Oh, Readers … Take 2

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In Jan. 2015, I published the blog post, Oh, Readers … Where Art Thou?, that I wrote with the assistance of my editor, Rachel Small. At the time, it received a huge number of views, likes, shares, reblogs, and became one of the more poplular posts I’ve published on this blog. I had promised a follow-up of answers to my questions that I compiled from a few of my steadfast followers, and I even set up a draft page, hoping to publish not too long after that first post was released. But life does have a way of intervening in any best-laid plans, so I’m just getting around to revising and posting this update now – almost 12 months later! My apologies to my blog readers. It seemed like a good time though to reconsider this topic of Readers and Authors and how they find one another, because I also dusted off and reshared another post on the subject that I wrote way back in Jan. 2014, Between Authors and their Readers. I know I’m giving you a lot of reading here, but I would appreciate it if you would consider all three blog posts and either comment below, write about this topic on your own blog (and add your blog link in the comments below, or write a guest post for me to post here in the future.

**Since the other two posts were published, I have created a new blog, reading recommendations reviewed, that offers reviews of books by authors who have been previously featured on Reading Recommendations.

In response to the questions posed in that first blog post of this series, Oh, Readers … Where Art Thou?, here are a couple of responses I solicited from friends I’ve met through social media. I asked them for their thoughts, because I knew both would have something of value to add to this discussion. Rebecca Heishman lives in the US and is an author I’ve featured on Reading Recommendations. She reads a great deal and we’ve held a number of email discussions about books, reading, writing and authors. roughseasinthemed lives in Gibraltor, is an editor, reviewer, journalist, and blogger who is very passionate about the written word. She writes a terrific blog with a huge following of both authors and readers from around the world. (**Please see comments below for more from roughseas.) Both women have read and favourably reviewed my writing in the past. Here are their thoughtful comments:

From Rebecca Heishman:
It’s my own personal opinion that the market is flooded with mediocre writers who bombard potential readers with commercialism. As a reader, I’ve grown weary of it myself. I’ve made a point of downloading books by indie authors who sound promising. Some of the books are poorly edited. I’m no editor, but even I can see the flaws. I had to stop reading one because it was a horrible mess. My head is about to explode from all the author ego out there, on Twitter, especially.

Writers keep wondering where the potential readers are — I think that many of them have tuned us out. I’m overwhelmed with potential reading material available all over the WEB. I suppose a lot of people are. I don’t know what the answer is. I know that I’ve stopped promoting my own work here. It wasn’t working for me. I believe that a struggling economy has a lot to do with it. Buying a book at a retail price is truly a luxury for me now. I know I’m not alone in that. Even my little niche market is suffering. People simply don’t have the money for paperbacks, and the market is flooded with eBooks now. we are living in a world where we are saturated with pleas from people wanting to sell us things. It’s my belief that many of our potential readers are simply tuning it all out and making their choices in their own personal ways.

There are excellent indie writers out there who are not getting the publicity that their writing deserves because there is a boatload of mediocre writing that’s hitting the market on a daily basis. I am, in no way, saying that these writers don’t deserve a chance to get out there and sell their work. I’m simply saying that, from my own current reading experience, it is harder and harder for me to find really good books to read. And, trust me, I’m not picky. I just think that some of these folks are caught up in the ‘romance’ of the idea of being an author. They are not putting in the work. They are not hiring editors. Some of them are sad and pathetic egomaniacs.

I find that true of some of the bloggers. There are bloggers who love nothing more than to read their own blog posts. It’s ego all the way with some of these folks. There are bloggers who are posing as ‘experts’ in fields in which they obviously are not. They speak with great authority about subjects they know little about. But, that’s free speech, and I’m all for that. I’ve learned to not take some of these folks so seriously. I consider myself more of an entertainer than a writer. I’m not Shakespeare, and I know it. I’ll never win the Pulitzer. My work won’t change anyone’s life. I believe that there are writers out there (mostly the younger ones) who have fallen in love with the idea of being writers. They take themselves very seriously and they aren’t necessarily enjoying the ride. They dive into being authors without proper preparation. They stink up the show for writers with true talent.

From roughseasinthemed:
You have a lot of questions there, and I think it is too much for a comment reply. I’ve got two professional interests, reviewing (minor), editing, (major). Good questions!

1. How do you decide what to read next?
To be honest, anything that earns money. As a reader though, I pick randomly.

2. Do you belong to a book club? If so, do you read more than just the club’s selections? And is the club open to suggestions from you and other members?
No.

3. Do you stick to a single genre or type of book (fiction, non-fiction, YA, children’s) or are you willing to read around and try out new genres?
Read pretty much anything. I like to be open-minded.

4. Do you only read books by authors you are familiar with, or do you experiment with new authors, debut authors, foreign authors, the classics?
I’ll read anything. I consume books quickly.

5. Do you read books on bestseller lists or in the Oprah’s Book Club list, books reviewed in newspapers and magazines or on radio and TV, and books reviewed on blogs or online sites promoting books, such as Goodreads?
What’s Oprahs book club? Seriously. I don’t care two hoots about Oprah. Or, in the UK, Richard and Judy. Pre-Internet I did buy books after reading newspaper reviews.

6. Do you follow the advice of friends who read?
No.

7. Do you browse bookstores?
Yes.

If so, what makes you pick up a book off the shelf? Do you ask the staff for advice?
No.

Do you borrow books from the library
Yes.

and ask librarians for advice?
No.

9. Do you attend author events – readings, signings, festivals?
Festivals yes.

10. Do you write reviews for books you’ve read (whether you enjoyed them or not) and have you ever written directly to an author to let him or her know how you felt about the book? (Did you receive a reply?)
Yes, yes, yes.

12. How important is it to know a book has been professionally produced (edited, designed, and published professionally)?
What do you think? *vested interest alert* I edit.

13. Do you reread favourite books?
Yes

And a few of the comments left on that first post:

Ines – All good questions! I read a very wide variety of books mainly thanks to belonging to a book club. This has opened me up to being more adventurous with my book choices again as I’d got a bit stuck in a rut going for a certain genre.

Things that make me a choose a book include: if it’s in the front of a book shop where the bookshop has laid out a variety of different books (and independents are great for this) and it catches my eye; book magazines (available in book shops) that give a brief outline of books; online reviews such as those by newspapers (eg. the Guardian), other things like lists of the best of 2014 etc; friend or relative recommending; prize winners such as Costa, Waterstones or Booker, Pulitzer etc; a certain genre that I particularly like and which will make me look for new authors and this for me is Scandi-crime; if I like a particular author I usually read most/all of their work.

While online reviews etc are useful there’s nothing quite like that experience of browsing in a book shop and picking up something that you’d never normally read. I also often go for debut novels.

Carol Hagans – I normally browse bookstores and libraries where a title or cover may catch my attention then I read the front and back cover and flap intro. Recently I have been reading local Flagler authors; Food for a Hungry Ghost by Becky M. Pourchot; Libbie the Rare Yellow Lobster by Marybeth Jeitner and Heather Chalmers and Chasing Butterflies in the Magical Garden by Jorja Dupont Oliva, there are others on to-read-list. I have never written a public review but have sent an email to an author.

Betsi Newberry – I find new books by trolling Amazon, checking out ones mentioned in magazines or recommended by friends. I seldom go to a book store because I read almost everything on my e-reader. I don’t stick to one genre unless the mood hits me. But that doesn’t last long and I am on to something else. Lately I have been reading a lot of “how to” books related to formatting books for Kindle Direct and CreateSpace. But I always read fiction in the evening because my head can only hold so much about fonts, paragraph spacing, social media, and badges for my blog.

I don’t belong to a book club although maybe I should because it would get me out of the house and away from this laptop occasionally.

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12 responses

  1. Since I could not leave a reply with my answers to the January post, here are my answers:
    1. How do you decide what to read next?
    Chance. Mood. Sometimes what is given to me by friends. I have 150 + unread books at home – one just has to tickle my fancy at that time.

    2. Do you belong to a book club? If so, do you read more than just the club’s selections? And is the club open to suggestions from you and other members?
    First question: No. Do my own reading, I am not at school anymore.

    3. Do you stick to a single genre or type of book (fiction, non-fiction, YA, children’s) or are you willing to read around and try out new genres?
    I am an omnivore when it comes to reading (yes, and eating). Non-fiction and fiction (though more fiction), even though I am 47 I read the odd children’s book, fantasy, science-fiction crime stories (though I dislike too bloody and cruel ones), regency romances (the less sexual ones, though, I know how to engage sexually, do not need to read about that), chick lit, funny books, the odd “good literature” (last one was Night train to Lissabon and it bored me and put me off of “good literature” for quite a while now), classics (isn’t that a subgenre of “good literature”?), young adult novels (at least the one or the other) – I doubt there are many genres still left I have not read in my life.

    4. Do you only read books by authors you are familiar with, or do you experiment with new authors, debut authors, foreign authors, the classics?
    If I only read the authors I am familiar with, I would run out eventually. Some of my favourite authors have died or were dead before I even started reading them. But of course I have a preference with authors of which I am sure they won’t bore me, the more so, when they let characters from previous novels reappear – without making their books a “trilogy”.

    5. Do you read books on bestseller lists or in the Oprah’s Book Club list, books reviewed in newspapers and magazines or on radio and TV, and books reviewed on blogs or online sites promoting books, such as Goodreads?
    It happens that I read a book that has featured on a bestseller list, but those are not shopping lists for me. I once bought “Dragonbonechair” after it was reviewed as the review brought the book to my attention.

    6. Do you follow the advice of friends who read?
    Yes. Not always, but often. Meanwhile we know what each other likes.

    7. Do you browse bookstores? If so, what makes you pick up a book off the shelf? Do you ask the staff for advice? Do you borrow books from the library and ask librarians for advice?
    I buy a lot of books online and their shopping recommendations sometimes lead to further buys. When I go to a bookshop I usually have a book in mind already. Real bookshops are less easy to browse.

    8. Do you browse online booksellers? If so, how do you start your search if you don’t have a particular book in mind?
    Yes. I look for an author I liked and see further recommendations. Then I read the reviews there. Not the 1-star-Did not like ones or the 5-star-best book of my life ones, the longer ones where a little bit of the book is revealed, like the interaction of characters, the beginning of the plot, the style is discussed …

    9. Do you attend author events – readings, signings, festivals?
    Hardly ever. Have been to two readings, but it was a friend who dragged me there.

    10. Do you write reviews for books you’ve read (whether you enjoyed them or not) and have you ever written directly to an author to let him or her know how you felt about the book? (Did you receive a reply?)
    I have written a few reviews on my own blog and sometimes left one with the online-bookshop. But I do not see that as a duty. I am not at school anymore where every book I read had to come with a detailed analysis. And no, I have not bothered authors nor will I. Let them write.

    11. What could authors do better to get your attention when promoting their books? What would you like to hear from authors about their books? What do you not want to hear from them?
    Nothing. Authors write. They interact with their agents to get the book published. I only consume the end product.

    12. How important is it to know a book has been professionally produced (edited, designed, and published professionally)? Can’t even say if I have read a book that was not professionally produced. I have NOT read 50 shades, you see …

    13. Do you reread favourite books? Do you recommend favourite books to other readers? Yes. Yes.

    1. Thank you very much for these answers, franhunne4u! Your opinion matters, at any time.

  2. […] This is the third in a series of blog posts I’ve written directly addressing Readers. I’ve wanted to discover the answers to many questions I know are of interest to other authors, as well. First there was Oh, Readers . . . where art thou? then Oh, Readers … Take 2. […]

  3. There were some very excellent comments here about your blog post: Oh, Readers….Where Art Thou?

    In particular, I have to agree with Rebecca’s remark that “the market is flooded with mediocre writers who bombard potential readers with commercialism”. I also think that consumers have become weary of the constant flood of spam emails, telemarketers, websites, etc. all with something to sell. Buyers begin tuning it all out.

    And because the internet readily makes all kinds of information available to readers – often for free – I believe that some people no longer see a need to pay for information or entertainment including print books and ebooks. There will always be book lovers who will do so, but I do believe some readers simply don’t bother any more. Many people expect free music and free books.

    1. Thanks, Sharon! I think now I should have added to one of the blog posts that reading also has a hard time competing with other forms of entertainment that most people tend to spend time following – film, music (although I can listen to music while I read a book), TV, the internet … There’s so much outside of work, family, and life in general that demands our time it’s really only the true Readers who will make time for all the rest of their activities, as opposed to making time to read. There aren’t very many of us like that, I’m afraid.

  4. Interesting post. I like what Rebecca said about some writers being caught up in the romance of becoming an author. I think I was the same way when I started writing. Didn’t take long until the romance was gone. It’s a lot of hard work. I also enjoyed the q&a with roughseas and I can agree with much of what she said about book selection.

    I came to writing later in life, but had always been an avid reader. Before I began writing, I didn’t know what an indie author was. I’d never heard of self-publishing. My first e-reader was Sony, and there wasn’t a huge selection of free, self-published books like there is on Amazon nowadays. In my reader days, I belonged to a book club, and that shaped some of my reading choices. My other reading choices came from friends’ recommendations. I often read books by tried-and-true authors I’d read and enjoyed in the past.

    I think there are probably a lot of readers like me (pre-writer), who primarily read books by traditionally published, well-known authors they’ve read in the past. I hate to say this, but I believe most readers are not going to take a chance on an unknown author – not unless the book is very cheap or free. The chances of a vast number of readers stumbling across an indie book is very slim because there are just so many of them out there.

    So, yes. The readers are out there. A few of them will happen upon an indie book and maybe invest their time and money in it. As writers, we need to make sure our books are as well-written and error-free as possible because we don’t want to risk turning our precious readers away. If those readers enjoy our books, they might recommend them to friends or their book club. That’s the dream!

    1. Thanks for adding your thoughtful comments, Tricia!

  5. Susan, thank you so much for your generous description! I’d forgotten about this, I could have added more, ok, maybe not a good idea :D. I’ll comment later, sorting Sunday lunch right now 🍚 (curry and rice)

    1. And we’re having leftover curry and rice from last night, too! I had almost forgotten this post so was glad I found it, because what you and Becky had to say really did add different perspectives. I considered asking you to add more, but knew you’ve been busy lately. I welcome any further comments though in the future. Thanks, as always, roughseas!

      1. Having refreshed my memory, I’ll add a little more from a slightly different perspective on the topic of reviews: how effective are they? Well, from a blog POV, they usually get comments, some attract more than others. But do people read the books I review? Apparently some do, which tends to make me worry if I’ve recommended a book and the reader then doesn’t like it. One balances a fine line reviewing, trying not to be overly critical (which I often am), considering whether it is a good book within its genre, or whether it is just an outright good book – there’s a big difference there. For me the bottom line reviewing, would be how do I answer this question: Would you recommend I buy this book? And, the answers range from, absolutely, to, maybe if you like this genre, and, well I wouldn’t buy it. Perhaps I’ll start adding that, although I’ve been trying (and failing) to cut back on reviews. I’ve got a few to try and squeeze in before Xmas. One I beta read for, so I thought I’d write about beta reading too 🙂 But, my main point, in a rather long-winded way, is that numbers may be small, but readers do follow blog recommendations, and as I’m out with the author-let’s-all-read-each-others-books circle, I’m guessing my reviews are seen as relatively objective.

      2. Thanks for your very considered comments, roughseas.

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