Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Self-Publishing A to Z: DIVERSE BOOKS

Welcome to the Trogloblog, where I ramble on about whatever strikes my fancy. For April, I'm participating in the epic A to Z Blogging Challenge, where Monday through Friday, I'll be posting a letter-themed article about  Self-Publishing...


If you've been writing or reading online for any time, you may have seen the call for "Diverse Books". But what exactly does that mean, and how should affect you, the self-published author?

First off, diversity is all around us. McDonalds, Wendy's, Burger King. Chevy, Ford, Dodge. Bluegrass, Fescue, Crab. Really, it's a multi-faceted world we live in that puts Baskin-Robbins measly 31 flavors to shame. 

But for books? Well, for books, "diverse" means don't read anything by or about a white guy.

Putting aside the arguments for or against this left-leaning call, lets look at the ramifications of #Diversebooks.

First off, it's no one's fault what color or gender they are. Diversity is all about equality, and singling any one gender or race out for reading or not reading is just plain wrong. And economically foolish.

Reports over the past few years put the electronic book market at something like 75% female (I'm focusing on ebooks because they're the easiest thing to self-publish). And despite the claim that men and women aren't different despite plumbing or chromosomes that say otherwise, it does appear women tend to read different genres from men, overall. 

Among women, smut, or literary porn, is big. So-called "romance" novels sell in huge numbers. This is comparable to skin mags--most are for men, men being more visually-oriented than women. That is, there isn't anywhere near the market for nudey magazines among women as there is for men.

Can diversity exist among Romance novels? Why yes. Bestiality erotica is a thing. More common are BLTBBQ books, featuring male-male "romance", whiuch apparently some women like to read. But how well do fringe sexual practices sell as compared to more contemporary, mainstream girl-guy hookups?

See, THAT, is what you as an author need to think about.

Authors write for two reasons: to sell, or to tell--or maybe a mix of both. Whether you've got a story begging to be let out, or you want to be the next Stephen King, the key to successful self-publishing is to produce a product that will appeal to a large customer base. Reading is neither gay nor straight--everyone reads ebooks (except maybe old white guys my age who prefer to collect dead trees rather than carry around a library in their smart phones). 

The BLTBBQ crowd makes up a very small portion of the population, and therefore, a very small portion of the potential reader market. Throwing in spicey, savory sandwiches into your stories just to appease the outliers bleating for "diverse books" is not just stupid, it's a risky business. Literally.

But what about those of us who don't write Romance? Who's stories don't mention anything about sandwich preference? Well, should you pick a genre that is in the minority, there are lots of ways the Diversity crowd claims you can make it diverse. But again, think about who you're writing to. Don't change your vision just to appease people who refuse to learn another language and thereby truly experience diverse books. Write it the way you want, and that you think a majority of the market will like.

Sure, sure, writing is like art. You want to fill those tiny, under served diverse niches. Well, feel free. But be warned... 

When I set out to self publish, I wanted to write Supernatural Military fiction. As a veteran, I was appalled by how poorly the military is often portrayed in fiction, and I dig a cool monster-fighting story. 

Alas, as it turns out, while many women enjoy a good supernatural thriller, the military angle tends to be more of a male thing. And, as I alluded above, most men my age can't seem to wrap their heads around ereaders. They cling to print versions. Thus, I am now writing to niche market. Meaning there's not much money in it and I don't have as many readers as I'd like. 

Would throwing in diverse characters change that. No. It's the genre and the storytelling that attract readers. I really don't think the average reader is so shallow they hurl a book across the room because the protagonist turned out to be a pale-skinned, fork-tongued devil. 

The bottom line is, write good stories. If they reasonably contain diverse characters--including white guys--that's okay. Don't try and force diversity. In fact, too much of any one color or lifestyle choice can sour the common majority from your work. If you want to reach more than a few dozen folks, that's fine, but if you want to sell to the masses, be respectful of everyone, even those who may lean toward a homogenized whole. 

Check back tomorrow for the next article on self-publishing: EDITING. Until then, visit the A to Z Blog Challenge website for a diverse list of blogs to fit every taste. 


Rebecca Green Gasper said...

I get what your saying...it makes sense. Of course we need more diverse books or more books for boys or etc. But there just isn't a great demand, and therefore, not many writers to write those books. However, regardless of demand, i think writers should write what they are good at and what they know and focus on target audience not the masses. Best to you, Becca

Nilanjana Bose said...

'Bottom line is -write good stories' Forcing diversity into books is not going to make me buy them, and I suspect the same is felt by many other readers too.

Here from the A-Z, and congrats on a well written, insightful post on D.