Last night we went out to dinner and I actually ordered a drink. Now, as much as I enjoy my adult beverages, I don't often order drinks when we're out for dinner. They tend to be over-priced...blah blah blah. But I'd finished a project yesterday and wanted to get something to celebrate. In the spirit of celebration, I perused the menu for something a little different and ordered a mojito--a drink that I enjoy but don't have very often.
For me, picking something like that is sort of like going into a bookstore and grabbing a book from a genre that I don't normally read but I've liked before. It makes the stories I do read there more special somehow. For instance, I read a lot of YA, but very little contemporary YA. The exception to that is Hannah Moskowitz. Love her work. I don't read much homosexual erotica either (yes, jumping from YA to erotica...it's what I do), but I decided to give it a chance and found that in certain ways I like it better than a lot of straight erotica (but odds are it'll still be a less common purchase). My mainstays in reading are what I normally write--speculative. Give me some weres and vamps or spaceships or clockworks or even elves and gnomes and I'm a happy girl (as long as it's well-written and a fun story). But in those other genres... I'm a lot more picky.
A friend once told me there's nothing like a really good mojito. He's right, but there's also nothing like a really bad one. And this went beyond bad. It was horrible. It tasted like really syrupy peppermint schnapps on the rocks--a big old glass of it. Nothing against peppermint schnapps, I mean, it's tasty in hot chocolate, but it's definitely not a mojito. I sent the drink back, but the peppermint taste was so strong that not even my cajun shrimp could cover it.
So, imagine buying a not-my-genre book and sitting down to read it and ending up with a similar experience. Since it's not a standard read for me, the book that leaves the horrid taste in my mouth that no amount of Kelley Armstrong and Richelle Mead with a Mark Henry chaser will kill, risks ruining the entire genre for me. That shit will make me pick my ass up and desert an entire section of the bookstore.
Now, one good thing is I've had a decent mojito. Hell, I've had a damn good mojito. I know they're out there, so other than making sure I never order one at that particular restaurant again, I'm not going to avoid mojitos at all cost, after all, I know they can be yummy. To be fair though, odds are I won't risk ordering one blindly. It'll take having had one at the place before (mmmm....Pickle Barrel...) or having a friend tell me the place makes good ones. Otherwise, I'm going to stick to what I normally drink.
The same is true with books. If I pick up a YA contemporary that turns my stomach (or melts my brain), I'm still going to buy the next Hannah Moskowitz book. A gay erotic romance with no character development or discernable plot? Meh. I know there are good ones out there, but I'll base that reading on recommendations from now on. This is, from my discussions with others, a pretty standard way of thinking. Beyond judging a book by its cover, readers often judge a genre based on the first book they read in that genre.
So every writer--traditional, digital, indie, I-don't-care-what-the-newest-label-is--needs to keep that in mind. That means the editing, plot, characterizations need to be the best you can make them. Your book could be the first one a reader picks up in that genre. It will be the book by which all others are judged. What kind of taste do you want to leave in the reader's mouth?
Have there been any books that you've read that would have turned you off to a genre if you didn't already know there were better books out there?