What Are You Reading?

I love the emails I get from Amazon that, based on what I’ve bought in the past, suggest books I might like in the future. So far I haven’t clicked through to the check-out lane on any of them. Maybe it’s because of my background as an advertising copywriter, I know what it takes to write sales copy and I know when I’m being “sold.” Sometimes I get a mental image of the copywriter knocking out copy for the day before lunch: “Hey, Beth, we need some sexy copy for these five new thrillers.” “Great. Are they any good?” “Who knows? Just give us a couple of lines.”
Last summer, I had a conversation with my brother that set me on a literary journey that lasted—without a whole lot of time for housecleaning, eating, drinking or sleeping—a full five months. He clued me in to George RR Martin’s “Game of Thrones” series. My ensuing summer was a bloody cornucopia of slaughter, haints and “shape-changers.”

Great rip-roaring tale to help guarantee you get nothing done until you finish the whole series. (Not unlike The Hunger Games in this way.)

During my extended time in Westeros, I would occasionally notice a book flit by on the New York Times Bestseller’s list—or in one of the above-mentioned Amazon emails—and mentally earmark it for when my time with Mr. Martin was done. But honestly, without an honest-to-God recommendation from someone you trust to know a good story, what good is a pretty cover and a snappy title? I’ve read plenty of cover blurb promises which the content within did NOT deliver. When I’d finished reading the “Game of Throne” series, a Facebook friend of mine was in the process of adoring “The Help.” It was nice that she actually talked about it while she was reading it. Mind you, I had heard of “The Help” before she mentioned it. Everyone in North America had heard of it. It had received an amazing publicity splash that was relentless that year. And yet? Somehow I got the idea that “The Help” was a self-help book along the lines of “The Secret.” Every time I saw the bright yellow book cover, I mentally tuned it out because I’d already decided

I was a one-woman word-of-mouth machine for this book!

I wasn’t interested in that kind of self-improvement.
When my friend gushed all over the place about it, I picked it up (or loaded it down, whatever) and loved it, and turned around and Amazon-gifted it to three other friends I knew would love it, too.
Recently, I’ve been reading Indie books to try to support the movement but it does take forever to find something good on the Internet. Not that authors aren’t doing a fairly good job of pushing their books in my face—at nearly every juncture on Facebook or Twitter—but like I said before, sales copy and I are intimately related. I know what bullshit looks like. I wrote it for years.
The size and shape of the literary world is changing out there, not just for writers but for readers, too. So how do you find the books you like to read? Do you count on word-of-mouth or is there a book review publication you depend on?


9 thoughts on “What Are You Reading?

  1. Good points! I’m a marketing copywriter, named Beth, so that intro paragraph was both accurate AND startling. 🙂

    I, too, have had back cover summary disappointment. I rely primarily on blog reviews/word of mouth, and (sad to say) whether the cover art grabs me or not. As there are so many pervasive trends that book blurbs piggyback on, I think experiencing personal reviews and impressions is invaluable for the real story on how a book is.

    Of course, some authors aren’t too happy if you review their book and it isn’t a shining bill-of-sale. I respect any author who values my true and honest impression over drafting some solid gold BS review.

    • Yikes! Sorry about that, Beth! LOL! It’s just hard to believe sales copy when you know what went into it! I do read all the reviews for a title when I’m trying to make up my mind but admit I tend to go to the 2 & 3 star reviews first b/c not only will that tell me they weren’t (probably) written by the writer’s friends, they’ll alert me to things that may or may not be a problem for me. If a book has largely 4 & 5 stars but the complaints involve too much sex or bad language or that the writer played fast & loose with the facts or history, I know those are things that are not dealbreakers for me. (In fact, honestly, I prefer authors to switch reality around! That’s why I’m reading instead of watching CNN!)

  2. I rely on recommendations from friends, as well as I keep an updated “bucket list” of books I’d like to read. Sometimes I browse randomly on Amazon to see what suggestions come up.

  3. Since I got my Kindle over a year ago, I have relied on the daily blog “Free Kindle Books and Tips” by Micael Gallagher for my reccommendations. He features books with four and five star customer reviews and the books are free. I have found innumerable authors to follow and I can say that I’ve never been disappointed in a book. They are what has been described to me and the reviews are what sells it. When I download my own selections, I have been disappointed, so Michael is the voice I listen to for discovery of gems.

  4. I don’t read blurb on books. I don’t read book reviews either. Occasionally I’ll read something a friend has recommended – but that can be fraught with difficulty and disappointment.

    I prefer to let the writer convince me, or otherwise, to read his or her book. I pick up a book — or on Amazon I go for the ‘read inside’ books — and just start reading. If I like what I see I’ll skip through to later in the book and have another read. If the same happens chances are I’ll buy the book.

    It doesn’t give the writer much of a chance to interest me, but at least I’m going directly to the person who is the author and not relying on a middle-man, or woman.

    • Yeah, I really use to the “read inside” feature on Amazon,too. And THEN download a sample. But I admit to having gone straight to the “BUY” button if the blurb really grabs me. (After just a cursory peek inside to make sure the author’s not illiterate.)

  5. In some ways, there’s a certain amount of paying attention to recommendations, whether in reviews or like it’s done on Amazon, with a similar one. Other times it’s because of the subject, or I know the writer’s other work.

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