For me, it is not only about reading, but also a sobering reminder to writers that their work not only has to stand out in the crowd of other books, but is also compete with movies that are quicker and easier for consumers to digest. Even movies that are adapted from books are condensed so that the end products are merely observations of others’ imaginations, rather than opportunities to exercise their own.
Don’t get me wrong – I love movies! I especially love disaster movies, and watching them is a close second favorite past time next to reading disaster novels. But, even so, I have to admit that a movie story is handed to viewers on a plate, with all end-user effort removed: And modern technology enables us with a constant, instant, on-demand supply of distracting “shiny things“.
There’s nothing new in that, I guess, but what is important (and timely) for me is the challenge of how to level up. My fiction plans are all in the disaster niche, categorized as thrillers, which I guess places them in competition with action movies. Film and television “is saturated with dystopian and post-apocalyptic material” right now. So the I wondered: How to (re)write so that my novels-in-progress are engaging enough to grab and hold the interest and attention of modern action movie audiences?
But who watches disaster movies? Are they really the same people who read disaster books?
I’ve never before been particularly interested in behaviors of the (apparently large) demographic segment of Millennials, but given that they make up a large proportion of my target market, it looks like I’d better start paying attention.
All my books will be Indie publications, and therefore I must market them myself. Conventional wisdom is that marketers must first identify their audience, and what that demographic segment likes and wants affects me.
I’m not a fan of marketing in general. I’ve never before been interested in it, save for occasionally grumping about how prolific it all is, and surprise at the new lows businesses go to for the purpose of wearing down their ‘targets’. Constant advertising offends me. But maybe I’m more offended by the ways it is so often done. Millennials are often offended by being stereotyped as shallow and lacking in attention, and it does appear that dots have been connected prematurely. More recent demographic commentators reckon that the segment favors solid brands, good value, and a human backstory (I can’t remember where I read that, but it’s stuck in my head). It certainly fits with the behaviors and preferences of my young adult daughters. Therefore, maybe an appropriately branded approach, reflecting quality and value, really would make all the difference to the appeal of a book?
Anyway, how to market books to the Millennial segment is a question for another day. In the meantime, I’m still bothered by the book-v-movie thing in general, uncertain about whether instant gratification and distraction are really as much of a problem as social commentators and marketers would have us believe. Specifically, do writers in the thriller genre really need to adapt how we write so that our work is more appealing, or is the reader market already big enough? In 10 or 15 years, will it still be big enough?
The Young Adult market is thriving, so I’m hopeful that the next generation will continue to enjoy reading as they mature and explore different topics – not just for my sake, as an emerging author, but because reading is generally such an enriching experience.
Perhaps engaging readers’ imaginations is such a unique and magical experience that movies are not really competition after all?
To me, movies and books are completely different beasts.
What do you think?