Here’s a random thought I’ve had percolating in my strange little brain for a few days now.

Normally, what do you think of when you hear the word ‘typecasting’?  I bet 99.9% of you think of actors and how certain ones are always playing certain roles in their movies.  For example, Liam Neeson is almost always a hero, or at the very least a misguided good guy.  Christopher Walken is usually a psychotic bad guy, and Sean Bean is almost always a walking corpse.

But what kind of dawned on me is that we type cast more than just our favorite stars.

When I was at work the other day, I saw an advertisement for J.K. Rowling‘s latest book, an adult fiction called The Casual Vacancy, due out in stores round about September.  For those interested, hit up the Chapters website here for an excerpt of the book.

And when I first saw that she was coming out with a new book my hear kind of dropped, because I bet I can pretty much predict how her new book is going to play out in terms of popularity and sales.

All bookstores that are slated to get her new publication are going to market the hell out of it.  We have until the end of September, so there’s a good five months to laud just how ‘awesome’ this book is going to be.  People are going to be talking about it.  It’s going to get decent to good reviews.  People of all ages are going to want to read it, and all because they read her Harry Potter series and liked/loved it.

So we’re going to be singing the praises of this book for about half a year, get people good and riled up for it, but then what happens when the book comes out?  Why we sell out of course.  With all the hype of the past almost-six-months, people are going to flock to bookstores to pick up her book like it’s ice water in the Mojave desert.  They’re going to read it.  They’re going to love it at first, but then that love will turn to really like.

Then they’ll like it.

Then they’ll think it’s an ok book.

Then they’ll either wind up hating the book in the end, or be stuck feeling that it was just ‘ok’.

Then they’re going to start telling their friends about the book.  How they felt about it, how they liked/didn’t like it, and the sales are going to peter off…in about two/three months, because of that word of mouth.  And by four/five months, the bookstores won’t be able to get rid of the jillions of copies of her book that they have in stock because no one’s going to want to read them.

And why are they going to do this?  Why are they going to go from “OMG I can’t WAIT to read this book” to “Meh.  S’Ok.  Don’t buy your own copy, just borrow it from the library or pick it up cheap online’?

Because it’s not as good as Harry Potter.

I’ve seen this happen before to authors of series and one hit wonders.  They come out with a book, it’s a smashing success, and when they legitimately try to continue on with their careers and come out with more books, people hold it up to that first golden child of the author’s imagination and they don’t give the new baby in the family a chance.  Congratulations Mr./Mrs. Author!  You’ve been typecasted.

That’s what I think is going to happen to Ms. Rowling’s latest book.  Because she is so well known for the Harry Potter franchise, the vast majority of people who read her book are going to go into it expecting that caliber of writing and story.  People are going to read her book expecting a storyline mirroring Harry Potter’s, a story that is going to appeal to them and draw them in much the same way as the original series.

But that’s not going to happen.  I don’t think that could ever happen.  Every new book by any author from first to fiftieth, is not going to be the same as the ones that came before.  The story will obviously be different, the plot will change (unless you’re a long standing series.  It’s kinda hard to change the basic plot 20+ books in), and even the writing will evolve and change as the author grows as a writer and a person.

Now to be fair, all authors should be held accountable to keep the same level of writing and story telling to some degree.  Just because you made billions off the last book you published doesn’t mean you can crank out the crap now and still expect the same windfall.  Authors I feel should approach every new book they write like it’s the first they’re ever going to publish to try and keep that quality level that is going to keep readers wanting more.

But we as readers, customers, and fans need to keep in mind that just because we loved this series or that book by certain authors, doesn’t mean that everything they write will appeal to us.  And I think that we in turn have the obligation to read each new book from our favorite author like its the first one we’re ever picking up by them.

Now I admit I could be completely off my rocker on how her book is going to fare once it is brought forth unto the world.  It could do better, it could do worse.  I’m just basing my prediction off of mine own personal experiences both as a reader and a salesperson.

And if you stop to think about it, I mean really think about it, society as a whole seems to typecast everything.  I mean, not only do we typecast actors and authors, but movies, books, restaurants, physical attributes, characteristics; Christ, we even typecast the natural world.  And we’re all of us guilty of it.

Take myself for example.  I hated romance books for the longest time, because I thought they were all boring, contrived, cookie-cutter characters and story lines and not worth my time.  But now, after reading Sherrilyn Kenyon and J.R. Ward, romance is the second largest genre you’ll find on my shelves.

In nature most recently with the pit bull.  The pit bull has gotten such a bad rap to the point where we think of the animal itself as a viscous creature, and owners of sed creatures must not be full, upstanding members of society.  They must engage in illegal/shady/criminal activity to want to own such a dangerous animal.

But in reality pit bulls are, as a species, generally loving and loyal dogs.  Yes you’ll get the odd one that’s ‘born’ bad or raised to be aggressive, and yes the species has been bred for fighting.  But just because you come from a family of psychotics doesn’t mean you’ll follow the leader and go on a murderous rampage.

But I digress.

The point I think I’m trying to make here is that we are all guilty of typecasting everything.  And while I highly doubt this will stop anytime soon -or, you know, ever– doesn’t mean we can’t be aware of this failing of ours and learn to look beyond it.  We won’t be able to do it all the time, but so long as we’re all willing to take that one moment once in a while to look past the stereotypes and typecasting, I think we’ll be pleasantly surprised by what we find.

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