Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Who reads this smut?

Me with Kristina McMorris and
Elisabeth Naughton (in the background
trying desperately to warm her ears)
Saturday afternoon, I had the pleasure of taking part in the 2011 NW Author Fair in Lincoln City, Oregon.

The Sourcebooks publicist arranged for me to be there, and I was giddy at the prospect of hanging out on the Oregon coast with 60+ authors who are much cooler than me.

Besides, nearly every reviewer has called Making Waves a “beach read.” What better place to sign it than at the beach?

OK, so the Oregon Coast isn’t exactly Barbados. I might have lost a few toes to frostbite. It was totally worth it to huddle up with fellow romance authors Kristina McMorris and Elisabeth Naughton and gush to strangers about each other’s books.

Within the first hour of the event, something became pretty obvious. If a customer over the age of sixty strolled past our little romance writer threesome, she was most likely to make a beeline for Kristina’s World War II love story.

I’ve read Letters from Home myself and adored it in spite of the fact that I’m not currently a member of AARP. Still, it’s not tough to see why older readers would be drawn to it.

Pretty soon, I began watching for my stereotypical reader. It took awhile to figure out what she looked like, but I soon found myself perking up at the sight of a woman in her late 30s or early 40s. She was often accompanied by another woman joining her for a girlfriends’ getaway at the coast, or maybe a teenage daughter in tow.

Either way, she had that hungry look in her eye. The look that said, “I need a good, fluffy beach read or a strong cocktail. Maybe both.”

As for Elisabeth – who writes dark, steamy paranormals – I noticed she seemed to catch the attention of anyone with a cool, edgy haircut or more than one piercing. Double bonus points if the piercing was someplace besides the earlobe.

But you know what? We often guessed wrong.

There was the woman in her late 60s with an appliquéd sweatshirt who buzzed right past Kristina and snapped up all of Elisabeth’s titles. There was the middle-aged gentleman who talked to me for a good ten minutes about the evolution of romantic comedy before snagging a copy of Making Waves. There was the woman who made a disparaging comment about “bodice rippers” before buying a book from each of us.

All that to say, you can’t judge a book by its cover – not the books themselves, nor the people who read them.

Well, OK, I might be a little judgmental of the woman who brusquely asked to take a picture of me, “in case you’re famous someday."

Still, since the release of Making Waves, I’ve been endlessly surprised at who’s buying it. Did I expect male readers to love the story, or grandmothers to giggle over the giant purple vibrator, or teen readers to relate to my 37-year-old heroine and 42-year-old hero?

Not really, but I’ll take ‘em. It’s a good reminder to me that even if I have a “target audience,” I’m wise to keep an open mind and remember that readers can come in all shapes and sizes.

Do you have a stereotype in mind when you picture readers of a certain genre? How does a sci-fi reader differ from a memoir fan? Who’d win in a cage fight between a YA reader and one who loves thrillers? Please share your stereotypes.

Then tell me about a time you got it wrong. It doesn't have to be with readers – it can be any stereotype. Surely I'm not the only one?

12 comments :

Teri Anne Stanley said...

I just read something else that had a giant purple vibrator in it...has the giant purple vibrator become a cliche? Do we need to start a support group for the much maligned blue and green vibrators?

Matthew MacNish said...

I almost got you a t-shirt when I was in Seattle.

It said "I rode the SLUT."

What? It's the South Lake Union Trolley. No, I don't know why they named it that, unless it was for the awesome t-shirts.

Mac said...

Ha. Phunny post...in what it provokes (besides the vibrator vision). If I could picture my typical reader, maybe I could write a better query letter, impress that elusive agent.

-- RMW

Sarah W said...

I know a seventy-three year old library patron who loves vampire romances and has read through our entire teen-angst YA collection and moved on to the paranormal romances.

I thought at first he was checking them out for his wife, but he's not married. And his girlfriend, who is a few years older than he (he calls her his cougar), prefers political thrillers.

You can't judge readers by their covers. Or something . . .

Angela Perry said...

I generally picture my readers as curious, imaginative, and a bit geeky. But I have no idea what they look like. Someday I'll have a book signing, and then I'll know :)

lynnrush said...

Looks like you had fun! What an exciting time. I hope you're enjoying the journey!! Yeah, you can plan, have target audiences, and all that jazz, but truly, you can't totally predict who will love your book or not.

So, enjoy the journey and thanks for sharing it with us!!

Becke Davis said...

Who reads the smut? Well, if you mean the hot stuff, that would be me. I stopped apologizing for my taste in books several years ago (it's taken me years to break out of the "pleaser" cocoon).

If I ever sell, I doubt anyone in my family will ever read it, because I like to write hot, too. Even the big readers in my family prefer the more PG13 books. They can call me Aunt Slut if they feel so inclined - life goes too fast to waste time on bland books!

Mary said...

What makes me laugh is that I'm what you pictured as your "typical" reader. Of course, I also adore paranomal and urban fantasy and am in no way edgy. Sadly.

It always cracks me up to see who's a closet romance reader. Though ereaders make it so less obvious, damnit!

Mary Stella said...

I finished reading Making Waves yesterday and thoroughly enjoyed your book. Fun, flirty, funny, a little outrageous -- just my kind of humor -- along with quick-witted dialogue and characters I loved.

Tawna Fenske said...

Teri Anne, I was about to make a comment about how my giant purple vibrator came first, but then I realized what I'd written and laughed myself silly. Then I wrote it anyway.

Matthew, that's hilarious, someone from Seattle was just telling me about those shirts last week. Now I need one. Desperately.

Mac, guessing who your reader might be is a challenging game under the best of circumstances!

Sarah W, I so want to meet that guy.

Angela, I've certainly found that the readers vary a lot from event to event. The folks who bought my book in Bend, OR were not the same ones who bought it in Portland.

lynnrush, it was definitely a fun (albeit, cold!) afternoon!

Becke, embrace the smut, I say!!!!

Mary, are you a fan of the Smart Bitches, Trashy Books site? I love them for elevating the stereotype of "typical" romance readers.

Mary Stella, aww, thanks so much! Glad you enjoyed it!

Thanks for reading, guys!
Tawna

TheLabRat said...

Because I'm a sci fi reader with multiple tattoos and piercings who sometimes has funny colored hair, I tend to think all of my ilk are the same on both counts. I'm always a little surprised (even though I totally know better) when a a beautiful pink haired weirdo doesn't like the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy or when the dude on the bus who looks freaky "normal" suddenly starts gushing because I'm in the middle of reading Slaughterhouse 5 for the 90th time.

Given your description of the one author's fans, for obvious reasons I'm going to have to look her up. :D

Kristina McMorris said...

You're hilarious, as always. Thanks for the generous shout out, Tawna! I had a blast with you and Elisabeth...and all my new AARP readers. :)

We MUST do that again sometime!