Monday, 15 October 2012

"I didn't like the characters"

Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull
When I see this sort of criticism, I can only shake my head. When did it ever become a prerequisite that characters must be likeable in order to enjoy a book? With so many unlikeable people in the world, why do so many readers require likeable characters? And why is this often the sole criterion for determining whether one likes a book or a film?

It's not about the characters' actions. It's about what the author is trying to say about their actions, otherwise known as the themes of a work. Far too often in modern literature, themes are neglected in favor of style. Readers seem to prefer formula over originality, and style over substance. This is why so many best-sellers today feature some generic guy with a six-pack on the cover. It's a sad day in the world when so much weight is placed on whether or not the characters were "hot enough".

Whatever happened to ideas?

Jake LaMotta (as portrayed by Robert DeNiro) is a thoroughly unlikeable, despicable character. But that doesn't make Raging Bull any less of a masterpiece. It's a treatise on violence in modern society, both as entertainment and as a means of conflict resolution. LaMotta is a man who works in both. He is flawed. He is human. That's what makes him interesting.

Holden Caulfield is another character commonly referred to as "unlikeable". Goodreads currently lists 48,601 one star reviews for The Catcher in the Rye, almost all of the naysayers complaining of the "whiny" Caulfied. Did the readers forget that this is a book about a conflicted teen? This is how teens act. They whine and complain, and they act immature. The character is an accurate reflection of reality, and for me, this is infinitely more interesting than reading a book where all the characters are flawless and inhabit some fairytale land where everyone is cute and nice.

But hey, that's just my opinion.


Monday, 1 October 2012

Amazon International Category Differences

In an earlier post, I wrote about the benefits of listing your book in a small category on Amazon. Since the likelihood of making the top 100 in your category increases with fewer competition, your book will most likely fare better in a small category than a large one, where it is likely to get lost in the thousands of books listed.

However, I've recently discovered that certain categories do not exist in Non-US versions of Amazon. For example, both of my books 'Text Me, Guido' and 'Fifty Shades of Azzurri' are listed in the Comic Fiction category of Amazon.com, but unfortunately, this category (or an equivalent) does not exist on Amazon.co.uk, or any other Non-US version of Amazon. This means that the exposure of these two books is severely limited outside of the US. Therefore, if you have a book that you feel is marketable internationally, it may be wise to avoid the Comic Fiction category.

And for whatever reason, the Contemporary Fiction category does not exist in Non-US versions of Amazon, either.