Welcome to Biting-Edge, a blog shared by authors and vampire experts, Mario Acevedo and Jeanne Stein. We’ll cover urban fantasy, vampires, pop culture, and all things Joss Whedon. Unlike other fantasy blogs, we don’t insist on body cavity searches (unless you ask politely). Snarkiness is most welcome...though we won't promise not to bite back!

Sunday, May 27, 2012
  A matter of discovery
Mario here:

There's a lot of discussion about promoting your work and how readers find your books.

Mark Coker, over at his Smashwords blog, has posted the results of his survey on Mobilread distilling the argument to one profound question: What is your single most common method of book discovery?

Visit Coker's blog to get a detailed explanation of the pie chart. The number one reason (recommendations from fellow readers at online venues--29%) needs a qualifier as the survey was posted on an internet site, we could say it was a self-selecting audience. Jeanne posted a similar chart back in January, and since it was about brick-and-mortar bookstores, no big surprise that bookstore recommendations registered a big chunk at 30%. That chart didn't mention--as does Coker's--of readers on the watch for work by their favorite authors or the influence of book covers.

All this back-and-forth made me look at my current TBR and ask why those books are on my list:

The paper copy list:

A River Runs Through It, by Norman MacClean-- friend recommendation.
Pimp, by Iceberg Slim-- friend recommendation.
Taken, by Robert Crais-- favorite author.
To Say Nothing of the Dog, by Connie Willis-- friend recommendation.
Blackout, by Connie Willis-- bookstore browsing (and I was looking for something by this author).
Passion, by Lisa Valdez-- bookstore browsing (and I was looking for something by this author).
Consent To Kill, by Vince Flynn-- bookstore browsing (and I was looking for something by this author).
Cry Havoc, by Nigel Allsopp-- bookstore browsing.
Modern Sorcery, by Gary Jonas-- bought at the author's signing.
The Twelve, by James K Burk-- gift from the author.

On my Kindle:

Thread of Hope, by Jeff Shelby-- I was looking for something by this author.
Long Hard Ride, by Lorelei James-- bookstore browsing (and I was looking for something by this author).
Deadly Currents, by Beth Groundwater-- bookstore browsing (and I was looking for something by this author).
The Frog Prince, by Elle Lothlorien-- I was looking for something by this author.

Fourteen books total. Not a huge stack. Crunching the numbers.

50% looking for something by this author (influenced by book description and reviews).
21% friend recommendation.
The rest of the reasons are 7% each.

Hmmm...nothing about the affect of covers. I will say that I've avoided certain books because the covers turned me off, figuring amateurish cover equaled amateurish prose.

How do you choose books for you TBR pile?

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If all I have to go on IS the cover, then, yes, covers heavily affect my choice, but I usually flip through and read: first page, a middle page or two, back copy. I consider overall concept/plot. Lately I've read some reviews that were kickass on some books, so those helped. I try to take in as many "data points" as possible. But I know a bad cover isn't always indicative of the content.
Your facebook page said you showed us yours. I guess I missed it.

My TBR is enormous> This is a partial list.
I'm working on catching up on books I haven't yet read by my favorite authors: Robert Crais, Tim Dorsey, Carl Hiaasen, Christopher Moore. Just starting to read Robert B Parker based on recommendations.

Also have a couple of Jeanne Stein books to read, Crypto-nomicon by Neal Stephenson (recommended by a MIT applicant I interviewed.)

then, there are some you recommended: Machine Man, The Reconstructionist, the Weird Sisters, and A Song of Ice and Fire.
BTW, the previous comment is from me, Bonnie B.
Frank: I usually ignore the cover. I don't troll for books on Amazon so thumbnails don't affect me.
Bonnie: I did show mine. Fourteen books. Hmmm...I need to add Carl Hiaasen.
My current To-be-read list is all hard copies.

The Last Wish - Andrezej Sapkowski
(a video game series I love is heavily based on Sapkowski's work)

The books Heartless and Blameless - Gail Carriger
(her books were mentioned by a web personality I consider to have good taste, and her books were also promoted by a clothing store whose clothes were used on the book cover)

I also have a number of classic Marion Zimmer Bradley sci-fi books and a couple Mercedes Lackey books from her Valdemar series waiting to be read.

To be honest, I started reading *most* of the authors on my bookshelves about 10-20 years ago. I originally found them from browsing library shelves and used book shelves. Then, because most of those authors were sci-fi/fantasy authors, almost their entire life's work is wrapped up in one particular fictional universe - one universe with many many trilogies and stand alone novels. I've discovered a few authors because of television shows (Jim Butcher's Dresden Files series and Tanya Huff's Blood Books) but most everyone else I've found by tirelessly sifting through the used bookstore. The books I end up taking home are a combination of back cover text, front cover illustration, and selected glimpses of text inside the covers. If I like the author I take home, then I will order the rest of the books in that series new and call it a day. Since I've been reading so many of the authors on my shelves for so long though, being in a situation where I have to find a new author to read is rather traumatic and therefore is ideally avoided when at all possible.
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Hmmm. I can't believe anybody uses primarily one method. Sure, I've got TBRs by favorite authors, but to get to the favorite authors list I had to start with the first time I read them. Browsing bookstores and picking up what sounds interesting to me is the standard. I believe that's how I first ran across your books (and then JS through this site). Now that I have a Nook I still look at the books in bookstores but nearly always buy them on the Nook later. As for the "People that bought this also bought" feature I often do look at the recommendations. I gotta wonder about those algorithms sometimes, but I do sometimes find new stuff that way. For example I've decided to try a book or two by Miyuki Miyabe (which will be hard copies as they don't exist for the Nook). Like the above entry I found the Dresden Files through the tv show. I lump reviews and online recommendations together. I do sometimes look at these, especially if I start seeing an author's name coming up multiple times (Lee Child), or the subject interests me. I happened to be going to India days after you recommended White Tiger. Since it was pertinent and sounded good I bought it (and read it in India). I never ever download books just because they're free. I am wary of self-pubbed crap with junky looking "covers" that are free or nearly so. However, I always look at the Deal of the Day or the short term deals of real books and will buy those if they interest me, and yes, if I like the author I will buy futures books by him/her. Right now I'm reading Soulless by Gail Carriger. It had (when it came out) a certain amount of buzz and was recently a Nook Deal, so two methods for that book.

How could anybody pick out even the majority of their books using only one shopping method??

I don't think you really want to hear my TBR list du jour.
I tend to buy books after I've "met" the author online or at a conference, often am attracted to books by the cover art, and I follow the blogs of authors and librarians (like Lesa Holstine) who do reviews.

Very interesting. In the last two days I was 'shopping' for a new read from Barnes and Noble online for my nook. Two things came to me while doing so.

1) I need a kindle too. I hated the fact that some of the books I want to download are only available on kindle or much cheaper over there. Even though I hate the idea of supporting amazon's taking over the world.

2) I don't take nearly as many book risks as I used to. I used to go to a bookstore and shop for hours, reading blurbs and picking books up on a whim. Online the experience is much different. I go with authors I know for fear of downloading a crap book. I'm more suspicious of covers, of blurbs, of reviews than I ever had been.

So I'm wondering if this is due to buying online or if it's a side effect of becoming a publishing "insider"? Thoughts? Do you find yourself with any e-reader biases?
Leia: I hope a new author proves to be a good surprise instead of a traumatic experience.
Cat: Did you like The White Tiger?
Patricia: Your experience shows why it's beneficial to be a pleasant person as an author.
Julie K.: I'll only download free e-copies of authors I know. I do buy books based on reviews (outside the book seller's venue). I am more adventurous with e-books since they are cheaper and my shelves are already quite full.
@ Mario - It's not new authors that are traumatic, but the process of finding one I click with :) Actually finding a new author I like feels fantastic ... it's just the process of getting there.
Oh, I completely forgot to mention personal recommendations being a factor. I frequent the local bookstore in town on a very regular basis - like two times a week. Since it is a a small store in a small town, the staff and I know each other very well and they are aware of the kinds of books that I like and ultimately buy. A couple of staff members in particular are very good about bringing a title to my attention after they have finished reading the advanced copy. As a result I have found a few new titles/authors through these staff recommendations as well.
My number one method of book discovery is: go to the library! :)
I browse the new books by reading the back cover and first page and check them out by the armload. Sometimes I don't like them at all when I start reading and I don't finish them. Sometimes they are awesome and I go buy a copy of the book for my very own, and search out all the other books by the author.
I highly recommend libraries!!!

Oh, and To Say Nothing of the Dog is one of my favorite books of all time, and Willis is one of my fave authors. But Blackout is way too long, IMHO.
Good luck with your TBR pile!
Mario - Yes, I did enjoy White Tiger. Without going into spoiler details I did have some issues with it, and I did expect more given it is a Booker Prize winner, but I did still enjoy it.
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