I learned at an early age that because I liked one Sugar Creek Gang book, I’d probably like others, that since I was captured by one Nancy Drew mystery, I’d probably find the others equally interesting. But how did I stumble upon that first Sugar Creek Gang book, that first Nancy Drew mystery?
In reverse, writers are faced with this dilemma–how do they make it possible for readers to find them?
Readers, as a general rule, are loyal to the writers they like. In the same way that as a young person I read all the Nancy Drew books I could get my hands on (not knowing that Carolyn Keen wasn’t a real person, but was rather many writers hired to produce a formulaic story), I later read all the Louisa May Alcott books I could find because I loved Little Women. Still later I read multiple James Michener books because I love Hawaii. Then it was John Grisham and Dick Francis. More currently it’s Shannon Dittemore and Jill Williamson.
Perhaps other readers are more adventurous than I, and I’ll admit, free Kindle books have helped me do a little more exploring, but just a little.
For me, reading is similar to going to a nice restaurant. Once a year I take a friend out for her birthday, and the last few years she’s requested the same restaurant–a place I only visit on that one, yearly, occasion. So when I order my meal, do I get the item on the menu that I know I really like, or do I experiment, try something new?
Here are the issues. This is a once a year experience. I’m paying good money for this meal. I know there’s something on the menu I like.
But . . .
There are a couple other dishes that sound good.
Do I venture out and try something new? And risk being disappointed that I spent the money for my once-a-year visit on something bad when I could have had what I know I like?
Book buying is like that, at least for me.
When it comes to free or less expensive ebooks, the issue becomes time. Do I spend the time reading a book by an author I’ve never heard of when I can read this other book by an author whose books I like?
A friend of mine has done something I never saw as valuable when trying to decide what to order in a restaurant–she asks the server which of the dishes in question she would recommend. It’s taken me a while to realize that’s a great idea. I discounted the server’s opinion, I guess, because I figured there was no way to know whether their taste was the same as mine. Now if a friend made a recommendation, that held considerable weight. But a stranger?
Well, rarely did the server say, I recommend B, not A. Almost always they give reasons for their choice, especially something like, B seems to be popular with a lot of customers or, I’ve had B and it’s one of my favorite meals we serve.
Suddenly the server, still a stranger, has given me more of a reason to venture out and try something new.
All that to say, recommendations might be the best way for readers to find the books they want to read and the writers they want to follow.
I know that a lot of readers don’t take the time to tell others about the books they read. Some feel as if they aren’t qualified to write a review. Others say they’re simply too busy.
The truth is, recommendations, at least here at the Spec Faith library, don’t have to be reviews. If you’ve read a book and would like to voice your opinion about it, you can pull it up from the Spec Faith library and leave your recommendation as a comment.
A recommendation is nothing more than you acting like the restaurant server, saying whether or not you think people would like that particular book.
There are some books you realize aren’t for you. I’m not a big fan of science fiction, but I have a friend who writes space opera, so when I come across a book set in a galaxy far, far away, I have no trouble recommending it to readers like him. But that would not be a book I would recommend to “everyone.”
I personally like books that Spec Faith contributor and webmaster Stephen Burnett calls “Narnia knockoffs.” Clearly, his reaction tells me a book about children finding a door to another world would not be one I could recommend to “everyone,” either. But I certainly could say, people like me would enjoy that book.
All this to say, with the radical changes in the book industry, even more than ever, we need a place where readers can find the books that are worth buying. Otherwise, despite the freedom technology has created for books to be published apart from the traditional gatekeepers, no one is going to know those books exist. Or few people will.
No one is going to know which of the millions (yes, Amazon rankings are now in the millions) are well written and worth reading. No one is going to find the one book out of thousands and thousands that has been professionally edited, and vetted by a group of beta readers. No one is going to realize that the book by Josephina Anonymous is high quality and very entertaining.
Instead, the dollars will still go to Mr. Name Author because he produces a known quantity.
Unless we start talking about the books we’re reading and liking.
So how about you? Have you done an Amazon review in the last month or so? Have you left a comment here at the Spec Faith library about the books you like? Or a review? Where else do you talk about books and with whom?