Filling in for Dale Spindel (and staying through Monday):
I'm about to get myself into a LOT of trouble, so pay close attention.
It irritates me when (particularly on mystery lists, where I see most of my reader comments) readers say something on the order of, "I'll read anything with cats (or dogs, or pigs, or wildebeests) in it; I know those will always be good." Now, I know for a fact that those readers don't mean such statements literally; they would probably admit under sodium pentathol that there has been, in history, a lousy book with a cat in it.
But it ticks me off. It's like saying, "I know I'll love this new book; it has people in it." Or "this one's about folks who live on land. That's always a good read." It's just way too all-encompassing, and in my ego-inflated author's mind, anyway, it insinuates that a writer need not sweat over plot, character, words or any of that other stuff--just stick a coyote (or whatever) into the story, and your work here is done.
The same applies to craft cozies. You know: books in which everybody's quilting, or making cute little baskets, or knitting a new distributor cap for the Mustang, or something, and what do you know, a dead body shows up and the main character's knowledge of how to needlepoint solves the crime. Uh-huh.
Again, I wouldn't ever suggest--mostly because I'd be dead wrong--that there is no such thing as a well-written, well-plotted novel in which a character can use her knowledge of needlepoint to solve a crime. I think a very good book could be written with that very feature. (I don't actually know of one, but I'm willing to bet it's out there already.)
But I do bristle (that's right, Operator, I bristle) at the blanket statement that, for example, "A needlepoint book is very good; that's all I need to know to be sure I'm going to enjoy the story." Because it's just as likely--if not moreso--that the author writing the needlepoint mystery is going to botch the story and write a stinker. Not because it's a needlepoint book--because it's really hard to write a good story of any kind.
In my time (which is 2:46 p.m., by the way), I have written mystery series about a work-at-home dad who was a freelance reporter, about a guy who owned an all-comedy movie theatre and about a woman trying to run a Jersey Shore guesthouse inhabited by two ghosts. And I'm positive beyond any doubt that some readers picked up the books because they had an interest in parenting, classic comedy films, the Jersey Shore or ghosts. I'm honored by their choice and grateful for each eye that has glanced at a word I've keyed into my hard drive.
But if that was their only interest, and I wrote a bad story, I like to think those readers would stop reading, or at least not move on to the next book in the series, and would likely tell their friends (and anyone else within Internet range) that they shouldn't read my work. I'd hate to think they were reading the book, not getting a decent story and interesting characters, and then posting on a list somewhere that "I always love books set at the Jersey Shore, so this one was clearly wonderful."
I'm sorry, but there has to be more to it than that, or else the classic "infinite-number-of-chimpanzees-will-write-Shakespeare" argument could apply.
Or an infinite number of cats. Or dogs. Or wildebeests.