A month ago, we ran a poll here at Spec Faith, asking how you get the books you read. The results are in and by a nose, online outlets beat out the library. (You can see all the results here). At the same time, I ran a poll on my personal site, A Christian Worldview of Fiction, asking what’s changed our book acquisition habits most in the last five years. E-readers nosed out Amazon in that one. (Here’s the poll giving those results).
I find the answers to these questions interesting. The book business is in flux. What was a decade ago, no longer is. What instructors once taught as The Way Things Are Done, is evaporating.
More and more, readers are faced with Choice. But how do we filter through the thousands of books to find the ones we actually want to read?
I’ve seen my own book buying and reading habits change over time. One of the biggest factors was my becoming a writer. When I started writing The Lore of Efrathah, my four-book (yet unpublished) epic fantasy, I immediately stopped reading fantasy. I was too fearful that what I read would bleed into my subconscious and I would end up writing derivative fiction.
Some time later at a writers’ conference, Gary Terashita, then editor at Broadman & Holman (now B&H Publishing), challenged those of us in attendance at his workshop to educate ourselves about the industry we wanted to be a part of. Read, he said. Read the books in your genre so you know what’s being done. Read so you can improve your own writing.
Until that time, I was pretty ignorant about Christian fiction. Yes, I’d read Frank Peretti and a handful of others, but nothing published recently.
I took Mr. Terashita’s admonition to heart and began a quest to read as broad a sampling of Christian fiction as I could. As Christian speculative fiction began its slow growth, I soon focused my reading in my chosen genre.
Over the next few years, Christian fiction expanded rapidly, and I realized I could not read all the books I wanted to. For one thing, I couldn’t afford them and even if I could, I was running out of shelf space on my bookshelves.
More and more independent publishers were cropping up. More and more people began self-publishing. And then e-readers hit the market.
Once I’d had an established hierarchy, choosing primarily to read traditionally published books that had been “vetted” by editors. Of those, I had my list of known authors at the top. These were ones whose books I’d already read, so I knew what kind of writing I could expect.
With my e-reader, however, I now had many more choices. I could download classics for free–books I’d been meaning to read but had never gotten around to them. I could also get freebie self-published books by authors I’d never heard of or new releases by authors looking to get a rating bump with a promotional give-away.
But not all books are equal.
How do you find the good ones? How do you find the keepers, the ones you want in print?
I find that I still rely on the same influences I did before the revolution.
- I read books by authors I know. Some of these are people I actually do know or have met, but primarily I’m talking about “know” in the sense that I’ve read their work before and trust their writing.
- I read in my genre. I want to read as many books that come under the Christian fantasy umbrella as possible.
- I read books trusted friends recommend. The thing is, “trusted friends” have expanded. Now trusted friends might include people I’ve never met in person but whose blog I may have read for the past three or four years. Trusted friends might also be friends I’ve reconnected with on Facebook or ones I’d previously never thought to talk to about books.
In days gone by, publishers said the best promotion for a book was word of mouth. In that regard, I don’t think much has changed. It’s just that “word of mouth” has expanded. Now we chat about what we read on Facebook or Twitter, we post our reviews at Amazon or Goodreads. Our word of mouth has expanded.
Of course, with this expansion comes the familiar problem–so many voices giving us so much information. How do we know who to listen to?
One professional at a writers conference, looking ahead to the book revolution, suggested that readers would eventually form a type of coop in which they share their recommendations. Spec Faith is just such a gathering. We are, above all, readers, even those of us who are writers.
Thanks to Stephen’s hard work, our 3.0 version is much more than visually pleasing. We now have a viable way of sharing reviews and recommendations with each other. The Spec Faith library is not only a place where you can find book blurbs, but now visitors can find out what readers think of those books.
No, we’re not selling the books, so this isn’t one stop shopping. It is, however, the place for readers of Christian speculative fiction.
Have you read any Splashdown books? What, you didn’t know there was such a publisher called Splashdown? Spec Faith has that information for you.
Publishers, authors, sub-genres, age levels, series, subject matter–you can look for books in the library in any of these categories.
The reviews and recommendations part is where we need your help. We regular columnists will add our reviews as often as possible, but if you’ve been privy to the discussions just this past week, you realize we do not always agree with each other, even when it comes to the definition of Christian speculative fiction or which books are the most influential or the best.
One or two reviews, then, are little more than starters. What we really need are Many Voices.
No time to write a review? I understand. Full reviews aren’t the only beneficial contributions. Anyone can add a recommendation in the comments to a book post.
So which is most effective, a book blurb with no review or recommendations, a book blurb and one review, or a book blurb with sixteen recommendations?
At any rate, we have the opportunity of becoming The Place for readers of Christian speculative fiction. But only with your help. Have you recommended a book today? 😀