Friday, July 23, 2010

More On Book Videos

When someone does something right I like to point it out. Take a look at the book videos below. They both answer a very important question, “Why do I need this book?” The big problem I’ve seen with book videos is that most don’t answer that question. Yeah, I know it’s harder with fiction than non-fiction, but these guys are doing something right.

While we’re on the subject, why is it that it is so hard to create videos for fiction while it is easier for non-fiction? If you watched the first video you can see that one of the reasons people will want to read Rework. Meetings to plan planning meetings can’t be a good thing and if these guys can say anything that will help keep this from happening then it is well worth reading. But what about fiction? How do we make fiction well worth reading?

Fiction is written for entertainment, but it is similar to non-fiction in some ways. I’ve never read it, but I’ve heard that Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code reads like a documentary. More than for entertainment, people read fiction to learn something. The only difference is that the author has made it up instead of it being based on facts. But don’t get me wrong; what people want to learn isn’t the recipe for Amish cornbread or some of the stuff you’ll find in some books. Some readers may find that kind of stuff helpful, but they could get that from a cookbook. The story is king.

Given an unusual situation, people want to see how it plays out for ordinary people. Given unusual people, people want to see how they handle ordinary situations. And we don’t have to tell a different story. Often people read a book because they want to see how the author handled the same story they’ve seen elsewhere. Some authors have built a career on retelling well known stories.

It was for that reason that I didn’t see it as a bad thing to retell the story of Hosea. I’ve plenty of retellings of Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast. Some change the story, some don’t. The thing that attracted me to the For the Love of a Devil project was that I wanted to see how the story would play out if it had happened today. While slavery is considered a bad thing today, we tend to romanticize it when we see it in the Bible and the same is true of prostitution. But why isn’t it leaping off the shelves?

One thing we need to consider when looking at For the Love of a Devil is that there are very few books that have been read by most readers. Consider that only about 3 percent of American readers have read Harry Potter. So, even though it is widely successful, the vast majority of readers didn’t read the book. What that means for a book like For the Love of a Devil is that I could go ask a bunch of people why they didn’t purchase my book and their answers would be meaningless. Even if it approached the success of Harry Potter, 230 million people would still have a very good reason why they didn’t buy the book, but as it is, there aren’t even 230 million people who know about my book. That is part of the problem.

I think another problem may be that there aren’t that many people who know who Hosea is. It’s a book in the Bible, right? Hosea’s the guy who married a prostitute, right? He’s the guy who bought his wife, right? But how many people have actually read it? Even for those who have read it, it takes some study to understand what’s happening. It’s hard to find people interested in seeing how Hosea is retold if they don’t understand the story to begin with.

But people do want to learn and discover what is going on in a fictional world, just like they want to discover what is going on in the world around us.