One Reader’s Voice Out Loud with Jack

Thank you for joining us in giving Readers a voice!  You have been one of our earliest and most dependable readers and I think you thoughts are helpful to us at indieBRAG and authors-

IndieBRAG: How do you choose a book to read?

When I choose a book to read I usually have a topic or period of time in mind. I especially like medieval and ancient times. So I will search an online book seller with something like, “1314 Scotland Books”. This usually brings up a list of books of the right approximate time and place. I skim down through the list speed reading titles and glancing at covers. When a cover catches my eye or a title sounds interesting, then I slow down and read the book description. If it still sounds interesting then I look at the price. If it is more than I feel like spending, then I continue the process until I find a book at the right price point.
If I’m shopping in a physical bookstore, my process is much the same. Although before I buy a paper book, I leaf through the book looking at pictures and reading snatches here and there to see if it fits the book description on the fly leaf. I rarely do that in a virtual bookstore, although occasionally it is possible to get scattered sample pages, particularly for research books for which I may be tempted to spend a little more than I do on fiction.

IndieBRAG: How much does the cover and title matter?

For me, the cover and title are the first indicator I evaluate when picking a book, which makes them equally most important. But, contents are what close the sale. If the book doesn’t have the information I need, or is not a fictionalization of events of interest, it stays on the shelf no matter how pretty or clever the cover and title may be.

IndieBRAG: When selecting a book, do you check who or how it is published? Of course, this does not pertain to books you might read for indieBRAG since they are all self-published!

I rarely look at publishers. But I do look at the writer’s credentials, particularly for factual books. There are certain well credentialed authors of historical fiction, like Helena P. Schrader’s series about Balian d’Ibelin and Derek Birks’ “Rebel’s and Brother’s” series. Their ability to give flesh and blood to the bare bones chronicles contained in the historical record is awesome, probably because of the scholarship they expended on researching primary documents, etc. on the way to their doctorates of history. Of course, they are able to compose beautiful prose without sounding too scholarly, which is essential. Reading their books has given me a better picture of the crusades and the war of the roses.

IndieBRAG: Do you read the blurb or go right to reading the sample on ebooks or read a few pages on a print copy in a store?

I always read the blurb before I bother with sample pages. If the blurb is poorly written then the book is usually just as bad. Good blurbs rarely appear on bad books.

IndieBRAG: Do you feel compelled to read the entire book, even if it isn’t what you hoped?

I paid for it so by golly I’m going to read every word on every page in hopes there is at least one nugget worth my tuppence. I feel this way especially for books provided by BRAG. I feel I owe it to the author to suffer through to the end. There have been a couple of books I’ve read for BRAG that after the first 10% I decided to give them a thumbs down, but they have been saved by becoming better and better as the story progresses, so thumbs up at the end. They probably won’t sell many books because the part those choosing a book usually sample is so bad… but the story is actually worth reading later on. There was one that two thirds of the way through it I really didn’t want to finish it because there were too many disjointed irrational loose ends that confused me. The author actually collected them all at the end in a way that was perfectly logical and plausible but totally unforeseen at the 66% point of the
story. Still a thumbs up for readers with fortitude, which I noted in my online review.

IndieBRAG: Do you leave reviews? If so would you leave a negative review or only positive ones on books you enjoyed?

I do write reviews, both positive and negative. I write negative reviews especially on books with great covers and a good description, but horribly written stories. I feel duped by such books, so I feel obligated to save other poor souls from making the same mistake I did based on its cover. Fortunately there have only been a few that made me feel so cheated. It further appalls me that most of them had perfect “5” reviews on Amazon until I posted my “1”. Friends and family, I suppose, trying to boost a poor writer’s sales so they can move out of their mom’s basement.

IndieBRAG: What advice can you give to authors about what it is you expect from a good book?

Things that earn a BRAG medallion recommendation from me:
1. A BRAG Medallion book holds my interest by moving quickly through the story, yet giving enough detail to make the protagonist’s decisions logical, understandable, and exciting.
2. It is a plus to have lots of fascinating realistic side issues that contribute to the main story, yet provide comic relief in a serious book, or serious insights in a comedy.
3. Good editing with no run-on sentences, no misspellings, no malapropisms, no inappropriate homophones, and no other glaring grammar and format errors is a necessity.
4. BRAG books must be complete stand-alone stories. Readers should not have to read another book to get the background the author assumes the reader knows. Thus, a sequel should have a forward or prologue that gives us enough of the previous books’ knowledge to understand relationships, the cliff-hanger from the previous book that starts the first episode in this book, and anything else we need to know to enjoy this book.
5. Part of standing alone may include genealogies, jargon glossaries, organization summaries, world views, and similar forward information when such detail is needed to enjoy the story. It is painful to halt the flow of the story to describe why our hero is now first in line to the throne since some remote key relative died.
6. Every good story is a hero’s journey and a mystery. If you are uncertain what these are, then look them up and follow the appropriate pattern. I want to be uncertain which of several options the hero will take. There should be enough options at every turning point to be interesting without being confusing. The option selected should be logical. Characters who habitually chose wrongly, are frustrating and eventually boring. The same goes for characters that always chose right. Heroes are fallible, but not stupid. It is a tough balancing act to paint the hero into a corner and yet have an escape window that isn’t totally predictable.
7. Another balancing difficulty involves pacing the story. This is the balance between moving so fast the reader gets left behind because insufficient details are given, versus clogging up the story with superfluous details that stall the story and bore the reader.
8. The cover art should match the story, be eye catching, easy to decipher, and show the most exciting action of the book.

J

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