Judging Books, By Covers or Otherwise

A fun sideline to publishing is learning how judgemental people can be about books. No one knows this better than a romance writer.

When I first entered the business, I was thrilled to get a job working at Berkley Publishing. I was going to edit the books I had spent my summer reading — mass market paperbacks I bought at the grocery store (back when they still sold books).

And this is when I learned how much people love to judge what others read. When I got to hear things like, “when are you going to work on real books.” Or “wouldn’t you rather work at a university press?” Or just laughter when I said I worked on romance.

I know so many of you relate to what I’m saying.

The most difficult of these conversations are when they happen within the publishing industry. When your own writing peers condescend to the work you’re doing. As if their chosen genre is superior.

No genre is superior. There are wonderful writers in every genre and, frankly, not great books published in every genre.

To be truly great at what you do, I challenge you to read everything, every genre and especially those you think you won’t like. Before you judge a book, by its cover or otherwise, I challenge you to read them. To get a feel for what readers are connecting to and maybe, just maybe, improving your own writing by doing so.

Oh, and that friend who laughed at my career in romance publishing. Not more than a few years later I saw her reading Nora Roberts. I don’t think she’ll ever admit she’s a romance reader, but she is.

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2 comments

  1. Those people who poohpooh writers of romance (especially those who suggest trying “real writing”) should have a go at writing a romance themselves. Might stop them looking down their nose.

    1. The suggestion alone will do the trick. 😉

      I’m a volunteer over at librivox.org where we produce free audiobooks of old books that are in the public domain.

      Every now and then we get somebody complaining about reader x in book y; how they should not be let in front of a microphone ever, how they (or LV) is doing a disservice to literature/the author in question etc.

      Every time the answer is: “We’d be happy to have your version of the book as well, and will gladly help you produce it.”

      Number of times somebody has actually done this: ZERO. In 14 years.

      So yes, it seems people are very eager to complain about things they are not willing to change themselves.

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