Joe’s post #18 — How do you buy books? By genre? By authors? By recommendations from friends? By the pretty picture on the cover?
Ok, but let’s be more specific. How do you decide to buy a book by a new author, by someone you’ve never read before?
That’s a challenge for all of us new writers. How do we stand out? How do we get the attention of an agent, of a publisher, of millions of readers?
I’m not sure I have the answer, but I can look to how I buy a book by an author I’ve never read before.
1) Genre. It’s my first filter. New or old, I go to a section that I love to read. Mystery. Thriller. Fantasy. As new writers, we don’t have much of a choice where our books get put, but we can help agents and publishers by delineating where we think our books belong. My latest book, YA fantasy. One day, I hope to be able to move out of that genre and into mainstream. Sort of like moving out of my mobile home and into a spacious condo overlooking the city of Vancouver.
Cover and Title: Yes, it matters. At least to me. If the cover has a bare-chested man with a half-naked women pressed up against him, I won’t care that there’s a dragon in the background. But show me something like what’s on the latest Game of Thrones, and you got yourself a sale. Have a cool title like “The Bone Collector?” Even better.
So, writers, make sure you have a cool title.
Any recommendations: Has it won awards? Does GRR Martin recommend it? Oprah? Are there any quotes from famous authors, like “Best book I’ve read since my book” or “I’m going to kill this bastard for writing such a great story.”
I can tell you one thing, if I ever get published, I will shamelessly pester all my published writer friends to write something nice about my story.
The Flap: Ok, I made that word up. It’s the ‘blurb’, or the synopsis or why the hell should I buy this book? So now I’m standing in a ‘section’, trying to look cool, and I’ve picked up a book with an interesting cover and a neat title (and maybe with a nifty recommendation.) Now, I read the back (or, in the case of the hardcover, the promo inside the dust jacket.) It has to wow me. I’m sorry, it does. If I read ‘bored housewife…’ I put the book back. If I read something that might interest me, then I move to the last filter.
The First Pages. You can fool me with a nifty cover – I’m easily distracted by pretty colors and half-dressed women on dragons. You can fool me with recommendations – Writers have been known to get together at comicons or mystery writers at wine tasting nights and agree to endorse each other’s books. You can fool me with a cleverly written blurb – Hey, they have entire marketing departments working on this in-between martinis. But it’s harder to be fooled by someone’s actual writing. So I read the first pages, a few paragraphs somewhere in the middle, and then I make a decision.
As new writers, I think we need to remember this. Words matter. Voice matters. Style matters. How a story starts… matters.
The Way Around It All: Frankly, the way I usually buy books by authors I haven’t read is that I’ve been told it’s awesome by a friend I trust. Any time I get a text like “OMFG you have to read this!!!!!!!” I will give it a try, despite the number of exclamation points. If someone brings a book to a coffee chat and the first thing they say, after telling me how handsome I look, is “I have just read the most amazing book of amazingness ever!” then I’ll give that book a try. I mean, why not, they’ve done all the work and all I have to do is look up that author?
Like this one. Check it out. It’s a FANTASTIC book. !!!!!!!
But no matter what your own personal filters are, give a new author a try.
We need all the help we can get.