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Tuesday, June 09, 2015

The Death of Fiction?

Gina signing her debut, Crossing Oceans
probably at a bookstore that no longer exists
by Gina Holmes

Gina Holmes is a two-time Christy finalist and founder of 

I go through stages. For years, I'll read nothing but non-fiction. Even while I'm under contract to write a novel. I just can't get into story. I don't know why. Then, I'll go through a period where non-fiction bores the heck out of me and I can't get enough story. In recent years, I've gone through my biggest no-fiction lul yet. I may have read half-a-dozen novels, (start to finish, that is), in the last three or so years. I'm a novelist for crying out loud. What's up with that?

I'm not sure what's up with that for me, but according to the Writer's Guild, authors are only making a fraction of what they used to. When I was a little girl, my parents had to rip the books from my hands and push me out the door to play with friends.

These days, we're not ripping books out of our kids hands, we're taking video game controllers away.

Less readers. Less sales. Less contracts. But more books. With the rise of self-publishing and boom of small presses, we have more books than ever, but fewer readers. So much for the supply/demand model.

In recent days, I've found myself getting down about the state of publishing.  I even declared to a  publisher that fiction was dying. He didn't disagree. Ouch. I only said that so he would of course. (Note to men, if the woman says she looks fat in this dress, you don't nod in silent agreement, you give her an incredulous look and declare her mad. Mad AND skinny, of course.

If his silence was proof that fiction truly is dying, than I am as much to blame as anyone. I've set down the novel for youtube, netflix, and facebook updates. I've helped slaughter the sheep I should have been shepherding. (Yes, melodramatic I know, but I AM a writer, sniffle, tissue dab to eye, for now.)

Today, I have a more hopeful outlook on the future of novels. Why? Maybe because the sun is actually shining outside. Maybe because it's no longer that time of month, maybe because my son remembered to make his bed and kiss me goodbye. Or maybe because I stayed away from fiction so long that I actually began to miss it.

When the days are nice outside and not too hot, I love a good long walk to keep my middle-aged body in some kind of non-globular shape. Not being too technically savvy, I finally figured out I can listen to audiobooks via my iPhone and Audible. I've found that walking is more enjoyable when I'm "reading".

On days when it's raining or just too hot to walk outside, I use my treadmill which faces a plain, boring, wall. The hourlong workout feels sssoooooooo loooooooooonng . . . EXCEPT when I'm reading, and now I always am.

I don't think fiction will ultimately die because people will gorge, then starve, then gorge themselves on it again. It's cyclical like everything else in this world. Take it away and people will want it.

Yes, we still get  our fill of story with movies and TV shows, but sometimes we can't or don't want to watch. I don't think anyone on the same road as me wants me watching a movie while I'm driving my car. Heck, I can barely drive with my eyes glued to the road.
Listening to an audiobook? Sure.

When I close my eyes to sleep, I can put earbuds in and listen to my 2nd generation Kindle read to me in the GPS voice I've become accustomed to without disturbing my husband with a flickering light.

Gina's latest. In stores now.
 I can run on the treadmill without having my phone or computer screen jump up and down while trying to watch a show with rattling eyeballs. And I can walk my dog while listening to a book. (Good luck trying to watch a movie while walking your dog. I've tried it. No likey.)

So, I don't think fiction is dying. I think  e-books are replacing paper and hardbacks. I think audio books will gain popularity when the price goes down and with more affordable and easy access sites like Audible.

The biggest reason I know fiction won't stay on life-support is that my 13 year old son, who would rather play video games than anything else has decided that he wants to be a writer. He read a book that turned him onto fiction and if he can't write the stories behind video games one day, well, he might settle for writing a novel. It's this kind of slumming that gives this writer hope. The kids who hold the controllers today might just hold the defibrillator paddles over fiction tomorrow. If not, I wonder if Crossing Oceans the video game could work?


  1. I doubt fiction will ever die. (I could get politically snarky and say the media produces it for all the nation every single day. Oh, I guess I just did.) Anyway, in times of trouble many people seek escape. It might be to horror or dystopian fiction - perhaps because they seem more realistic these days - but they want to get away without having the funds to truly get away. I bet you're right about the popularity increase of audio books.

    And although the addiction to video games is rampant, there are still those kids who love to read whether it's fantasy or graphic novels or historical escapades. Good for your son too. With a momma like you, I can't wait to hear his "voice". ;)

    I've never been one to indulge non-fiction, not terribly good at research for just that reason. Prefer human sources to books. I will say at times fiction I like seems harder to find, less intriguing. And although I love the convenience of my Kindle, I prefer to hold a book in my hands. But the e-readers have done a lot for fiction because every day free books can be winged across the wireless in seconds, not to mention multitudes of them for under $5.

    Just my opinion . . .

  2. Yeah, the instant gratification of having the book you want NOW definitely is a plus of the e-reader. That and having it read to you, or making it large print for eyes that aren't as young as they used to be. Thanks for the comment, Nicole!

  3. Nicole,

    LOL on that media comment. I guess we should all take a lesson and learn to tell tall tales the way the mainstream media does, right? Emotion, emotion, emotion....

    Nuff said.


    I agree with Nicole that fiction will never die. Humanity was created with a love of story. Humanity will always have a love of story in some form.

    Those video games you mentioned? They're fiction. Just in a different form. A vastly different form.

    As Nicole pointed out, the popularity of eReaders is in large part responsible for the condition of book sales, but they, too, are just another delivery form for fiction.

    Authors need to continue to follow their dreams no matter what the world around them looks like. Circumstances are rosy far less often than they are bleak. We, as writers, need to keep that in mind for ourselves as well as for our readers.

    Writers also need to look for ways to engage consumers of fiction in all forms. I don't know what that looks like, but that's okay because it will, by necessity, look different for each individual writer.

    Thanks for the post and best wishes,


  4. Gina,I've just been in an email conversation with a writer who has been an excellent mid-list author in the past, but now can't get a contract. The talent is there, but the market isn't. It's partly due to what I call our "TV " generation. Frankly, I think the attention span of the average adult nowadays is half an hour at a time--not like when I (and you and others) would sit for long periods and lose ourselves in a good book. And if the next generation is going to lose themselves, it's in a video game--not a book.
    I agree when you say "fewer readers, more books." We both know that some self-pubbed books are good, others are not. Readers could, at one time, depend on an author's reputation or that of a publisher. Now, it's "look inside" on Amazon or a similar peek at a bookstore, then pay your money and take your choice.
    Enough doom and gloom. Now, back to writing--because, despite the state of affairs for authors nowadays, I'm continuing to put down words. It's too late to stop now.


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