Trust me, I knew about it long before today - when I found out it had a name: THE DISCOVERY PROBLEM.
It's the perfect name because that's the problem -- how to be discovered. You could call it THE FOUND PROBLEM but that implies that you're lost and you're not. Not exactly. You know where you are. On a good day you even know who you are. On a very good day you remember what you've written. But the readers, do they know? No, and that's the problem. How does a new writer get discovered by readers?
Perhaps, it just takes the right project. My favorite example is the McDreamy one - Patrick Dempsey. He had some success in his younger years and then he fell off the radar. I understand he even left La La land for a while and went home to Maine. But he rebuilt his resolve and returned. In 2002 he finally got his big break. The project that would make viewers, producers, studio honchos and everyone who mattered discover him -- or so he thought. Getting cast in "Sweet Home Alabama" turned out to be not as sweet as he expected. Well, if that movie didn't get him discovered -- would anything? It took 3 more years before Shonda Rhimes watched him audition, knowing she'd found her Dr. McDreamy. And yes, Grey's Anatomy got him discovered - but he could have, so very easily, given up.
I guess you don't get to pick your moment to be discovered -- you just have to keep working and keep believing.
What brought all of this to mind? A frequent source of information -- a must read romance blog for everyone who loves love - Dear Author. DA posted this today - their Friday news. The story about JK Rowling was interesting -- but what set my insane little ducks to quacking was the piece about "The Discovery Problem in Crime Fiction." It linked to this blog by Nancy Bilyeau, which included this eye-opening paragraph:
It was M.J. Rose, author of the enthralling Seduction: A Novel and founder of Author Buzz, who first told me about the "discovery problem" in fiction. Novels by debut authors keep hitting the shelves, but some are having a hard time finding readers, no matter how well written. Newspapers and magazines have eliminated their review sections; bookstores are struggling; fiction fights for people's attention as twitter, Facebook and cable TV series beckon.
Dearest Duck, what's a writer to do? Well, she might want to consider writing ROMANCE. The article says:
"Among fiction fans, thriller and suspense fans are the most obsessed of all--telling us they primarily read authors they know and love most, to the exclusion of trying new writers," Peter emailed me. The debuts "have the greatest challenge trying to reach a new audience that simply isn't interested in reading unknown authors."
Romance readers are "more open to new voices," Peter explains. Of the number of books bought last year by fans of the thriller genre, 19 percent were written by unfamiliar authors--but when looking at fans' purchases of erotic romance, a whopping 45 percent were penned by new authors.
"Fans read their favorite category to satisfy different needs," Peter says. "My personal view: thriller fans want guaranteed, consistent entertainment with minimal risk of disappointment--romance readers want new experiences, to experiment and take risks."
So, romance readers are risk takers who are the most willing of all readers to take a chance on new authors. I guess, I need to take a page from a McDreamy playbook then. I need to keep writing, stay available and -- wait for a call from Shonda Rhimes. (Okay, okay, but a girl can dream, right? I wrote Dangerous Relations: Griffin's Law as a tribute to Grey's Anatomy. Who better to film that movie that Shonda Sunshine?)
Romance may be risky business, but authors in this genre are mighty lucky to have a reading audience that will risk their hard-earned money on a new writer. Someday -- soon, very, very soon -- maybe millions of readers will decide to take a chance on a historical or a contemporary romance by yours truly, MARY ANNE GRAHAM, a/k/a the crazy duck lady who believes that like life, love is best over-the-top.