Sunday Salon: What makes you decide to buy a book?

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This was a question posed on the Booksnob blog, by the guest poster Mary Losure that I thought I would share with yourselves.

As part of a longer post Mary asks two fundamental questions

What, that you have read online, makes you decide buy a book? and Does a book trailer ever get you to buy a book?

My answers to both questions are as follows:

  • I often take part in Librarything‘s monthly Early Reviewer piece and where I don’t know the author, I go purely on the blurb provided. Where a second or third book from the same author appears in a subsequent batch (and I’ve liked the previous books), I put my name forward for that.
  • I have previously taken part in Goodreads giveaways (similar selection process to the above) but dont anymore as I only received perhaps 1 out of every 30 books I put my name down for. In the end I simply wasn’t getting results anywhere near the effort I was putting in considering and then putting my name forward
  • I am a netgalley reader, and put my name down for pre-release books there, again based primarily on the blurb. I rarely know much about the author.  I have ended up reading several series to completion after picking up the first book.
  • My friends who use bookcrossing recommend books to me, will send me a book that I’ve currently got listed on my wishlist, or I pick up a book based on the blurb on the back at one of our monthly meetings.
  • Publishers, and some authors contact me via twitter (@brumnordie) or my blog (https://nordie.wordpress.com) and ask me to review a specific book.
  • Then there are those books I pick up from authors or publishers I have been reading for years (Terry Pratchett, Jasper Fforde, Neil Gaiman, Jonathon Kellerman, Persephone publishers etc) that  will pick up because I like their work and want to read their next in a series.
  • I don’t watch trailers. Like vlogging, it’s not something I go searching for and I didnt even know it was an option! It certainly doesn’t influence my buying behaviour. If I find a writer’s blog or twitter, it’s usually AFTER I’ve read the book, and if I’ve written a good review, I let them know and thank them
  • I follow book bloggers and see what other people are reading then blogging/tweeting about. Sometimes I’ll add a book to a wishlist but it needs to be a good promote – I have so many books to read at the moment, I dont have much space to take on more books!
  • So it’s the blurb (maybe the cover as well), followed by recommendations from people I know. My advice: write the best book possible, get good blurb written and then get people reading/talking about it! (everything else is just *stuff*)

So, how do you decide which books to buy?

 

Sunday Salon: I’m a #bookblogger, bring on the books!

The Sunday Salon badgeThis post has been written because of a random tweet I found from Lisa Pottgen (@destinyisntfree) which went “There’s been too much “start a book blog, get free books” That’s really not how it works.”

One of the mistakes any new book blogger can make is “I’m now a book blogger, people are now going to give me free books! I don’t have to buy another book in my life!”.  To a certain extent, this is true – but it is a double-edged sword and it doesn’t come without some hard work.

Quantity does not mean Quality

The “big hitters” (those people you would have previously paid money for their books) rarely give their books out for free, and then generally only to those people “in the know”. You will get approached with offers of free books – but usually from smaller, less well-known authors who you have never heard of before.  It’s a Caveat Emptor moment here: some can be fab, some less so. Without some fairly strict rules – the first one is to give yourself permission to say “no” – you can be bogged down with books you don’t really enjoy and can be burned out fairly quickly.

It is a case of being selective

You do have to take a chance with some authors – it’s the same as going into a bookshop and picking up an author you’ve never read before.  Don’t accept a book simply because you’ve been offered it. Accept it only if you think you’re going to give it a reasonable review (the “reasonable” review is even more important if it turns out you didn’t like the book itself).

There are only so many hours in the day, into which you need to read the book, write/record the review, publish it, tell people about it. Ironically, being a book blogger means you probably spend less time reading books than you did before.

Getting the types of books you want takes effort.

It’s not a case of build it and they will come. You have to establish relationships with authors, publishers, websites like Netgalley and Edelweiss and be prepared to read the books and write the reviews. Then tell people about the review. If your first foray into getting a free copy of a book from a publisher is to go to up and say “gizza a copy?”, it  rarely works. You are likely to be ignored at best. There is a person at the other end of that email address/twitter name, and they need to be treated as one. Build up a relationship. Don’t go in always expecting a book in return for every interaction. Have conversations, answer quizzes and polls, put the hard work in, and then you *may* be rewarded.

Go to events, such as book signings, author interviews, readings etc. There are a number of authors I read for who I met several times before I started reading their books. Knowing the author (and hearing their books read out loud) will give you a good indication as to whether you’d like their work before committing to reading it.

Build yourself a review policy – it’s unlikely to be perfect on the first go and may take years to develop.  Often you know what you won’t do only when you get asked to do it (I’ve been asked to review a book for free – after I’ve paid full purchase price for it – no thanks!).

Your Online Presence

Have an online presence and keep it up to date. Publish reviews as often as you can, wherever you can. Hang around on twitter/facebook/google+.  Publishers are more likely (but not guaranteed) to take you seriously if you actually tell people about books for no better reason than you want to. Follow and comment on other people’s blogs both inside and outside your niche.

Attend online events such as Bloggiesta (Several times a year), ArmchairBEA (once a year), Blogtacular (weekly online chats as well as annual UK events)

I’ve done it myself

Netgalley and Edelweiss (along with sites like Librarything) can be lethal to people who request books to read. It is common to be a kid in a candy store on sites like this and do a glut of requests for books, forgetting that you will have to actually read the book and review it.  It took me over a year to learn to control the desire to request everything on Netgalley and work on getting my read to request ratio in a much more healthy state.  It’s still a long way off what it should be – it’s currently 54% when it should be closer to 80% and it’s all my fault for requesting too many books and not reviewing them fast enough.

Conclusion

The world owes you nothing and it certainly doesn’t owe you free stuff. Everything comes at a cost, usually time. Time to read, time to write, time to interact….hopefully the above post will give you some indication as to the work involved, even in my small little corner of the tinterweb!

So, constant reader, does any of this resonate with you? Where are you in your blogging journey? Have you just started out? are you several years in, reading this post and shaking your head?

 

 

 

Sunday Salon: Lending books – share your horror stories

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I am known to my friends and family as being quite a reader – I doubt that my living space will ever be empty of reading material. As such, I am often asked to

  1. recommend a book (err, read my reviews here)
  2. lend books out
  3. use my contacts to get rid of books people have finished with.

In my apartment, I have several areas, currently overflowing with books, but there is some form of method in my madness in how things are stored, especially for those books that I’m willing – or not – to lend out.

I have a shelf of books in my place that is the “do not lend” shelf. People know not to ask for books on that shelf, as it’ll be a “No”. These are the hardbacks (usually Terry Pratchett),  the Persephone Greys (definitely a no); etc etc.

There is another shelf of books that are generally Bookcrossing books that I have yet to read. These books I have no problem in lending them out – as long as I get them back (because I haven’t read them yet!). Unfortunately, some have gone out, only for them never to be seen again. Apparently because “I thought I could put them straight to the Charity Shop” – even though I had specifically said I WANT THIS BACK. Needless to say, these people now only get to pick from the crate in the corner – this is the “I have no problem never getting back” pile – usually, Bookcrossing books that were due for release anyway, never to be seen again….It’s this bucket that ultimately gets the books covered by #3 above!

I’ve also been asked by someone to read a new acquisition before I’d had the chance to read it myself. I handed it over (knowing I wouldn’t be reading it for a while) with the proviso that I’d like it back when finished with, so I could read it myself.  It was handed back minutes later with a “well if you wanted to read it yourself you should have given this copy over and brought yourself another copy”.  Errr, what? buy a second copy of a book I’d already brought so that you could “borrow” the first one? Especially when there’s already a copy of the same book in your house? No, you’re ok, ta.

There was one specific person I used to lend my Terry Pratchett books to – it was a constant conversation and (almost) argument that he would take the dust jackets off whilst he read them. My view was that the jackets were there to protect the book, his that the jackets were works of art in their own right, so needed to be protected as much as the books. I still lent him the books, and they still came back ok, so we must have agreed somewhere along the line!

So, constant reader, do you have any nightmare/pet peeves when it comes to lending books to people?

 

 

Sunday Salon: Would you Rather?

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Not entirely sure how I came across these questions (think it was a random Facebook “share” one dodgy Friday Night!).  The original questions were taken from Pretty Purple Polka Dots.The overarching question is: WOULD YOU RATHER…?

1. Read only trilogies or stand alone stories?

Normally I read standalones, although I do read multiple books in a series. Ngaio Marsh and Agatha Christie have their respective detectives, there’s things like the Winemaker detective, as well as the series by the likes of Erica Ridley

2. Read only male or female authors?

I seem to be reading mainly female authors, both for romances and historical fiction/golden age crime. I am trying to balance upon the authors and genres as time goes by, but I’m not there yet.  One day I might actually analyse my bookshelves and do a break down.

3. Shop at bookshops or Amazon?

I prefer shopping at and supporting physical book shops.  We don’t have “true” independent bookshops where I live and work, so I try to support those non-Amazon shops that have a presence on the High Street.  I check out their website for the books I want – not always new releases – and do a “click and collect” so that I physically go into a store and interact with the staff. I follow the local store on twitter and try to attend events where I can make it, such as author and book events.  I rarely shop at Amazon any more and then generally when people give me gift vouchers as presents.  I can’t remember when I paid Amazon for a book. I do however piggyback on their technology to get ebooks delivered to my iPad.

4. All books become films or TV shows?

The books I like are rarely short, so tend to work better as TV shows, where multiple episodes can expand and complete the story more fully. I have always enjoyed Jane Eyre better as a series, compared to the multiple films that have been made over the years. Pride and Prejudice and Middlemarch have always worked well as a series, and the former not great as a film.

Of course there are exceptions – Shawshank Redemption was a Stephen King short, as was Carrie. Blade Runner was a Phillip K Dick short, Fahrenheit 451 was a Bradbury short. See the theme?  The shorts do well as films, the longer ones do well as TV shows.

5. Read five pages a day or five books a week?

At the moment it seems to be five pages a day if I’m lucky. Gone are the days I’d read one or more books in a week! (though it can be done if I try!)

6. Be a professional reviewer or author?

One day I would like to be paid for the reviews I do – if that makes me a professional reviewer, then so be it. Although at the moment I do it as a hobby because that means I can read the books I want at the rate I want.  If I went professional it would then become a job and I’d have to read books that I wouldn’t necessarily enjoy, which would instantly make it a job and a chore.

7. Only read your top 20 books, or only ever read new books?

At the moment, I only seem to be reading new books, so it would have to be the latter. Whilst I would miss my top 20, I like to see the changes and find new talent.  I have read so many good “new to me” authors in the last few years, it would be a shame to miss out on all that new good stuff!

8. Be a librarian or a book seller?

I’d prefer to be a bookseller. I’d like to see the new books come in and also to be able to guide people to finding the book they want or need. I’m sure that public librarians can do the same, but are restricted by budgets more than booksellers.

9. Only read your favourite genre, or read every genre except your favourite?

I don’t have any one favourite genre and what I like to read tends to change, so it would be the latter in my case.

10. Only read physical books or only read e books?

Two years reading ebooks, and I’m coming back to physical books (although ebooks are easier if dining out on one’s own)

Sunday Salon: Bookcase Spring Clean

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One of the big problems for book lovers is that we tend to keep books for longer than we need, and are forever adding more to the pile. Books end up in piles everywhere – up the stairs, on bedside tables, on the floor and against the wall, and in my situation – even in boxes in cupboards! Pretty much anywhere but the bookshelves.

In order to not become a hoarder that appears on a Channel 5 documentary, it is necessary to occasionally get rid of some by one way or another.

When clearing your bookshelves, the questions you have to ask yourself depends on the nature of your bookshelves. For instance, my books are pretty much split into two camps: Those I will never get rid of and those I will get rid of (but I haven’t decided when). It is this second pile of books that I concentrate on, as I have already decided not to get rid of the other pile.  Some people not long out of university may well have textbooks that could be sold (ebay or university second-hand shops) if they’re still relevant.

So I look at a book in the to go pile and ask some questions:Book Buffet Table

  • Have I read this book yet? Did I love it enough to keep it? If “Yes” and “Yes” then it goes over to the “keep” pile. If “Yes” and “no” then it’s in the “go” pile.
  • Do I still want to read this book? Am I likely to read this book in the near future? If “no” to either then it goes in the “go” pile.
  • Have I started this book, failed to finish, and unlikely to attempt to go again? If this is the case, then it goes.

For those in the “to go” pile, there’s a number of ways I get rid of them.

  • Give them to family members (mine primarily go to my sister)
  • Add them to Bookcrossing, and then give to friends, or wild release them.
  • When I was moving country a few years back, I donated books to my school library and to charity shops.

Getting rid of books gets easier the more you do it – for me registering a book on bookcrossing is no longer about looking for a “catch”, and is simply a nice way of finding out what happens to a book once it leaves my shelves.

After an “intervention” by my friends a few years ago, my books were down to one set of shelves, which were then ordered into general themes (e.g. all the same author, same genre).  The last few years, however, have seen me read mainly ebooks, which has meant that whilst I am taking more books into the house, not as many are going out.  This year I am making the effort to read more physical books, and getting around to releasing them. This is slow going, but I am getting there.

So how about you? Have you recently cleared out your bookcase, or are you overdue for a book spring clean? What do you think of my tips, and do you have any of your own?

 

Sunday Salon: Top 8 reasons not to stay on a blog

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 Is there anything that makes you not return to a blog or not want to look at it even for the first time?

There are loads that put me off a blog! In no particular order:

  1. Autoplay music (with no chance to turn it off). Your choice of music is rarely the same as mine. I may well have something else playing whilst I browse the internet, and your music will interfere with mine.
  2. Autoplay videos – similar to above, mainly because it will interrupt or stop what else I’m playing. I’m playing my stuff because I’ve CHOSEN to play it. Don’t force your mess onto me.
  3. Badly rendering layouts – not all of us use Chrome on a laptop, I often use Firefox for instance. What renders perfectly on one often doesn’t render well on another.  This isn’t just blogs – I’ve seen it on business websites as well
  4. Pale blue text on brown backgrounds etc – in other words, illegible to the visually impaired. It’s nice to be different and stand out, but if I have a migraine starting 10 seconds into looking at your blog, then I’m off, sorry.
  5. Bad spelling and bad grammar. For example, I come across a lot of book blogs. I like to think that the more you read, the more you learn about sentence structure, spelling etc.  I have a spell checker and I am making use of systems such as Grammarly. There is no excuse for having a badly spelt blog with poor grammar. No, Laziness is not a decent excuse.
  6. A cluttered layout. If I have to spend time finding your content in between all the adverts and the external links, then I don’t want to know.  It means that you are more interested in revenue over content and it means I’m off elsewhere as I’m more interested in finding out what people have to say.
  7. A cluttered or rambling post. Posts don’t have to be long – in fact, some of the best and most useful posts can be short. If it looks like the writer has spent little time on the post, with ideas badly presented and all over the place, then again, I’m off.   This indicates a number of things from the author:
    • Slapdash writing (write once, then publish immediately).  I will go through multiple versions of a post in order to be satisfied with it. I will move words, sentences and paragraphs around. I’ll come to it days or weeks later for grammar checks. I am certainly not a “write once, publish fast” kinda girl – and I like to think you can spot it if I have!
    • A lack of imagination. When I read reviews of books, sometimes they’re only two or three sentences long (“I liked this, the lead character was haught!”). If you’re going to write a blog post, at least pretend you’ve put some thought into it and were paying attention to the book!  What was the story about? Why should I read this book (or avoid it?). If you’re going to get heavy, were there any subtexts, substories we should look out for?  On the other hand, some short reviews can be spot on, and show that the writer has put some effort into it (I can’t remember who this is attributed to, but there’s the note: Sorry for the  long letter, I didn’t have time to write you something shorter. In other words: brevity can take effort.)
    • A lack of pride – why would you put something like that out for other people to look at?
  8. I look to see how you allow for comments. I’m not a huge fan of Disqus and I’ve had problems using Blogger (with Captcha) when using Firefox. If you require me to use another browser or another system to comment on your blog, then I’m unlikely to engage you on the one post, and unlikely ever to come to your blog again.

Those are the things I’ve thought off – and I’m sure that I’ve missed some – do you have anything else that turns you off about a blog?

 

 

Sunday Salon: Reading on Sunny days and Rainy Days

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I have a certain level of guilt about being inside. I grew up in 1970s England to Irish parents. As soon as the weather was “decent” (i.e. “not dark, not raining”) it was certainly a case of “get outside and play”. There was certainly no problem with reading – in fact, I was able to read and write before I went to school and I can never remember not being able to read – but being outside was certainly encouraged, for the rarity in decent weather if nothing else.

Therefore as an adult, choosing to be inside when the sun is shining is certainly a great source of Catholic Guilt. If it’s sunny, you’re outside, it’s that simple. You may go outside to read, that’s ok. It might be sunny and bloody freezing when you stop for more than 2 seconds but that’s not the point

If it’s a rainy day, I generally stay inside and do stuff – most but not all of it reading. I might be doing the dreaded housework, or the ironing etc. Again the guilt factor will prevent me from spending ALL of the day reading (or sewing or watching TV…). I can hear the internal voice going “how can you sit there and read when you know the place needs a dust?!”. Most of the time I can ignore the voice, but sometimes I can’t!

 

So what about you, constant reader? Do you read more on a rainy day or abandon everything else on a gorgeous day so you can be outside?