Monday, December 13, 2010

Everyone is a Critic

Today I spent three hours perusing books in Barnes and Nobles, opening the first pages of a dozen books, asking myself if they were worth the money. (I had a gift card to use.) I ended up buying one book on writing.

How many books did I dismiss though? Because of their cheap covers? Their boring blurbs? The way the print hurt my eyes by being too bold or too light? The way there was too much dialogue and not enough description or the reverse? Or the dreadful first sentences.

The list goes on.

I rejected book after book.

And I’m not a qualified agent. I’m a buyer.

But today’s experience gave me that little nudge I need now and then.

It reminded me to Dream big but Dream realistically.

Books get published. But it doesn’t mean they will sell.

When browsing a bookstore, what’s your biggest reason for rejecting a book?

50 comments:

gabi said...

Great post!

As a book buyer I usually use the book's "buzz" help me decide. If I know and like the author's work, I'm more likely to buy. If I've heard the author read, that motivates me as well. If the book has been recommended to me by a friend or reviewer whose taste I trust, that helps too.

That said, it doesn't take much for me to cave and get a book, but I have a soft spot for that yummy new-book smell and a bizarre aversion to empty shelf space. :)

jdcoughlin said...

I have to say I turn pages in the bookstore. I scan the first page. I flip through and see what jumps out at me. I don't buy the buzz. I think my taste doesn't always run to what's hot. I like a book with angst. I like struggle and rough edges.
And, I love to browse until I find one that promises all that and more.

Susan said...

Hi Terri. I reject a book in a bookstore if, obviously, it's on a subject that I'm not interested in.

Price is almost always a consideration. If it's too pricey, I can't buy it.

But if it's on a subject I love, with lots of lush photos, or, if it's by one of my favorite authors, I buy it! Susan

Candyland said...

I'm with jdcoughlin. I flip through and read a bit to see if it's for me (after I've been caught by the cover and read the jacket flap).

I also turn a lot down. It's tough gig, for sure...

Jennifer Shirk said...

Oooh, that's a toughie.
But I honestly don't browse book stores that much. I usually buy online--and even then I go in with a plan of attack of books I want to buy.
I do browse library books but I'm usually looking for a specific genre and if it looks interesting I give it a go. :)
So I browse the title first, then I'll take it off the shelf and if the cover is decent, I'll flip to the blurb. If all three look good, it comes home with me. LOL
I suppose if I was spending money I might be more picky.

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

Price (coupled with if I've ever heard of the author before).

Paul Greci said...

usually it's a combination of a blurb that doesn't quite grab me plus a first page that doesn't knock my socks off.

Warren Baldwin said...

I typically buy nonfiction. So, I look for the book's perspective (history, theology, etc.). If it seems to have a perspective I'm not familiar with or that is different from what I've read, I'm more inclined to buy it. Why buy a book if you already understand or agree with what it says?

barbwhitti said...

Good post. Made me stop and think. I buy books both from reading the blurb and recommendations. Also taking the advice of people who recommend the book, that is usually printed on the inside of the cover, another author etc. If it's one I love then I know I'll probably like the book. I stay out of books stores because I can't resist buying buying. TOOO MANNY.
Blessings.

Saumya said...

This is so true. I hate to admit it but I will sit and read a book if the jacket cover sounds interesting. It takes a lot for me to buy a book since I visit Barnes and Noble often and will usually knock out a book in a few sittings.

Julie Jarnagin said...

I can't lie. I love a good cover. A bad cover can ruin for me.

Jennifer Hillier said...

Gosh, it's hard to answer this one. Most of the time it depends on my mood. If I'm in the mood for something lighter, I'll reject anything too dark or heavy (which is how I'm feeling right now). It's usually the blurb that sells me.

Linda O'Connell said...

I've seen a lot of good books end up at Dollar Stores, and I'm sure all of those authors were as hopeful as we are. I like Anne LaMott, as much as I like a bargain, so paying full price depends on who the author is as much as the cover and blurb. Happy reading!

Karen Lange said...

The author's name and/or cover usually draw me in first. Then I check out the blurb, look at any endorsements and go from there. To me, it's an investment of money and time, so I try and make an educated guess as to whether I will like it or not. Good post:)
Blessings,
Karen

Joanne Sher said...

When I'm browsing (which I don't do much) - it's price and back cover blurb. Great post!

Rachna Chhabria said...

Hi Terri, I reject books in a bookstore, if I don't like the blurb. I also flip through the books and almost always read the first paragraph. Then I flip through several chapters and check if the book is the one I will enjoy.

Lynn said...

That's a good question! Price is on my mind and if I know I'd be better to get it at the library I'll reject buying. That said, I will buy books because I want to support a local author, fellow blogger, or Canadian author no matter the price.

The Happy Whisk said...

Hi. I'm a new reader to your blog. Very nice to meet you.

They've gotta get me on page one. Otherwise, the book goes back on the shelf.

-Whisk

Lin Floyd said...

does critic and critique means the same? what gets me with a book is immediately the title, then the cover, then the blurb, only after all that do I check inside. Also if it's a known author's name that I like....

Patti Struble said...

Biggest reason - page 1. If I ain't feeling the vacuum pull me in, I'm not going any further.
Patti

Sally said...

I'm with those who have commented that reading is an investment of time and I don't want to waste it. Author and recommendation, I don't buy without one of those.

Melissa Marsh said...

I will reject books on the writing. If I read the first few pages and the writing is subpar, I won't spend my money on it. Period.

sarah said...

I have shelves of books I haven't read or have read just a bit. Those that hold me...aren't always perfectly written but they have a great story line which moves easily from chapter to chapter. Those are the books when I get to the end...I wish they didn't end. That includes both non-fiction and fiction.

Susan R. Mills said...

I won't even pick up a book and look inside if I don't like the title and the cover. If I like those, but the blurb on the back doesn't catch my attention, then I reject it. If I like the title, the cover, and the blurb, I read the first page. That's the deal breaker. I have to connect with the character. As a writer it frightens me. We have to accomplish so much to get the readers' interest.

Nancy said...

Believe it or not, if I don't like the artwork, I won't even give the book a chance. I know it will be too boring or too modern or too something.

I like quaint, old, mysterious.

Then I read the back, then the inside covers. If these all look good, I'll consider it. The title is only a little help most of the time.

Sarah Forgrave said...

I'm with Jennifer...I usually buy my books online and usually have one in mind when I log on. If I'm in the mood to browse, I tend to go toward certain publishing houses that produce stuff I like and even then, it has to draw me in on the first page. Boy, it is a tough world out there, isn't it? :)

Carol Riggs said...

I usually do the library or buy books online, but when I do go into a bookstore, I have a hard time finding something I like--because they all seem so SIMILAR. And I don't find anything that really grabs me. If I'm going to plunk down hard-earned $$$ instead of going to the library, I want something to grab me and not let go!

Jill Kemerer said...

My biggest reason for rejecting a book is the price. If it isn't a mass paperback, I'm not buying it!

Amber Cuadra said...

Usually my reasons for rejecting a book are whether or not I find the concept interesting. It might be a great book, but if I'm not interested, I won't read it.

Nehha N Josshi said...

The Print!

KarenG said...

This sounds like me. If I'm in a bookstore for 3 hours most of that time is spent rejecting books not buying them. I'm so very very picky. I go for the voice, the writing style, the genre of course, altho if I love the other 2 I'll pick a genre I usually don't read.

And yes, it is encouraging isn't it??

Jill said...

That's a difficult question to answer. I choose based on writing style, place, situation, etc. I'm so prejudiced, really. I don't like reading about CEOs in New York, for example. And I'm not much into historicals that take place in the 19th C (unless early, a la Jane Austen, romantic era). The cover has to be lovely, the writing style beautiful, the place enticing . . . If I'm at a library, I'm not nearly as picky.

Carmen said...

The title or cover usually draws me in. Then I read the write up on the back, and then I consider price. I'm a pretty simple girl.=D

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Terri -

I have a long Wish List, so it's rare I don't know what to buy. My decision is made before entering the store or clicking on an Internet site.

Book reviews, word of mouth, familiarity with an author, and genre all play a major role in my selection.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Heather Sunseri said...

I have so many books in my TBR pile that I only pick up new books based on reviews I read or a recommendation by a friend or I know the author.

Julie Gillies said...

Hi Terri,
I tend to use Amazon.com more than a bookstore, but when I DO go to a brick and mortar bookstore, I pass on books by authors with whom I'm not familiar. What makes the difference for me is if someone I know and respect recommends the book. That always pushes me to make a purchase. Of course, if I know the author, it's a done deal. :)

KelliGirl said...

Terri,
How great to spend a few hours at B and N! I tend to gravitate toward certain tables in the store that feature books I've read and enjoyed. Covers are very important as is the back cover.

I can't wait to see one of YOUR books on one of these tables one day soon.

Merry eight days until Christmas. I hope the coming days are filled with peace and joy.

Sending you a frosty hug from Philadelphia.

Kelli

Stephanie Faris said...

Absolutely...although the book you pass on will be picked up by someone else and vice versa. That's the great thing about it! Everyone has different tastes.

Stacy Henrie said...

Most of the time when I go in a bookstore, it's to get a specific title. But on the internet, I usually pay attention to cover, author (is this one recommended because of another author I like) and reviews.

Jaime said...

I'm shallow. I'll pass on the book even if the premise is good but the cover is cheap or poorly designed. TO me the cover reflects the publisher which reflects the quality of the author.

Rhonda Schrock said...

I've gotta say it's the cover. Or that's one of the biggest components. If it looks good (professional, well designed, etc.), I'll pick it up. That gets my attention first.

And now my new name is Shallow Girl!

Waving and smiling at my down-south blogging buddy!

Rhonda

Sassy Granny ... said...

I must confess: I've gotten very, VERY picky about what I'll read at this advanced stage in life :)

Mostly I look for books that will make me, or my life richer; books that inspire, or educate, or edify. You can guess, then, that I toss most aside in my search for the best one.

It is good to be a critic, for I learned long ago, "what goes in, comes out"; and it's from the overflow of our hearts that our mouths speak.

Hugs,
Kathleen

Robin @ Be Still and Know said...

Again very insightful! I love your perspective!

Generally I usually have some knowledge of the topic or author before I lay down my hard cash, unless I'm at the Goodwill.

However I'm like you. If the cover is not visually appealing or the typeface is difficult to take in or the first few paragraphs don't grab me then I move on. I think that tells me that all the details are important. It's not just about content, it's about the total package. It's like cooking, we eat first with the eyes. If it's not visually appealing then the whole experience starts off badly.

Blessings
R

Deb Shucka said...

I start with the cover. If that catches my eye, I move to the blurb on the back (or inside flap). If I'm still hooked, I move to the first paragraph. If I'm still engaged, I'll buy the book.

A bad first page/paragraph will not only make me put the book back, but will most likely mean I won't consider that author again.

First impressions make such a huge difference.

Great reflection here - important for us all to consider.

Carol J. Garvin said...

First, if the cover doesn't invite me, the book doesn't get picked up. If the blurb doesn't grab me, I'll put the book down again. And finally, if I get to the bottom of the first page and am still ambivalent, the book goes back onto the shelf. I'm influenced by whether it's been written by a favourite author, or has been recommended, but in the end it has to pass my first impressions test.

Jeanette Levellie said...

What a great post, Terri. Wish I'd have thought of it!

I look at the cover, the author, and the back synopsis. Then I thumb through and read a few pages here and there, randomly. If it pulls me in or intrigues me with it's premises, I'm likely to buy it.

Unlike others here, I like to try new authors I've never read before. I love variety.

Diane J. said...

Let's see if it's Fiction, I read the back and if it pokes my curiosity, then I buy.

If it's nonfiction, there are a few factors at play. Layout, is the biggest selling point. Can I open it and find a place to stop reading quickly? I am always hopping up after the kids or if I'm somewhere like a doctor's office or waiting in line, I need to find a good spot to end quickly.

Tone is another factor. It needs to teach me, but without being preachy.

I love books, but have been burned many times, by fiction and nonfiction books alike. Fiction where the writing is atrocious and plot holes obvious. Nonfiction where the author keeps selling the book in each chapter (for the love of Pete! I bought the book stop selling it) or the author's voice comes across being smug.

I know the best way to pick a book would be to read a section before buying, but dog-gone-it, I hate to spoil the excitement of not knowing what's coming next.

Okay, I just rambled away, LOL. Sorry, have a great day!

Nicole said...

First of all the title comes to my attention. After I pull the book from the shelf, or take it off the table, if the summary in the back doesn't create curiosity I put it back. I just love perusing for books! It's been a while since I've had the time to do so. Hopefully I will be able to in the future.

Margo Berendsen said...

I won't even buy a book just from browsing in a bookstore. Unless its been recommended or I read a great review, I won't buy it. Okay, I take that back. I did buy an Anne Lamott book (Operating Instructions) from a B & N store just from reading the blurb and the first few pages - before I'd heard of her at all. But I think that's the only exception! (well that and writing books) These days I buy based on my bloggy friends' recommendations!

Lily Robinson said...

I mainly go by the back and cover flaps to decide if I'll go farther. I read to see what the story's about. If it sounds interesting, I read the first page and scan through a few more.

If I like the style of writing, I buy it. I don't care about cover art. Yeah, I know... I don't even care about well-known authors vs unknowns (except for John Grisham. I haven't found one of his that I didn't love.)

I do like recommendations, but often the friend that recommends has different taste than me.