There’s Something In Hard Work and Dedication, We’re Sure of It

October 29th, 2004 · No Comments
by Booksquare takes a look at Nora Roberts. Being a business-oriented magazine, they focus on the numbers and the fairly well-known story of how Nora Roberts became Nora Roberts. Since that part of the article could be skimmed, we allowed our attention to linger on the packaging aspect of the publishing business.

It happens more often than you think, the repositioning of authors. Sometimes it’s due to declining or disappointing sales plaguing a talented author. Sometimes it’s the (in our estimation) bizzare belief that audiences cannot accept new directions from authors (have we ever mentioned that we think it’s the marketing departments who have the mental block…readers are resilient folks). Sometimes it’s a matter of pushing new authorial boundaries. That aspect of the story intrigued us — we like the unemotional, this-is-how-it-has-to-work aspect of the decision. We also like the fact that editor and author worked together to move to the next level while not forgetting the readers who brought the author her initial success.

We can unscientifically measure the success of the plan in the mother’s acceptance of the J.D. Robb books. Once stripped of her natural prejudices (we simply did not raise that woman right), she was able to appreciate there is more to romance than she thought. She still prefers her characters dead, bludgeoned, carved up and strewn along the road, shot, and running from the bad guys, but we suspect that has a lot to do with personal problems. But now she’s not rejecting a genre based on pre-conceived notions. We consider this to be a success of sorts.

So much good, you’d think this post was written by our alter-ego (it’s more likely the pain killers from the wisdom tooth extraction). Rest assured, there are things we simply cannot let slide, and that is the use of language like this:

The rest of the 1980s Roberts spent cranking out dozens of romances for Silhouette and, later, for Bantam (now part of Bertelsmann). Her literary life changed in 1992, when she caught the eye of Phyllis Grann, then publisher of G.P. Putnam’s Sons, and Leslie Gelbman, an editor there…Her protagonists–ranging from Ukrainian exiles and half-Apache drifters to Kansas farm girls and superstar Italian chefs–occasionally rose above the cardboard high enough to cast a shadow.

Why does this make us cranky? Well, while not every category author who has moved into the world of single titles or moved into other genres has achieved the same level of success, it’s clear that “cardboard” and “cranking” display a lack of, how should we put this delicately, education about the books. We know, we’re tilting at windmills, but, hey, sometimes you hit one. Unfortunately, our knowledge of windmills is lacking, and we’re not sure what happens when that happens. We hope it’s something really radical like a paradigm shift.

File Under: Square Pegs