Everyone has a Story
McPherson Sentinel, September 6, 2013
I continue to work in the fiction book stacks, sorting the collection into different genres and weeding out titles that are no longer used or are in poor condition. By the time this project is completed, we will have eight fiction genres, and each will be shelved in specific areas of the stacks. Now I am in the middle of the stacks, currently working with titles whose authors have last names beginning with “K”.
I have always believed that everyone has a story. Each of us, whether we know it or not, has at least one novel inside us just waiting to be written. And I see this in the fiction stacks: There are many authors who have written only one or two books. Some of those books fade away after time and are no longer read by library patrons – and I reluctantly must pull some of them from the shelf -- while others take on new life with each generation of readers.
Popularity of a single book in a library may be determined by factors other than its plot and readability. Books on the top and bottom shelves are a little bit more difficult to see, and thus their number of checkouts may be less than others shelved near eye level. Books shelved near runs of the works by big name authors also get a little boost. As with all real estate, it’s location, location, location.
Publishers are more hesitant these days to take a chance on authors who may have only one or two stories to write. They want to invest in authors who can deliver the goods on a regular basis. Of course, some may argue that several of the big name authors had only one or two good stories in them regardless of how many books they have written!
As I go through the books on the shelves, it is easy for me to observe the evolution of marketing authors, whether first novelists or superstars, from the book jackets. Years ago, there may have been a small black and white photograph of the author, yet there was more personal detail, such as the name of his dog. But in the past couple of decades, the focus is on the photo of the author, with little biographical information included.
Publicity shots of authors now are taken with the objective of selling books. The women look coiffed, sleek, and sexy. The men are sun-tanned, rugged and taciturn, frequently posing with a far-off look in their eyes. If I wrote a novel, would I look like Brad Pitt on the book jacket? Do we subconsciously read books based on the photograph of the author? Maybe. Maybe not.
Margaret Mitchell published only one book – and that without her photograph on the jacket. Most people agree that it did quite well. But Gone With the Wind will be in the M’s, and that is another day.