Novel Writing, Reading

How to ensure your novel is what’s read next

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Determining what to read next can be far more complicated than simply grabbing a book off the shelf. | Goodreads Avatar (Photo credit: minifig)

I have a complicated system for deciding what book I want to read next. First, I constantly keep my eyes peeled for books I might want to read. For example, this morning I read a blog post interview with self-publishing author Aimee Kuzinski. She caught my attention when she mentioned that the hardest part of writing her latest novel, Eye of the Storm, was realizing during the editing phase that she had a major plot hole that needed to be fixed. The fact that she took the time to go ahead and plug that hole rather than rushing her book to publication made me want to read her book.

I should probably mention that the premise of Kuzinski’s novel sounded promising as well. Seriously, what is wrong with me that the writer’s effort to produce a quality product is more likely to catch my attention than her story telling? Maybe I need to work on that. But I digress.

Once I find a book I want to read, I add it to my “to-read” list on GoodReads. I rarely have time to read a book immediately after discovering its existence. Without my to-read list, my brain draws a blank each time I am ready to pick out something to read. I have tried keeping lists elsewhere, but they always get buried in the avalanche that is my desk. GoodReads keeps my list all in one place and is easily accessible from both my computer and my phone. It also helps me keep track of what I have read, so it’s a great little app all around. (Note: GoodReads did not pay me to say all of these nice things about them.)

When the time comes to choose a book to read, I open both my GoodReads list and my local public library website. I am poor, so I always pick books I can check out from the library first. I usually put six to ten books on hold at once, typically a mix of one non-fiction research book for my current WIP to every three novels in the genre I am currently writing. Once in a while, I will read a different genre if something piques my attention, but I have noticed I do my best writing when I am reading a lot of books in the same genre.

Now, back to Kuzinski’s novel. I did a GoodReads search for Eye of the Storm, which resulted in a list of 246 books. I scrolled through the first two pages before I got bored with looking and moved on to something else. The novel interested me enough to do a search for it, but not enough to expend any additional effort beyond the initial search. At first glance, this author lost a reader based on an unoriginal title that did not show up in the first two pages of search results.

Out of curiosity, I did a search on the tentative title of my WIP. There is no other book with that title. Hypothetically, if my book were listed on GoodReads, anyone searching that title would find it, even if it didn’t have a single review. Keep that in mind when titling your next novel, as that is a big deal.

Here’s another big deal: As I was writing this blog post, I decided I should put a bit more effort into finding this novel. This time, I did a search on the author’s last name. I didn’t do this the first time because, well, look at her last name. I am a terrible speller, and I wasn’t able to copy and paste her last name from the blog reader on my phone to my Good Reads app. I am not telling you this because I want you to know how stupid I can be sometimes. I am telling you this because I want you to think about all of these stupid little logistical issues that can mean the difference between a reader choosing your book over another one. If every individual sale is important to you, then you need to think of everything.

Unfortunately, I did not find this particular author on GoodReads at all. Equally unfortunate is the fact that I will probably never read this book now. I do not purchase physical books because 1) I cannot afford them, and 2) I have no space to keep them. I also do not purchase ebooks until I am ready to read them. Why? Because the Kindle app on my phone is already full of unread free books that I have acquired over the past year or so, and I do not want to waste money on a book that might end up getting lost in that mess.

I could write this title down somewhere, and I might yet do that. It does sound like an interesting read. But let’s face it. There are a lot of interesting reads out there that I might enjoy. I have already demonstrated my inability to keep track of lists anywhere but on my phone. If I can’t save this title using my preferred method, I will likely forget it exists. In that aspect, I am probably very much like your average reader. That’s something worth considering, don’t you think?

How do you choose what book to read next? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

~Amanda L. Webster

2 thoughts on “How to ensure your novel is what’s read next”

  1. Amazing advice. A while ago, I typed in the title of my work in progress and zilch came up for it. It’ll be the only book with that title, which is what I wanted.

    When I choose what to read next, if it’s not from my fat list of unread ebooks and physical books alike, I take recommendations from friends who often share my tastes, read works under the genres I’m writing, or snag what may be popular on Goodreads or Barnes and Noble. Sometimes, it’s a let’s-get-this-outta-the-way thing, since I have so much to read as it is.

    There are so many factors!

  2. It is hard. I was in school for about the past ten years, so for a long time I mostly read what I had to read for school. I just didn’t have time for much else. After graduating in May of this year, I wanted to start reading more books but couldn’t figure out where to start. I had totally forgotten how to choose what to read and ended up reading a lot of garbage as a result.

    But now, I feel like I have a good system. I don’t waste quite as much time reading “bad” books as I did in the beginning. Plus, when I get my books from the library, I don’t feel as guilty about setting something aside if I don’t like it since I didn’t pay for it. Life is too short to waste time reading poorly written books when there are so many good ones available!

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