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bookfox

Book Fox

Oh you know, long time reader, first time blogger...just a place to throw out some ideas, be a little snarky, give some honest opinions about books and the book industry.

Oh, Genre, there's a reason you get no respect...

I'm a genre buyer--that is, I buy genre books for the store I work for. Occasionally, I even buy them and read them for myself. (For those of you who don't know--and I wouldn't write this if I didn't work with a lot of book people who don't get it either--'genre' is a loose term that covers mystery, romance, horror, western, sci-fi, and fantasy.)

 

I've never been much of a mystery reader: I don't like the idea of the author holding something over me. Who said every book is a mystery? It's true, every author reveals or hides information to create tension and keep you reading. But mystery writers demand that you acknowledge their incredible skill in not letting you know the butler did it. It's annoying.

 

But the others, I've read more than my fair share of them. Even that least-respected Romance category. Whether a space opera or a retold fairy tale or a hard-boiled detective story, the best are marvels of character and plotting that let you escape your ho-hum life for a little while.

 

But since becoming a Buyer with a capital B, I've found myself feeling more disdain than love. If you've ever said to yourself, I could write this, well, you probably could.

 

I'm ordering Penguin mass market right now (or should be...this kind of work requires frequent breaks). Penguin...oh wait, it's Penguin Random House now...Penguin Random House is the king of cozy mysteries. I don't know who reads these...to me they even seem too tepid for grandmothers (who in my bookstore experience lean more towards what one called 'hard romance'.)

 

Many of them are 'first in a brand new series!' from authors that may or may not be debut authors (even if they claim they are), and follow roughly the same formula: widowed/divorced/newly single middle-aged woman moves to small town Colorado/Amish County/her hometown where she decides to open up a coffee/antique button/repair shop. Shortly after her coffee/antique button/repair shop opens, she creates an enemy whose corpse she finds two day later. Now she must investigate with her cat/aunt's ghost/sentient armoire to clear her name.

 

If it's a contemporary romance, substitute hot fireman for corpse.

 

But my point is, and I'm not the first lit-snob to make it, that there's so damn much of it. And they're all the same. Author after author, series after series, season after season. There's a popular sentiment among Buyers and sales reps that 'Books aren't widgets'. That is, each book is unique and must be taken on it's own terms. You can't strictly adhere to a budget because the product is radically different with each season. Similar books will sell radically differently. One book works. The next doesn't.

 

And mostly that's true. But not in Genreland. Here, I can say, 'How do we sell Amish mysteries? How do we sell urban fantasies? What did this author's last book do?' and I know exactly how many to order.

 

It's soul-sucking.

 

So, when you see a genre book in my blog here, it's because something about it popped. Maybe the cover. Maybe our publisher rep said something intriguing about it. Maybe it reminds me of a simpler time when I could read books just for fun and not with the idea that I'll need to write a review for it.

 

Okay, this wasn't supposed to be a 'Well, if I review a book, it must be good' sort of post. Not at all. I'm the worst bookseller ever because I assume that what I like isn't necessarily what you'll like, and I'm not going to engage with you about it. (Maybe that's why they finally gave me a job off the floor.)

 

Nope the point of this post was to claim a little of my soul back.