Why book readers are in the box seat and authors need to take note…..

Book readers today are in the box seat like never before. Not only is there an explosion of new titles hitting the market, almost by the hour, but there are more and more opportunities to sample new books and authors before actually committing to a purchase. A new breed of discerning and fussy reader has arrived – and authors would do well to take note.

The runaway train that has become the self-published book market is challenging the boundaries of traditional publishing in a way that has become both exciting and nervous for all those in the industry.

Consider how Amazon Kindle reading has gone through the roof in just a few years. With hundreds of new books being uploaded daily there are no signs this trend will abate any time soon. If anything, it will continue to grow, almost beyond comprehension. So how does this help the end user, the book reader?

Two important developments have become compelling Kindle features for potential readers.

The first is the facility to ‘sample’ the opening 20-pages or so through the online tool that allows potential buyers to quickly open the book and read an excerpt direct on their laptop. Poor or average writing can be spotted a mile away – usually leading to the ‘sample’ being closed and attention switched to another title. I do this myself on at least 4 or 5 occasions every time I log on to make a purchase.

The second driver for change in this new scenario is the availability of ‘free’ eBooks. More and more authors, including the well-established, are dabbling with cost-free promotions in an effort to attract readers and push ‘sales’ onto the various top-selling lists. Once an upward movement has been achieved, the author can switch back to a paid-for title, knowing it has a better chance of success because of the ratings earned during the free period.

The big winner in this is, of course, the reader. A friend recently told me he has downloaded more than 30 ‘free’ titles in the past few weeks; even though he knows there is probably little chance of eventually reading half of them! By the time he starts ploughing through the first titles, there are yet more free offers coming on stream to tempt him.

However, as always, there is a downside to the silver-lined clouds. Let’s be honest about one thing – there are some real turkeys out there masquerading as novels, and the prospective reader will have to navigate his/her way through the driftwood before finding a book they actually want to read.

But readers are a patient and discerning lot. I’m a great believer in the adage that the marketplace will find its true level and that readers will eventually place prominence only on those titles truly deserving of mass support.

Authors can put all the spin they like on their masterpieces. They will, rightly, use every marketing tool available to push, promote and over-egg their product.

Ultimately, however, they will find there is no substitute for a well-written, carefully researched and meticulously edited manuscript. Fail on any of these and the reader will find them out!

I’d love to hear the views of readers on the points raised here. Do you make use of the ‘sample’ reads? How often do you choose ‘free’ titles? Have you come across a recent turkey (to save embarrassment please don’t mention titles by name)? Have you come across a new author worthy of wider support?

There is a wonderful breed of new authors out there. All they need is a chance to be recognised for their painstaking work. They only way they can achieve is through reader endorsement. Your views are more important than you think! Please use the Leave a Reply box below.

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14 Responses to Why book readers are in the box seat and authors need to take note…..

  1. BlaineReimer says:

    The winner is the reader, but also the author. There is no longer someone standing in between, deciding what is worthy to be read by the public and what is destined for the ash heap of history. In this new dynamic, the people who read books, our customers, decide what will succeed, not some highbrow in a New York office. And ultimately most self-pubbed titles will not find traction, regardless of how hard they are promoted, which is actually a good thing. It means the market is picking winners and losers.

    • joemccoubrey1 says:

      Hear, hear Blaine. I like your idea that the readers will decide what finds traction.

    • declanburke says:

      Blaine – I hope you’ll appreciate that I’m playing devil’s advocate here, but statements like, “In this new dynamic, the people who read books, our customers, decide what will succeed, not some highbrow in a New York office.” aren’t very helpful. Change a couple of words and you’re looking at a McDonald’s mission statement: “In this new dynamic, the people who eat our rubbish food, our customers, decide what will succeed, not some highbrow in a New York office.”

      Don’t get me wrong, I like to eat a burger now and again. But nothing but burgers makes for a very poor diet. And to torture the analogy a little further: if I’m sitting down to a meal, I’m happy to pay a few extra quid for something prepared by professionals, rather than take my chances with amateurs.

      The bottom line is, most self-pubbed books are self-pubbed because they couldn’t find a publisher, and for very good reasons.

      Cheers, Declan

      • BlaineReimer says:

        Your McDonalds analogy is apt. One can travel all over the world and when you see the golden arches you know exactly what to expect, because you’ve come to expect a certain level of product and service from the brand, just like you expect a basic level of quality from a book produced by a publisher. Sadly, though, much of what does make it past the gatekeeper is hardly more than basic, and who knows how many masterpieces have been smothered to death on slush piles.
        I agree that most self-pubbed books are probably rejects, but I think that is changing. I did attempt to query agents for Love is a Wounded Soldier for a time before becoming disenchanted with the process, and let it gather dust for a few years before putting it on KDP a couple months ago. I’ve been very happy with the response so far, and hope there will come a day when agents will rue their oversight.

        • declanburke says:

          I’m delighted to hear you’re doing well, Blaine. Happy days.

          I don’t necessarily believe that books are rejected for their quality; they might simply not be a commercial enough prospect for a commercially minded publishing house. That was pretty much the feedback I got from seven or eight publishers with my book, Absolute Zero Cool; so much so, that I was planning to self-pub it. That wouldn’t have diminished its quality; it’s still the same book now as it was then; but it would have been a reject. According to those who rejected it, I guess it still is.

          As for the McDonald’s analogy, maybe it was more apt than I thought. If there’s one thing that’ll kill the novel dead quicker than a wayward meteor it’s a global hegemony, the literary equivalent of the warm cardboard served under those Golden Arches.

          Apologies to anyone who likes to eat in McDonald’s, by the way.

          Cheers, Declan

          • Virginia says:

            The book i’m reading is CamJansen The Chocolate Fudge Mystery.It is about two kids named Cam Jansen and Eric Shelton selilng chocolate bars and rice cakes.One day they saw a person walk by them.Eric tried to say if she wanted to buy a chocolate bar or rice cake but,she kept walking.You should read this interesting book called CamJansen The Chocolate Fudge Mystery.

  2. declanburke says:

    “Readers are the new gatekeepers as well as our patrons.”

    Dale, I’m curious – in what other business or industry would you suggest that the consumer should also be in charge of quality control? Cheers, Declan

    • daleamidei says:

      In a free market economy, consumer satisfaction is always the arbiter of success. That is the functional essence of competition.

      • declanburke says:

        I’d suggest that writing good books is a bit more complex than the functional essence of competition, Dale. Also, I’ll throw out the McDonald’s comparison again. A satisfied customer is no guarantee that that customer is getting quality.

        Of course, I suppose it all depends on why you want to write books.

        Cheers, Declan

  3. daleamidei says:

    Readers are the new gatekeepers as well as our patrons. As an indie author, there is nothing that could wound me more than disappointing one of them. I remember that as I write, address my editor’s suggestions, and when I format. I wonder if the employees of the Big 6 can say the same.

    • joemccoubrey1 says:

      Dale – you’ve hit the nail firmly on the head. I agree that the best of the indie authors are meticulous in their preparation – and readers are beginning to take notice of the increased quality.

  4. declanburke says:

    Hi Joe –

    As always, kudos for your efforts on behalf of other writers.

    Can I take issue with the idea that ebooks have given rise to a new breed of fussy and discerning reader? Quite the reverse, in fact; when books are available very cheap or free, why should a reader worry about being discerning? The ebook is very like a TV remote control; picking a book to read becomes a matter of simply clickety-clicking through the options until something palatable pops up; it may not be brilliant, or what you were looking for, but it’ll pass the time. There’s not a lot of discernment that goes into that process, is there?

    I do like the democratic aspect of the ebooks, both from a writer’s and a reader’s point of view. Right now, though, epublishing is in the very early stages of a Klondike gold rush, and people are going crazy trying to stake a claim without having the faintest clue of what anything is actually worth.

    As you say, the market will eventually find its own level. Maybe I’m a cynic, and maybe I’ve been hearing too much lately about how democratic governments are being held at gunpoint by ‘the markets’, but I’ll be very pleasantly shocked if the market settles down in favour of either writers or readers. It’d be the first time in the history of capitalism if it does …

    Cheers, Declan

    • joemccoubrey1 says:

      Hi Declan – thanks for a great extension to the debate. Can’t argue with anything you’ve said. The discernment I was referring to was that with ebooks the facility to use the ‘sample’ read is tending to lead to more and more rejections by potential readers. Or maybe I’m just classifying everybody with the way I do it!

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