Over the last few weeks as I have gone around promoting BANKERUPT, I have been asked many questions. Some interesting, some not so interesting. Some probing, some not so probing. Some embarrassing, some not so embarrassing. However there was one question, which kept cropping up every now and then. And that was about my views on the so-called categorization of authors as literary and commercial authors.
Here’s what I think about it.
The discussion on what is more important; more fulfilling – Literary or Commercial fiction is a very juvenile discussion. This divide exists because the trade and at times the publishers create it to distinguish between product offerings for various segments of readers. From an authors perspective every book is a result of sweat and toil, and every book written deserves to be read.
Pause for a moment and look at it from a reader’s perspective. The reader wants a good book. A well-written book with a good story which holds his attention. The definition of “what is good” varies from reader to reader. The more the number of readers who feel that a book is good (as per their definition of good), the more commercially successful a book is.
Unfortunately books with easy language have come to be seen as commercial fiction. Don’t forget the fact that writing in simple English is not easy. Just because someone writes in simple English to brand him as a commercial fiction writer is as big a crime as branding someone who writes fabulous English as a literary genius.
There is another element that is paramount in any fiction. Something, which single handedly determines the success or otherwise of a book (even more critical than the prose) – and that is STORY TELLING. In the so-called debate of literary vs. commercial fiction, people seem to be forgetting this aspect in a book. If you are able to tell a story in such a manner that the reader relates to the book, to the characters and to the plot you have a winner on your hands. Irrespective of the category you fit in, if you lack the art of story telling, you will never be commercially successful.
If I had to categorise authors into slots, I would never categorise them as literary authors or commercial authors. I would put each one of them into one of the following two categories : “Good story tellers” or “Poor story tellers”. Trust me, nothing else is important.
As long as you are a good storyteller, whether you are a literary or commercial fiction writer shouldn’t matter… and if you are a poor storyteller, wether you are a literary or commercial fiction writer wouldn’t matter. Period.