Monday, December 15, 2014

Monday Musings: Why we should be a little more grateful for Midlist Authors

You ever think about the authors who are writing the books you read? 

Not like the big-list J.K Rowlings and Suzanne Collinses. But the books that you discovered after clicking on the "recommendations" tabs a few times on Amazon. Or the random "Barnes and Noble Employees suggestion" shelves. 

I like thinking about them. But maybe that's because I want to be them one day. As an avid reader who is also an avid writer, I often think about the day that I might have one of my books sold alongside my favorite authors. However, I am also a realist. I know that not every book is a Hunger Games or a Harry Potter.

Last year, Wendy Higgins, a paranormal YA author, wrote a post about the myth that authors are rich. (Disclaimer: her original post about this was a little controversial. Another Disclaimer: this post is more for budding authors, but it could be interesting for readers to get to know the industry that publishes our beloved books). The biggest message here: some authors do not sell enough books to survive on that income alone. So sometimes when we expect lots of freebies from them, they have to say "no." And it is as hard for them to say "no" as it is for us to hear it. That made me super sad inside because I hate the idea that they have to look like a bad guy when it's not their fault at all.

There is a bit of good news for current midlist authors. There is a grant from SCBWI:
Critically acclaimed children’s book author Jane Yolen created this grant to honor the contribution of mid-list authors. The grant awards $3,000 to mid-list authors and aims to help raise awareness about their current works in progress. Jane was the first SCBWI Regional Advisor and currently sits on the SCBWI Board of Advisors.
Recently, Natalie Whipple (a Fantasy YA author) wrote about "Life on the Midlist."

I found her post both inspiring and terrifying. Inspiring because she loves writing despite the hardships, not because of the rewards. And terrifying because this is legitimately what I would want to do with my life (write) and I don't know where that dream might take me.
"When it comes down to it, no, I don't think I get as much from writing as I put into it. Yet I want to keep writing and I can't imagine doing anything else."
But this blog, while about writing, is also about reading. And Mrs. Whipple really did give me some food for thought as a reader. I really love that authors like her are still writing, because if it were only blockbusters then there is no way that there would be enough books to fill my shelves. 

I asked my Cousin Axie, who writes Books Are Bread, what her thoughts were on how she chooses her books. She wrote back with an essay (j/k, I love you Axie!)
"As a reader, I'm not usually influenced by national lists or national awards, except for the Hugo & Nebula, and sometimes the Newbury. But that's because I don't read as widely in those genres (Adult SFF & Juvenile Literature). As for YA, I mostly read according to genre & comparative titles, like if a book is Fantasy & compared with Laini Taylor, I'll be more interested in reading it. And as for The New York Times, I understand it's influence over how much exposure a book has (if it reaches top 100 on NYT, it will be placed in bookstores nation-wide & also chain stores like Target & Costco), but I don't believe I'm as influenced. Disclaimer: I am avid reader (and book blogger), so I actively look for books that might appeal to me, which are usually not commercial--my tastes run towards Fantasy & Romance with literary sensibilities. Think Melina Marchetta, Juliet Marillier & Franny Billingsley. Are these authors midlist? I'm not sure. Do I want them to place on the NYT? Absolutely. Not because I think the NYT is telling of "quality", but it definitely adds to "quantity" sold, and without quantity, there's a chance these quality writers won't be able to afford writing as their career (not specifically the authors I named, but midlist authors in general)."
I think I have read just as many midlist author books as well-known author books. So I owe a lot of my happy time to these authors who create these wonderful worlds for me to fall into.

One of the great things is that these authors are often on social media! So I think we should get on our blogs and Twitter and Instagrams and give a big old shout out to these awesome writers who shared their stories with us. Not only because some of us want to be them some day, but also because they have shared something awesome with us. And that's worth a thanks.


  1. I like writing essays, what can I say? AHAHA.

    I'd love to sit down with a publicity person at one of the major houses and have them legitimately tell me what helps YA books sell. Because it's not like kids go out and look at The New York Times and then pick books from there. If anything, NYT serves for parents/grandparents who want to get something for their kid w/o having to research a whole lot about kid's books.

    I feel like there are two types of readers, readers who read...often & a lot. & then casual readers. Readers who would define themselves as "readers" don't need to be sold books b/c they'll find books themselves, while readers who would never describe themselves as "readers" usually use B&N recs & NYT, etc. So...the midlist author is someone who doesn't appeal to casual readers, pretty much. And that just means their books don't have mass appeal. And that's fine...b/c they write books for ALL readers, and those people who are "readers" WILL find them & read them. Well, it's fine for readers. The midlist author may disagree, considering it means they're not selling as many books.

    The worst possible situation is when a really amazing author, who's midlist, hasn't shown a good sale record, and therefore can't sell any further books. I won't name names, but some authors whose books are brilliant, don't, well, SELL, which sucks, b/c it might mean they won't be able to write anymore. I've become the type of reader/blogger/writer who now makes sure to buy books by my favorite under-selling authors & minority authors. Like, if there's that minute of hesitation before buying a book, I'm like, whatever, and just buy it now, hahaha. But I'm also more hesitant to buy bestselling books. I'd rather get those from the library (if I have to choose where I spend my money, between a best selling author and an underselling author).

    Anyway, great post, cuz. Yay for all the authors of the world :)

    1. I agree, when amazing authors aren't well known and there's a possibility they won't get more books sold, I get so sad. Fortunately, I don't think that's happened as much with books I like as it has with TV shows I love.

      You got me into buying books by under-selling authors and to talk more about diversity in writing (so thanks!). And I think that's a perfect example of why we should care more as readers. Because we need to support these amazing writers who are creating cool, new, diverse stories for us.

  2. I know the biggest thing that gets me reading midlist authors: word of mouth. And then if it's available at my library.
    Good post!