Cabbages and Kings

A diary by the authors of the Louis Kincaid series

My Photo
Location: Fort Lauderdale/Elk Rapids, Florida and Michigan, United States

We are the New York Times bestselling authors of the Louis Kincaid series and other stand alone thrillers. We have taught writing at major conferences for ten years.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Growing readers or selling BMWs

The publishing world seems to do a lot of things wrong. Like printing ever more books in a shrinking market. Most crime novels and mysteries are read by white women over fifty, and it doesn't seem anybody has a clue how to lure kids away from video games, computers, ipods and such and into books. Even adults are drifting away from reading, done in by the time demands of daily life and well, plain old laziness.

We all know reading is a habit, one acquired early in life if you're lucky enough to be born into a family or readers. I know that's where I got the bug -- reading the funny papers on my dad's lap, and later listening to my teachers read "Charlotte's Web" and the Laura Ingalls Wilder series.

But I'm a child of the fifties, a different world and a different mindset. And I'm worried that readers are an endangered species and no one knows how to save them.

I don't see much evidence that anyone in publishing is thinking outside the box about how to make things better. So it always shocks me when I hear about something that seems like a good idea.

Like Quick Reads.

You probably haven't heard about it. It's a new program over in the United Kingdom. It's a joint initiative of publishers, booksellers and writers. They are going to publish 12 paperbacks next month by bestselling authors. But these books are short (128 pages max, fast-paced and compulsively readable. They'll sell for about five bucks and cross genres from mysteries, romance and fantasy to self-help and football. Before you dismiss this as Reading For Mouth-Breathers, check out some of the authors:

Ruth Rendell
Val McDermid
Minette Walters
Maeve Binchy
Richard Branson

The target audience is "emergent readers and adult learners." So it is obviously a calculated attempt to appeal to those folks who might ordinarily find your average novel too intimidating or difficult. But I don't think it's a dumbing-down for the edges of the literate. It is a smart campaign to grow readers who, once hooked into the magic of the imagination, might move on to ever more challenging fare.

The first Quick Reads debut in the UK March 2 on World Book Day. Another 10 will follow in May in honor of Adult Learners Month. All with a big publicity push and major outreach campaigns for teachers, librarians and tutors. The books will be available in bookstores, supermarkets, libraries -- well, anywhere you'd find your basic James Patterson.

What a great idea. Leave it to the Brits.

I'd love to have one of my books in this project. But I'm not published in the UK and I don't see anyone in the U.S. setting up such a program. Here, Random House gives us their bestselling authors linking up with BMW to write product-placement audio books to sell luxury cars.

But I just figured out why I really felt compelled to write this blog entry. See, I have this brochure in my drawer. It's been there for years. It's from the Broward County Library Association “Each One Teach One,” program. It's our local adult literacy program and they're always looking for tutors. I've been wanting to volunteer for years, but I've always found reasons not to.

But I don't have time. Just like so many folks don't have time to read.

If I want more readers, maybe I have to get off my butt and help grow a couple.


Blogger mapletree7 said...

SHouldn't ideally all books be fast-paced and compulively readable?

5:04 PM  
Anonymous kalbzayn said...

Depends on which award you want to win.

5:53 PM  
Blogger PJ Parrish said...


Kal might be on to something here.

As for what Mapletree says, I write suspense so yeah, my stuff should be fast-paced. But fast needs the contrast of the occasional slow to work. Likewise, I don't demand fast pace of everything I read. I read a terrific book called The Piano Tuner. It was about an Englishman sent to the Burmese jungle to tune the piano of a army man who might have gone bonkers -- or maybe not. The pace was very modulated, almost dreamlike. And in the end, not a helluva of lot actually happened. But I was so swept up in this world the writer had created for me, I could not put that damn book down. It was compulsively readable.

5:59 PM  
Blogger John R. said...

I like the idea - anything to try to broaden the age range of crime readership can only be a good thing. A short, cheap fast read isn't a bad way of trying to do it.

Unless the publishers have Val dressed up in skater gear and saying "Dude!" a lot in her bio.

Which she'd probably do for a laugh, but still...

6:13 PM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

I hope it works.

4:32 PM  
Blogger Jude Hardin said...

I think this is a great idea.

And a book doesn't have to be long to be powerful.

A few months ago I read Eric Segal's LOVE STORY for the first time. I'd seen the movie many times, so I knew the story already but, guess what: I cried at the end. It really is a stout little book, about the same size as these quick reads.

I'm sure there are other examples from American authors. Come to think of it, Steinbeck's OF MICE AND MEN was really short, and wouldn't send too many folks to the dictionary.

3:23 AM  
Blogger JD Rhoades said...

these books are short (128 pages max, fast-paced and compulsively readable. They'll sell for about five bucks

Pulps, in other words. Excellent news.

12:40 PM  
Blogger PJ Parrish said...


Yeah, like pulp is a bad thing, huh? Welcome to Cabbages & Kings, by the way.

1:23 PM  
Blogger JD Rhoades said...

Thank you. And don't misundertake me...I LOVE the old pulps. I like the neo-pulp stuff, too.

7:45 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home