Jilly: What Persuades You to Try a New Author?

How would you blurb this bookHow often do you read a new-to-you author?

If you regularly read new writers, where do you find them? What persuades you trust them with your time and money? Do you choose using reviews, or recommendations, or a try before you buy sample? Do you buy based on marketing communications? Amazon mailshots? Bookbub promotions? Goodreads suggestions? Does it make a difference if the book is free or discounted?

In her post last Thursday, Kay said: “I was looking to read something light and entertaining the other day, and all the descriptions and back cover copy seemed riddled with clichés…I just couldn’t force myself to click the button.”

Right there with you, Kay. One of my aims for 2016 is to read more new authors, ideally at least one per week. They don’t have to be debut authors, just ones I haven’t read before, but I’d like to include a good selection of writers near the beginning of their publishing career. I’m also trying to be open to new recommendation channels. I’d love to find a reading group that suits my tastes – I really miss Jenny Crusie’s Cherry Forums (used to get all my best new reads there). For now I’ve been reading my spamazon thoroughly and investigating the titles that catch my attention instead of giving the emails a hasty once-over/delete, checking out contributors to websites I enjoy (like The Passive Voice), and taking a slower stroll through the daily offerings at Bookbub.

So far I haven’t done particularly well, because I’ve gone book blurb blind. Read one after another, all those story snapshots sound formulaic. He’s This. She’s That. They’re pitted against one another/forced to work together / pretend to be a couple because Reasons. Will they overcome This and finally discover That? (Agreeing with Kay, my guess is that they will). I’m trying to fish in a bigger pool, and the blurbs aren’t helping, which is a pity. It’s hard to reduce a story to a handful of sentences and make it stand out. Tougher still to capture the voice and style of a book or author.

So far my process has been:

  • eliminate sub-genres I don’t care for – no inspirational romance, no erotica, no young adult or college romances, and no seriously scary suspense;
  • choose characters and especially heroines who sound powerful and active with strong goals and lots of agency (spies, thieves, mercenaries, cops, coroners, firefighters, business owners);
  • choose storylines with plenty of conflict, enough to support a whole book;
  • pick/avoid based on my trope preferences – no to Big Mis or Secret Baby, yes to forced to work together, on opposite sides of a deal, friends to lovers, second chances;
  • read reviews and/or comments on Amazon (not star ratings) to see if I can get a feel for the kind of writing involved.
  • Check out the author’s website to see what other books they have written and see whether their pattern appeals to me;
  • Read a sample;
  • Buy 🙂 . Or not 😦 .

It’s been interesting, in a time-consuming way. We’re almost three weeks into 2016, and I’ve managed half a dozen ‘new’ authors. So far I haven’t had any disasters, but I haven’t had any roaring successes either. Everything I’ve picked has been well-written and sound from a craft perspective, but nothing has dug its hooks into me. I don’t want to blog about any of them, because I’m not excited enough to want to share them or spend more time discussing them.

I’d love to find a shiny new keeper. It’s been too long since I last got the love-at-first-sight, bowled-over feeling that hits me when I start a book by a new author and within a few pages I’m giddy with joy. Failing that, I wish I could find a smarter way to make my selections / expand my reading horizons.

I’d be fascinated to know where you find new authors, and if you have any tips and tricks for tracking down the books that suit your reading preferences, I’d love to hear them. And if you have any great new author recommendations, I’d be very glad of those, too.

I’m hoping for some thrilling new (to me) discoveries this year. If I’m successful, I promise you’ll be the first to hear all about it!

10 thoughts on “Jilly: What Persuades You to Try a New Author?

  1. Hello! My 2016 so far has been taken up by new releases from old favourites (Loretta Chase, Kristan Higgins and Sarah Maclean), so not much new so far (though I read a good contemporary by Kate Meader). I get most new authors from recommendations from friends (like the eight ladies) who read a lot of romance. I also have a lot of romance blogs in a blog feed and flick through those every few days – I get a lot of recommendations from those (following more or less the same process as you do, above) – and it’s also interesting to see what the bloggers are going crazy for (and which new releases get lots of blog reviews and which don’t).

    I don’t mind reading a few duds (up to a point) because it’s useful to think about why I didn’t like them and why they got published. In a way – I know this sounds strange – but reading books I didn’t enjoy so much is almost more instructive than reading books I really enjoyed (though obviously less fun!). I think your idea of reading a new author every week is a terrific one – perhaps I’ll try it too!

    • Hello, Rachel! New releases from old favourites – I want to read Tessa Dare’s When a Scot Ties the Knot. I read the Loretta Chase over new year. I’d be very interested to know what you think of it.

      I agree with you about duds – I always try to analyse why they didn’t work for me. I read a paranormal a few days ago that wasn’t my thing at all, skimmed the last third of the book because I was mildly curious to know how it finished. It was an early book in a series that’s now up to twentysomething books, so obviously lots of people enjoyed it. I think maybe it was too cosy for me, or I missed the point. The spine of the story was really the hero’s quirky family. There was a romance, but neither the hero nor the heroine drove the action. Apart from getting naked together, which they did a lot, they both lacked agency. I didn’t give a damn about either of them.

      I learn from the duds, but I get inspired by great storytellers. Makes me think ‘how did they do that?’ and makes me want desperately to write stories that will give readers that wow feeling. So today I’m kind-of-cheating by reading Linda Howard. I’ve never read her before, I’m a quarter of a way through the book, and I’m having a great time. I can totally see why she’s so successful.

      Would be great if you try the new author per week challenge. I’d love to know who you choose and what you discover!

      • I read “When a Scot Ties the Knot.” It was cute. Not as riveting as Jess and Dain, but I enjoyed it and stayed up late one night to finish it. I guess that counts for something!

    • Hi Rachel! So good to see you back on the blog!

      I think the “dud” thing applies to movies/TV shows as well as books. I watched one the other night (granted, it was a kid movie) and I nearly groaned at the predictable lines/story direction. Just not interesting at all. What did I learn? Do something different and unexpected!

  2. If you are looking for new authors, swing by my blog, romancedebuts.wordpress.com. I profile new and multi-published authors to help aspiring writers learn about the publishing process and introduce new authors to readers. I don’t review the books at this point, so, you’d still be relying on blurbs, but at least you can learn a bit about the author and her writing process. I’m still slowly working my way through the books by the authors I profile…one of my fave new authors so far is Margaret Locke. I’m also really looking forward to reading Rachel Goodman and Sonali Dev. Stop by the blog and let me know what you think!

    • Thanks for stopping by our blog! And I was just going to talk about Sonali Dev! My reading has become ridiculously curtailed over the past three or four years, and it takes a lot for me to order a book. The big thing is two or three trusted recommendations, and then I will look at the book at an online bookstore (read the blurb, run through the reviews). Sonali Dev’s “A Bollywood Affair” passed my gauntlet, and was one of my favorite reads of 2015. The story is so exotic, despite taking place in Minnesota (it was Minnesota, wasn’t it?). And Dev handled some tricky tropes really well.

  3. Oh, I forgot to mention my favorite recommendation channels: here, of course; a Bujold mailing list I belong to that often discusses other works; Tea and Jeopardy podcast; and sometimes I get some good books after following the links that start with Arts and Letters Daily.

  4. Lately I’ve been taking Bookbub up on a lot of their freebie authors. Given that I have limited reading time (it comes after working/writing/cooking/cleaning) that’s got me booked up for the foreseeable future. One winner was A Slip in Time by Kathleen Kirkwood. It’s time travel, and I chose it because neither of the H/H were present day. Time travel between the 1400’s and the 1800’s intrigued me. I enjoyed it quite a bit.

    • That’s a great place to go for recommendations. Someone mentioned it at the Immersion I attended in November. She uses Bookbub quite a bit (and was giving us strategies for being successful with marketing your own books on it). Not that I’m ready for that, but finding the Next Good Book isn’t a bad idea. That it’s free is even better.

  5. Nice post. There are some fun book challenges out there – Pop Sugar’s comes to mind – that can inspire a new reading direction. I often go back, though, to the Modern Library Top 100 Novel list when I want to “improve” my reading repertoire.

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