Thursday, November 14, 2013

How Have Your Book Buying Habits Changed?

Has the way you make book buying decisions changed in the past few years? It certainly has for me. And I don’t mean the fact that I can buy e-books for less money than print books. I’m taking about how I've had to change the way I make my book buying decisions.

Back before Amazon came along, I would walk into a bookstore, head directly to the shelves holding my desired genre (usually fantasy), and peruse the books. I’d check out titles and authors, and if I was intrigued, I’d read the back cover copy to see if the premise was interesting.  If so, I’d open the book.

Somewhere roughly in the middle.

You see, I’d learned at any early age that the opening chapter of a book was usually a poor way of judging a book. Back then, most books started slowly, with the MC doing something rather mundane, like thinking about the weather or something similarly uninspiring, and it would be a while before the story got around to anything interesting. There might be a prologue, or lots of backstory (which I don’t mind all that much myself, as long as it’s entertaining), but those things didn't give the reader a good handle on how the author was going to tell the story, which is what I wanted to know before I bought a book.

So I’d open the book somewhere in the middle and look for things like the percentage of dialogue. Too little and it might be a tough read, but too much and it might be a sign of a weak plot. Did the author spend too much time harping on the character’s feelings or did he/she get on with the story? Was the prose too purple for my tastes?

Now everything has changed. I don’t have as much time to visit bookstores these days, despite the warm  fuzzy feeling I get whenever I’m inside one, so I spend much of my book searching time on Amazon. And Amazon’s previewer only allows me to see the beginning chapters, which means I’m often forced to make a buying decision based on the part of the book that happens long before the story-worthy problem (as Larry Brooks puts it) is revealed. How much different will the writing be once the story gets going? Did the author spend all their energy on that first chapter and leave a sagging middle? The whole process leaves me feeling rather anxious. I will admit, though, that the lower price of e-books does help mitigate the risk of choosing wrongly.

This new paradigm has also changed how I write. When I first began writing fiction, I never paid much attention to those people who said that your first chapter is the most important chapter. I grew up in a time when first chapters weren't all that exciting. But now, with the Amazon previewer, I’ll agree that the first chapter is pretty darn important. Not only does it have to demonstrate your writing style, but it also has to convince the reader that your character is worth following for the next twenty chapters and that the excitement is only just beginning. A rather tall order.

 So how has the Amazon previewer changed the way you buy books?

17 comments:

  1. Absolutely -- I agree with you whole-heartedly.

    Also, I've noticed two other trends as to my reading that add to it -- since I spend more time creating (writing and playing music), I have MUCH less time to read. And as my blogging circles have widened I've met more and more writers, so my "To Be Read" pile grows much faster.

    Less and less time to read more and more books means I'm also much less patient with what I read -- that adds even more weight to that critical opening chapter. You'd better grab me quickly, 'cause my clock's a tickin'...

    AND you'd better hold on to me even into those sagging middle chapters. There are too many other books waiting....

    Oh, and "SPLASH" from Christine's soak-a-bloke. :)

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    1. Less time to read these days? Yep, I hear you. And not only has my reading time gone down, but the number of books on my Kindle is multiplying. I'll never catch up unless I stop writing. Thanks for the soaking.

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  2. Mostly my choices are... well, I pretty much only buy books by writers I know these days... to support my friends and colleagues. I will also periodically purchase a hot book in my genre -- and a new book by Margaret George or in Tanya Huff's Confederation series is a Siren call. However, I usually buy traditional books in paper still... the cost thing.

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    1. I'll admit I'm beginning to buy only from authors I've already read, since I know I like their writing style. Makes it harder to find new authors, though. Thanks for stopping by.

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  3. You read the middle? I guess with fantasy you'd have to. (There's a reason I switched genres.) =) I still always read the blurb and first chapter...but truth be known? I buy A TON of books now days--where as I used to get all shy about it. I mean, paper is a valuable commodity to me, and to actually HAVE to own a book, it had to be the best thing since homemade bread. Now days I'll grab it as long as it sounds interesting--often before I've even read an excerpt. Crazy right? Ah the ease of ebuying.

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    1. The ease of ebuying is right. Especially with all the free and discounter ebooks, which I do admit to collecting. Not that I necessarily want to read them all, but because it gives me a good sampling of opening chapters and writing styles.

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  4. My book shopping runs along two paths: for browsing, I like going into a physical bookstore and seeing what catches my eye. When I know exactly what it is I want to get, I go to Amazon.

    Also: splish splash, my good sir - thou hast been soaked! :-)

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    1. Ah, the best of both worlds.

      Thank you, dear lady. My garments are indeed wet.

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  5. That's interesting to read your conclusions about the book based on how much dialog is in it. But thinking about it, I think you have a valid point!

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    1. I was never much for dialogue back in the day, unless the dialogue was pushing the plot forward. Anything else and I grew bored. Which is probably why I have so much trouble writing dialogue these days. Thanks for stopping by.

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  6. First, I have to like the cover. Then I have to like the blurb. Then, if I flip to the middle and like what I read, I buy it. Unless I like too many, then I have to choose which one I want the most.

    Happy Soak-A-Bloke Day! Just stopped by from Christine's Realms Faire event.

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  7. I noticed that I commented on another post before this one came up this morning. So I'm soaking you twice! *SPLAT!*

    The way I choose books to read and the way I write definitely have changed. I don't have lots of money to spend on books, so I mostly buy books to support my writer friends. The blurb means a lot more to me now and reviews. I still go to the library once a week, so I get to look through books at my leisure there. Even with my favorite best selling authors, I won't buy the book until I know I'll reread it these days.

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  8. Can't agree more. I always read the first chp in preview on Amazon to see if it grabs me... if it's wow, I tend to buy it right away:)

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  9. Soaking you with good-natured splashes from Christine's site.
    Yes, it's harder to shop on Amazon in some ways but I love the freedom of midnight shopping in my slippers. Actually, I got used to it years ago when I lived 2 hours away from any kind of shopping mecca and in snow country. Now it's habit.

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  10. Like you, I get the warm fuzzy feeling in a bookstore but I buy most of my books on digital or I get them from the library. Unlike you, to determine if I like a book I always start at the beginning. What captures me is the writing. I usually know within two or three pages if I will like the book. A sagging middle may make me put the book down later.
    Oh, and you've been soaked!

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  11. You're thoroughly soaked by now, but this biochemist shalt spray you with her late-night comment nonetheless. If I really enjoyed an author's previous work, I'll read most anything they release. I collect signed books, so I tend to buy from indie sellers offering autographed copies and signing events over amazon--paper far outshines ebooks in my world:)

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  12. Wow, I almost never bought a new book because of being a garage sale junkie, and I never opened to the middle either. The cover and blurb with a quick peek at the first pages either made me buy or leave it. Most of the time, I was looking for a missing book in a series I started. Now I'm so busy reading new releases, I put almost all of my paper books in my garage sale to thin them out. I didn't get rid of enough to tell though. When I die, they'll have to burn my books with me.

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