How do you find and select your books?
Deb Kastner here. When I first started reading (first grade?) my mom took me to the library every couple of weeks and let me choose a pile of books off the rack. I’m sure I probably annoyed her as I painstakingly made my selections. Books were—and are—new worlds to me. Every few months in school we’d receive a little Scholastic magazine from which to buy books. I think I was allowed to choose one. In any case, it took me forever to figure out which book I should choose. I sat with those catalogues for hours, drooling and dreaming. Circling everything that interested me and then slowly narrowing it down to my final choice.
Then I discovered series. More than one book with the same main character or setting? Heaven! (We’re talking Paddington Bear and Little House on the Prairie here, folks. This was way, WAY before Harry Potter came onto the scene.) Oh—and anything with horses. Black Beauty. The Black Stallion. Misty of Chincoteague. But I digress…
I still remember the Christmas my parents got me the entire boxed set of The Chronicles of Narnia. I’d read the first couple via the library and was totally hooked. So much so that I may have turned the easy chair so it faced the window and completely ignored the family celebration while I read through the entire series in one fell swoop.
While on vacation with my family, at a drugstore in tiny John Day, Oregon I discovered Harlequin Historicals and then there was no going back. I searched for them with a vengeance at the library, garage sales and book sales because by the time I’d found them, I’d missed several years’ worth. I bought the books just because they were part of a single series, even though they were written by a variety of authors.
As an adult, I finally got to spend my own money and buy—more books! I visited bookstores and always, ALWAYS checked the book aisle at the grocery store (Still do, actually. If my dear hubby turns around and can’t find me, he knows where to look.) I am first drawn to the cover (I personally like people on the covers. I’m shallow that way.) I read the back cover copy and the first couple of pages before making my selections. There are also some authors who are automatic-buys for me. Their books sell me on their name alone.
And then came Amazon, which again changed the playing field. Now I could buy books without even having to leave the comfort of my home. It took a while for publishers to adjust to this new format—covers had to be altered, back cover copy had to be front and center and eventually my publisher, at least, started including the first several pages as a teaser. So after a little bump while adjustments were made, I find I’m buying books relatively the same way, with the same information I would use were I holding it in my hand. I still prefer the feel of paper books so I generally buy paperbacks or hardcovers and have them delivered. That said, I also have a Kindle full of books.
Then in comes audio (and Audible!) books. Books on tape have been around for some time but they were harder to find. Now streaming/downloading audio books is not much more difficult than a click of a button on my phone (My husband and my bank account thinks it’s maybe too easy?) I love having the freedom to listen to a book while I cook and clean. Talk about multi-tasking, in the best sense of the word. I “read” many more books a month that way.
But (and this is my long-winded way of getting to the real topic of my blog post) I find it’s more difficult to select books on Audible. The covers are more or less the same and the back cover blurb is there. You can listen to a sample of the narration. My issue, and it’s mine alone to bear, is that I’ve got nearly 100% hearing loss in one ear and significant hearing loss in the other. The narrator consequently makes a huge difference in whether or not I’ll like a book, despite how much I like the author or story. I hear and understand deep male voices easier than female voices, which is problematic, since I love romance and those are generally read by women. (Although Broadway legend Terrence Mann did a phenomenal job narrating Julie Garwood’s Mercy.) If (When?? Please when??) I ever have one of my own books narrated I will beg, borrow and plead for him. To my knowledge he’s no longer narrating audiobooks, but a writer can dream. But back to my current dilemma…my solution is to listen to books narrated with a British accent, because for some reason I find it easier to understand accents. That I love Regency romances is a plus, but I still think I miss out on a lot of good books due to my limitations.
So, now what I really want to know is:
- How do you select a book? Author? Cover? Back Blurb? Something else?
- Does that change when you’re searching for an e-book (or shopping online?)
- Do you listen to audio books? If so, how do you choose which ones to buy?
Oh, and by the way, today is National Rotisserie Chicken Day, National Rocky Road Day and National Leave Work Early Day. So I highly suggest you leave work early, treat yourself to a chicken you don’t have to slave over the stove to make, grab some ice cream and a book and enjoy your evening!
Inquiring minds want to know, and if you comment, I’ll put you in the running for an autographed copy of my August release, The Cowboy’s Surprise Baby. May the commenting commence!
D K Stevens says
Yes… I think we grew up with the same love of books – anything with horses. Black Beauty, The Black Stallion, Misty of Chincoteague. I need to revisit those :) I loved getting that Scholastic magazine!
How do you select a book? Cover, Back Blurb, and yes I do read reviews when I select books..
Does that change when you’re searching for an e-book ? Yes,more of the blurb & I rely more on reviews then.
Do you listen to audio books? I do listen to audio books.. I still read the blurbs & reviews there too.
I review so I like to read what others think.. I appreciate when a reviewer mentions if a book is a clean read or beware, R rated..
Now, I’m off for some chicken, ice cream & since I’m retired I’ll just go read a good book
& quit housework early :)
Enjoyed the post today and your book is on my TBR list !
Deb Kastner says
Hi DK! I can’t believe I forgot to mention reviews. I was already feeling long-winded, LOL! Reviews are becoming more and more important in today’s market buying place. If you love a specific book and want to help an author, please take a moment and tell others what you thought. Authors appreciate reader-reviewers more than we can say!
Merrillee Whren says
I mostly choose my books by the blurb. Covers don’t usually make a difference to me. There are no automatic author buys for me. I have some authors I love, but if the blurb doesn’t strike me, then I don’t buy it. I cannot listen to audio books. My mind wander too much. I tried on a long car drive, but I found I had missed major points because my mind took a detour. I love those special days!
Deb Kastner says
Isn’t it cool that those national days all go together? I’m all for ice cream and taking off early from work (providing my word count is done.)
Andrea Cox says
Deb, thanks for sharing your evolving relationship with books. Mine is very similar (even down to the Scholastic catalogs), except that I haven’t started buying lots of audios yet.
My favorite series of all time is the Mandie series by Lois Gladys Leppard. I’m still tracking down the ones I don’t have in order to eventually complete my collection.
How do I choose books? Like you, I have certain auto-buys. Other than that, if I’ve heard really great things about a book from friends or fellow writers, I’ll be more likely to give a new-to-me author a try. If I’ve gotten to know a new-to-me author online, I’ll generally find one or two of their books and see what I think. Then, if I’ve run out of those options, it comes down to if I’m attracted to the cover (not necessarily people on the cover, but it does have to catch my eye) or title, then if the back cover copy holds up to that initial attraction and sounds interesting enough, I buy it.
I read more paperbacks than anything, but I put my Kindle to good use too. I recently discovered netgalley.com, which is where you can get free Kindle books in exchange for reviews. Since I review nearly every book I read anyway, this works out great for me.
Deb Kastner says
Netgalley is such a win-win. Publishers get reviewers for their books and reader-reviewers get free books!
I read based on the theme I’m interested in at that particular moment. (ie .marriage of convenience) . I buy online from Harlequin.com when they have a sale (they have them a lot)
I buy from http://www.1stchoiceusedbooks.com ($1-2 a book plus shipping via media mail) plus there’s discounts as well.
I also buy from http://www.thriftbooks.com if I can’t find them elsewhere (they have sales too, but not as good as they used to be so I always check http://www.1stchoiceusedbooks first. (it ships worldwide).
Deb Kastner says
I sometimes start reading themes, as well. Or at least sub-genres. I’m on a Regency kick right now.
I select the books I want to read by the blurb, also from reviews and social media like Goodreads, Facebook and lot of wonderful blogs like this one.
I am blessed to have found Christian Reviewers and joined the group and that lead me to an amazing group of authors I follow faithfully.,
Deb Kastner says
I love meeting authors and often find new favorites because I pick up a couple of books from those authors.
Samantha B says
First of all, one thing that is very important to me is reading clean books. So I usually keep it in the Christian sections or try to find content advisory reviews.
Then, the two most important things for me is the cover and the summary. I have to agree with you I prefer when there is a character on the cover opposed to having a landscape to the cover. Also, I am less prone to get books when the covers don’t look professional. I know there are a lot of Indie authors and many of them still do a great job with the cover. But even if we are told “don’t judge a book by its cover” I find I don’t really have a choice because there are so many books and I can’t start reading the summary of each. So first I have to like the cover and then the story.
There is an exception though. If the book is by an author I know and like, I might read the summary no matter what the cover looks like. But the cover still play a huge role for me.
As for the ebooks… I have a hard time “buying ebooks”. I feel like too often I could buy the print version without paying that much more and I don’t like paying for something that I can’t hold in my hands! I do get a lot of free ebooks though and I think it is great. I really like reading on my ereader and free books (either freebies or giveaway copies) are a great way for me to discover new authors. If I really like the first book in a series that I got for free, there are a lot of chances I’ll get the whole series in print.
I also like free ebooks because I still live at my parents and I don’t work so they are the ones that pay for my books and I know it can get expansive. So often I’ll get a book free that I wouldn’t have bought just to try it.
Also my library doesn’t have many Christian books, so to me it’s like getting a book from the library to discover new authors and stories. :)
But for the rest I shop for ebooks and print books the same way!
Finally those audiobooks… I have to admit I have troubles with those. I’m pretty sure I would never buy any. I have a few that I got from free offers, but I don’t like it that much. I don’t know if it’s because English isn’t my first language (I don’t think so though, because I was never one to listen to books even in French and I listen to the radio in English without any problems) I just don’t like it. I don’t immerse myself in the book as much when I’m listening to it. I’d rather read it myself.
But now that I’m thinking about it, I remember loving being read to as a child and maybe it is really all in the narrator. So at one point maybe I should give it another try. ^_^
I wish you to get one of your books turned to an audiobook at some point :) If the narrator is maybe I’d even have to give it a try.
By the way, you do a great job with your covers! Those babies are so adorable and the stories sound amazing so you can be sure that even if I never read any of your books before, I bought Yuletide Baby and it’s waiting for me to read it on my nightstand :D And The Cowboy Forever Family is right at the top of my wishlist :)
Deb Kastner says
It’s actually the Harlequin art department who does my covers and I give them high props for that. I’m loving my cowboy/baby covers.
I also sometimes download free books on the Kindle to find new-to-me authors, but I’d much rather hold a real book.
Robin Kapshandy says
Well I admit I usually buy books by several authors that I follow first. You are one. Yep I always get theirs. Then I will look at other books by the title and cover and read the blurb on the back. If it hooks me I will get it. That’s how my TBR pile grows because my favorite author usually gets first read depending on my mood. I listened to Tom Wopat (One of the Duke Boys) read The Wedding by Nicholas Sparks and was amazed. Now I don’t want to listen to anyone else read. Lol Winger where I can get a list of other books her has read?
Deb Kastner says
I’m honored that I’m on your automatic-buy list, Robin. :) I really like Tom Wopat…going to have to go find that one (although Nicholas Sparks always makes me cry.)
I tend to look at everything the back cover blurb, the cover , the author for sure, even ebooks free or not I read about the book. Audio I don’t do unless it’s the free ones because i just have it for the classics. I currently have your book The Cowboy’s Forever Family and I’m looking forward to reading it. Thanks for all your hard work and many blessings, Jenny
Deb Kastner says
Hi Jenny! I have a few classics on Audio but I haven’t listened to them yet. I’m interested to see how a multi-cast audio would be. All of the ones I’ve listened to up until now have only one narrator, but my classics list is all multi-cast (and many famous actors.)
Jeanette Holtz says
I first look at the cover, That is how I started reading Love inspired Books. I was at a garage sale and started digging through a book of books, And I seen this beautiful cover with a baby in a red dress, and I kept digging in the box and came up with more Love inspired books, which I had never heard of and had no clue what they were, of coarse I knew they were romance books. So I bought a stack of them and since then have bought them every month when they come out. I think love inspired books had been on the market for about a year, when I went to that garage sale, so I have been reading them along time.
Deb Kastner says
Your comment warms my heart, Jeanette. Of course I’m a little bit biased as I’m a Love Inspired author who has been there from almost the beginning. It’s so exciting to go to a garage sale, library sale or book store and discover hidden treasure. My heart literally races!
Trixi O. says
For me, it’s a combination of things when choosing a book. If I know the author and love their books, I’ll know anything I choose from them will be good. I’ll still read the back blurb to get a feel for the book and look at the cover. I think an attractive cover first draws the eyes (me being a visual person) and makes me want to pick up and examine the book further. I also find the publishing company. That usually tells me right there whether I’ll enjoy the book. I only read Christian fiction, so if it’s a publisher I am not familiar with, I’ll look it up to see if they publish Christian work or not. Anything not Christian, gets put back on the shelf or in the case of online shopping, gets passed by. I also have several blogs that I follow via email. They often recommend books (sometimes new, sometimes not) by various authors. Or have an author interview and giveaway or just review various books. I also follow several authors via Facebook. It’s a great tool for me to discover new writers or just get to know the ones I know of better. Facebook book chats are always fun to participate in. I like interacting with the author and other readers. My goal isn’t to win the book or prizes they may feature, my goal is to have a fun virtual time with some like-minded people! So I’ve found many ways to choose my books. I also have a notebook that I write down all the books I’d like to read in the future. I either can go to my library and request a book if they don’t have it in their circulation or I have what’s called “Library2Go”. It’s like a virtual ebook borrowing system similar to going to the library. While they don’t always have the books I want, I’m sitll able to find enough for me to use on a regular basis. And just like a library, you can borrow the book for a certain length of time (I have mine set for 21 days).
As far as eBooks, I do own a Kindle and have way too many for me to ever read in a lifetime! Usually the first book in a series is free and if I like it enough, I will usually look to either borrow the others from my library or purchase the paperback on Amazon or Ebay. I don’t normally buy ebooks, it really has to be something special for me to want to spend my hard earned money on. I do like Christianbook (dot com) if I ever find myself wanting to purchase an ebook as they usually have the same books for a little less than Amazon. But again, my preference is holding a real book in my hands. The Kindle is nice only if I am unable to obtain a real book or if going on a trip so I don’t have to drag around a million books, lol! I also see where they have Kindle Unlimited now where you can borrow books. But again, I don’t see a benefit to myself since I really don’t wish to spend money on something like that. And the same rules apply to an ebook as a real book when choosing what one to read.
And lastly, audio books. I never listen to audio books. I think I can relate to Merrillee here, my mind just can’t focus on it long enough to be beneficial. I find with a real book, I can go back to a chapter or so if I missed something and catch back up to myself. And also same when I drive, I think I’d be too distracted to really focus on the story playing.
So there you have it, how I select a book! My favorite genre and first picks would always be historical (always!) but I don’t mind other genres. I have a LOT of Love Inspired, we’re talking at least 100+ on my bookshelf of every variety (Historical, Suspense, Contemporary). I like a nice long book for the most part (300-400 pages) but if I just finished a book or series, I’ll read a short novella to kind of help me transition to my next read or series. And lastly, I LOVE series books. I think I would choose that over anything. To me, it’s like meeting new friends and journeying with them along wherever or whatever life takes them!
Sorry this is a bit long-winded! But those questions you posed, Deb, aren’t easy one or two sentence answers for me…haha! Thanks for letting me share my thoughts today! I enjoyed reading the other comments here today as well. :-)
Trixi O. says
I will add as far as garage/yard/second-hand stores: I ALWAYS look for and buy Love Inspired or Heartsong presents. You should see me go crazy over finding a whole stack of them!! The last thrift store I went to, had about 3 bookshelves that I must have found at least 30 books (they were 50 cents a piece). I went up to the counter to pay for my items, and the lady shocked me by saying “Instead of ringing these up separate, I’ll just charge you $5 for the whole bag!!” , my first reaction was shock, then my face split with a huge grin & I couldn’t thank her enough :-D You should have seen my husbands eyes roll back…hahaha!!
Narelle Atkins says
Hi Deb, It’s the sample chapter that’s my deciding factor, with either an ebook or browsing a physical book in a store. If I’m hooked by the end of the sample, I’m more likely to buy the book. :)
Jessica Browning says
I usually pick out books to read at the library so the spine is what usually catches my attention. If it looks interesting I’ll pick it and check out the front cover. If it still passes the test I’ll then read either the back cover blurb or the inside dust jacket blurb.
Your buying strategy sounds a lot like mine and yes sometimes it’s just the authors name tht seals the deal. I have found that if it is not as favorite author of mine I will just buy the e-book and not put it in my shelf as I am running out of space. The one problem with that though is that often I can find the print price for a little less, and I still prefer a physical book but a kindle travels so much easier…