I hear it said all the time that the majority of books that make the bestseller lists these days are nothing but fluff. Critics, reviewers, bloggers, etc. all like to dump on some of the most popular books (like Fifty Shades of Grey, for example) because they don’t follow the “standards” of the literary community and they don’t feature very deep or compelling concepts, but instead go for shock value. With Fifty Shades, the shock value was the BDSM…with other books like John Locke’s popular Donovan Creed novels, the shock value is the violence and the gallons of blood the author chooses to bleed out over the pages. While these books may make for fun and easy reads, can they really be compared to classics like The Catcher in the Rye or Fahrenheit 451? I don’t really think they can.
I’ll be the first to say that I can appreciate the current scope of the book market. I love that more and more people these days are out there buying eReaders and downloading books by the bucketload to fill them. I think it’s FANTASTIC that books are now bigger conversation pieces than movies in most circles. Hey, did you catch J.K. Rowling’s new book? Wow, you gotta check out this new one by Janet Evanovich! Team Edward all the way! Anyway, you get the idea. Getting more and more people to read is never a bad thing for the industry, even if we have to put out some fluff in order to reel them in.
When Fifty Shades came out, legions of people I knew on Facebook were chatting about it. People I knew for a FACT were not devoted readers like I have been for most of my life. In fact, I don’t remember these people ever posting about a book before in between their posts about partying, finals, and pictures of their food. Let’s face it, my generation is a generation of people who forgot about reading. In between the video games, movies, television shows, magazines…we just lost the desire earlier generations had to escape into a good book for a few hours. I know many people who say they “hate” to read. They can’t get into it, they can’t sit in place long enough to get through more than a few pages. They have a hard time visualizing words on paper in their mind to give them the full experience.
At least, they did until more recently…apparently, they just needed something geared toward their interests, something less serious, less perfect. Less “literary genius.” They wanted a book they could relate to (see my earlier blog post about New Adult, and notice that the current book at #1 on Amazon is The Edge of Never, definitely a New Adult book), something that was easy to read and fast-paced, filled with exciting hot topics, humor and witty dialogue. And while those things may not end up in every Book Critic’s library, they do end up on the Kindles or Nooks of average, everyday people. And lately, they’ve been ending up on the bestseller lists.
With this new dilemma facing the industry these days…fluff over substance…writers must now make a choice. Do you write a book that may change the way people think about the world, a book like 1984 or The Hunger Games? Or do you write a book that’s nothing but fluffy fun, like many of the books soaring to popularity these days? Books that stimulate hormones more than spark intellectual arguments?
In my opinion, you should always aim to write whatever you think you’ll be best at. Write what’s in your heart, not what everyone else is writing. For example, Erotica has become a VERY popular genre these days (a lot of which falls under the fluff category, btw), and I’m seeing a lot of authors making quite a living writing these books. While I can see the appeal, I personally don’t like to read Erotica and therefore have no desire to write it myself. Instead, I tend to write books that explore topics such as family relationships, improbable love, American business, and soon, ghosts. I’ve done fantasy, demons, mythology…I stick with things I enjoy, things I find interesting and worth reading myself. I don’t try to be anything I’m not, like an Erotica writer. 😉
So that’s really what it boils down to. Whether what interests you ends up being fluff or substance, at least you’ll be writing the best book you can write. And readers will thank you for being true to yourself, because your books will reflect your passion and your individual voice.
There is a book out there for every type of reader to enjoy, written by every type of writer. And when we find each other, we create the most special kind of magic!
“Mrs. Robinson, you’re trying to seduce me. Aren’t you?” -The Graduate