Why I Weep Over Something As Silly as the GoodReads Awards.

So today, this happened:

I fully admit to not being a Cassandra Claire fan, and my dislike of her goes back to my Harry Potter days. But honestly, that’s neither here nor there. Although I can’t fathom why people like her books, I do understand that many people them fun. So fun, in fact, that they’ll vote her to victory in the Good Read’s 2014 best YA fantasy poll.

So what’s the big deal? It’s just a popularity contest.

That is exactly the problem.

At the end of the day, publishers are seeking to make money off the book they sell. Like any rational business, they look for books that will all but guarantee that it will be a profitable run. The publishers have no sure-fire method to this, so they need all the help they can get. Looking at who is popular is one way of doing it. It tells them what people are reading, and they’ll either look for books similar to what is popular (think Twlight and Fifty Shades of Grey clones) – or in the worst case scenario they’ll even get authors to keep writing the same story over and over again. The Infernal Devices retold The Mortal Instruments retold Draco Dormiens. Kiera Cass somehow got the go ahead to write The Heir which is basically The Selection trilogy all over again, only starring America’s twins.

Popularity is a problem when it leads to more and more of the same being produced, which automatically results in fewer challenging or unique works going out due to the finite resources of a publisher.

There is absolutely room for fun/light/so-bad-its-good books in the marketplace, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of books that dare to wander outside the established tropes, or even more, shun them.

Would Clariel – a book about an asexual girl that has an absolutely downer (though 100% fitting) ending really have gotten published today if Nix hadn’t been established for twenty years ago? I kind of doubt it and I’m honestly curious to see how  the upcoming Zodiac is received, it’s a wonderful book that too eschews many of the YA tropes, and I sincerely hope it doesn’t get lost in the shuffle because it d ares to be different.

Ultimately publishers do still take SOME risks, but as long as these are the books that are winning the “best of” polls they’re going to limit those risks, and that’s just an all-around shame.


4 thoughts on “Why I Weep Over Something As Silly as the GoodReads Awards.

  1. You do realize you just nailed genre books in a nutshell, right? Publishers are a business, they don’t have some mandate from the gods to curate literature. They’re looking for a quick buck and if said quick buck means capitalizing on trends, that’s what’s going to happen. Which is why one trick ponies rule the day, a simple story gets expanded into a multi volume narrative that complete wrecks it as it stands. There are authors who explore precisely like you lay out, but the market for them is very small. Which is one of the reasons why digital publishing is such a game changer. It’s never been cheaper to make books. It’s also why you have literary snobs looking down on entire genres as a whole, or even disdaining certain parts of it; I’m pretty sure you’ve met folks who only read older sci fi and fantasy, back when it was MUCH harder to get published. I can’t say I blame them, because for the most part the quality is leaps and bounds above the drivel getting mass produced today. And that’s something I’ve been struggling to come to terms with, as I read more, older books and try to balance it with my more recent reads.

    • Understanding that reality doesn’t mean you can’t be bummed out about it! On the bright side, at least on the adult side, there still seems to be some tolerance for risk tasking. Young Adult, on the other hand? Yikes. There’s milking franchises well out past their prime (see c.f. Laurell K. Hamilton) and then there is LITERALLY retelling the same story again and again and again. It’s one of those things you try not to think about it, but sometimes it’s impossible to avoid :-/

      • I dont blame ya. If it works for me, I dont mind it being done over and over, lol. I’m a Rick Riordan fan. I dont think Hamilton has ANYTHING on guys like Terry Brooks, Raymond Feist and Sherrilyn Kenyon, though. Even in adult ficton you can’t escape it. However, you can choose to work around it. I’ve been keeping an eye out for authors inashamed to use their creativity, and supporting them anyway I can. Usually by constantly mentioning their works. China Mieville and Mark T Barnes, for instance.

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