Selah March

March 7, 2008

Give Me Liberty (and a really nice Camembert) or Give Me Death.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Selah March @ 10:43 am
Thanks again to Kerry Allen for pointing me to this recent post on Romancing the Blog.

While I appreciate where the “quality over quantity” folks are coming from, I have to say that their approach – cutting the number of books published in order to somehow cull what they consider “unworthy” entries into the marketplace – makes the kind of sense to me that pretty much doesn’t.

First, of course, comes the logical query regarding the subjectivity of the entire endeavor: Who decides what constitutes “quality” romance fiction? I wouldn’t want that responsibility. Nor am I comfortable giving it to any one individual or group of individuals. Free enterprise dictates that the marketplace decides what gets published, and while the marketplace does tend to lag behind public taste at times, I’m pretty comfortable with that model. It’s slow and unwieldy – and yes, sometimes excellent work is overlooked – but it’s got to be better than the alternative.

In our little village (population: 1593…saaaaLUTE!) we have one grocery store. It’s not very big in terms of square feet and shelf-space. And guess what? The selection sucks. Not a huge variety of goods, and not much depth within each category.

I shop there because it’s less than a mile from my house, and I’m a lazy beeyotch who can’t be bothered to drive ten miles into what passes for the nearest “city” and hit the mega-market. But when I do happen to meander out of the village and choose to do my shopping in a store five times the size as my local market, what do I find? People driving from all over the county – and in many cases, from outside the county – to buy their foodstuffs there.

Why? Not because they enjoy fighting downtown traffic or the amazing (and often confounding) crowds that block the aisles of this grocery store, but because of the SELECTION.

Not just Philly cream cheese and Kraft American and Helluva Good cheddar in every imaginable degree of sharpness…but hunks of Stilton studded with cranberries or apricots or sometimes – but not always – dates and walnuts. Not just chicken and beef and pork, but lamb and duck and fish that doesn’t come breaded and frozen. Not just strawberries in season, but papayas out of season.

You get the idea.

If this mega-market ever opens a satellite location in our tiny village – which is unlikely to the point of impossibility, but a lazy beeyotch can dream – I don’t imagine I’ll hear too many folks complaining that they can’t find what they like because the selection is too damned overwhelming.

I’m sure the counter-argument for this would be that groceries are one thing, and art is another. Granted. But art is only experienced as “art” in its creation and its consumption. The middle part of the process is marketing and sales. Fiction – even romance fiction – is a product, and as Kerry says, if the publishers are going to start limiting selection, they’re not going to cut the Philly cream cheese and the Kraft…their biggest sellers. It’s the dates-and-walnuts-studded Stilton that’s going to go first.

And as a lazy beeyotch with an abiding love for well-made cheese, I think that would be a damned shame.


  1. Yeah, I saw that one and yawned.

    Let me put my finger on what I detest about that whole “Quality over Quantity” argument. It comes from competitiveness and a fear that there’s not enough room on the market for THEM. They want a bigger piece of the pie, and are blaming others for their lack.

    Karma is a bitch, and keeping that attitude only ensures that you will get crumbs.

    It’s a big big world filled with people who are all different. And they deserve the wide selection of books that’s out there.

    Comment by Eva Gale — March 7, 2008 @ 12:46 pm | Reply

  2. There are so many things I could say about this perceived choosing quality over quantity argument. But I won’t. Because you don’t deserve that sort of drag on your bandwidth and I might come off sounding a wee bit bitter.

    Just a wee.

    Comment by Barbara Caridad Ferrer — March 7, 2008 @ 7:11 pm | Reply

  3. But I want to know what Barb thinks.

    Comment by Eva Gale — March 7, 2008 @ 8:18 pm | Reply

  4. Okey doke. It’s on my blog. I said a lot of the same stuff Selah did, actually, just added a different analogy.

    Comment by Barbara Caridad Ferrer — March 8, 2008 @ 9:50 am | Reply

  5. For my part, I promise never to report either of you to the Quality Police.

    Orange jumpsuits. *shudder*

    Comment by Selah March — March 8, 2008 @ 3:12 pm | Reply

  6. It’s a buyers market so the sellers are making less per product. Just to play the devil’s advocate, there is some logic to reducing the inventory to raise the price per unit thus making the chose few more $$$.

    As to the quality side, I can’t say. Connoisseurs of romance will find the gems because it’s their passion. Most everyone else seems happy with a quick bit of brain candy regardless of the quality.

    My relatives read a book a day. If you cut them off, bad things will happen.

    Comment by FerfeLaBat — March 10, 2008 @ 6:01 pm | Reply

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