How can we improve "the match"?
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Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
(you probably know the rest of Frost’s famous poem)
5-stars! Loved it. Vivid imagery. I felt the cold, the uncertainty, and the desolation. Highly recommended!
2-stars. Terrible. Where were these woods? What types of trees grew there? How far away was the village? Was the author a friend of the land owner? How long had he lived in the area? This whole thing left me with more questions than answers.
Thank you for reading this far.
I would like to explore the challenge authors encounter trying to get their books into the “right hands.”
While we can all acknowledge that a book will never please all the people all the time, is there a method for helping readers find books that match up with their likes, interests, and other factors? I have tried plot descriptions, caveats, major samples of the book (i.e., first fifty pages) and then I see a review that starts with “I don’t like these types of books.” In my last give-away, I linked potential readers to a website with an interview with me on how I employ minimalist story-telling techniques to personalize the reading experience. I don’t think that worked.
Any ideas? This is a particularly vexing issue in the LibraryThing give-away program. Perhaps some of the review-related issues are the result of readers not wanting to write a review because they did not enjoy the type of book received or the style of writing employed.
I was very interested in your idea of trying to find a method for finding books that match up with readers' likes. Tastes change over the years and that will no doubt cause problems. Going purely by myself, in my teens I read books like Sudden, all the Agatha Christie books; in my twenties historical biograpies; in my thirties Terry Pratchett (especially "Mort" and "Interesting Times") and Lawrence Durrell with his "Alexandria Quartet" (my most favourite book), who I still love to read even though the latter has unfortunately subsequently died, and I just adored all the Harry Potter books later on. So my style of finding books is rather eclectic now. I can browse through airport bookstores and just buy something purely because I like the look of the cover. A typical example was "Grains of Sand" by Martin Buckley just because it had a sand dune on the cover and I used to work in Saudi Arabia. The book incidentally was excellent! An odyssey around the world's deserts. I very rarely search for a new book unless it is recommended nowadays. I'm reading a recently published book by Isabelle Rivère in French (well I do live in France even though I'm from London) on Elizabeth II. I bought this just because ther author was interviewed on television and it sounded good. I also read a book recently called "The Last Unicorn" by Peter Beagle purely because I had written a book on teenagers in space with space unicorns last year. I basicaly just don't know what my likes are because I'm changeable like the wind at the moment. Too involved with the thought of buying a snazzy telescope as I love the planets and the fact that it is fabulous here in the Pyrenees to do just that. Taste also change possibly with the passing of time and also because, in my case, I'm doing too many translations....thus too many words....
It is tough to break the ice, as you know. I am a relatively "new" reader, just having been retired and able to delve into heretofore unknown genres after a lifetime of career-related journal reading and upkeep. But here's what I think I'm seeing from my reading groups, my online resources such as LT and GR, and personal contacts with friends most of who are teachers or scientists.
There are recreational readers such as myself. I find many of these to be a bit "lazy" and who avoid anything intellectual that requires critical thinking - topics such as politics, economics, science, etc. Others read to confirm existing beliefs and biases - political, religion, etc. but avoid conflict or alternate perspectives. Many will find a comfortable genre and stick to one author such as Clancy, Patterson, etc. and read the flood of outpouring from those and similar sources. Many are highly influenced by massive advertising campaigns or display racks in brick and mortar stores. In short, there are not many truly adventurous readers who will break away from well-worn pig trails and take a chance on a new name.
Ratings on popular authors or themes are therefore inflated to some degree from adoring fans who lack some degree of objectivity. If you find a vampire fan, for example, they will rate virtually all vampire books at 4-5 stars, whereas a reader of more classical fare - say Mary Shelley or Bram Stoker - would likely rate them 2-3 stars. So readers seeking comfortable or familiar genres will see inflated ratings for highly advertised books which push them ahead of books with lower reader encounters. This makes it tough for new authors to break into the stream, and publishers do little to help the newcomers. In other words, a Tom Clancy novel is not a financial risk compared to a little known name.
I've mentioned my own feelings elsewhere on LT about readers who accept free pre-release books and then either refuse or feel no obligation to review anything they read if they jolly well don't want to. And of course they have a right to their opinions and there are no rules or laws requiring them to do so, moral and ethical considerations notwithstanding. I've been flamed several times here in the forums and I don't want to go through that again. I'll do what I feel is right while they collect free libraries they don't like or don't read or just fail to review. Typically, my reviews are limited to a few sentences or a paragraph and control no spoilers, just an overview of the material (especially if it is not implicit in the title), and my reaction to the style, prose, plot, complexity, realism or whatever light turns on for me. If I don't like something, I say so. Fortunately (or not) most of my reading has been very positive and my median ratings are quite high, but I'd like to think that's from more careful selection rather than from an inflated rating system. I don't have time to read poor books, so I don't take chances on many of them.
I have drastically reduced my own solicitation of pre-release books. I used to enjoy getting books for "free" since I intend to read every one, and have to date. But as my reading experience and background develops, I also feel a bit more of an obligation to help authors understand what I liked or didn't like about their work. That translates into a bit more pressure in what I write, and that takes some of the fun out of it.
So for me to solicit a book, it has to be something that shows me some originality and a promise of value for my time (and money). I don't want another vampire novel, another zombie book, another fantasy quest (although there are some great ones out there - Tolkien, etc.). I appreciate well researched historical novels, history, science, science fiction, politics, philosophy or a good mystery. How do I pick my reading lists? Mostly from reviews, ratings and recommendations.
I wish I could tell you what triggers my interest in a book. I do check an author's history, background and credentials, although that's not always a guarantee of competence. What did (s)he write and how was it received? What does (s)he read and how did (s)he rate them? Did the author just pop up on LT this month with a new book or has (s)he been around and part of the community for a while? Sometimes it's an impulse decision - a change of pace from one genre to another.
So, darned if I know what to tell you, DABlankenship. Keep writing good stuff and give it some time. We are unfortunately being flooded with a massive influx of self-published books, perhaps due to the poor economy, written by people with no authorship background and marginal talent seeking a few dollars to supplement a dwindling income perhaps. I pass up 95% of the MG titles here on LT because the subject matter doesn't interest me or because I don't feel qualified to review them.
Sounds like you have been a life-long reader who has had some great authors to nurture your reading desires. I know from other threads in LT that a book’s cover is often the initial point of attraction/repulsion for a book. Some people have mentioned that even the font used for printing the title on the cover can be a deciding factor in a decision to pick up the book or leave it on the shelf.
Thanks for your comments. I believe one of the overarching challenges for authors today is to adapt to the next generation of eBook readers who want to read the book, watch television, and text-message all at the same time. I suppose some fiction can be read without tracking the details; however, I cannot conceive of a book being engrossing and ignorable at the same time.
Barnes & Noble’s marketing people believe the decision to buy a book is clenched in eight seconds and the majority of people will buy the book they pick up if they read a few sentences inside the book.
I really appreciate your commitment to reviewing the books you receive through LT’s give-away programs. Being on the author-side of that transaction, I have never felt there is any confusion in the words “Recipient is asked to provide a review in exchange for this book.” Though as you point out, there are a few people who find the idea contentious.
In my last (and final) give away, I offered twenty-five copies of The Scoloderus Conspiracy in soft cover. I explained in almost pain-staking detail that it is a “cerebral” book dealing with ideas and plots within plots, I linked potential requesters to reviews, a synopsis, the first fifty pages, and to an interview I gave on the book for Authors Den reviewer Ellen M George. In that interview, I explained my minimalist writing style and my desire to thoroughly engage readers in co-constructing the story. At the time, I thought that if I provided sufficient information, people requesting the book would know it is not the typical trade paperback with “shoot em up” action and car chases. A few readers read and appreciated the book, and a few readers were simply not a good fit with the book. Perhaps, if an LT member requesting a book would write 50 to 100 words on why they think they would like the book and the publisher/author could use that information to rationally select recipients, if might change the process toward a more meaningful use of resources. What do you think?
Perhaps, if an LT member requesting a book would write 50 to 100 words on why they think they would like the book and the publisher/author could use that information to rationally select recipients, if might change the process toward a more meaningful use of resources. What do you think?
Well, if you don't want anyone to ask for your book, that might work. I'm trying to think of an author for an ARC of whose book I would write an essay. Hmm, nope, can't think of any.
>5 I'm trying to think of an author for an ARC of whose book I would write an essay. Hmm, nope, can't think of any.
So it would probably work, right? If your disdain inhibits you from writing two sentences indicating a desire for the book, then certainly you do not want a book and that would help sort you out from those who do want a book.
Yeah, I think asking people to explain why they want to read the book is a good idea. You can do that via a thread in this group, and then choose a few entrants to send the book to.
>3 I disagree with your identification of "lazy" readers (those who avoid books that require critical thinking) with those who don't want to take a chance on a new author. If anything, I'd think that people who read exclusively in one genre will be more likely to run out of books in that genre and be willing to try something new.
I also think that describing the type of readers you want and the type of books that are similar to yours, rather than just listing who you don't want reading your book and why you think all the other books are mindless trash, might be more effective. (I certainly would not say the typical trade paperback is full of shoot-em-up action and car chases - I can't think of even one that meets that description, since car chases are a rather visual thing and wouldn't translate well to text (isn't there an Eddie Izzard bit about that?), but perhaps I frequent different bookstores from DABlankinship).
No, I might want to read a book, but I think it is the height of arrogance for an author to be so condescending to potential readers as to require an essay. Most of us here, anyway, are no longer in high school.
>9 "Essay" seems like a pretty strong word to describe a 50-100 word explanation of why you want to read the book. I certainly wouldn't mind writing two or three sentences about a book that I wanted to read. I agree with DABlankinship that your strong response demonstrates what a good selection mechanism it would be: if people aren't even interested enough in the book to devote two minutes to explaining why they want to read it, what are the chances that they'd actually put in the time to read it and then write a thoughtful review?
(Note that by a rough count, the paragraph that I just wrote is 95 words. Not what I'd consider an essay by any means.)
It's the condescension that irks. He's basically saying to prospective readers, "Prove to me that you're good enough to read my book." I don't care if he's Willy the Shake. That's a counterproductive attitude for someone who claims to want readers.
>9 I think it is the height of arrogance for an author to be so condescending to potential readers as to require an essay.
Then this two sentence thing would also help you identify arrogant authors. Do you like or dislike arrogant authors? If you avoid arrogant authors, then this solution is sounding more and more effective and something you should be supporting.
Would the publisher also be arrogant for wanting to have a little insight as to why someone wants them to send a free book, postage paid?
I don't think it's condescending to look for the best readers for the book. I know there are lots of people who will just request everything that's offered, regardless of how much they're interested in it--someone I know in real life does this with ER. If I have the chance to put in a minimal bit of effort that will greatly increase my chances of receiving a book I want, I see that as a good thing.
The give away programs present two situations that are troublesome from the perspective of publishers and authors.
The "click everything" approach that leads to people being inundated with books and never getting to the point of reading the book and writing a review. When I have posted comments on LT members' pages to let them know they won a book I have counted as many as fifteen other publishers/authors leaving their congratulatory comments. Typically, toward the bottom of the list, there will be a large number of inquiries from up to a year ago asking when the member will be posting a review.
If someone will not write a 50 word explanation describing his or her interest in a book in exchange for a $15 to $20 expense to the publisher (btw that's making $0.30 to $0.40 per word - better pay than most authors), then giving them a book is not likely to yield any results.
>14 On the one hand, I agree with you about the giveaway programs. I think authors would do much better offering giveaways through this group, and selecting at least some of the winners manually, rather than doing a random lottery via Member Giveaways.
On the other hand, I disagree at least to a certain extent about the financial value that you attach to the process. In the case of an author whose work I already know and enjoy, then certainly, a free review copy has a value of $15 to $20. In the case of an unknown author, though, when I don't already have a high expectation that I'll enjoy the book, I also have to consider the time that I'll invest in it. It will probably take me at least five hours to read the book, for each of which I could reasonably expect to be compensated $15 to $20 if I were doing something else. When the reader is investing $100 of their time, suddenly the $20 book doesn't seem quite so generous.
I think it tends to balance out in the end: the number of books that reviewers receive for free and enjoy makes up for the time they occasionally have to spend struggling through a review book that has become a chore. But you do have to consider that the bargain goes both ways, and the provider of the free book isn't the only one making an investment in the process.
>15 To paraphrase Anton Ego in Ratatouille, "If I do not enjoy the book, I will not read it."
I give a book about a dozen pages to convince me it is worth my time. I've never written a scathing review of a book because it only means I didn't know when to set the book aside and pursue more interesting stories.
Distributing real books out to postal addresses is a real cost and while we rationalize it under marketing and promotion, when there is no result, it falls under "bad decisions."
My son and I are starting a winery. Wine (in our case Mead) is very easy to promote. People ask me when they can drop by for a glass or a bottle. They are even excited at the prospect of getting a "free" bottle to take home, with the only requirement that they share with a friend. Too bad books do not get the same treatment as wine.
Have a great day. It's time for happy hour here (today's choice is a 12% abv Show Mead made from late harvest Holly Honey).
Oh, people are also excited at the prospect of getting a free book. The issue is what happens when it turns out to be worse than expected. Would the distributor be satisfied if the reviewer stopped reading after a dozen pages? Would the reviewer feel that they had fulfilled their obligation? Should they write a review after stopping at that point?
Enjoy your happy hour!
I know people can be excited about getting a free book; however, they are not likely to be excited about reading the same book six times (i.e., a half-case of wine) or twelve times.
When I read the dozen or so pages of a book, it is usually before I have ordered it, bought it, or borrowed it. When I possess the book, it is because I am convinced it will be entertaining and I will read it. I have seen published reviews that report “I couldn’t finish this book, it was (fill in the blank).” I have also seen reviews in which the reviewer reports that he or she returned the book to the seller. As a purely personal decision, I would not write a review on a book I did not finish reading. If there were problems with the book (e.g., grammar, punctuation, layout, etc.) I would communicate privately with the author. I have only resorted to that action twice in the past ten years and in both cases the corrections were incorporated into the revised eBooks.
>18 Back to the OP, here's the problem. You put a lot of information out there so a discerning reader could find out more about you, your writing, and the book, before requesting it. And here's the error of your thinking -- you expected them to look at that other stuff!
People are lazy. Do I want a free book? Click yes. Do I want to do research about the author and book first? Too much work, click yes anyway.
I like the idea of 1-2 sentences on why you want the book. It would slow down the automatic clickers.
It would not solve the problem totally of people getting a book that's not for them. I've read a few book descriptions and thought the book sounded great. Unfortunately the description and blurbs seemed as if they were from a different book when I read the actual book. For example, I was trying to read a book by an independent author. I don't know if the author intentionally misled readers to get readers or if the author believed his own ego, but the book didn't even begin to live up to a tenth of the description!
Sometimes it's hard to please your target audience even if you think you've found them.
A couple of months ago there was a book on ER by an unfamiliar author in one of the genres I read advertised with an intriguing plot synopsis, elements and themes that I was excited to explore. After the initial "8 second" decision that it looked like just the kind of thing I would love, I paused because it was followed by a feeling tingling in my gut that despite the appealing synopsis it was not going to be what I wanted it to be.
I delayed several days debating whether to request it because I didn't know if it would be fair to the author if I went into it with those reservations and if, as I was expecting, it didn't live up to my expectations. (If this makes any sense. This is why I am not a writer myself.)
Eventually, I decided to go ahead and request it because I was interested, and what if it turned out to be great? Why shouldn't it be good? Wouldn't it be great to write a review that says, "this book delivers on its premise!" But sure enough, it didn't.
While a few reviewers agreed with me, for mostly similar reasons, in general the rest of the reviews for the book were positive because they were approaching the book from a different direction. The advertised elements were there, but only nominally. In my review I wrote: "I love secondary-world fantasy. I love YA lit. In fact, the idea ... is one I've seen before and wanted to read more about and is the main reason I wanted to read this book in the first place! So I'm not just disappointed, I'm kind of mad, because the author managed to make me un-believe a world & plot she didn't even have to sell me on."
So I am curious -- does that mean that I 'didn't get it?' Was I ever really a part of the target audience for this book? Where was the cause of the disconnect? Was it with me and my expectations, the author and her poor plot structure, or the misleading synopsis? Fellow readers, the next time I get that apprehensive feeling should I read the book anyway or pass it by no matter how enticing it seems? Authors, if it were your book would you rather I read or pass?
Edited to add: In the time it took me to write this monstrosity, #19 put it most succinctly into five sentences.
>19 & 20 - Thank you for the ideas and issues you have raised.
A book’s synopsis is typically the “first contact” a reader has with the story. My first novel is a speculative fiction tale (not science fiction) set in the future (hence, speculative). It focuses on a very bright professor, the leader of the country, the military, and a cunning and ruthless espionage team. The marketing people at the publishing house wrote up a synopsis and press releases about “daring romance” (it’s not that type of book) and called it science fiction. When I called them with my candid disapproval, they told me that “romance is selling right now.” I told them the synopsis would only anger those who bought the book for the romance and it would effectively drive away those who might be seeking a good “who the hell do you trust?” conspiracy thriller. I re-wrote the synopsis and sent it to them with the instructions that I don’t write romance or science fiction and let’s keep it that way.
How many of those misleading synopses have been drafted based on “what’s selling this week?” This disingenuous behavior on the part of authors and publishers can only frustrate readers and destroy what very little credibility remains for small presses or independent authors. Perhaps every book review should begin with, “This book’s description was/was not an accurate summary of this book.”
Once last tirade: the synopsis situation is rather like a winery putting a “Merlot” label on every bottle in the warehouse because Merlots are outselling Sauvignon Blancs.
I think trying to prevent certain people from reading a work takes away potential readers, plus it creates a wall between author and reader, as politicians have created a modern wall between themselves and their constituents. By creating the wall, it creates a sense of dissatisfaction among loyal readers, prevents new readers, and will alienate some readers, just to spite you for being so aloof.
I think you need to be willing to just put the book out there and let people read. Forget "the match" and just encourage people to read.
Gilroy, you wrote what I'm thinking. I don't peg myself in a particular genre, although I must for marketing purposes - I'm a writer/author. I don't read one particular genre, although I favor certain types over others. I'll try anything once - heck, I even read 50 Shades of Grey. I also read The Hunger Games trilogy, The Help, and I read Augustine and Thomas More, Barbara Tuchman and Justo Gonzalez. It's whatever interests me at the time and how much time I have and if I'm in the middle of writing something.
"I think you need to be willing to just put the book out there and let people read. Forget "the match" and just encourage people to read"
I think Gilroy put it perfectly. Writing is an art form, and as with all arts, there will be people who love you, hate you, or could care less. I don't think there is a way to avoid that, for it comes with the job.
CGiovanni, when you state "I think you need to be willing to just put the book out there and let people read". This gave me a certain mixed tingling sensation of excitement and dread when I read this.
I've been trying to get published for years, well eight in fact. I've written a book on counterfeit drugs and a masonic lodge, children's fairy tales, poetry and articles for magazines. I just had rejects galore for the books from literary agents and publishing houses in the UK for the books but I did manage to get an article published on "counterfeit drugs in the pharmaceutical industry" and "AIDS in South Africa" which pleased me no end.
So about two years ago I thought that I would have another go on a children's book; this time "Mistral's Race into Time" and when I finally found a publisher to publish it for me (waiting another ten months for the book to be published), to quote a trite phrase I was over the moon. I was going to be published. My....
I wish that it had never happened now. It's a small publishing house and my book is everywhere on line and in a few independant bookshops, lost amongst the shelves with the other books. I'm just an unknown and so no-one will see me. The ones that do see it is a problem as the cover shows a space unicorn flying away from a exploding planet which gives the idea that it is for 8-10 year olds. Various people who have purchased copies have told me that it is more for children round about 12 or so.
Sales trickled initially, now nine months since publication date and I'm really surprised that I haven't been remaindered yet. But who can see the book to view it on line or in the shops if they really cannot see it, if you know what I mean?
I was given twenty review copies when the book was published and I sent copies to David Cameron for his daughter, Carla Bruni for her son and to Julia Bradbury for her baby Zephyr (far too young to read it of course, perhaps with time if it has not been thrown out - and because Zephyr was one of the characters in my book), etc. and I received very nice replies but no mention of a review. I had a super review on Amazon.co.uk and several from others who read the book but I just wish now that I had never been published. Had a book signing in the UK last November but didn't sell that many copies. So...I would love to write another book but.....I still look at my book and think it is so good but obviously it isn't....
"I think you need to be willing to just put the book out there and let people read. Forget "the match" and just encourage people to read"
I don't want to put words in the DABlankinship's mouth, but I think you are missing the point. He was giving away copies to review and had some expectation that the people who requested a copy liked the genre, liked his style of writing, etc. If I wrote a book on hyperbolic geometry and you requested it even though you failed algebra, can you enjoy the book? Can you actually review the book? Did you have any real desire to have the book other than it was free? With MG, there is no way to match your book to people who are REALLY interested in YOUR book vs. the freeby requests.
This is a different situation than having the book published, having people buy the book, and then getting bad reviews. The people who BUY the book have a natural interest in the subject/genre and when money is involved, most people tend to go the extra mile to find out about the author/book before they buy the book.
Mistralia - welcome to the world of the majority of published authors. This unfortunately is a lot of our experiences. Don't let it discourage you. Something must have sparked to make you want to write. Keep at it.
If I wrote a book on hyperbolic geometry and you requested it even though you failed algebra, can you enjoy the book? Can you actually review the book?
Those who can, do. Those who can't... Review.
It would be the same as if you put it on a bookshelf at a store. Some people will buy a book just because the title is cool, because the cover looks awesome, or because they want to "appear" more intelligent to their visitors.
I knew someone who had books on quantum mechanics on their shelf. They had no dust, so I thought they read them. I asked the person about them, since I knew they had a degree in the Arts. Books were never opened. They were there to impress their parents! Spines still crackled when I picked one up to flip through it.
I had a friend who purchased all the Folio books because she thought that people would be impressed by the covers. Like you Gilroy I opened a few of them and they had never been looked at. As an aside I never loan books to friends. A good friend of mine, still a good friend even though the book, my Beloved War and Peace, was returned with ink, coffee and wine stains on it. Oh yes, she did apologise about the ripped page. Evidently she fell asleep whilst reading the book....
>26 Thank you for your observations.
Any publisher or author distributing free review copies of a book has a reasonable expectation that the review will reflect the merit of the book rather than the disappointment of a mismatch.
>28 People may buy and display books (or cars or boats or mink coats) in an effort to influence other’s opinions of them; however, that can certainly go askew the first time a friend asks a relevant question or probes the presumed knowledge. Shallowness and false pretenses are not limited to books.
I have not advocated restricting access to books; I do believe that any book will appeal to some people, others will be indifferent, and a small group will be pretentiously indignant. Curiously, that third group is often composed of new, perhaps struggling authors who use the review to promote themselves and to suggest they would have written a much better book. Perhaps they will someday; but, for now they have not.
I remain attracted to the idea that if a potential reader/reviewer wrote 50 to 100 words about his or her expectations of the book and if the publisher/author selected recipients from among those with the most realistic expectations, the review process would improve. I do not offer this as a way of rewarding the “best explanations,” rather for culling out misperceptions. I don’t write science fiction (that’s a crowded genre with plenty of talent), so if a potential reviewer wrote, “I like science fiction and your book looks interesting,” then I know they missed the opening description of “this speculative fiction thriller…” Similarly, anyone seeking steamy romance or horror would be profoundly disappointed in any of my stories. I do not want anyone to waste their time reading a book that is not fully engaging – indeed I believe
A great book is a captivating adventure.
It is a vacation for your mind.
It whisks you away from the mundane to experience new places and meet fascinating people; it is a journey without distance that begins and ends at your command.
(yep, I said that - go to www.tenparinc.com/d-a-blankinship/blankinship-quotations.htm)
I'd rather they get the book, find it a bad match, and state so, then to have them be "culled" from a group due to misconceptions.
For all you know, your best review may come from a misconception.
Just for your information - Some people use speculative fiction and science fiction interchangably. Others use Speculative Fiction to include Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror. Still others place it as its own category.
>31 – I appreciate your perspective and I am not trying to convert you. You have clearly articulated your position in favor of book availability and I assure you that I respect the integrity of those values. I agree that there is the possibility of a good review resulting from a misconception and I offer the possibility that misconceptions have and will continue to lead to misleading reviews and low ratings.
Thank you for pointing out that some people use speculative fiction and science fiction interchangeably. While science fiction may be properly subsumed under speculative fiction, the latter term tends to be the umbrella for several types of writing. The use of the term also covers alternate histories and divergent futurist ponderings that do not include technologies or theories that have not been developed, nor do they contain preternatural, supernatural, or paranormal elements. So, conjectures without space travel, lasers, death stars, faster than light travel, dragons, trolls, or wizards really do need their very own designation. I use the term to avoid misleading sci-fi and fantasy fans, though it remains a bit ambiguous – hence a good synopsis will occasionally help.
Ah. So speculative fiction is Serious Literature, rather than that sci-fi junk with squids in space.
You'd do well alongside Atwood in that regard, but be warned that it's generally regarded with derision and mockery by people who'd otherwise be very inclined to read 'futurist ponderings', as long as the author isn't denigrating things they also like to read.
I repeat my earlier suggestion -- you're doing a very good job of giving people reasons to avoid your book. You're not doing a very good job of helping people who would enjoy reading it find it.
So, conjectures without space travel, lasers, death stars, faster than light travel, dragons, trolls, or wizards really do need their very own designation.
So based on your description, what exactly are you writing? Speculative Fiction is too broad for me to picture it on the shelf properly, since that puts you with Ben Bova, Piers Anthony, Jim Butcher, Ray Bradbury, Anne Rice, et al.
>33 "I repeat my earlier suggestion -- you're doing a very good job of giving people reasons to avoid your book. You're not doing a very good job of helping people who would enjoy reading it find it."
Actually, no. His book is next on my TBR pile, specifically because his remarks here have led me to conclude I'll probably find his book intelligently written and thought-provoking. To be in the same class as Margaret Atwood,...wow.
>34 I agree that speculative fiction is an awkwardly broad and quite frankly silly term (isn't fiction really speculation?).
What have I written? (this does not constitute an offer to sell anything to anyone at anytime -- this is the answer to the question):
Phontaine's Gifts with a synopsis here www.tenparinc.com/phontaines-gifts/phontaines-gifts-description.htm and the first few pages here www.tenparinc.com/phontaines-gifts/phontaines-gifts-browse.htm
The Scoloderus Conspiracy with a synopsis here
http://www.scoloderusconspiracy.com/scoloderus-conspiracy-description.htm and the first few pages here www.scoloderusconspiracy.com/scoloderus-conspiracy-browse.htm
and in a slightly different vein
Woodcliff Anthology with a synopsis here www.tenparinc.com/woodcliff-anthology/woodcliff-anthology-description.htm and a sample here www.tenparinc.com/woodcliff-anthology/juf-sample.htm
AGAIN, these links are for information purposes only and do not constitute any solicitation
>35 LMHTWB thank you for both your clear thinking on this thread and your enthusiasm for reading.
Your home page indicates that you have a copy of The Scoloderus Conspiracy. If that is your next TBR, allow me to pique your curiosity with this page:
It has a number of quotes from the book that set the tone for the story line.
Additionally, as a mathematician, you are probably familiar with Fermat's Last Theorem and perhaps the controversy surrounding the award. Malvina Baica was a friend of mine at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and Baica's General Euclidean Algorithm is now widely recognized as solving the puzzle. The lead scientist in Scoloderus, is named Andrea Baica in honor of Malvina. The book's opening quote reflects Malvina's struggles as a gifted mathematician in a rather bigoted world of ambitious men (gender inflection intended).
Looking at your link for The Scoloderus Conspiracy, I find the reader's advisory more a turn-off than anything, and the description not clear enough about what makes this book so different and "not science fiction".
The reader's advisory to me comes off as a pre-emptive shifting of blame: if we don't enjoy the book, it's because we're not smart enough; the book itself is perfect, and the only flaw might be the reader.
I like books that make me think. But the description isn't clear enough about what sort of thinking is involved. Your future world sounds interesting, but I have no idea whether it's fully realized or whether your "minimalist storytelling" makes the setting irrelevant.
Anyway, my undergrad degree is in math, not physics, so I'm sure I don't understand all the jokes in The Big Bang Theory. I guess that's it.
>38 _Zoe_ Thank you. You are the first to be candid with me about that intro. Well, let's just zap it: it's gone -- thanks again.
You're welcome! I hope it works out for the best. You might still be able to include a line about it being a "thinking" book, just without emphasizing the point so strongly. Even just leaving a bit of room for uncertainty about the reaction of different types of readers might go a long way: it's not a matter of meeting a strict list of characteristics and then definitely liking the book (or failing to meet all of the requirements and then not liking the book), but rather that people who tend to like some of these other things will probably like the book as well.
We do the best we can to provide covers and blurbs that accurately reflect our books. On Amazon, you can download the first 10% of my eBook (or any eBook). We can promote in venues appropriate to our audience. Potential readers get plenty of info to tell them in advance whether a book is something they might like. I can usually tell by reading the first two pages if a book is for me.
You will still get people who, for whatever reason, ignored all of your efforts and hated your book. One customer on Amazon complained that my men were not hard-boiled enough and that I should write romances instead of mysteries. I wanted to write back "You bought a book with a grinning dog face on the cover and you're looking for Micky Spillane?" But of course, it is not wise to respond to reviews.
In the end, the negative reviews can help identify your readership as much or even more than the positive ones.
I wanted to reply to your post, but haven't had the time to read the entire thread, so if I've repeated anything that has already been covered, my apologies!
As an avid reader, pretty much all of my life, the one thing I do know is that I don't know what books I like. I know lots of specific books that I have liked, and lots that I haven't. They don't fall into clear sets. I know what sort of books I'm more likely to like, but given any specific book I can't say whether or not I'll like it until I've got to the last page. (12 pages in gives no guidance at all, and some otherwsie good books have been ruined by the ending, while many poor starts manage to redeem themselves). I have read books that I wouldn't normally have selected (usually because it's the only thing around to read) and really enjoyed them.
Not to forget there is huge difference between readers, reviewers, and requesters. An author's aim is to give books to requesters and turn them into readers. But my mindset as a requester is very much along the lines of out of this selection available to me, which am I most likely (see above) to enjoy. Wheras when I'm a reader looking for my next fix it is more along the lines of what do I feel like today? who do I know that comes close to that bill?
I agree that it's a hard problem.
#Mistralia. Is your book on Print on Demand or do you have more copies? If people don't know a book exists they can't buy it and the only way newcomers like us can find readers is to do our own promotion. It is easier if you have actual copies to sell. Then you can target your age range. You need to sell at Summer Fairs and anywhere mums and kids congregate.If I sell one book a week I am happy.
The library might take one or two but probably expect them to be donated. Good Luck.
Thank you for your observations and in many ways you are at the heart of the issue.
Genre-faithful books can help us find stories we will enjoy, or better yet, we can trust authors who consistently deliver (for me, that would be Grisham’s legal stuff, Crichton’s speculative fiction, Ayn Rand’s fiction and philosophy, et al.).
I use a “12 page” read primarily to get a sense of the author’s writing style and I appreciate that some pretty good books have crashed in the last two or three pages.
I have had quite a bit of experience evaluating how people evaluate. Curiously, though not surprisingly, the initial mind-set accounts for a significant portion of an evaluation. If someone wants to attend a professional development training, then she or he is more likely to rate the presenter, the materials, and experience much higher than someone who is undecided or did not want to attend. The “undecided” and “did not want to attend” groups reported very similar ratings: typically critical of the experience.
I think we will find the same effect with rating/reviewing a book. That initial mind-set will set the tone for the entire experience. When I see comments in discussions in which people report the cover of the book has a significant influence on them, I see it as setting that initial mind-set in which the experience of the book becomes framed. If someone is indifferent to a book, that is, it shows up at random as a consequence of a thoughtless “click” months earlier, then their evaluation of the book will be significantly different from the requester/reader who asked for the book out of sincere desire for the entertainment promised.
NOTE: the research I referenced above sampled more than 10,000 people over a three year period and the technical stuff appears here, Blankinship, D. A. & Ehlen, D. M. (1997). A general survey for obtaining participant’s evaluations of professional development sessions. Journal of the Society of Research Administrators, (Summer/Fall) 17-24. That article is based on an analysis of 556 subjects.
Thanks again for your comments.
Re: initial mindset, I think this also emphasizes how important turnaround time is. I don't usually look at Member Giveaways, but when I request a book from Early Reviewers, I have to wait a month before finding out whether I won it, and then another week (at least) for shipping. By contrast, Amazon Vine ships out books as soon as you request them, so the delay is only a week. I find that this makes a big difference in how excited I am about the book when it arrives. If I just requested it a week ago, my initial enthusiasm is probably still high. If I requested it a month + a week ago, my mind may be somewhere else entirely by the time I actually get it, and my enjoyment will be influenced accordingly--or else I'll wait a long time to read it, hoping that I'll get back into the mood again, and then it may start to seem like a burden.
Thanks for that Oldstick. No I don't believe that my book is print on demand.
My problem is that I live in France. I sent review copies to about three English bookshops here and one immediately called back and said that under French book regulations they cannot sell other than the price on the book. Mine is €9.99 and the bookseller said that he needed to have a price of at least €14 to make a profit. Amazon in France though has the discounted rates but perhaps it is different on line as opposed to an actual bookshop?
I've actually purchased about 50 copies in excess of the twenty review copies that I was initially given. I asked various friends in the UK to donate them to schools and libraries. I asked other friends to give them out to 12 year olds or thereabout but I didn't get too much of a feedback. The mums seem to prefer the book!
When I was on an Amazon forum the other day a person there purchased a copy (I was thrilled!). The publishers just last week put me on Amazon Kindle (in the US and UK) and one can read the first three chapters for free! If you get a chance, can you have a quick look at it and give me your honest opinion? I won't take offence if you don't like it. It's called Mistral's Race into Time. I do hope that you don't think that I've got a nerve. One can but ask in this life.
When I had a book signing last November in Chorleywood where I lived, the bookstore there put out flyers to a lot of people but only about ten people turned up on the day and purchased, excluding my friends. I've been calling independent bookshops in the UK from here and about six of them have purchased copies from Gardners, the wholesalers.
So I'll just have to keep plugging!
Interesting points being raised here. The thing that interests me the most is the realisation that I agree with what seem to be mutually exclusive viewpoints ...
I'm a writer, a reader, and a reviewer. All three things do interact, but evidently less integratedly than I'd thought. The suggestion that potential reviewers submit a reason for being given the book produced quite different reactions. As a reader, I was indignant. Yes, I'm getting a book for no financial outlay, But as others have said, it's not for free -- my time, if nothing else, is not worth nothing. But then I thought from my writer's point of view, about the unbelieveably rubbish result of my own experience of sending out review copies (five copies of a chapbook on Members Giveaways with the requirement that requestors write a review, result: one review; thirty-something copies of my poetry collection sent by my publisher to reviewers for a grand total of six reviews, and two of those solicited an extra copy "because the original review copy has gone missing"). Anything that makes it more likely that the people who get the books will actually write the damn review feels good to me.
As a reviewer ... maybe part of the problem is that we're doing the same thing with reviews that self-publishing has done to writing. Saying that anyone, no matter how little aptitude or experience, can be a reviewer if they want to. Reviewing takes time, and you do have to learn the craft of it. Being good with words is a must; being familiar with good writing as a reader is also a must. Which isn't to say that you can't just step from reader to reviewer and do a good job: you can. But it isn't as simple as saying yeah, I like that, it was cool. With no sort of filtering of people who apply to join early reviewers, then it can't help but be a lottery.
>47 The suggestion that potential reviewers submit a reason for being given the book produced quite different reactions. As a reader, I was indignant.
Perhaps it is not the request for 50 words that triggers negative responses, but rather, 1) the perceived importance of the author, and 2) the value of the unknown book. For example, would anyone in this discussion feel irritated by something appearing on AuthorsDen, Goodreads, or Facebook that stated, “(Your absolute favorite living author) will be signing and distributing 50 copies of (his or her) newest book – (title here) -- to readers willing to publish a review on Amazon. Just drop the author an email and let (him or her) know why this book appeals to you.” I would not hesitate to respond and contacting the author actually sounds like fun; perhaps we would become pen pals. The question of value must be self-evident; however, I will offer this quick perspective: In 50 or fewer words, tells us why you would like an all expenses paid, two week vacation at a luxury hotel in the location of your choice. I would enter several times.
If we believe the author is of no consequence and the book may only be marginally worth our time, any effort beyond clicking “request it,” seems like too much trouble. The challenge for any author is to find a readership who does not subscribe to these beliefs because that mind-set leads only to careless reading or unread books being recycled at Goodwill.
>49 Don't forget that by asking for those 50 words, you have fundamentally changed the system.
Authors (ones not on the NYT list) are suppose to give their books away for free to generate buzz. This is a key marketing strategy for many things, not just books -- give away samples. It may work or it may not work. It may also habituate the consumer to think 'free' is a right and any thing else brings out indignation, anger, disgust.
>50 LMHTWB - I brew beer and I make mead. When someone comes to my home and says, "What does it taste like?" I ask them "What kind of beer do you like? Dark beer, light beer, beer that's a little bitter or do you prefer sweeter tasting brews?" When they answer me, I know exactly what they will like best. I also know I will not open an India Pale Ale (my favorite) and watch someone take one sip and say, "I don't think I like that." (IPAs are very hoppy and some people -- particularly my wife, think hops should not be allowed in anything). I think the 50 words might make a difference, after all, wait-staff at restaurants ask you what you want to eat; bartanders ask for your order; and our local librarians ask "what kind of book are you looking for?" I think I am going to try this out somewhere...
49> I would say I feel the same about the situation regardless of the fame of the author.
I was just talking about a few of these things with another group of authors..
First off - you need to realize what's helpful feedback, what's not, and how to handle it. The people who didn't like it may have a point too, ya know - at least consider the reasons behind what they said. You do not just take what you want cherry-picked from the good reviews. You can discard things that are just unhelpful like "this book is terrible" - what phrase, not everything else a review with it may say.
"2-stars. Terrible. Where were these woods? What types of trees grew there? How far away was the village? Was the author a friend of the land owner? How long had he lived in the area? This whole thing left me with more questions than answers."
If you feel any of those questions were answered in the text, then you need to address how they were presented. Rule of 3's applies - information generally needs to be presented 3 times (and not in rapid repetition) to the audience for them to take it in as learned knowledge. You'll notice this is how many novels work in key concepts or characters prior to their "arrival" - they'll appear in someone else's conversation as an aside, then they'll be seen but not really recognized by the lead or the lead will hear a bit of backstory, then finally the main character will have an interaction. One two three, the character is established firmly - this works with all forms of information you're introducing.
The opposite of that - did you intentionally leave that information out to achieve something in your work? If so, what? Why? Maybe that needs to be more clear to the reader. Those ideas may need more emphasis or clarity in the overall work. Not major revisions, just little tweaks to make them more obvious to readers who might not be as good at reading between the lines. Not everyone realizes the song Milkshakes is about breasts jiggling around.
These are just things to consider. Mind you, I've not read a lick of your book - I'm just extrapolating from the feedback.
And... giveaways.. I'm new to LibraryThing, but they allow giveaways of Paperbacks right? Paperbacks get better written reviews and feedback than eBooks - but keep in mind readers of Paperbacks are often more critically involved as well. When we read text on screens we are programmed to ignore little mistakes - what email or website doesn't have some? Well, in print our brains expect more. And there's more perceived effort - so from these preview/review program you're much more likely to get a well thought out review if you provide paperback copies.
Tone is important here - saying "Tell me what you like and don't like, so I'll have a better guess about whether you'll like this book" would get a very different reaction from "Tell me why you are worthy of receiving this book". It's like saying "Gee, if all your favorite beers are stouts, and you hate anything even a little bitter, maybe you won't like this uber-hopped IPA", or even "You know that this is a very hoppy, bitter beer, right?" rather than "This is a very special beer that only people with discerning tastes will enjoy - tell me why I should open it for you."
This topic is not marked as primarily about any work, author or other topic.