Monday News: the state of fiction, is new GoT book obsolete?, “servicing the reader,” and female farmers
Fear not, the novel is not history – Literary agent Ian Mulcahy responds to the recent Telegraph article that laments an apparent drop in UK fiction sales and notes that books are competing with other forms of entertainment for people’s “limited leisure time.” Mulcahy argues that overall book sales trends show growth in sectors like children’s fiction, cookbooks, and nonfiction, trends we have also witnessed in the US book market. While I tend to agree with Hannah Furness’s contention that books are competing not only with other books, but with other forms of entertainment (a point Jane made years ago), I also agree with Mulcahy that it’s hardly time to panic that fiction is disappearing. Trends are just that, and we’re certainly seeing a plethora of genre books circulating, from both traditional and independent publishers.
The Telegraph points to the tough time being had by fiction (23% down in the past five years). That is a bad news trend; as an agent it can sometimes feel that there are as many aspirant writers of literary fiction as there are readers of new literary fiction. And yes that’s a phenomenon that everyone involved in writing needs to understand, especially authors. It’s a fact that potential readers, looking to be engrossed by storytelling, do have new choices (boxsets for me, gaming for others). And smartphones can end up owning our quiet times alone; where before a book made our best companion. But these trends don’t feel fatal at all. At an industry level they show we need the sales magic of a new writer to challenge JK Rowling’s massive historical revenue contribution to the industry (her new work, The Cursed Child is a play script and so, as far as the official statistics are concerned, is in a different category to fiction). . . .
Reading has long been a ‘minority interest’ when compared with the omnipresent behemoth of television. A big minority but, at a guess, less than 20% of the population have the constant pile of books-to-be-read on their bedside table that we readers nightly face. So those pundits in the 80% who don’t get the books thing are always jumping to write the ‘death of the book’ piece. Perhaps the prospect of an end to books makes them feel better about all the knowledge, insight and joy they sense they are missing. – The Bookseller
George R. R. Martin Doesn’t Need to Finish Writing the Game of Thrones Books – A provocative post from Emily Dreyfuss that takes on the sacred cow of George R.R. Martin’s ownership of the Game of Thrones master storyline. At this point, she argues, the television series appears to have “eclipsed” the books, despite fan enthusiasm for Martin’s next installment in book form. There are, of course, a lot of assumptions here, including those related to crossover audience and venue access (how many people have and are watching the show on HBO). But it’s an interesting commentary on the increasingly fluid conversations we seem to be having about the source and consumption of storytelling.
For fans who started reading The Song of Ice and Fire long before the show began, thinking that the saga could finish on HBO is a letdown—particularly for those who don’t want to watch the show until they’ve finished the books. For the last few years being able to say “Sure, yes, but the books are better” has provided a nice little dopamine rush. But beyond that thrill, what Game of Thrones fans really want is more Game of Thrones. And right now, their best bet for getting that is on premium cable.
And the Game of Thrones world has been outgrowing Martin’s writing for a while. In an interview with The New Yorker, he said that he sometimes relies on fans running the wiki to remember the details of his own complicated plot. “I’ll write something and e-mail him to ask, ‘Did I ever mention this before?’ And he writes me right back: ‘Yes, on page 17 of Book Four,’” he said, referring to a particular super fan with whom he works closely. That fact suggests Westeros is already out of his hands, and if he’s comfortable with having a little less canonical power, fans should be too. – WIRED
An Industry Insider Explains Why AMI’s $100 Million Us Weekly Deal Should Matter to You – While this Paste article by former Us Weekly staff editor Joyce Chen is nominally about celebrity gossip, it’s also about journalism in the age of social media, and the “echo chamber” of headlines and stories. And about what it means to “serve” readers. For Chen, the sale of Us Weekly to AMI, which owns The Enquirer, a publication that has apparently become all about ‘giving the readers what they want,’ presents a grave danger to responsibly sourced entertainment and celebrity journalism. And I think it’s significant that the former owner of Us was Jann Wenner, who also owns Rolling Stone, which was apparently treated as the more privileged, respected, male-associated publication of the pair.
. . . I’m not saying that all news outlets have blended into a homogenous mishmash of titles, just that the overlapping sections of the Venn diagram are now a lot larger. Politics are entertaining, and entertainment is political.
This is to say that the AMI sale matters because it signifies a significant, though under-the-radar, shift in what we as news consumers will be seeing in headlines and Facebook feeds and Twitter timelines in the not-too-distant future. Journalists define the collective narrative that we live in; for better or worse, they are the ones who help determine how we understand the world. Newsworthiness—one of the core principles of journalism—has been redefined; we live in an age now wherein news outlets are chasing trends just as much as they are unearthing the news. And it is becoming increasingly apparent that just because celebrity news is not “hard news” doesn’t mean its impact is any less palpable.
Dylan Howard, the National Enquirer’s current editor-in-chief, has a term for this method of catering to its readers: “servicing” them. But as BuzzFeed Senior Culture Writer Anne Helen Petersen put it in a recent profile, this seemingly altruistic attitude is more complicated than it seems. “Good service is contingent upon a deference to the consumer; good journalism, however, hinges on a willingness to piss that consumer off, especially if it’s in service of the truth,” she writes. “Truth can require bravery; good service just requires good market research.” – Paste
New book “Women Behind the Plow” illustrates farm wives pivotal role – Hey, look, another way in which women contributed substantially to history, despite the fact that those contributions have long been marginalized and/or ignored. Women Behind the Plow features 20 “farm wives,” who not only worked in the fields, but also had to continue their household and child-raising duties simultaneously.
“These women contributed so much to the growth of the state in the early homestead days, yet you never really heard anything about them, they don’t brag about what they do, they don’t even think their contributions were worthwhile, so we decide to give them the credit they deserve,” said Sue Balcom, Author. . . .
“Women Behind the Plow” took three years to write and features more than 400 vintage photographs that illustrate what life was like before electricity and tractors reduced the work load for families living on a farm. – KFYRtv.com