Off the Desk of Avidreader…

Avidreader

As an avidreader I’ve been reading novels for the past 16 years and counting. Romance was the genre that I started with and over the years I’ve had to expand my reading palette to prevent unnecessary burn out. Reading this long there is very little that surprises me. There is very little that I haven’t read already. I used to have a pretty good author list that has now dissolved to a select few. However, there are new authors emerging everyday. Back in 2004, The New York Times reported that a new book was being published every 30 minutes. As a reader with a select few of favorites these days, I’m always in the market for trying out a new voice.

Marketing Tools that Work or Don’t Work for this Reader

Each reader goes through their own process of trying a new author out. New authors have their work cut out for them from the time they are handed their first sale. How to get noticed? How to get your name out there? How do you attract a new audience? I’ve read my share of first time authors and unfortunately, a few of them never make it past their first book. Why? No audience, poor sales, or lack of promotion for starters. What responsibility does the author have in getting their name out there? I’d say a lot.  The publisher can put your book in the right places but I would think that the rest is up to the author to self-promote like hell to get their book noticed among the thousands that are published each year.

Much of this commentary is from my perspective as a reader. However, other readers are more than welcome to add their thoughts and opinions on the marketing tools that publishers and authors use to gain new readership. I only know what works for me and what doesn’t. I’m a seasoned reader and have read it all.  Most of us have a system when it comes to purchasing a new book from a new face. So here’s what I look for when buying a new book.

  1. Excerpts are invaluable. I love to read excerpts especially since I buy more “e” more than I buy “paper” these days.  So it is only prudent to have excerpts made available to clinch the sale after I’ve read the rather boring plot summary. The important role of excerpts is pretty much obvious. As readers we get a taste of the author’s style and narrative voice. I can sometimes tell immediately if a book will work for me or not based on the excerpt. Also is it first person or third? Very important for some readers to know before they buy.
  2. Word of mouth or good buzz doesn’t hurt and can be pretty powerful. However there has to be a balance here because too much good buzz is a killer. Most readers like me are turned off by it.
  3. The cover debate still rages on. The impact or role book covers play in making or breaking a book is still, well, debatable. Rarely do I buy a book based on cover alone but it does happen. However, more times than not, the book itself just doesn’t live up to the cover. On the other side of the coin, there are books with underwhelming covers. Obviously, covers are important. It’s the first thing readers see before they even read the plot summary.
  4. Professional review sites, magazines, reader blogs and such. Ah, well, they play a important role in how I decide on new authors I’m on the fence on but more often than not, if I’m already a fan, reviews don’t have much of an impact on my wallet. I do pay attention to Publisher Weekly’s starred reviews but often their taste in books doesn’t always jive with my own so it really just boils down to readers having similar taste to your own. Another good promotion tool is having favorable reviews in RT because it does seem to help. Barnes and Noble puts their RT magazines right next to the new romance releases. Uh, I really don’t use RT reviews but millions of other readers do.
  5. Promotion and Placement is very important. When I shop at Barnes and Noble, I always make a point to visit the Recommendation shelf where booksellers promote the books they’ve enjoyed to readers like me. I’ve had much success with one bookseller named Janet. She likes Stephenie Meyer and Patricia Briggs. Also, the display stands that serve to block my path down the aisle as I try to go to another section of the bookstore or books that are highlighted as “new” will always get my attention but it doesn’t always turn out a sale. Attention is good.
  6. Having a unique voice or a different spin on the current trend doesn’t hurt but if you’re not churning out what is popular and hip then you run the risk of having very little audience for your new book. I like unique and different but I am a lone voice in a sea of voices that want more of the same.

key-to-conflict-by-gryphon.jpg

There are other marketing tools that I find quite annoying but there is one that I find misleading.  Author cover quotes anybody? Author cover quotes don’t promote your book to me. Especially the same generic cover quotes by the same people who probably didn’t even read your book. I just learned from Mrs. Giggles website that Talia Gryphon is a pen name (pen name?) for Laurell K. Hamilton’s ex-bodyguard who is now writing dark fantasy. It’s a book I’d been looking at because of the kick-ass cover and sure enough the LKH quote was on there, too, touting that it is a “unique idea” in the paranormal genre. Right.  After reading Mrs. Giggles review of it, I think I’ll have to pass. I must admit that I do like reading cover quotes from magazines or other review sites but author quotes don’t quite do it for me for impulsive buys.

Another annoyance is the lack of updated author websites. I think many other readers have expressed the need of having a updated website very eloquently and I’m not rehashing that here. It looks as though many authors seemed to have received that message while there are those who are still MIA or just don’t have the time to update their website. Well,  it’s a good thing that there are  hundreds of other books to read by authors who do update their websites. A Reader’s Plea to Diana Norman: please get a website!

Alas, I could go on and on with this topic but all good things must come to an end. I will end this saying that a reader’s journey to finding that “good book” is endless and hard work.  Amazon.com always recommend books based on my buying history but I don’t put much faith into their choices. I think I’ll stick to my gut feeling, reader reviews and my gut feeling.

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About Keishon

Voracious reader of just about everything.
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5 Responses to Off the Desk of Avidreader…

  1. Heather says:

    Author cover quotes are a waste of space as far as I’m concerned. No publisher’s going to print a negative quote, and few authors are going to send a negative quote—a positive quote on someone else’s jacket is good publicity for them, after all. So I don’t even bother reading them. I’d far rather have, as you said, an excerpt. Plot summaries tell me only what some marketer’s (possibly misbegotten) idea of what the book is. An excerpt tells me if there’s any possibility of my enjoying the book, even if that excerpt is only a page long.

  2. Angie says:

    You just totally cleared up a huge point of confusion for me. Talia Gryphon’s website is hosted on LKH’s website and that has puzzled me for awhile now.

    I have that book, but it didn’t pass my first page test when I picked it up to start reading, so I put it down, hoping to come back to it in a different frame of mind.

    Here’s a question for you about excerpts. We’ve talked about the length of excerpts before at Samhain, because like you said, you can’t page through an ebook. Would you like a longer excerpt (we offer 1000-1500 word excerpts now)? Do you prefer an excerpt from the beginning or a good highlight? And what about seeing the whole first chapter, or at least a good portion of it? These are all things I wonder about, in making the decision to buy or not easier for the reader.

  3. Avid Reader says:

    [quote post=”620″]Do you prefer an excerpt from the beginning or a good highlight? And what about seeing the whole first chapter, or at least a good portion of it? [/quote]

    I’d like to read the first chapter if I can or a good portion of it. It’s just enough to give me a feel for the narrative voice and style and I know almost immediately if I’d want to read further or not.

  4. Li says:

    If it’s an author that I haven’t read before, I always try to find an excerpt online to get a feel for their voice before buying. Or flip through a few pages in the bookstore! I don’t really mind which part of the book – sometimes the prologue/first chapter isn’t necessarily the best scene to use as an excerpt.

    Umm… good reviews/word-of-mouth do work for me, but not immediately – I mentally note down the author/book and may get it some time later (and then usually regret not buying sooner!).

    I do use Amazon recs, but it is a bit hit-and-miss. I’ve discovered some authors I absolutely love via Amazon (e.g. Sharon Lee/Steve Miller’s Korval series), but equally there have been some DNFs!

    What works for me is now a combination of the above, if I see someone’s name mentioned enough times (whether via Amazon recs, reviews, etc), I Google for an extract, and then if I like the extract, I’d buy it.

    Sometimes I wonder how I bought books before the internet…

  5. Avid Reader says:

    [quote post=”620″]sometimes the prologue/first chapter isn’t necessarily the best scene to use as an excerpt.[/quote]

    Yes, I agree. After I posted my comment to Angie, I did reflect on the fact that the first chapter isn’t always indicative of a good read, it’s kind of–I don’t know, when you think that it’s the first three chapters that are usually the best part of the book before it completely falls apart. Or some books start off pretty bad and get good so, yeah, it’s a catch-22 for me.

    I gotta join you because I was lucky that I had AOL and someone pointed in the right direction…

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