What can the Reader do About the Mid-List Crisis
Author (and reader) Barbara Samuel aka Ruth Wind e-mailed our own Laurie Likes Books the following this fall, which includes a wonderful solution to battling the mid-list crisis:
. . . I have read and enjoyed your comments on the conference, on writing, on books you love. The latest, about the mid-list (Issue #10 of Laurie’s News & Views), hit home for me. I’m a mid-list author who would not be able to survive if all I wrote was historical romance novels.
The market is very crowded, and it’s very difficult to get readers to pick up an author who is new to them. Publishers are having as much trouble trying to understand how to do it as writers are. But it is a critical problem for the reasons you pointed out. Somehow, the industry must nourish newer authors and help grow tomorrow’s stars.
Perhaps we as readers can do something, by simply making a commitment to trying one new-to-us author every month. Just one book. I know there are a lot of writers, a lot of books, and most of us have TBR piles to the ceiling as it is, but once a month, surely we can take an afternoon to try a an author we’ve never read.
There must be as many ways to find the books/authors we enjoy as there are readers. Listen to recommendations on line, and in the bookstore. Look for authors who are new to you. Browse the shelves (remember that? Just browsing?) and pick up anything that looks like it might be in your favorite time period/setting. Don’t put much emphasis on cover art or titles, because new authors have no clout to get stepbacks, foil, or even title approval. Judge, instead, by the general feeling of the copy, and then maybe read the first page or two to see if it is a kind of writing you like.
Then, share the new authors you love. Talk about the books. Write letters to their publishers and to publications and anyone else you can think of.
Reader Groups could help by agreeing to read a newer author on a periodic basis, once every six months for monthly groups, for example.
It almost has to be up to us, the readers, to make an impact on the shrinking mid-list. Imagine, five or ten years down the road, having no new voices in romance?
One more thing: I do think review publications like this one. . . can help, as well. Something as simple as a commitment to a regularly highlighted review of a newer author’s book(s), and a firm commitment to reviewing not only the big names, but the smaller ones, too.
I’m commiting to this program, and hope others will join me — then share your discoveries. In that spirit, my favorite new discovery is Patricia Ryan, who writes excellent medievals. (She also writes Temptations, for those who like shorter books.)
Barbara Samuel aka Ruth Wind