Question 42)


10 March 2009

Author Questionnaire, Question # 42) List other books on the same subject now on the market, or in preparation, with which your book will compete, or will appear, e.g. to booksellers, to compete.

Boy.  This one might serve as a hearty meal to hungry sociologists — particularly the “or will appear” part.  Ethnic studies departments, too.

I list 3 recent novels I know of by Korean American female authors.  All acclaimed, none of which I’ve read, since I try not to read too much contemporary fiction while I’m in draft mode on my own fiction.  Or if I do, I’ll usually read something dramatically different from my own work.

But here’s the point: for all I know, each one of these 3 novels is dramatically different from my own work.  Probably so.  And yet… it is likely that they will indeed “appear to compete” (I don’t like this word here, for many reasons, but I’m quoting directly).

I hope this isn’t one of those “remorse” posts.  Question 42) may just fall into the too-much-information category, a la the political joke, “There are two things you don’t want to know too much about as far as how they get made: laws and sausages.” 

But maybe my mind is jumping too fast, too narrow.  

Here’s an even narrower thought:  since, in reality, many people (myself included) DO judge books by their covers… might this question be better answered when we have the bookstore visual?  As in, I always get those two books confused — you know, the ones that both have photographs of belly-dancers whispering into the ears of marmots on the cover?

We’re making our list for possible back-cover blurbers.  I recently read a Publisher’s Weekly blurb on the back cover of a short-story collection by a Japanese American writer that read, “Fans of Amy Tan will love this.”  No disrespect at all to Ms. Tan — and in fact all due respect for breaking ground for this generation of writers — but is this necessarily the way this needs to work?  

Presumably, shorthand is all we have when getting the word out about a new novel in a sea of novels… but I wonder if we can’t, a la my favorite President these days, elevate our conception of our prospective audience.  “The American people know better than that,” candidate Obama often said.  And I so very much have wanted to believe him.



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