How do you choose books?

Years ago I came to the conclusion that if a reviewer liked a book, I’d hate it. That was of course back when the reviews were pretty much in the NYT and the Sunday paper. So choosing books meant wandering around in a bookstore or library, looking in the sections that have my kind of book, picking up one after another and reading the cover blurbs and whatever was on the flyleaf. If that was interesting I’d read the first page or two, flip to a random spot in the middle and read a bit there, and ever after Gone With the Wind, I’d read the last paragraph or two.

Then came Amazon, still paper books, but there were descriptions and reader reviews, which weren’t as elitist and off-putting, to me at least, as the NYT and their friends. Only in rare cases did a single reader review make a difference for me. I’d be more inclined to think hmm, 80% of these readers thought it was pretty good. Like most, some favorite authors have always been auto-buys.

Kindle and ebooks didn’t change things much as to choosing books, but publishing my own books did. All of a sudden I was in forums where reviews mattered. Both from readers and from writers, I saw so much emphasis on them, and of course I visited the sites where my own books were reviewed and saw all those appealing cover images and reviews. So I began reading some and sampling some books based on them, although I still probably mostly buy books based on hearing or reading a description of the story that sounds appealing, looking the book up and downloading a sample.

The problem with that method for me is that while a sample gives an indication of whether the book is well written, it doesn’t give any indication of whether it’s well plotted, and I have to confess I get fed up with story lines that fall apart in the middle of the book pretty often. There was a time when if I started a book, I finished it, but that was long ago. Nowadays the minute I realize I don’t care what happens next, it’s the end of that book.

I’ve also begun trying some of the romances that are recommended over and over in the forums, with results that deserve a separate post.

All of which does make me curious about how others choose and what kind of luck they have. Do most of the books you settle down with keep you happy? Do you give up on a certain percent?

Tidbits: Remember how I originally thought the reviewer of Rachel’s Eyes was a guy and was worrying? I got an email the other day from a guy who beta read Rottweiler Rescue for me. He reads mysteries and gave valuable feedback. His email said he had just finished reading Eyes! He liked it and bought copies for all the females in his family. The fact he liked it is great, but honest to Pete, I’m not sure I ever want to face him again.

Not long ago I think I mentioned that I’ve never been much for sending my books around to reviewers, but that I did send the short story to Alain. I also answered a request on Kindle Boards for romances to review that had the theme of H/h who were childhood friends. Although that’s not a strong thread in Eyes, it is there, so I offered it, and the review appeared today on Rose Gordon’s blog. You can see it here. Rose does her reviews on Wednesdays, so if you click on Wednesdays on that little calendar icon you go to her reviews. I notice that she seems to be good about mentioning heat level. She mentioned that Eyes doesn’t drip lust and that one of the other books qualifies as erotica.

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8 Responses to How do you choose books?

  1. mesadallas says:

    I pretty much choose my books the same way you do, Ellen. I used to go to the library and surf the shelves looking for covers or titles that caught my eye.

    I’ve given up going to the library altogether with the discovery of Amazon. Yes, I now have to purchase, over borrow but most of the books I purchase are under a dollar- most are under .25 cents. The shipping makes most of the books around $4.00 which I feel is worth it not to have to use my time to make trips back and forth to the library.

    I do choose most of my books by surfing amazon and then reading the plot summation. If the plot sounds interesting I then read some of the reader reviews. Usually I have liked the books I have chosen. About 80% are keepers which I’ll read again after a couple of years. The ones I don’t want to keep go to the Goodwill.

    I’ve had a rough week physically. I had to go back to work on Monday as I was out of sick-days. I was still not quite over my pnumonia. I didn’t realize how run-down I was until I got home yesterday. I fell asleep at 4 in the afternoon and did not wake up until 7:30 this morning! Thank heaven school is now out for the summer.

  2. Glad to hear you’re on the mend. A summer at a slower pace ought to finish fixing you up, I think.

    It’s interesting that we started from the same place (staring at book spines on stores and libraries) and ended up doing things differently. I’ve only bought a couple of books through Amazon’s 3d party vendors. The one I remember is a mystery that’s out of print.

    Right now I get more books from the library than ever before, and it’s because the Kindle makes choosing books so easy, but I won’t pay the outrageous prices for an ebook some of the publishers want. So for the overpriced stuff, I put a hold on at the library and waltz in when my hold comes up. No waiting and no trying to decide from looking at the books. I even bought a Kobo ereader a while back so I could borrow ebooks from the library – of course Amazon announced they’re adding library capability to the Kindle only days later. Grrr.

    What I buy are the reasonably priced ebooks, which means an upper limit somewhere around $6.

    Since we cyber-met on the forums, do you ever go by recommendations from people there? I never went by recommendation or reviews and now that I’m trying it, my results are pretty mixed. (Next blog post.)

    ~Ellen

  3. mesadallas says:

    Yes, I do look into books that others recommend on the forums. I’ll pull up the book and if it looks interesting I’ll pursue purchasing it.

    Something I started doing about six months ago is working my way through authors. I found that if a like one book by a certain author I’ll usually like their other works. This has been working pretty well for me in the western genre.

    I still don’t have a kindle and I would really like one as I am discovering books (usually by indie authors) that look pretty interesting but they are only available through e-books. Maybe when I get my bonus this summer I’ll be able to splurge.

  4. That’s what I’ve always done too – looked up a recommended book and then tried it or not depending on the description and my own opinion of what it looked like. I’ve been trying another experiment, though, and that’s what I’m going to post about next.

    I do also work through authors. Have always done that with mystery authors, but I think it works better with them than with romance authors. For starters some of the older romances are difficult to get, a lot are overpriced IMO, and it seems that liking one or more is less of a guarantee of liking most by that author.

    Hope you get to join the Kindle crowd. Until this year I hardly knew anyone else who had one. All of a sudden when I go to a dog club meeting or any other crowd, there are several people who own them. Not only do I love the thing myself, but I’m all in favor of Kindling the world. A reader is far more likely to try one of my books for $2.99 than for $11.99. In fact if you remember, I wasn’t going to put out paperbacks of the romances because I didn’t believe anyone would want them at the prices they’d have to have. That’s proven not to be true, but my pback sales are 4% of ebook sales, and even that is high for an indie author.

    ~Ellen

  5. McD says:

    Because I’ve been reading romance novels for a while I now have a list of authors that I follow and read. And because I read quite a bit I’m always on the lookout for new-to-me and debut authors. Even if they’re Indies I’ll give them a try!

  6. mesadallas says:

    I hope I get to join the kindle crowd as well. Unfortunately, Arizona education keeps getting their budget slashed which means that I haven’t had a raise in pay for the last four years now- not even a cost of living raise. I have my bonus coming in August but it’s already spent as I need some dental work done. Maybe at Christmas.

    I totally agree about giving independent authors a chance. Being self-published has nothing to do with talent. Virginia Wolf and Mark Twain were both self-published writers.

  7. I don’t know if this will help you (or anyone else who sees this), but way back I applied for and got an Amazon Visa card. At that time I got an Amazon credit in an amount I can’t remember ($25, $50) for doing that. Just recently I saw references on the forums that they were doing it again, so it’s worth checking out to see. It’s a rewards card and gives you points for purchases that can be redeemed as Amazon gift cards. What I do is put all my regular expenses on that card and pay it off each month. So I’ve never paid interest, but I do get the Amazon gift cards from it.

    So at the time I got my K3, I had $75 in gift cards to apply to the purchase. People who have gotten the least expensive Special Offers Kindle seem to think it’s worthwhile and that the offers on the screensavers and the bottom of the home page aren’t too obtrusive. Of course you have to have wifi access for that (I don’t unless I drive 10 miles to town and use the library’s wifi).

    Another thing I found out from the forums is that some of the Coinstar machines allow you to choose an Amazon gift card as payment for the coins. I no longer save coins, but I had an old 3# coffee can of pennies and nickles that I never got the oomph to roll and take to the bank and I always avoided the Coinstar machines because they take a pretty good percentage as a fee. However, when you redeem for a gift card, there’s no fee from Coinstar. My can of mostly pennies brought me over $50 as I remember.

    ~Ellen

  8. mesadallas says:

    Thanks for the info, Ellen. I’ll check into it. That would be very helpful!

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