Who supplies your habit?

Ack! I’ve been neglecting my blog again. Been kind of busy here. Trying to turn this rough draft into something that sort of resembles that product called a book, even though I suspect the only use people are going to find for it is to line their birdcage.

But I’m trying to think positive thoughts. Uplifting confidence-inspiring thoughts. Mostly they consist of things like, “The whole entire world is not going to read your book and think it sucks and that you can’t write, because only ten people are ever going to read it.”

And along those lines, I’ve been wondering about “promotion” [shudder] and how to let more than ten people know I’ve written a book and it’s going to be published. [<—You see? That right there was a deluded positive thought.] More specifically, I’ve been wondering where people get recommendations about what to read. I started thinking about this after I read a post last week on the Lifehacker blog in which they listed what they call the “Five Best Book Recommendation Services,” and they are:

Do you all use those sites? I’ve heard of most of them, but the only one I’ve ever visited is Amazon. Unfortunately, not all of what I’ve heard is positive. Several people on twitter have complained that at least one of those sites is full of irritating self-promo and spam generated by authors rather than limited to recommendations from readers. Anyone have experience there? Maybe those are sites authors should just avoid?

I know all of you have favourite writers whose books you read (and re-read) with admirable loyalty. I have my list of auto-buy writers too. But I assume you also read books from new-to-you writers. How did you hear about them — either the books or the writers? Whose recommendations do you trust? Friends, co-workers, librarians, the guy sitting next to you on the subway? Bestseller lists? Do you read blogs or online reader forums to get suggestions? When trying a new writer, do you buy the book or get it from the library? Is your decision to try someone new influenced by format and price — that is, whether the book is hardcover, paperback or an ebook?

I can’t really go by my own experience because I’m a bit of a book slut. I’ll try any writer at least once. But I’m not always (or even often) reading for pleasure. In fact, I can learn more from a badly written book than from one that’s so good it sucks me right into the story. So I read all sorts of stuff.

Read, every day, something no one else is reading. Think, every day, something no one else is thinking. Do, every day, something no one else would be silly enough to do. It is bad for the mind to be always part of unanimity. -Christopher Morley

I’ve probably tried 20 different writers so far this year. And my TBR pile is full of books by writers I’ve never read. Some of them I’m hesitant to read because I’ve gotten to “know” the writers online and I really like and admire them and I’m afraid to discover I might not like their books. I know, I’m a wimp and a chicken and shouldn’t be allowed to socialize at all, ever. But that’s off topic.

Let’s see, half of the last six new-to-me writers I read were the result of blog interviews, one was suggested via twitter, and the other two came from an Amazon recommendation — you know, that thing where they say, “if you like that, you might like this.” Sometimes they’re way off base. But sometimes they’re right.

I appreciate Amazon’s “try it free” feature for Kindle books that allows you to read the beginning of the book before you buy it. The vast majority of the time, that’s how I decide whether to read a book. I read the cover copy and skim the first few pages. I can tell a lot in those first few pages. Not unlike an agent or editor, I guess. Oddly, I never read the reviews at Amazon. I don’t really care to hear what some stranger thought about a book. Although that might change once it’s my book. Sigh.

What about you? I’d love to hear what influences your book reading decisions. Pro and con. For or against choosing one. Just pleasepleaseplease don’t tell me you never read anything from someone new. Because if that’s true, I’m screwed. Then again, at least that would mean I’m only going to have to worry about the opinion of those ten people referenced above. All of whom read this blog and are too nice to tell me I suck. I think.

I am SO going to notice if you all rush out and buy birdcages.

Bookmark and Share


Filed under marketing, reader opinion

7 responses to “Who supplies your habit?

  1. orangehands

    I get recommendations from a lot of sources, but they really come down to three places: friends, writing/review blogs, and reading something the author wrote at a blog, liking what they said, and clicking on their name to check out their website.

    Two of those you can’t do much different than what you’re probably already doing; have friends spread the word, and comment at different blogs.

    For the review/writing blogs, I’d suggest sending your arcs (when you get them**) to sites that attract readers who would like your stuff. I’d also suggest being careful about which ones you send them to. Sites like Smart Bitches have a lot of readers who may or may not share tastes (I don’t tend to), but because they have the positive and negative of each book in the review I can get a feel for if I personally would like the book. Sites – and I can’t remember which on the list you posted above but I know one does – that just have positive things to say in their reviews don’t do much for me because I don’t get a very good feel for the book, just that the blogger liked the book. And if I don’t share tastes with that blogger, then I won’t pick up the book. I also tend to go for personal blogs more than websites like the ones above.

    I get new writers other ways – talking to someone random, going through the store and finding something, etc – but those are the main three that you can somewhat control. And I do NOT buy a book from a new author without reading at least some of it, so have excerpts. I guess book format also influences my choice – I only buy books by new writers in paperback (and for one sub genre as paperback e-books, aka less than seven bucks, because it’s usually the only way I can find an author in that sub genre). And I buy very rarely (I tend to borrow from the library or pick it up used to see if I like the author first), so if you can get your books into libraries (usually have patrons of that area request it) that would be a good first step.

    **that’s positive thinking


  2. quickly hides the birdcage behind her back

    Another source I use for new books is a Book Chat listserv that I belong to. Usually people say a bit more than “It’s great! I loved it!” Instead, they give reasons why they loved it. An interesting fact is that a couple of people will love it, and a horde of others will respond on how passionately they hate a book — and both the love and the hate are based on the same thing. (Example: one person loved how sad and heart-wrenching the character’s childhood was, while another wanted to throw the character down a deep well by chapter 2 just to put him out of his misery.)


  3. OH, some of those sites only let you post positive things? That seems, I don’t know, just wrong. That’s not a valid review.

    I’m fine with putting myself out there in the form of blog posts here and topical comments on other blogs. I enjoy that kind of interaction. But I just cringe and wither at the thought of saying, “Hey, I wrote a book! You should buy it!” I’m never going to be able to do that. Honestly, I think doing that pisses people off. I just read a post at Dear Author on this topic that confirms my suspicions in that regard. The comments were especially interesting:


    Merry, I can see that birdcage. And you don’t even have a bird. Tsk. I’ve encountered that love/hate thing too and find it fascinating. People have such different reactions to the same thing and it’s completely unpredictable. It’s one of the reasons I rarely recommend books to other people unless I know them, and their reading taste, pretty well. But I’d much rather people have a strong reaction (whether good or bad) than shrug their shoulders and say, “Meh, it was okay.” That’s like the kiss of death.


  4. McB

    First, I really like the quote from Morely. Everybody should look for some way to stretch their mind just a little each day. And heaven knows the world we live in today could use a little practice at thinking outside the box. And that’s as political as I’m going to get here.

    Second, I had not heard of those other reader services so I can’t comment on them; but like everyone else, I do know about Amazon. I sometimes do read the reviews, and then generally split the difference, giving more credence to commenters that mention specific reasons for liking/disliking a book.

    Third, I mostly get my new authors from the library. If it really clicks, I’ll see about buying their backlist. If it really, REALLY clicks, I might even buy the book I just read because I want to be able to share it with people, and because I book that good I know I will be rereading. Otherwise, I mostly rely on word of mouth.

    FYI, I’ve had some conversations with my niece about books recently, and she just loves the Borders Picks. She says it hasn’t steered her wrong yet and has introduced her to some authors she might not have read otherwise.

    Fourth, my recommendation for getting the word out on YOUR book WHEN you are published, is to get your hands on as many copies as you can and send them out to everyone whose opinion you respect, including the local weather guy, your kid’s professor, etc. Push the “HEY, I’M A LOCAL AUTHOR” aspect. Also send copies to folks in other parts of the country, because you want to get the word out, but push the local aspect, because people like to feel they are helping one of their own. You do this and mention that if its not their kind of read, they can donate it to charity; but if they really enjoy it, they should feel free to pass the book on to friends and co-workers, who should pass it on to others. You are trying to generate word of mouth here.

    Also, you might try emailing a link to your blog, in which you will be talking a hell of a lot more about your book than you currently do, to everyone you can think of including the above list and other folks as well. This allows them to sample your voice before commiting to reading a whole book.


  5. McB

    Oh, and I do recommend books, but only when they really knock my socks off. Because I firmly believe that a good read is a good read even if it isn’t really the kind of thing you usually read. But if it’s not a good read, it doesn’t matter if it’s “your kind of thing.” It’s still not a good read, and life’s too short.


  6. me

    I sometimes read Amazon reviews but they tend to be over-the-top (verbose, and sounding like they were written by people who think they’re cool because they reviewed something on Amazon.) I use Shelfari and the reviews there seem to be more realistic, if simplistic (you can do as little as give a book a star rating or write a review of any length). Plus, there is a feature called “Should I read this book?” where you can ask everyone on shelfari if, well, you know, and people can reply either yes or no, and/or tell in depth why not.

    I’m shy (stop laughing) so I have a hard time talking to people I don’t know. So when I was hawking my books, I made bookmarks and postcards and either mailed them to everyone I knew, or left them “accidentally” somewhere for people to find, and even tacked a few on coffee shop boards. I have a shirt with velcro lettering, so one day I had “ask me about my book” on the shirt. No one did. Later in the day, a cashier did say “I like your shirt” but by then I had forgotten what it said (she didn’t do what I told her!) so I just said “thanks” and left. Duh. I also sent copies to newspapers (got one story from a tiny local paper) and libraries. I’ve also given away book to people I think might talk about them (insert CBs here). I even got a local bookseller to sell my books.

    I choose new authors by word of mouth, mostly. But sometimes I’ll read a review or an interview with the author and decide to get it. Once in a while I choose if it’s a best seller or an interesting cover. So basically, I’m all over the board on choosing new authors.


  7. I love that quote too, McB. Doesn’t really go with the post but I was looking for an excuse to use it, so I did. I check out books of a lot of new-to-me writers from the library too. There is that pesky little thing called a budget that interferes with my acquisitive tendencies. [sigh] I’ll pick up anything that looks even remotely intriguing from the New Books shelf. That’s interesting about the Borders Picks, I’ll have to try it. With Amazon, it doesn’t seem to matter what I buy or what genre it is, they are absolutely convinced that, among other things, I’ll just LOVE Steig Larsson. Someone spent some money there.

    Word of mouth. Yeah, it’s a very good thing if it happens. No idea how to facilitate it. I think every writer would kill for the secret formula. You guys have some great ideas for spreading the word — just not sure whether I’ll have the chutzpah to send books to people. We’ll see, won’t we? Maybe.

    ME, I’m cracking up over your velcro t-shirt. Can I borrow it? [kidding! you’ve got way more courage than I do.] I love that idea of leaving publicity “droppings” at random spots all over town. It seems most writers only drop off that kind of thing at bookstores, but it makes sense to me to spread it around. Stealth publicity. I can do that. Ooooh, I bet I can even convince other people (CBs) to do that. 8)

    I think I’ll be more comfortable talking about the book once it’s done. I’m too new at this to say much while it’s still in the larvae stage. And yes, once I finish it and start submitting, I’m going to be hounding everyone to sign up for my newsletter. It will be fantastic! Really!! You and all your friends should sign up NOW!!! It will be so awesome you will want to forward it to everyone you know and several people you don’t know!!!! It will be packed full of awesome . . . STUFF!!!!!


    Probably I should finish the damn book first. Working on it.

    Thanks for all the suggestions, everyone. I like being prepared well in advance for scary things. This helps more than you know.