Where do you find the books you want to read? There are theories galore about how authors and publishers should advertise, use categories, keywords etc. But I often find myself a bit bemused by them.
Because I don’t buy books that way. These theories seem to describe a behaviour that I simply don’t recognise. But I do buy books. All the time. So where am I discovering them?
I don’t expect this post will set the world of book marketing alight. But I hope to illuminate some less acknowledged processes. And I’m curious to know what you do, so I hope you’ll join in at the end.
I’ve never bought a book that I’ve seen on a Facebook advert. Yes, I know that advertising is there to remind you a book exists, not necessarily to grab your £££ immediately. I know that adverts have to be seen a certain number of times before they get noticed. And that they work in conjunction with other forms of exposure.
But Facebook has never managed to show me book adverts that I find appealing. This must mean I’m giving it some very wrong signals. (How many other readers are giving the wrong signals, I wonder?)
I’ve certainly bought books by people I know on Facebook, but not because of adverts. I’ve bought because of meaningful contact – chatting to them, or an interview. More on that later.
I don’t browse for books on Goodreads. I go there AFTER I’ve read a book, to keep the karma going with a review, when (ahem) time allows. (For the last few months it hasn’t. I’ll be rectifying that soon.)
Bargain book newsletter services
BookBub et al. I know these are smart sales tools, but they’ve always seemed rather superfluous to me as a reader. First, I don’t buy books because they’re bargains. I don’t find a book more appealing because it’s on special offer. I want the right book.
Second, these newsletters are selling ebooks, and I’m one of those throwbacks who likes a solid version. To have, to hold and to keep. To remind me, by its bulk on the shelf, to give it attention. But I do use Kindle samples to check books out, so it wouldn’t be totally useless to me.
Still, they are popular and effective for authors, so I thought I’d better evaluate them properly. What gems might I find by subscribing as a reader? An excellent article by the Alliance of Independent Authors compared them in terms of value for advertisers, and rated BookBub, Fussy Librarian and Bargain Booksy top. Fussy Librarian got a special mention because it wasn’t just promoting bargains.
I subscribed to Fussy Librarian as a reader, asking for news of literary fiction. After two months of emails, I can report they – or the authors who advertise with them – are not remotely fussy about what they categorise as literary fiction.
And this is a problem when you shop in this category. It’s easy for us all to agree what’s meant by categories such as crime, thriller, romance, paranormal or YA. But literary? The term gets put on everything that might not fit in the other boxes (and so, in Fussyland, it seems to mean cross-genre or two timelines). Here’s a post where I attempt my own definition of literary, in case you haven’t had enough. Meanwhile, several writers I know avoid the term altogether because they’ve learned their readers are put off by it.
But Fussy Librarian isn’t everything. I decided to try BookBub, the grandaddy of book email lists. And here’s where I was surprised. I have seen a few titles that I’m keen to know more about, so it will be interesting to see if my buying habits change as a result of BookBub.
So how do I discover books?
My sources are:
- Newspaper review pages and the London Review of Books
- Publishers’ lists (because of The Undercover Soundtrack, publishers send me their catalogues and I invite authors whose work appeals to me. What’s The Undercover Soundtrack? Sleeve notes here)
- Recommendations from friends and my bookseller friend Peter Snell (our radio show, So You Want To Be A Writer, is here)
- Blogs – the Literary Hub and David Abrams’s blog The Quivering Pen, which has interviews and a regular feature of upcoming titles. If you have a blog that showcases upcoming titles that correspond to my idea of literary, do let me know.
- Amazon’s ‘people who bought this bought that’ algorithm. I could wander in there for hours.
- Oxfam bookshops – a great way to find books everyone else has forgotten about. Especially non-fiction. Yes, I know that’s dodgy because the author doesn’t get a royalty. But often these are books that aren’t available anywhere else or I’d never have known to search for them.
- For research, I use Library Thing – this is the only time I search for books by categories, tags and all that labelling, because I’m shopping for something specific. But my pleasure reading is all surprise finds.
My favourite way to discover books
This has to be blogposts or interviews. I’m most likely to go hunting for a book if I’ve enjoyed the writer’s company in another piece of prose. I’ll check their reviews too, obviously. If I read a really thoughtful review, I’ll often want to know more about the reviewer – especially if they have a book of their own.
This means, therefore, that I’m a lot more influenced by gut feeling about the writer’s curiosities, thought processes and delivery. I’ll follow a good voice into any genre. I don’t read fantasy but I love Jack Vance. I don’t read crime but I love Barbara Vine and Dorothy L Sayers. I’m wary of horror, but I’ve been joyously sucked into the latest by Josh Malerman (who is coming up next week on The Undercover Soundtrack … that’s another place where I find glorious reads).
In short, I seek the quality that categories can’t measure. And this possibly means that if you’re a writer whose distinctive strength is nuance, your best marketing tool is an interview, a personal essay or a well-turned review.
Anyway, this isn’t a post that provides theses or theories, it’s a post of open-ended enquiry. Not a ‘how-to’; more of a ‘how-we’.
What are the last 5 books you bought?
Let’s examine our book discovery habits. How did you find the last five books you bought? You don’t have to have read them yet. I want to see how you met them. And I hope you’ll teach me some new shopping tips.
Here are mine
A personal essay: I read this post and so I bought this. The piece is hardly about the book at all, but I feel I’ve been shown a piece of the author’s soul. Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld
An interview: I read this and was bewitched. I ordered this. The Next by Stephanie Gangi. She’s also coming to The Undercover Soundtrack soon.
Search by category + friend recommendation: This one’s for research. I was looking for accounts of bereavement and Library Thing did its thing. I haven’t read a Didion before, but she’s a favourite of a friend of mine. The irony in the title made it irresistible. Joan Didion – The Year of Magical Thinking.
A friend: Another friend this time. He said: ‘You’ll like this. It’s weird and it really stays with you. I don’t know why. It just does.’ The Vegetarian by Han Kang
Lucky find in an Oxfam bookshop: I would never have thought to search for this. But there it was in a display. A sane biography of the teenage idol I’ve never grown out of. Under The Ivy. The Life and Music of Kate Bush by Graeme Thomson.
Over to you. Where do you discover most of your books? On line, by browsing in a shop? How did you discover the last 5 books you bought and what were they? Any opinions on FB adverts and bargain book newsletters like Bookbub? Your favourite tip for book shopping?
62 thoughts on “How do you discover the books you want to buy? Some thoughts about book marketing”
I did enjoy this post as it had a lot of resonances for me.
I don’t buy books as a result of emails from an author. I’ve unsubscribed from all the author newsletters I used to subscribe to as no matter how subtle or well done they were, in the end they were just adverts pleading for sales.
I’ve never bought a book as a result of a Facebook ad or a bargain booklist.
When choosing a book I am mainly influenced by newspaper reviews andby book bloggers who I follow and trust. Like you I also might be influenced by an author interview that appeals to me. A good book blogger review can influence me to read outwith my preferred genres.
Hi Anne! I don’t mind subscribing to emails from authors who produce books slowly – they know they can’t be selling all the time! Agree about good book bloggers. You get to know how their opinions and tastes fit with your own.
Interesting post. I get the FB ads and never once have I thought, oh they know me so well.
Most of my book purchases that are not either by an author I already know and love, or because I’ve chatted with someone on social media, sampled then bought, are found by serendipity. Much of my non fiction reading has been of first and second generation Jungian authors, and there’s often publishers’ matter at the back of those and sometimes it catches my eye. Likewise the Customers also bought section has tempted me. My wishlist is half a mile long, unlike my wallet which is mostly made up of moths and old train tickets.
I have NEVER bought a book randomly from a tweet but I have garnered a lot of samples, nearly all of which I read and then go no further.
Time is a valuable commodity and while I read about two books per week, I no longer tend to persist with something I’ve found dull.
I’m much more ready to give up on books if I’m not getting on with them. But it took me a long time to give myself permission. I think I was well into my 30s before I convinced myself it was allowable to give up on a book!
For me, I was well into my 40s before I’d give up.
Honestly, I usually find my books from instagram. There are a ton of accounts specifically for book lovers, which I love because they usually come with some sort of review. And you can read other peoples comments, too. But I also get lost in the amazon algorithm!
Instagram! I think I have an account there, but I haven’t visited. A social media expert who I interviewed for my radio show explained that Instagram was good for books that were highly illustrated and for fiction that was targeted at teens and young adults, so I haven’t devoted much time to it. What do you read, McKenzie? I’m interested to know who’s promoting their books there.
There are definitely a lot of accounts targeted for young adult readers on instagram, but there are some that are a bit more sophisticated, too. My favorite account chooses five newly published books a month to tell everyone about. It’s usually not so much authors that promote there, as much as people that have been sent books by authors to read and then review. Like mini blog posts attached to their picture. It’s a quick and easy way to find new books!
The last five books I’ve read were:
1. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
2. Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
3. All the light we cannot see by Anthony Doerr
4. Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler
5. The Girls by Emma Cline
Aha, book reviewers promote on Instagram. That’s interesting. Thanks for explaining, McKenzie. PS I like your list!
Thank you Roz. As an author failing to sell her book, at last, something that makes sense.
Thanks, Katrina. I hope it wasn’t too depressing to read! I think we have to separate ourselves into two halves. The writer half – so, learn to write well, write what you feel driven to. Then the selling half. Learn, slowly, how to sell, accept it will be trial and error. But don’t let the latter spoil the former. Build a body of good work.
No Roz. Far from making me depressed, it’s liberated me. I felt uneasy about advice to use ads, bookbub etc. Now I understand why and feel freed to plough my own furrow. Thank you.
Thank you for writing. I tend to only try a new author if a friend recommends one – which as an author is rather scary because I know how rarely people discuss books, even ones they have hugely enjoyed. We tend to discuss the weather, our children and our hatred of housework – books by new authors come way down the list. It is also impossible for the author to control, other than (slightly desperate) pleas on a blog or Fb for people to pleeease recommend my books to someone new…
It is a bit scary, isn’t it, Anne? But I think that to make any sense of this crazy bookselling lark, we have to take an honest look at how people like us buy books. Friends often don’t realise how much difference it makes when they recommend a book.
Very nice post! I’ve given this some thought myself in the past, as I’ve never come across a “how to market your book” article that actually made sense in regards to my own book buying habits.
The last five books I bought, in order of most recent to oldest:
1. The Foxhole Court (All For The Game #1) by Nora Sakavic (kindle ePub). A few of my friends on tumblr read the series and subsequently reblogged fannish posts relating to the series (photo sets, quotes, headcanon posts and meta posts, among others), which got me interested in it. (Also, it has queer characters in it.)
2. Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo. This is the sequel to Six of Crows, which I’d been waiting for for a while (it came out last month). These two books are “spin offs” another series, the Grisha Trilogy. I heard about these books on tumblr, this time from A) a fanartist I follow because she makes beautiful fanart. She reblogged fannish posts (“aesthetics” and quotes, primarily, as well as fanart) relating to the Grisha Trilogy. B) Kevin Wada, professional artist who I follow because he’s my favourite comics artist. He was commissioned to do promotional art for Six of Crows, which he shared on his tumblr. Those two + guaranteed queer characters combined got me interested in all the books.
3. Cold Magic (Spiritwalker #1) by Kate Elliot. This was recommended to me by a friend on tumblr. I later found out (on goodreads I believe) that N.K. Jemisin (a writer I enjoy and respect) also recommended it, so those two combined led me to buy it.
4. The Custard Protocol Series #1 and #2 by Gail Carriger. These are sequels to The Parasol Protectorate Series, which were recommended to me by a friend on livejournal, who promised me a bamf bisexual female protagonist + queer characters and relationships, but I didn’t buy (and read) these until a person I follow on tumblr for her queer vampire/werewolf romance novel reblogged a post from Carriger herself, announcing a re-release of a short story of hers, a queer paranormal romance. I bought the short story (0.99USD), enjoyed it, and followed my LJ friend’s recommendation to read The Parasol Protectorate, which I enjoyed enough to want to read the sequel series as well.
5. Shadow Scale (Seraphina #2) by Rachel Hartman. The “customers who bought this also bought this” algorithm on Danish online bookstore Saxo.com showed me Seraphina. I bought it, enjoyed it (it being a fantasy novel with queer characters in it, amongst other interesting things) and ordered the sequel as soon as it became available to me.
I’ve also bought books because they’ve been reviewed on the Lesbrary here on WordPress, they’ve been mentioned in queer fantasy lit lists on tumblr (shared by for example bisexual-books), or they’ve been shared/advertised by queer publishers (such as riptidepublishing’s tumblr account). I also use goodreads a lot – not to browse, but I use it as a social network to see what my friends are reading and how they are reviewing it. I’ve come across a lot of great books that way. I also use the goodreads group LGBT Fantasy Fiction every now and then to see what’s being nominated that month (there being a new theme every month) and hopefully come across something that isn’t on mine or my friends’ or saxo’s algorithm’s radar.
My interests are primarily of the queer and fantasy persuasion (as you may have noticed given the books above :p), and especially queer stuff is very…out of the limelight. It’s not what you see in Facebook adverts. :p So I find my reading material by word of mouth (which makes social media very important) and by following specific review blogs and publishers. In turn, when I enjoy something, I make sure to be vocal about it on my own social media platforms (tumblr and goodreads) so that the word spreads further.
Hi Katrin! A really interesting comment there – it’s very informative to see how each book arrived in your life. I didn’t know tumblr was such a potent platform, and now I understand more about how fan art works for certain kinds of books. Goodreads too – lack of time has prevented me getting to know it as a social platform, so it’s interesting to see how it works for you.
When it comes to tumblr, I think primarily YA books get “blown up” that way, with fanart and other fannish posts, and it’s ofc got a lot to do with tumblr’ demographic skewing a bit young. I only see what I choose to follow so my perspective is limited, but I just don’t see literary fiction being “advertised” on tumblr, for instance. Very few teenagers and 20-somethings are interested in creating aesthetic posts about literary fiction, but when it comes to YA (be it the Raven Cycle, the Grisha books, Foxhole Court or anything else) that demographic engages with the source material as a way to share something about themselves (“this resonates with me”) and to make new connections (following new people who also create/reblog this content and striking up conversations with them about the material). It’s very social and very critical, and very different from what I see happening on other platforms.
Interesting – thanks Katrin! The sense of community is evident.
My last 5 books were (1) Beach Music, Pat Conroy. I always used to tell people that The Prince of Tides was my favourite novel of all time, and that I was slightly scared of trying to read something else by him in case I didn’t love it was it as much. My gut instinct was right on that one.
(2) Aurelia by Alison Morton, One of five books I read for the historical fiction panel I was chairing. I had actually beta read this novel, so it was interesting to see how different the final version was.
(3) How to Paint a Dead Man, Sarah Hall, I bought this in an art gallery in Edinburgh, an author whose work I already knew, but an excellent piece of marketing, I thought. Very different from Haweswater.
(4) Amy and Isabelle by Elizabeth Strout. The fourth book by Elizabeth Strout I have read this year. This is an interesting one. One of my favourite ways of discovering new authors is to read the books Radio 4’s Book Club has scheduled for a future show. I have been to 5 recordings of shows so far and have been able to put questions to the authors!
26 The Universal Theory of Everything, Adam Bethlehem, a previous guest on my author interview series, Virtual Book Club. I was impressed by the quality of Adam’s book production and like the idea of God being the protagonist in this contemporary novel.
HI Jane! I forgot to mention Radio 4 book club. There’s also The Guardian books podcast, especially their book club where John Mullan interviews an author extensively and intelligently. I’ve bought quite a few books after listening to those interviews.
I think I want to say more. This post raises questions. Why are we marketing books in ways that don’t appeal to us? What is doesn’t do is provide the answer to the question: What can I do to market my books on a limited budget, especially given that what worked 2 years ago no longer works for me? I cannot not do anything. My books are in a limited number of bookshops, an even more limited number of Oxfam shops. I do know that people buy my books after they hear me speak but the lead time for events is an average of 18 months. I do know that when people discover my books they do tend to go and read at least 3 more. (I can see from my own list that I prefer to read something by an author I already know, even if that book is completely different, rather than take a risk on new author whose style I may or may not like.) I will watch this thread with interest!
Jane, these were some of my questions too. I see a lot of discussion about BookBub etc, and I couldn’t stop thinking ‘I’d never buy books in that way’. Of course, we have to use the opportunities that are available to us, but if we assume our readers are like us, we have to notice where they actually find books.
I don’t know what the answer is. Like you, I find that if I do a talk or a signing, I sell healthy quantities. The evidence on how we buy after seeing a good interview bears that out. Contact with the author makes readers take notice of the books. What can we do about that? Well I know you’re doing your best with your Virtual Book Club series. And I am with The Undercover Soundtrack.
I’m not saying that people shouldn’t use BookBub and Facebook. They’re probably good as part of a campaign if the finances make it possible. At the moment BookBub isn’t economically viable for me because it costs too much and I have only a small number of novels.
How do I discover books I want to buy? Like half of Oxford, through Ray Mattinson who runs the literary fiction department at Blackwell’s. It has got to the stage where I actually counter-stalk him to avoid running into him in the shop because I can’t see him without leaving with a pile of books.
Second method is my Facebook friends, and third is through gigs. Fourth, browsing through th elocal branch of Fopp, which for a pop science fiend is the best bookshop out there
Last 5 books I bought and from where?
Jerusalem by Alan Moore (none of the above – it’s one of those Must Buys)
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman (Facebook friends)
The Talent Code by Daniel coyle (Fopp)
Multiple Choice by Alejandro Zambra (Ray, and seeing Zambra at Blackwell’s)
Junk DNA by Nessa Carey (Fopp)
*Pounces on Dan and says ‘what is Ray Mattinson’s email address’?!*
You’ve added two new venues to our list – the specialist bookshop and the gig. Although I suppose the gig could be a bit like Jane and me listening to various book club podcasts.
Mostly I discover new books from reviews in the Guardian, Telegraph, or (most highly recommended) the London Review of Books. Occasionally I’ll make a serendipitous discovery while browsing in a bookshop. Amazon and Facebook recommendations are useless – if you buy War & Peace, their algorithms assume you must want more war novels; buy Conrad and they think you’d like Hornblower, etc. I don’t tend to go much by what friends suggest, either, because tastes vary so much.
Hello Disvan! I like the reviews in all those places, but I then check the Kindle sample carefully. A good half of the reviews seem to be hype (less so in LRB), or might have been written by someone who didn’t finish the book. So I proceed with caution until the sample reassures me that the book will live up to my hopes for it.
The Economist sometimes has useful reviews too.
I’m totally sharing this article.
I try and do reviews on my blog although lately they’ve been few and far between.
Hail, a reviewer! Welcome!
This ‘…but I feel I’ve been shown a piece of the author’s soul.’
My favourite book discoveries have all resulted from some form of one-on-one contact. If I enjoy an author’s personality/hobbies/passions/humour, I’ll give one of their books a try. If I enjoy that book, I’ll read everything that author has written or will write.
Not so successful book discoveries come from Amazon. Like you, Roz, I too get lost in the ‘Also read’ lists and I’ve stumbled across some fantastic writers that way, especially in the sci-fi genre. Straight browsing the sci-fi categories, however, is not so successful. Bookbub et al.? Never tried it and probably never will. 😦
Hi Andrea! Straight browsing through the Amazon categories … yes, I can’t imagine doing that unless I was trying to find the market leaders for some reason. It’s not how I’d find something to read for pleasure.
Oddly enough I did it this evening…and gave up! lol Luckily I remembered a couple of good authors I’d read before and decided to try some of these other works. 🙂
The latest book I read (didn’t buy because my library had it) was recommended by the Goodreads algorithm. It must know me well because I loved it! (Dark Matter by Blake Crouch, if you’re interested.) I get a lot of ideas from Goodreads about what to read next. I’ve been using the site a lot recently and am really liking it. I also get ideas from blogs I read. For example, I read this blog about imperial Russia (I’m a HUGE Russophile) and the blog writer/webmaster person has a page of his recommendations about what to read. Since I like his point of view based on what I’ve read on his blog and site in general, I put a ton of his recommendations onto my to-read list.
I haven’t bought too many books recently. I’m trying to keep my apartment uncluttered and I don’t always like buying books if I’m just going to read them once. It helps that there’s an EXCELLENT library where I live. So many ebooks to borrow! So many print books! It’s amazing.
I don’t use Facebook anymore (it is SO liberating to be off of that site, everyone!!!) but when I did, the only ad I found useful in 9 years of using the site was one for six free issues of a Russian magazine. It’s so typical of me that that specific ad is the only one I ever bothered to click on, LOL.
I find BookBub odd. I mean, I don’t hate it or that it exists or that people use it, I just can’t relate. I’ve never bought a book because it was a bargain. I’ve got to be interested in it first! Of course, if it is a bargain, that is definitely a nice bonus in the situation! 😀
Hi Natalie! Aha, a vote for the libraries! And it’s interesting to hear your experiences with the Russia blog – recommendations by subject.
Thought-provoking article, Roz. In approximate order of weighted importance, if not quantity: friends’ recommendations are my main source (luckily, I have a lot of friends who are avid readers), followed by prize long-/short-lists and Amazon’s recommendations, and seeing a new work by an author I’ve previously enjoyed. After that are the incidental recommendations I might stumble across in the media (radio 4’s recommendation being the primary, followed by ‘serious’ newspapers).
Hi Keith! You’re the first person to mention prize longlists and shortlists, which must be a big factor in making books more visible. Thanks for stopping by.
Fascinating as always Roz! If there is a secret key to book marketing I’ve never met anyone who has it, including the publishers of my books 😀
Personally I’m a big bookshop browser when it comes to finding books, but personal recommendations also play a big part. I often ask friends on Facebook and Twitter what I should be reading and take their advice.
Hi Chris! Yet another avenue that hasn’t yet been mentioned – putting out a tweet or a FB request for recommendations! Nice to see you here.
I’ve had some of the same thoughts. I’m always a little taken aback when a book marketing person asks: “Do you have any trouble finding books?” I always want to say: “Yes, I do!” I was wishing the other day that there was a kind of “book-chaining app” because often one book leads to another in a sort of long chain. The only example I can think of right now is The Iliad before The Aeneid, but there are many more that are not really “also boughts”. Or Angela Thirkell leads back to Anthony Trollope or vice versa. Sometimes there’s a “hat tip” in one book that sends you off to another one. Does that make any sense? I always have the feeling that GoodReads is supposed to help you browse other people’s bookshelves the way you do when you visit a friend, but I don’t really use it that way. I find new middle grade books through a network of writers.
Hi Laurel! Ah, the chain. Well it would be different for everybody, depending on their wanderings – both virtual and real. Interesting point about browsing people’s bookshelves. I don’t often do that – unless I happen to notice a friend has several of the same novels that I like. Then I really get into their shelves!
Thanks Roz, this is a thoughtful look at the real reasons behind our discovery and purchase of books. I just published my first novel and am focusing on word of mouth marketing, asking early readers to share their thoughts about the book online or ask their book clubs to read it. For a new writer, it’s difficult to justify paying a lot for FB and other adverts. Your point that a meaningful connection (interviews or blog posts) more often leads to discovery anyway is just what I needed to hear!
Hi Amy! Glad it helped. And best of luck with your journey.
Fab post Roz. I search Amazon for particular books I may be looking for. Besides that, I find great reads recommended on blogs, through Goodreads and newsletters. 🙂
Hi Debby! How, particularly, do you use Goodreads? I think I could make more use of it if I knew how. Are you a member of groups? Are there certain people who share your tastes? Are there good ways to find comparison titles beyond that?
Hi Roz. I don’t think I’d be the most helpful when it comes to Goodreads. I know it offers different avenues of promotions but I don’t spend a lot of time there. I just can’t be everywhere. Having said that, I do use their ‘event’ promos when I’m putting a book on sale to help spread the word. I find many author friends send me book recommendations, way more than I send. And they’re usually books I purchase (especially if they’re under the umbrella of writing or marketing). I do belong to several groups which I’ve had almost zero participation because I don’t have the time. I’m sure there’s a way to investigate comparison titles, but really, I use Amazon for many of my searches. You know every author generally finds their social media best place of interaction where most time is spent. I think depending on the genre we write under, some sites are more effective for some writers than others. That goes for FB ads, some authors have success with them, some say it’s a waste of time and money. I get a lot of traffic from Twitter and FB, so that’s where I concentrate my efforts. I’d really like to find a way to spend more time in Linkedin groups where I’ve sort of abandoned in the last 2 years. We just can’t be everywhere and write, lol. But it’s always nice getting feedback from other authors what works for them. Thanks for asking. 🙂
I’m a terrible book consumer. I get the majority of my reading from used book stores, book exchanges, and the library. Something snapped in my brain when paperback prices went over $5, and I haven’t been able to spend more than that for a book since then–from any source. For one thing, I don’t collect books. For me, fiction is highly disposable. I keep maybe the top 100 or so of my favorite stories and only if I intend to read them again. Also, I rarely find a story that I truly enjoy–a problem that has become MUCH worse since I started writing fiction myself. I can’t justify plunking down $10 or more for a book that I’m probably not going to like.
As it turns out, I found my most recent five books from various free sources. I’m not really a bargain hunter because I don’t hunt for bargains. Bargains are everywhere and I take advantage of them when I run across them.
When selecting a book, I first tend to pick up books by authors who have entertained me in the past, but I’m happy to try something new. I occasionally pick up books from authors I meet online (subject to my $5 budget). I also enjoy reading the short works that come with my Science Fiction & Fantasy Magazine subscription.
My cheapskate mentality is reflected in the way I price my own books. I tend to price from $2.99 to $4.99. I’m willing to run promotions at free or 99 cents because they have worked in the past to introduce new readers to my work.
I like reading on my Kindle, so at this point, I don’t have a preference for print versus digital when it comes to fiction. However, I buy non-fiction almost exclusively in print.
I guess my purchasing and selling practices make me part of the problem regarding “the devaluation of books.” IMO, most of the books I see on the marketplace aren’t worth a $10 price tag, and it’s not all the fault of the indie “Tsunami of Crap.” Traditionally published stories have (or used to have) the benefit of superior editing, but on the whole, the quality of the *stories* available on the market is, and always has been, rather mediocre. It makes sense, really; in a world of averages, mediocrity rules. I don’t mean to sound snobbish, though. I’m well aware that my body of work has probably done nothing to raise the curve.
Great post, Roz. It’s a very useful exercise.
Here are my last five bought books:
1. ‘Style Statement: Live by Your Own Design’ by Danielle LaPorte, Carrie McCarthy. I think this came up in Amazon’s suggestions. I didn’t enjoy it and haven’t finished it.
2. ‘Valuable Content Marketing: How to Make Quality Content Your Key to Success’ by Sonja Jefferson, Sharon Tanton. Recommended by a session leader at a conference.
3. ‘Juggling on a High Wire: The Art of Work-Life Balance When You’re Self-Employed (A Dr. Freelance Advisor Guide)’ Laura Poole, Jake Poinier. Recommended by a friend who was reading it at the same conference. The author led a session at the conference, too, which I didn’t get a chance to go to.
4. ‘The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making’ by Valente, Catherynne M. Recommended by a YouTuber and author I follow (Jen Campbell – she’s wonderful!)
5. ‘Under the Empyrean Sky (The Heartland Trilogy Book 1)’ by Chuck Wendig. I follow Chuck’s amazing blog and have read his stuff before because of it. This was a Kindle Daily Deal, so I snapped it up.
Hi Sophie! You’re the first person whose recent purchases include profession-related non-fiction! It’s interesting that you mentioned The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland… you might like Catherynne M Valente’s post about it on The Undercover Soundtrack https://mymemoriesofafuturelife.com/2012/06/12/the-undercover-soundtrack-catherynne-m-valente/
Having been strung along by a small publisher’s promises far too long, I’m finally going to self publish my first novel, with professional help. A massive gamble for me. I can only hope for a few reviews to spark off interest. Reading your article, apart from a friendly blog web-work, and possible interviews, there seems to be no ONE way to attract a wider readership, certainly not expensive marketing, which I couldn’t afford in any case.
When it comes to buying a book, one sentence in your article stood out for me … ‘I don’t find a book more appealing because it’s on special offer. I want the right book.’ …
This applies to me, as well as to the readers I would love to attract 🙂
Hello Ashen! Sorry to hear you’ve had a frustrating time with a publisher. I know that feeling well. I see a lot of writers in that position.
I’m afraid you’re right in your suspicions that finding an audience will be a major challenge, but I’m sure the best way to start is from the standpoint that your readers will think like you do. That’s why I did this exercise.
Best of luck.
Thanks, Roz. The right book may well give me an experience of resonance, minds and hearts bridging time and distance. But occasionally I also like to grapple with a different mind set, and be challenged. We are incredibly privileged to have the internet.
Reblogged this on Notes from An Alien and commented:
Wonderful re-blog today—exploring whether the much touted book marketing venues are the ones readers really use <— at least, that's what I got out of it 🙂
Your summary is spot-on, Alexander. That’s exactly what I meant. Thank you for the reblog.
I’ll go by a recommendation, if I’ve read more than three of the authors work I wont even read the blurb, or by reading the first few paragraphs- if I like the feel I’ll go for it.