Monday, April 27, 2009

How Do You Buy Books?

As a new writer, I'm often intimidated by the idea of trying to get my yet-to-be-published novel into the public eye. I want to vomit whenever the host of an agent panel asks an auditorium crowd how many of them are writers and four hundred people raise their eager hands.

But I know I'm not alone. Writers with new novels constantly have to face the public arena and hope that their book will be picked out from the crowd. It's not an easy task when so many superstars (literary and otherwise) are already taking center stage.

I've been trying to help out my fellow writers when I'm at the book stores. First of all, while I still end up going to the library a lot, I'm also buying books more often, at least one book a month. And, I'm making sure it's a new book rather than a used one.

When I go book shopping, I also try to pay attention to more than what's on the most prominent display tables. Even if I end up buying something like Water For Elephants, I at least give several other books a chance first. I peruse the shelves, pick up several books from authors I haven't heard of, in genres I wouldn't normally read, and I look at several random passages before deciding whether or not to buy it.

I also try to give books as gifts whenever I can. When I first started doing this, I made the mistake of giving people--including non-readers--books that I liked. That usually ended up with the book crying on some dusty shelf. Now, I give books that I think the recipient will like, and for non-readers, I choose shorter books with topics I know they are interested in. This has had a much higher success rate and many more thank yous.

How do you all obtain books? Do you buy them? Used or new? What do you do to help your fellow writers?


  1. I've begun buying exclusively from my local book store. 1) I want to support the economy, and 2) I know more $$$ goes to the author if I buy local (as opposed to Amazon).

    Also, I try to get hardback.

    This does lead to some weird looks from the bookstore owner when I buy three books from them for $50 that I could get for half that at Amazon, but I feel strongly about it, so that's what I do.

  2. Why is it that we don't raise our hands in that auditorium? Interesting.

    I'm all for supporting the local book stores and writers. If I'm there as a regular customer - getting to know the people who run those stores then maybe they will support me when my first novel gets published. It's all good karma :)

  3. I've got to admit that I judge a book by its cover. Then I'll read the back of the book and the first page and maybe a random page (around 50 or so). If the writing doesn't feel like something I'd like I set it back down.

    Word of mouth is always the best for me, I'm a little hesitant about buying if I don't know the author. (I know- doesn't bode well for an aspiring novelist.)

  4. Right now I'm reading THE STORY OF EDGAR SAWTELLE, which a friend loaned me.

    I love to browse through bookstores. Most often they are the smaller bookstores at airports, so when I get to Barnes & Noble or Border's I'm in heaven. I wander the aisles in categories that interest me, looking for titles.

    When a title catches my eye, I read the jacket copy and any reviews. It it seems compelling, I go for it.

    I rarely read an actual passage of the book if it's a novel, but a cookbook or humor book always warrants a few pages to see if it's any good.

  5. My buying habits have changed a lot over the years. I used to almost always buy used books, and I was excited to find something fairly new for a little money. Then I went through a phase where I was giving Amazon a lot of money because I wanted to buy recent books but didn't want to spend full price. Now, as a soon-to-be-published (fingers crossed) author, I buy my books at local stores and pay full price. My reasons: as Beth said, more money goes to the store and more money goes to the publisher (hence, hopefully, to the author). I am fighting against the hegemony of Amazon.

    Which books I buy has also changed. For the longest time I would only buy books from authors I already knew or that had been strongly recommended by people whose taste I can trust. Now I'm trying to read more first-time authors' books and more recent authors I've never heard of, to broaden my stodgy old horizons and help out what I hope will soon be my peer group.

    I still give a lot of books as presents, but I am awful at that and hardly ever get it right. Too many of my gift books, I fear, are weeping on dusty shelves.

    I still shop at used stores, because I love books as objects and feel sad for them when they've been sold. "Someone once loved this book," I say. "I'll take it home and treasure it."

  6. This is going to sound pathetic, but you know how sometimes used books are left in huge boxes in random locations (the break room at work, the grocery store, cast-offs from the library, the side of the road)? Perusing these boxes make me SOOOOOOO happy, and I've found some gems (believe it or not :-) that I never would have found at a bookstore.

    That's not to say that I don't go to the bookstore. I do. All the time. It's like locking an alcoholic in a liquor store, though. Often, I can't see over the huge stack of books I'm buying (selected often at random, incidentally ... I read anything and everything, so that seems to work best for me).

  7. I spend too much money on books. It's a problem...I can't go by a Barnes and Noble without stopping, spending a ton of time in there, and buying two or three books. I take after my mother's side of the family. LOL

  8. So many writers! Scary!

    I also try to find new books I've never heard of. I usually go to the library, but if I find some little obscurely alone book that I enjoy I might buy the sequel or another book by the same author.

  9. I buy tons of books. Generally new at the Barnes & Noble. Sometimes through Amazon when I can't find them at the BN or when I can't get to the store. When we lived in a small community before our last move I bought from the local store. They were great with their suggestions and quick with an order if they didn't have it, but I haven't found one where I am now.

    I read reviews and pick up the ones that sound good to me. In the store I browse and read the back or inside the jacket. I give chances to new authors, if their book intrigues me. When I find new authors I like, I eagerly await the new books they release. If they are only new to me, I will pick up all the books they've written (that sound interesting to me) and read them.

  10. This is heartwarming to hear about so many many people buying from local book stores! Way to go! I like Amazon but every once in awhile it does some scary things too. And, in the end, I wouldn't want it to be the only place where one can get books.

    Tess, I have managed to raise my hand in those auditoriums every once in awhile. It's just hard to tell because every one else is doing it too! :P

    It's interesting to hear about how every once chooses a book. Jacket copy, blurbs, word-of-mouth...everything can provide some sort of information.

  11. I obtained books through all means - gift from someone, purchase and borrow as well.

  12. Mostly I buy books from Amazon and Hastings, but I haven't bought any books in a while. Instead I've been trading books with a local book store (their advantage).

  13. For the most part, I buy my books new. I haven't checked a book out from the library in (well, forget the number, that number's not important, not all) years! I often swap books with a friend of mine. For the most part, new is the way I normally go.

    I have to agree with Joyce W - the cover normally catches my attention, then I'm on to the jacket flap/back cover, and then to the first chapter. Heck, I shop for wine the same way - interesting label and I'll pick up the bottle, read the 'description' and, just for kicks normally, buy the wine. If the wine is bad, I won't buy it again. If a book is bad, well, at least I supported somebody by buying it new.


  14. I have to admit, I've been getting most of my books at the library. I just don't have the funds for books like I used to. If I do buy a book I get it from Amazon, or if I have a coupon, from Barnes and Noble.
    I didn't realize buying from Amazon could mean less money for the author.

    If I read something good, I do make a point of telling everyone I know about it. A lot of times they read it, too. I like leaving reviews on and reading what my friends have listed.

  15. This is a great post, Davin. I realised I'm more aware now (as I actively search for a publisher of my own novel) what books I buy and where I buy them. When I lived in Iqaluit, where the bookstore's selection was mostly Arcitc-oriented and soon exhausted, I realised I really loved browsing and being and buying in an independent bookstore, rather than on-line. Though I still love buying used books--the bargain, the notion that someone else, someone I don't know read the same book--this is very appealing to me. But now I feel guilty about it.


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