Over the years, I’ve begun to see patterns in my readership–or think I have, at least. I’ve set out some gross generalizations below. I’ve thought about this a lot with Finch coming out, because for those who buy into the novel’s plot but are indifferent to the setting, they may be better off first sampling the two other novels I indicate as preferences for Direct Readers.
DIRECT READERS (want structure/trad plot indicators): Trend toward enjoying Veniss Underground, Predator South China Sea, Finch, and any short stories that do not use experimental or meta techniques. Dislike: Shriek: An Afterword (subset of direct readers actively loathe Shriek).
INDIRECT READERS (willing to accept non trad plot indicators): Trend toward enjoying City of Saints, Shriek: An Afterword, along with a selection of short stories depending on factors other than structure/technique. Dislike: Predator South China Sea (sometimes just on principle)
NARROW READERS (not pejorative; those not interested in tonal or genre variety): Trend toward thinking of City of Saints as a mixed bag and enjoy the third part of Veniss Underground the most. These readers will pick through the short stories for the gems they feel exist among the material to which they remain indifferent. Narrow readers tend to defend their turf more proactively, which means they’re more likely to be offended by work that’s not within the corridor of their reading tastes. Dislike: Various, because each has his or her own alley.
WIDE READERS (like and seek out many different modes of writing): Trend toward dismissing Veniss Underground as early work and Secret Life as mixed bag. Most enjoy Shriek and City of Saints, and seem thus far to like Finch. They’ll follow me across genres and structures at the short lengths, but let me know about it when they think an individual piece didn’t reach its full potential. They tend to be split down the middle on the value of my Predator novel. Dislike: Various, because they have so many alleys.
AMBERGRISIANS (like and seek out any permutation of the Ambergris setting): Trend, as core fans, toward enjoying City of Saints, Shriek, and Finch but deviate strongly as to the degree of affection for each. The strength of their affection for Ambergris is what draws the Ambergrisian Narrow Reader or Direct Reader through Shriek despite the novel possibly not fitting in with their core reading pleasures. It’s also what seems to be drawing the Indirect Reader through Finch, despite possible qualms about the lack of metafictional or experimental tropes.
BASTARDS (hate anything I write): Trend toward hating life itself….Just kidding…Seriously, though–there are some readers who just don’t like my work, just as every writer has those who don’t like their work. (Writers who have a problem with this probably also have issues of acceptance in their general lives.) Some of readers keep trying and failing, which is admirable if masochistic–like one woman on Goodreads who keeps being exasperated with everything I’ve ever done…but continues to buy the books. I suppose she likes to be exasperated by her fiction. There are also Indirect, Direct, and Narrow readers who encounter one of my books written in a mode not fitting their bandwidth, and their personality type is not to retry an author in that context. These readers may actually be missing books they’d like. Wide readers, in my experience, rarely discard an author based on one book.