There's an article in Publishers Weekly about yet another one of these Authonomy-type ideas where people can post their writing to get feedback and maybe a publishing deal.

This time it's coming from a former editor with a small indie press so it uses different language to describe itself. Round Table will bring to the social networking platform not just finished content, but many aspects of the publishing process—including, for authors open to the idea, peer editing. The idea is that feedback and crowd-sourcing can dramatically enrich the editing, authoring and reading process for all involved—not to mention expose potential talent among members of the community.

Right. When I see a phrase like "crowd-sourcing," I get worried. But what really got me in the article was the line, “you have to keep accepting unsolicited submissions, because those people are our readers.” Later he repeats it, “In our formulation,” says Nash, “readers are writers.”

The dedication in J.D. Salinger's Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour an Inroduction begins, "If there is an amateur reader still left in the world - or anybody who just reads and runs..."

I wonder, are there any amateur readers left? And would it make a difference to the content of what we write if we admitted that most likely the only peope buying books are other writers?

(I guess the big blockbuster bestsellers are the only books bought by amateur readers)

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For me, I need to go from selling two books every fifty years to the mid-list range. Frankly, I'll pe pleased as punch to get to that mark. The Top Ten is probably out of my reach. Unless . . .
In answer to your title question, my opinion is 'no,' but I do think the gulf between writer-readers and non-writer-readers has widened, in a qualitative sense. My spouse, who is a voracious reader but not a writer, gave up reading fiction some years ago because it ceased to be really entertaining for him. It's hard for him to explain just what the difference is, but I think part of it is that, in the striving to remain 'topical,' fiction has lost something -- a certain ordinariness that the non-writer-reader likes and seeks out. In fact, I began to take my own writing more seriously (i.e., decided to pursue writing with an eye toward publishing) when I stopped finding books I liked reading. Everything seemed to have a vampire or a werewolf in it, or the characters were so highly specialized and stylized that I simply couldn't relate to them (lesbian forensic phrenologist with a peg-leg, etc., ad nauseam). There seem to be no just plain old ordinary people in fiction anymore. I miss them.

That rings a bell, since that's exactly what I did, Minerva. Mind you, unlike your husband I've always been addicted to reading and still am. I knew the mystery genre extremely well before I started writing it. But gradually, I've become more and more dissatisfied with what I used to read. The other problem is that I see the wires these days. That probably explains my grumpy remarks about some of the books I read nowadays.
Oh, he's still addicted to reading, he just doesn't read popular fiction anymore. Biography, history, science, classics, anything else -- but stick a best-seller in front of him and he'll use the thing for a coaster.
Also, I should clarify: it wasn't dissatisfaction with what I *used* to read, it was dissatisfaction with the 'new' stuff that started coming out of mystery writers within the last decade or so. I'd run through all my favorite writers and couldn't find another one -- I loved Ruth Rendell and Margaret Millar; the Big Three (Chandler, Hammet, MacDonald); P.D. James, etc. I think Sue Grafton is probably the 'youngest' writer I can stand to read anymore, though I'm sure there are others out there I just haven't found yet...
If you like the Big Three, I recommend taking at look at Declan Hughes and Sean Chercover. I think you'll like them both. Dennis Lehane's Kenzie-Gennaro books mihgt also be to your liking.
Hey, thanks Dana! I'll check them out. How about some women? I'm already hooked on Megan Abbott, but she's the only female writer in the tradition I've found that I like, so far...
If you're looking for a pull no punches noir read, give Christa Faust a try. I've heard great things about Megan Abbott, but I need to winnow down my TBR pile a bit before I start to widen my circle again.
You may be on to something here, as the general public can't seem to get enough of what you, a more discerning reader now writer, got tired of. I spent several years trying to sell a detective series. The hero was a divorced father who had some issues about being away from his daughter, so he tried to make it up to her the best he could. No rejection criticized the writing. Some thought the plot could have done more. The biggest complaint: the hero's not distinctive enough. They wanted a lesbian forensic phrenologist.

I'm going to try again, darkening up his character a little, but there's only so far I'll go in that direction. They don't want the book, they don;t want the book. I'll live.
Let's hope there are a few who just read. Otherwise, we're all skunked.
John's question was clearly tongue-in-cheek. Of course there are more readers than writers, but I think the number of readers has shrunk and possibly the number of writers has increased.

The reason I feel uncomfortable with much that is new is that it depends on the sensational to find readers. For me that takes a book out of the sphere of believability, and I don't relate to that sort of thing. As for the greats of the past, to my mind they failed in writing pure puzzles instead of novels about real characters.
I agree just about completely. The "traditional" mysteries don't appeal to me much anymore, for the reasons you mention. They're all puzzle, and it's hard to care about the solution when it's strictly an academic exercise. Newer fiction seems to get more and more sensational as writers and publishers feel they have to push the envelope. (I think this accounts for the popularity of serial killers.) Recreational readers may just want to be titillated. I can't say for sure. Whatever the cause, it becomes more gratifying all the time to find a new writer whose books are grounded in some plausible reality, as they become fewer all the time.


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