or desire to pull it off? Most writers would rather sell a lot of books rather than great writers if that were the choice, wouldn't they? Most fiction that is published was written with the intent of selling a lot of copies, not being great writing and damn the sales.

But that's how most writers acquire an agent and a book deal. The potential for sales.

Do writers consciously make a decision in their minds, while they write, to go for lower-quality prose in the interests of potential sales? Isn't there a sense that if you write too well you are subverting genre fiction and your chances of sales decrease?

Some great writers became famous and therefore their books sell well. Writers like John Updike, John Irving, Vladimir Nabokov. Their fame translates to increased sales, despite their literary intentions.

Is it a good idea to start with bestselling manuscripts, go for genre fiction, and then later write literary fiction, if desired, when you've already built an audience? Is it harder to develop and audience if you start with literary prose as opposed to bestselling prose?

Some writers no doubt could never help themselves and always wanted a career as a literary author. They started that way because that was always their interest. Can someone move from bestseller mode, become famous, and then switch to literary mode? Who has done that? Don't all great writers start out writing literary fiction?

Imagine if Robert Ludlum had suddenly stopped writing thrillers and published literary fiction. Wouldn't that be odd? The sales of famous authors are ties to the type of fiction they produce. If they stop and switch to something else, most of their audience would leave them, wouldn't they?

Could it be I'm unfair to bestsellers? Are they written on a higher level than I think? Should I have a higher opinion of the literary quality of the top sellers in mysteries, thrillers, romances, science fiction? To me, the quality doesn't measure up to the likes of Bellow, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Cheever and all the gang.

Bestselling authors aren't trying to be literary. It's all about intent. It's all about the choice you make as an author. Bestseller or litterateur?

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