Blogger: Michelle Ule
Location: Home, Santa Rosa, Calif.
We got off the Underground at Oxford Circus, and I hurried down the platform. I thought I had spied a poster advertising a book a friend wrote, and I wanted to commemorate it with a photo to send her.
Alas, the ad was for Michael Palin’s autobiography, not Sarah Palin’s, and so Lynn Vincent won’t know I was thinking of her in London last weekend.
Throughout the Underground, we saw advertisements for books. One called the advertised book, “the next Stieg Larsson.” Stieg Larsson’s Girl Who Played With Fire’s cover shone out from numerous spots. Beach reads, summer reads, thrillers and even the classics got face time in the Underground.
Riding the rails, I saw several ads for the new Nintendo DS, which boasted 100 books to be read on your Playstation. It included classics like Steinbeck, Dickens and Austen. What a splendid concept–eject Mario and read something instead!
I found myself wondering, though, why I don’t see many ads for books here in the US? With the contraction in magazine and newspaper sales, I rarely see book reviews anymore. I was shocked this year when Christianity Today published its list of the best books of the year. I’d only heard of two of them.
Word of mouth always has played an important role in publicizing books. These days blogs, blog tours, and Amazon.com reviews may be the most likely way you’ll hear about new books. But are they effective? And do they reach the casual buyer?
Where do you learn about the books you want to read? Would a poster make a difference? And as writers, what can we do to make books more visible to the book-buying public? What draws your attention–the name (like Palin) or the cover (like Larsson)?
Recognizable cover art helps, whether I see the book or a poster. Like logos, some build familiarity, but the ads that are most likely to reel me in are near a place where I will make a purchase.
Since the cover image is such an important factor to me, I notice two trends. One is to make a new author’s books look like other successful books in the genre. The hope seems to be that if you like X, by association you’ll enjoy Y. The danger, though, is that they can all start to look alike. If I’m looking for an author I’ve just heard about and all I can remember is that her book had an Amish girl on the cover, I’m in trouble!
Stieg Larsson’s covers illustrate the other trend. Eye-catching and distinctive. They don’t give many hints of what the book is about, but he lets his titles do that. What these covers do well, though, is shout “Oh, that’s by that same guy.” Then I pick up the book to see if the inside is as unique as the outside.
My favorite way to learn about books I’ll want to read is when agents or authors ask their blog readers what they’re reading now, or what books have they recently read and loved. My TBR pile triples after reading those comment threads.
I get most of my reading suggestions from my adult daughters. They read lots of industry blogs and participate in several social networks. It is amazing how many good books we’ve discovered from this new version of the backyard fence.
I’m an eclectic reader so I find books in several different ways. When I wanted to know what kind of books won Pulitzers, I found a list of those from the past and read several. Once in a while, I check bestseller lists. Again, that need to see what makes it a bestseller–other than good marketing. Word of mouth through blogs, Facebook, and well, just word of mouth is probably the most effective for me. Sometimes librarians (I think they are called something else now) will be a good source for getting me into books I wouldn’t normally think of. I grab the book club lists from the desk at the library and see what they are reading. Oh, I could go on but now you have me acting like a kid in a candy store.