Sunday, June 11, 2006

The Hard Way

Interesting article in the Wall Street Journal this weekend about Lee Child's Jack Reacher series, how he's become an uncompromising post 9/11 hero, and how the author and publishers have done a good job courting female readers. Of course this might be a byproduct of simply writing good books rather than actively seeking out a different demographic, but the results are pretty obvious. I'm also curious to know how the Journal estimated Lee's income from the books, considering he probably makes different royalties on different cover prices in all 39 countries he's published in. Plus when an author gets to Lee's status, their advances are so high they rarely earn out, so you can't accurately estimate his income based on royalties.

But sometimes I worry authors and publishers try too hard to play to ill-defined audiences. There was a very well-known thriller writer who'd been a bestselling author for years, writing male-oriented action novels. But his career was beginning to wane. So rather than write a better or different book, they took his bread and butter and decided to repackage him as more female-friendly. In the end he didn't get the female audience he was looking for, and also lost his hardcore male demographic who felt they were being abandoned.

So the moral of the story is, spend more time worrying about how good your book is, and less time worrying about how you're going to package and promote in order to reach some audience. If your book is good enough, the packaging will take care of itself, and the audience will come. Stephen King says he always writes with a "constant reader" in his head. I have a feeling most successful authors do. And the better they are, the more constant readers they have. And that's a question I'd like to ask Lee.


Blogger Bernita said...

I like Child's "walkin' dude", Jack Reacher - simply because he's good.
Noticed in one book all the "back story" is revealed in dialogue.Only.

1:19 PM  
Blogger JT Ellison said...

I can not wait to meet Lee Child in person. He has the best reputation in publishing, as a truly nice man. I love Reacher too. Child's ability to weave a story is magnificent.

3:56 PM  
Blogger Jason Pinter said...

I've never met Lee but I'm a huge Reacher fan, and it's really quite an interesting story about how he became a writer.

Can't wait for ThrillerFest!

4:17 PM  
Blogger Brett Battles said...

Lee's definitely on my to meet list. Love Reacher. He reminds me so much of Travis McGee, though I'm not the first to point that out. And I love the old Travis McGee books!

ThrillerFest, 2 1/2 weeks and counting!

9:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess I'm the only one here who's actually met Lee and drank his free booze and the legendary Reacher's Creatures party at Bouchercon.

But once you meet the man, its easy to understand why the man has a huge female fan base. He's a tall, very good looking man with a charming demeanor and a British accent. He could be writing Mack Bolan books and still draw millions of female readers.

10:01 PM  

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