Recommending Books: The Author, the Reader, and the Story by bestselling mystery author Peg Herring.
It’s my practice to go into a bookstore and say to a clerk, “What do I want to read?” This results in great discussions of books and authors, and I usually leave with two or three interesting prospects. Does my method result in reading bliss? Sometimes yes, sometimes no.
Although clerks are generally eager to help, they can’t predict what I’ll love ... and what I’ll hate. They know what’s out there, but reading involves complex interplay among the reader, the writer, and the story. Predicting how those will mesh is tricky.
Although some authors write beautifully, I never buy their books. Elmore Leonard, James Patterson, Louise Penny, and Janet Evanovich are just a few authors whose legions of fans don’t include me. I've tried them all, but there was no spark between us.
Why is that? First, an author’s view of life colors everything he writes. Readers expect one sort of story from Lee Child or a C.J. Box and a completely different sort from Charles Todd or Laurie King. They’re all good writers with good plots, but the tone of each differs widely. Publishers hint at tone in blurbs and cover art so readers aren’t blindsided by unexpected violence or bored by cerebral investigations. Smart readers learn to note words like “dark,” “intricate,” and “zany” so they don’t buy books they’ll hate.
Enjoyment of a book depends on the reader’s viewpoint as well. Readers walk around in an invisible circle that delineates areas we’re willing to venture into. Outside that circle are plots we can’t believe in, characters we don’t like, and events we don’t want to know about. Behind it are genres we once enjoyed but have outgrown (I once did a decade of biographies). Before us are areas of reading we haven’t yet ventured into (maybe sci-fi is somewhere in my future). The fact that most readers seldom step outside their circle is neither our fault nor the writer’s.
A reader reacts to what he reads through the veil of his own experiences, and those things can’t be transferred to someone else. We’ve all given a book we loved to a friend who returned it later with an embarrassed air, maybe even with the admission he didn’t finish it. How did your friend miss the brilliance you saw in those words?
As we lean into a book, we can’t keep ourselves from falling between the pages. Some books we know are good--those with awards and great acclaim--leave us cold, while books the world hardly notices can strike a chord that makes us look for more from that author. I stopped reading The Gold Finch halfway through. Having often dealt with teenagers who’d lost their way in the world, it was painful to see the protagonist go through page after page of self-destructive agony. A book I saw as amazing, The Poisonwood Bible, brought yawns and even negative responses from my friends. The book spoke to me at that point in my life. Either it didn’t speak to them or it said things they didn’t want to hear.
Recently, a friend recommended All the Light We Cannot See, so I read it. She put it into her top five all-time books, and when I finished it, I thought, “Yes, that was a good read.” Recently, however, I found The Nightingale: same era, same location. That one knocked my socks off in a way the other didn’t.
Recommending books is an art, so I don’t envy the bookstore clerk who gets to tell me what I should read next. I’m sure they learn not to be offended when customers refuse their suggestions. Likewise, you shouldn’t be offended when a friend doesn’t get from a book what you got. The writer is no doubt talented; there are plenty of accomplished writers out there. The plot is probably okay, too--at least for some readers. It’s how the reader interacts with the author and the story that determines whether a book will go on his list of good reads and everybody’s “Best Books Ever” list is different.
How about you? Where do you get your book suggestions?
Enjoyed what Peg Herring had to say? Please check out her books!
No matter what you’re selling, the only thing that changes on “The Road to a Sale” is the product. Sell me on you, not your product, FIRST!
I love to hear from aspiring and Indie authors. I love being the first to discover an up-and-coming author, but ... befriend me before you attempt to SELL me!
After twenty-two years in sales and marketing, I discovered that no matter what I’m selling, the rules never change. If you are willing to listen, I would like to share that thoroughfare with my author friends using Twitter and Facebook vernacular. And I’m not sure, but since a large portion of our readership consists of readers, I think they might enjoy this post too. If not … if you’re only interested in today’s specials, simply help yourself around our page. We tried to make it easy to navigate. We don’t even make you subscribe to read our posts or see our deals. So please make yourself at home.
Okay, now, back to the steps of selling your product … respectfully!
Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Pinterest ... wherever you find potential clients and purchasers of your wares. Follow people who share your interests. DO NOT use auto-follow programs. You want real friends. Believe me, you can make some real friends and amazing connections in the cyber world.
Proper meet and greet is essential. Eye contact and a friendly handshake in the real world might equate to an actual “thank you for following” in the cyber world without an immediate attempt to sell your product. But if you’re like me, and you get a lot of followers to keep up with, I’m sure readers understand. Again, just remember not to SPAM them with direct messages to buy something. Nothing upsets me more on Twitter than someone who doesn't follow me back, but then DMs me to check out their book or website. Grrrrr....
This step never supersedes "introduction," hence my hatred of auto DMs. A profile picture and bio are essential; don’t make me guess who you are. If you want to connect with me because I shared a book or a review, like my posts, start a conversation ...
Qualify needs and wants:
Have an interest in me. Find out who I am and what I like. If you’re a horror writer and I like romance, I’m probably not interested. That doesn’t mean we cannot learn something from each other, but why lose a potential friend/buyer because you’re trying to hard-sell me something I don’t want.
Presentation of product:
Now that you know me, show me what you have to offer. Your blog or interview may now be of interest. It gives me a sample of who you are, how you write, and whether I might want to buy. How do you do this? It's that interacting thing again. Believe me, if you stop by my sites and interact with me, I will want to go look at your sites.
Demonstration of product:
Now that we know each other and have the same interests, you can actually share a sample of your work. Freebies are great, links to your samples are wonderful too. And remember, you don’t need to SPAM me the same message a hundred times a day. A pinned tweet or pinned Facebook post works well.
Close the sale:
I’ve read your sample, and I love it. Now make sure you tell me where and how I can purchase. CHECK THOSE LINKS! If the link you provided is broken, more than likely I’m not going to jump through hoops to find you.
Pretty easy nowadays. I should be able to find you if you provide me with a working link. However, maybe I want something more personal. If I won a giveaway on your page and you say you are going to send me a prize or a personally signed product, do it quickly, don’t wait. Don’t make me ask. More than likely I won’t ask. I just won’t play again.
You might not be able to do this in every situation, but if you know I purchased your product, follow up with me. I know authors aren’t supposed to comment on Amazon or Goodreads; but if a reader posts a link on Twitter, I think it’s okay to thank them and retweet it. If a reader makes a comment on your website, THANK THEM. There are no excuses not to do this one. They came to your website. Unless you’re Nicholas Sparks and are getting thousands of comments a day, I see no reason that when someone comes to your home that you shouldn’t be hospitable. Remember, as a reader of your book, I am now your best form of advertising. Most paid advertising lasts a day. Referrals never end.
Finally, if you make it on the bestselling list because of your fans, thank them! Believe it or not, you did not make it as a bestselling author simply because you wrote a great book. Plenty of great books never make it anywhere. You made it because you paid for awesome advertising and/or because readers shared your book.
If you disagree with my list, that’s okay. But, I read a lot more books than I write, so I tend to think of myself as a professional reader.
Thanks for reading. Please feel free to start a conversation at one of my online homes. I assure you I will respond. ;)
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