Wednesday, April 8, 2009

So many wonderful choices, how do I choose???

It's now officially Spring Break starting today (or a truncated version of it, thanks Wake County scheduling...), and my wife and I are doing as much recharging of the batteries as possible. As such, I got nothin' for you guys.

So I figured I would find out a little about your process as readers for those writers out there hoping to woo you. How do you choose which books to read, to buy? What process, if any, do you go through? And what are the factors that may operate on your subconscious when you're looking?

See, I used to go with the Bestsellers only. I know, I know, but bear with me, okay? I was always playing sports, and didn't think I had time for reading when I could just as easily watch a movie in what free time I had between teaching and grading. So I didn't pick up a book unless it had hit the list. I guess I figured, "If everyone else liked it, must be good enough to occupy my time too."

I have a feeling a lot of the writers I know that read this blog are cringing or shaking their heads. Believe me, I'm embarrassed enough already, I promise.

I didn't know how fickle the industry, and the public, could be. So when I thought I'd give writing another try after years of beating myself up (see the high school writing teacher post for more details), I just naturally started without really having read much outside of Michael Connelly, Stephen King, Michael Crichton, and Jeffery Deaver.

The first version sucked. I mean REALLY sucked.

Then I found Miss Snark. And I started reading all over the web. I discovered a fantastic local writer - J.D. Rhoades, who was incredibly gracious and answered all kinds of newbie questions instead of turning up his nosethe way I figured any famous author would.

Then he directed me to another group of writers - the Murderati, which led to others - the First Offenders, the Outfit, the Kill Zone Authors, etc., and suddenly I had a shitload of new books to read before I started trying to revise my manuscript.

But the writing is what led me to Zoe Sharp, and Sean Chercover, and all the rest. I don't know that I would ever have found them otherwise.

And so what about you? How do you pick who is the next on your TBR pile? Is it as weird as my path? Even weirder?


Basil Sands said...

That's an interesting question. I know in my case I tend to go to the sites of my favorite authors (Forsythe, Follett, Higgins, and a few others) and look for books they recommend or go to Amazon and use the "Those who bought this also bought these" feature.

I will also do a web search of my library catalog then if I find something interesting google it to see what there is out there about it. Of course there are always recommendations from friends as well.

Even with such tactics though it is sometimes hard to find an author I really like and stick with them. Even harder is finding someone as good as the ones I like.

As both a reader and an author I struggle to find something that really grabs me and makes me want to read (or listen to the audiobook of) until the end. A handful of authors can keep me coming back, but finding that next Forsythe has been a challenge for me. Maybe that's why I started writing my own, because I couldn't find what I really liked in the existing military/action fiction.

Now, like you, I just need to figure out how to get folks to buy my stuff and see where I stand out there.

jnantz said...

And I wish that for you, Basil, I really do.

I never really thought about the Amazon "people who bought this also bought" thing. Might have to look into that.

Anonymous said...

Lately, I've found myself going by two methods: the first, I have a bunch of lists of 'essential' readings from various sources. I know I'll never get to most of those, because my library doesn't stock most of them. I've also been looking for books by people whose blogs I've been reading, or who I've seen on message boards. So you can probably guess my 'virtual' TBR pile is enormous (probably a couple hundred titles by now).

jnantz said...

Anon -
Yeah, I know that feeling. My list has grown so much I can't remember half of what's on it now. Well, since you like to pick up authors after reading their blogs, maybe one day you'll find Basil's or mine on a shelf somewhere. Better yet, maybe you'll pen your own and we'll be reading it!!

Lettera22 said...

Hi Jake:

I believe the best sellers list is a starting point for some. I used to read from the best sellers list too, however, I discovered despite the rave reviews by readers and the NYT Book Review, I often felt like I "missed" something because I didn't think the book was worth my time. One book on the list won the PEN/Faulkner award and though I thought it was well written, I was left shaking my head. Kind of like watching an esoteric foreign film with subtitles and hoping it will get better but it never does!

I read books ranging from mystery to historical non-fiction, romance to thrillers and when I find an author I like, I'm pretty loyal. I'll read everything on their book list.

Sometimes, my author friends will give me leads on other authors to check out. I use the Amazon feature Basil mentions in his post, "Those who bought these..." all the time. Also, check out the Amazon reader's who post their book lists on the sidebar. I read author blogs to get their backlist. I've ordered some books from the authors who blog on Murderati too.

Ont thing I've noticed over the past couple of years is that as I read, I'm analyzing the the author sets up a scene, the pacing, character motivation, etc., and it definitely takes away from the "pleasure" of reading.

Enjoy your Spring Break!

jnantz said...

I know exactly what you mean. I've gotten a much more critical eye when reading now, and it does spoil a tiny bit of the experience (too bad I can't seem to find the stuff that doesn't work as well in my own work, huh?).

Still, I've found that the really good ones (which covers most of the people I read) are always able to ellicit the emotional responses I'm sure they intended.

Thanks for the well-wishes, Break was very nice (although short...grumblegrumble).