by H. Linn Murphy
(Metaphor warning: I'm going to be mixing them like a nurse in a nuthouse.)
(Disclaimer #2: I'm waiving the pictures in favor of ever getting to bed in this century. What, are they having another slow down day?)
Bananas were made for baboons. Just saying. When I was young they were great. I also ate strained spinach. That doesn't mean that I want a banana now, or ever. I do, however, like plantain chips exceedingly. They're still in the banana family but they don't make me dash for the nearest chuck bucket. I'm not sure if it's because platanos aren't sweet or if they just don't go all gluey as fast. Nothing says run for the barf bowl faster than a mucky banana. And platano chips are fabulous. Just the right salt and they're better for you than potato chips.
And they don't taste like bananas.
So what does all of this have to do with the price of fish in Alaska? Often the dividing line between what we like and what we don't can be nebulous at best. This also extends to those poor persons who have to wade through the slush pile to fish out the occasional mahi mahi from the carp.
They too have likes and dislikes, good days and bad, perhaps a presently full docket of books exactly like yours, or your story went moldy like last month's fish. Who knew?
How are we supposed to ride the swells in this business? The truly savvy writer can predict, can plan, can go to a fortune-teller, can chase that illusive best-seller status. But if the fickle public suddenly decides they've had enough mahi mahi and that's what you've based your whole book on, you lose.
So what happens to all those poor lifeless vampires hanging about in dusty attics waiting for their chance to shine again? Do they wait around for another flap around the high school or do they quietly go lock themselves back in their coffins for another fifty years?
I say if you write it, they will come. If you write a story full of "truth" that touches the human psyche, your readers will school around your bait. Make it tempting without being titillating. Make it so good they won't miss the sex or raunchy language or violence. Make it speak from your soul. I've never heard people say, "I only buy books for the sex." (They may say that but I've never heard them.) People buy something that speaks to them.
This is my plan: If I fill the pond up with fabulous halibut stories, readers won't have to settle for trashy sucker fish. So even if publishers say people only want garbage stories, we can show them they are wrong. Another good thing is to go on sites like Goodreads, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon and give the books you love great reviews. Not only does this show the authors, but it shows the publishers, that we are intelligent, discriminating readers with morals and a wish for spectacularly good writing.
May your seas be fair and your catch prodigious. And don't settle for the banana when you can have the plantain...;o)