Our readers are the foundation of what makes indieBRAG unique. They not only select the books to become the next B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree but give feedback to our authors. This feedback is important not only to the authors but to the reader as well. Readers carry a lot of weight in what we regard as quality in self-publishing. Not only that but how readers see author’s platforms and performance on social media. Today Lauren shares with us a little about her reading habits, reviewing books, how she finds books, how she regards pricing, giveaways, book covers, and much more. Thank you, Lauren for sharing with us today. First please tell us about your reading interest.
I’m an avid reader of Historical Fiction, and have been since I picked up Treasure Island, Little Women, and other classics as a child. That’s more than 40 years of HF reading. (Here I will pause to say that I consider anything set 100 years or more ago to be HF, regardless of whether it was ‘contemporary’ when written. That’s because it’s all about the reader, not the writer. Should I, on reading Dickens or Scott, first research whether this work of his fits into the former or the latter? Ridiculous. It’s historical to me, and it’s fiction. Therefore, Historical Fiction. Let others parse how they may.)
Sometimes I write a review—only about one book in ten. I am motivated to review when the novel moves me deeply—and that means it either gets a great rating, or I’m pissed off enough to write a one-star. I usually don’t bother with one-star ratings, because if the book is that awful, I don’t finish it. I have too many enjoyable things to do to waste time on a book that bores me. But on occasion I HAVE to finish something that is (for me) seriously lacking in enjoyment—perhaps it is the only thing I brought to read, or somebody picked it for book club. Usually whatever it is has piles of 5-star reviews. And then out comes the honesty, prizes be damned. The reader with my tastes needs to be warned.
But usually my reviews are for books I liked enough to finish. If it is really great, and there aren’t dozens of others singing the novel’s praise, then I will put up a review so that readers who like the same kind of thing I like can be made aware of the book. And sometimes I will review a book that was moderately entertaining, but had some serious flaws in an area I know well. I scratch the itch by info-dumping in a review.
As to how I find books, I belong to HistoricalFictionOnline.com. It’s a forum for readers, and although we have quite a few writers, there are strict limits on how much self-promotion is allowed. (Not enough to be worth the time of an author who does not want to participate as a reader.) For over a decade members have been posting reviews, and other members discussing the books reviewed. These have built my To-Be-Read list both deep and wide, so I don’t usually go looking beyond that, unless a friend gives me a glowing reference to something s/he absolutely loved.
Regarding the questions about pricing and free books:
‘Free’ used to be magic with me. But now I read mainly on Kindle, and the sample is enough to tell me if I will like the book. If I do, I am willing to pay up to $10 for it–$3 if the prospects are less certain. Several hours of entertainment is worth that. I won’t even consider a book that won’t let me sample it, unless it has been VERY highly recommended.
Book giveaways don’t do anything for me. I have shelves of unread books—what do I need with another one?
Regarding the questions about getting acquainted with authors:
Book signings and other face-time events are wasted on this reader. If I had my ‘druthers, I would only read novels by authors I have never met, either in person or as an online acquaintance. This is because honesty as a reader can be in direct conflict with being liked. Of the two, I always come down on honesty as a service to fellow readers rather than holding back as a service to authors. This makes me feel bad because I made the author feel bad, and it has cost me friendships. I’m extremely reluctant to pick up anything written by someone I know personally, unless I know the writer also values honesty over praise.
If I am directed to an author’s blog, it is because there was some content of interest that somehow caught my eye. I have never gone to an author’s website to find books. Knowing a writer, or even knowing about them, is double-edged. It may make me feel that I would enjoy what they write. Or it may make me feel that we are on completely different sides of an issue—and if I get a sense that their writing drubs the issue on which we differ, I will give it a pass. Fiction is for entertainment. I dislike novel-length lectures. If, however, they can make their point in story while keeping me hooked, I will forgive a little moralizing.
On that note, I have been exposed to the political biases of many authors this past election season. It has greatly reduced my to-be-read pile. I am fine reading the works of someone I disagree with, but strident shouters (from both sides) and knee-jerk re-posters have gained themselves a spot on my lengthening mental list: do not read this author. This mention is the only heads-up I’m giving, and I’m not even saying which side I’m on. Well, neither, exactly. Everything is nuanced.
I don’t pay much attention to Amazon/Goodreads reviews, because I have no way of knowing how expert a given author/publisher is at ‘gaming the system’, and I have discovered the hard way that ratings are not a reliable method of figuring out if I will like a novel or not. In the same vein, I assume that all the nice things put on the back of the book are merely sales copy. I don’t give much weight to the usual superlatives, but if it is inept sales copy I immediately assume the book will be worse. I mean, if whoever produced this book can’t write enticing SALES COPY, what are the odds they can tell a decent story?
Regarding the cover, it depends on whether the book was indie or traditionally published. If the latter, I don’t hold it against the author—they probably had no say in that awful choice. But an indie book has to have a cover that appeals, or at the very least does not scream that the author has no idea what they are doing. The cover is part of the story, and a much easier part that crafting a satisfying novel. It doesn’t have to be top ten, but covers in the bottom 50% don’t bode well for the rest. Although generally the cover has little impact on my reading choice, because I don’t even see it before I decide whether it is worth reading or not—as mentioned above, I go by recommendations of trusted readers with like tastes.
Authors who puff their own work are in the same category as people who assure you that their grandchildren are the cutest thing ever. No credibility, conflict of interest. And trying to sell your book to people who have come to the party to socialize is right up there with pitching an Amway franchise at a wedding. It’s rude. There are so many books out there, why buy from somebody who is rude? I can think of three authors who got booted off the forum for that kind of behavior, and I will not even consider their books.
And, to quote Forrest Gump, “That’s all I have to say about that.”