BOOKS FOR THE SELECTIVE READER
Are Readers Manipulated? Do They Read Books They Truly Like
By Akinyi Princess of K’Orinda-Yimbo
(A P von K’Ory)
As a writer, but also as a reader, I’m well aware of the so-called protagonists the reader will identify with, feel sorry for, have pity on because they are so “damaged” or “flawed”. All well and good. But personally I’m a reader who doesn’t want to read about some look-alike; I want a new exciting world and people I know little or nothing about. I’m fascinated with cultures not my own because I find they act as a counterpoint to my own culture and therefore become a new enrichment and variant perspective to who I am. I want to sing other songs and taste other foods. I want a dance with a brand new rhythm.
Consequently, I don’t want to read or write what some publisher is pushing across as the “trend”, I want to set my own trend. There has to be a section of my life where only I set the rules and provide the yardstick. This has cost me several editors and literary agents. But I happen to love writing for the joy of creativity more than as a means of livelihood.
I made a conscious decision to write for the discerning and sophisticated readers who, like me, want to read something substantial and worthwhile instead of disposable book products. Readers who are ambitious enough to want to read about different lives and situations, not something they can “identify with”. Selective, experimental and sophisticated readers.
Deliberately, I have refrained from bowing to publishers’ editors who want me to write books that they have decided “will sell”. I’m fully aware of this manipulative ploy that is calculated towards “trimming” readers to only read a particular type of literature, especially women’s.
This type of literature goes by the name “commercial” or “mainstream”, and as the descriptions suggest, these are writing and stories that are meant to appeal to base consumption rather than any intellectual input or output.
In other words, traditional publishing has become a recycling business. The notion of traditional publisher is today merely valid by reputation only. Books are no longer chosen for publication based on their literary merit, they are chosen according to the ‘wow factor’ of the author’s name as well as the banality of the subject matter. And the reading public has been trained to respond like Pavlov’s dogs. Writers, whether novelists or “experts” of nonfiction books, have to deliver the equivalence of virtual reality stuff that has become the norm on television. It’s all formats of Farmer Wants a Wife, Judge Judy or some docusoap farce.
So when a publisher’s editor asked me to write something erotic, I didn’t write the sort of nice, neat, copycat billionaire bad boy and the hapless girl or young woman he would blindfold, chain, whip, tie up and flog, in return for buying her expensive shoes and taking her out in Christian Dior and a limousine. The thing is, I don’t think all women are into this. There are those of us with a different interpretation of “erotic” or “erotica”. As the saying goes: It must not always be caviar. With that in mind, I write what I call sophisterotic or thrillerotic that would appeal to me. I write the sex scenes the way I, as a woman, would want them both from the man and for me. After all, there are people who love their steak but they don’t force vegetarians and vegans to also eat meat with them.
The result, with regards to the editors I mentioned above, was that my manuscripts were rejected when I refused to change them according to what the editors of publishers and literary agents wanted me to write them. It would in effect be their book written by me.
I have nothing against readers who prefer erotica that involves physical and social pain and humiliation. But I prefer erotic psychological battles. Besides, my nature goes against seeing women as so dependent on men that the women would allow men to turn them into objects for lust in a one-way street, in order to rescue men’s damaged souls.
So, I’m not in the recycling business. But traditional publishing is. By extension, much of the reading public has joined in, too. A look at the book covers and tiles being promoted by the big houses confirms the recycling. The most prominent feature on the covers of these books meant for women are generic. Or, in the new genre called Grip Lit, the prominent features are titles with the word “Girl”. I don’t agree that all women are either masochistic submissives or mentally unstable. Women, in my own opinion, must not be possessions, chattels owned by men, nor must they be deranged poor little girls despite being grownup women in their own rights.
There was a time when publishing houses were true talent scouts, mentors, nurturers. Now, they’re merely bankers. And their currency is the invented “fame” rather than talent. If I run naked through the streets of Nuremberg, I’d be on the social media in three minutes and hit thousands of clicks within an hour. Then I’ll be “famous” and publisher will fight over me to write for them. I’d be invited to talk shows. And – tah-dah! – readers will line up for my books. Publishing was once an admirable art. Now, it’s a robotic, repetitive, predictable production line.
There are still high-quality, principled traditional editors and publishers out there. What’s more, we have the Internet. And, of course, there is self-publishing and co-publishing or hybrid publishing. This is why I turned my back on traditional publishing and went for the alternative. I can now publish books for the discerning readers who are selective and sophisticated, readers who want to read something different from the millions of copycat books that abound in Amazon from the recycling publishers.