I strongly believe in the importance of listening to what readers have to say and to take in any considerations, concerns or their attitudes toward stories. There are many different elements that make or break a story. Often times it depends on what the reader comes away with it and express.
As a reader I often ponder about what is really important to me in a story. In the beginning of the year I had a chance to answer that question to a stranger in a store-while browsing books-when she asked me what I thought was the most important aspect of a book. I told her, “Strongly drawn characters and how they deal with their challenges is important to the plot and overall themes of the story. If the characters don't draw me in, it’s a bust." Ever since this has been on my mind and yesterday an interesting conversation about what readers want more of or less of came about on Facebook. It was quite enlightening and a big eye opener. I’m not sure it enlightening for some authors involved in the conversations as much as it was for the readers who expressed their wishes or concerns. Most readers want a variety of things and often times are frustrated when those elements are not meant. On occasion we express ourselves via social media and what we desire. It doesn’t always work out for us to do that. That is wrong and a reader’s voice should be heard regardless what the main-stream market says we want or should want...
Having said that, there are times when an author’s hands are tied by their agents or publishers in what they write about. I have talked to many authors about what they wanted to write and from what they told me, I was very interested. Too bad their agents and pubs didn’t see it that way. On this same score, many of my fellow readers’/book bloggers and I would love publishers to accept their female author’s pitches on writing more about male characters. A good friend said and I hope she doesn’t mind me quoting her, “We've stripped men of intrigue and depth in an effort to paint women as dynamic, strong, multifaceted individuals.” And, “The powers that be are convinced that because most readers are women, authors should write books about women and women's issues. Male characters must be sacrificed on the altar of sexist marketing to achieve this aim...” I tend to agree with her and she brings up a valid point. Anyhow, that is for another discussion.
To further add insight of a readers’ voice…As for my fellow book reviewers’/book bloggers, we are a different breed of readers. Many of us are professional readers for companies like, NetGalley. We also have the chance to talk with authors behind the scenes about their writing, interview them and we know the market and how to promote. We are not what you call the “average reader”. We tend to look more at how the story is structured overall and how the characters are portrayed. We are writers’ in our own right and many of us are working on novels as well and dreaming of one day being published. I myself who works in the book industry-not as a author yet- and who has also talked to hundreds of authors and readers know that readers do have something of value to bring to the table.
Our opinions and what we want to see more of or less of in stories should not be dismissed or undermined. The value of a reader’s voice is important and one that should be listened to with respect and consideration.
Stephanie M. Hopkins.
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