What I’ve Been Reading And How It Disproves Some Common Self-Pubbing Wisdom
(Damn, am I good at short and pithy titles or what?)
Long story short, I live in a place that is not exactly conducive to either reading or writing. To somewhat mitigate the negative effect this has on my sanity, I’ve been spending a couple of afternoons a week at the library.
Now, was my OCD still completely out of control, I have no doubt what I’d be doing is working my way through my over 1400 book long “to read” list on Goodreads. Since my OCD is more-or-less managed right now though, instead I’ve been wandering pretty aimlessly through the library and reading whatever grabs my interest at the time.
So, here’s a list of books I’ve either read or at least read a significant portion of in the past few weeks (There’ve been others I’ve tossed aside after a chapter, usually non-fiction that was blatantly stupid or dry enough that the subject matter would have to be something I found very interesting for me to push past it to read the damned thing.) (Goodreads links included, in case any of my readers may wish to find out more about any of these.):
Luke Skywalker Can’t Read: And Other Geeky Truths by Ryan Britt
Time Out For Happiness by Frank B. Gilbreth, Jr.
End of the Drive by Louis L’Amour
Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Pamela Smith Hill (Editor)
Unholy Business: A True Tale of Faith, Greed, and Forgery in the Holy Land by Nina Burleigh
Various In Nomine rpg books because the above inspired an idea that is, alas, too easily resolved because of one sort of angel’s special power, so that was a waste of a couple of days. I’m not linking to those because they’re tangential to this discussion because I already owned them. If you’re a fan of quirky out-of-print rpgs, here’s a fun free sample adventure with enough of the rules to play it: http://www.warehouse23.com/products/SJG37-3345 (I should probably confess that I know the author and owe my ability to use commas properly to her, so I possibly don’t have an unbiased view of this adventure.)
Arlo, Alice, and Anglicans: The Lives of a New England Church by Laura Lee
Sometimes the Magic Works: Lessons From a Writing Life by Terry Brooks
And I get the feeling I’m forgetting something.
Now, according to surveys done by various people and organizations over the past several years, since the self-publishing boom started, the main thing that gets people to read books is them being recommended by a friend.
Zero of those books were recommended by a friend. Three of the authors were ones I’d first read because of my mother . . . Gilbreth, Wilder, and L’Amour . . . but none of the specific books were. And I long ago quit being one of those readers who automatically reads anything by a favorite author. Being one of my favorite authors just means I’ll try to read anything by you; it doesn’t mean your book won’t end up back on the shelf after a chapter or two.
Another thing authors, especially the sort who think some degree of spamming their fanbase is acceptable, say is that studies have shown a person needs to hear about a book a certain number of times before they’ll read it. (I have yet to see one actually link to said studies, so I doubt the veracity of this.) I’d heard of three of those books before, but forgotten two of them existed until I was looking right at them and then recalled, “Oh, hey, that’s that thing I wanted to read!” (The one by Gilbreth and the one by Brooks.)
So why did I choose those particular books?
The first one . . . look at the title. Who could pass it up? I was literally wandering around that time.
The second one . . . I was trying to remember why I was looking in biographies and saw that, knew that I loved two other books by Gilbreth, so I checked it out.
The L’Amour short story collection . . . okay, this one I was looking for the author. Because I couldn’t find any good non-fiction on life as a cowboy and figured I could count on a L’Amour short story collection to have something useful and interesting. (My L’Amour books are presently inaccessible.) (I’m writing a space western version of the Little House books, basically. Because it kept bubbling up while I was trying to write other things so I gave in.)
Pioneer Girl I was, as I said, looking for specifically. I’m pretty sure I hadn’t heard of it seven times or whatever the magic number is when I decided I wanted to read it though. Pretty sure, in fact, that I signed up for the mailing list to find out when it was out the very first time I read that it was going to come out. (And then missed that email because of an overzealous spam filter, so the first notice I saw about it being out was that the first printing had already sold out!)
Unholy Business . . . the title. I forget what I was looking for; I might’ve been just wandering then too, but what made me pick up that particular book was the title. And the cover and blurb.
The next book . . . this area has lots of interesting history so I was looking in the local history section and, well, it was a book that combined local history (some of the research the author did for the book was done at the very library I checked it out of, in fact) and a bit of a bio one of my favorite musicians. Of course I had to read it!
The last one . . . I had been looking for a specific book but couldn’t find it, so I was wandering around and seeing what else caught my eye. I saw that book, recalled that I’d read a sample and liked it, and decided to read the rest.
So that’s seven books — more than that if you count the rpg books — that I’ve read, or at least read a good portion of, in the past three weeks. None of them are in the genre I write which is, according to some authors, therefore the genre I should be reading . . . so I can keep up with trends and therefore be sure to write something that will sell. None of them are books I decided to read after hearing about them several times. None of them are books that someone I trust recommended to me.
Let’s look at some of my most favorite books, defining favorite as books I’ve read so much I’ve had to replace them or would have if they weren’t e-copies:
Imzadi, possibly the non-YA book I’ve read most — bought it because I was a hard core Trekkie when I was younger. (These days my tastes have changed and I’m likely to lecture you about the superiority of Babylon 5 if Star Trek comes up.)
Little Town on the Prairie — Okay, Mom recommended the series, I chose this book first for some reason that I’m sure made perfectly good sense when I was . . . eight? Nine? Something like that. I remember an excerpt from By the Shores of Silver Lake was in my fifth grade English book and I’d already read the whole series by then, so I was definitely younger than ten.
These Happy Golden Years — See above. This and Imzadi are also the closest things to a romance I like.
Anne of Green Gables — I got it from somebody when I was too young to appreciate it, tried to read it again for some reason — possibly because it was there — when I was about ten, read most of the series in one day. I remember this because I am too pale skinned to sit outside reading all day without there being consequences. The sunburn was worth the enjoyment, though.
The Hobbit — I saw the Rankin-Bass cartoon and fell head-over-heels in love with Middle Earth. Over two dozen years later, that love hasn’t decreased one bit.
Name of the Wind — I recount how I discovered this book here.
Discount Armageddon — I believe I’ve told this story before, but am a bit rushed so I won’t look for it right now. In short: I followed a link to a blogpost of the author’s where she described a character as the child of Batman and Dazzler. So I downloaded the sample. About five pages in, there was a bit of dialogue that could’ve come from one of my rpg sessions. I decided I had to read the book because the author and I clearly were on the same wavelength.
Little Women — This, honestly, is the first book I ever remember hearing read to me. I have no idea how young I was. It was upstairs at my grandparents’ house is all I recall. But I’m pretty sure the fact that I read my first copy so much that the front cover fell off, then the bit over the spine fell off too, to say nothing of the fact that I know the book so well that I can spot every word that’s different between my abridged and unabridged copies has nothing to do with that. Reading it in the first place, sure. Re-reading it again and again and again when I was old enough to actually grok it fully? Pretty sure that’s got nothing to do with Mom reading it to me before I could read myself.
So, in short, I conclude that those surveys are stupid. Possibly because most of them seem to focus on those weird people who only read one genre. I am, as should be clear from my list of favorite books and books that I’ve read recently or am presently reading, not that sort of reader. Neither are most of the readers I know.