Monday, 15 August 2016

Book Recommendations – Do People Actually Do It?

I don't think the majority of readers do.

Not when it comes to independently published books written by unknown authors. It’s not necessarily because readers don’t want to spread the word about a book they really enjoyed reading, loved even, but rather the lack of opportunity to do so.

Avid readers aren’t always surrounded by others like them. Though they might ‘hang out’ online with other readers on Goodreads, in their day-to-day lives, the typical bookworm can be found amongst the uninitiated. How many times have we heard someone say, “I love books, but none of my friends, family or colleagues are into reading”? With technological advances and SmartPhones in every pair of hands you see, reading as a valued past-time is becoming more and more uncommon. Lives are busy. Schedules hectic. Time to entertain ourselves is limited. As a result, people are more likely to invest what little free time they have in less time-consuming activities that will (supposedly) entertain them in the same way as books will, maybe even more so.
 
The other point to make about recommending lesser known authors and their books is that people are wary as to what their peers will think of their suggestions. It’s easier to say you’ve read the latest John Grisham thriller or the current chart-topper and highly recommend them, than it is to broach the subject of a novel that only exists in digital format or doesn’t have the logo of a publishing house printed on its spine. They might worry that their social circle will think it’s odd that they’re reading books written by authors that haven’t made it. And you can’t blame them, not really, because you know you’ve posted on Facebook many times about watching the latest must-see movie that everyone’s raving about, but have you ever boasted about how much you enjoyed the short film your friend made in his or her media studies course?

What happens when a reader does recommend a book to their friends and family? The book gains an extra reader/download more often than not. One of the book bloggers that agreed to review my book Chasing Pavements said that she loved it so much that she phoned her mother “and told her to buy her own copy”, and sure enough, her mum downloaded my book from Amazon that same day. 
 
I convinced two of my friends – one a frequent reader, the other not so much – into reading the Twilight Saga when they weren’t at all keen, sceptical in fact. I really loved those books and told them they ought to give them a go. Both of them ended up enjoying the books and also the films. 
 
I downloaded the Fifty Shades of Grey series only because one of my closest friends – the occasional reader I mentioned above – highly recommended it. Until she’d read the trilogy and urged me to read it because she’d really enjoyed it, I had no intentions of reading a series of books that I would never read in a million years. I struggled through the first book but couldn’t finish the second – I’d been right all along; these books weren’t for me. However, I’d purchased them because I trusted my friend’s opinion. It’s not her fault that I didn’t like Fifty Shades – I’ve enjoyed other books she’s lent me – but the point I’m making is, we’ll try books outside of our comfort zone and outside our favourite genres if someone close to us shows passion for them. 
 
One of my friends recently said that though she doesn’t feel comfortable recommending books to her peers, she will read a book that’s recommended by someone she knows. Especially if it’s a new or indie author. 
 
Word-of-mouth recommendations really go a long way in getting indie authors a readership. We value the opinions of our peers and trust their judgement. Friends and family can ‘bully’ us (lovingly, of course) into reading different books, in a way that an author or their publisher’s marketing department can’t. 
 
Now, I’m not going to make the usual plea to readers to make a song-and-dance about all the indie books they’ve enjoyed, or at least about my books. They don’t have to. They don’t know me – hardly anyone knows me! – and after paying for my book with their hard-earned cash and getting what they wanted out of it, there really isn’t much more they owe me. And if they don’t feel particularly comfortable about telling people what they’re reading, they don’t have to. Not for me, a stranger. 
 
BUT. But if you want to help an indie author’s work become better known, if it doesn’t matter what your peers will think about what you’re reading, if you talk with your friends/family/colleagues about what you’re doing in your spare time, mention the latest book or a good indie book you’ve read and encourage them to read it. You’ll be surprised how much value your friends will give your opinion.


PS. Some tips if you plan to do some word-of-mouth promotions:


Be as positive as possible. Mention what you liked (good plot, relatable/interesting/unique characters, good writing etc.), how it made you feel, if you’re glad you read it, and so on.

Avoid things like:

“It’s probably not your thing, but you should give it a go and see…”

“It might be too romantic for you, but…”

“It might be too dark for you, but…”

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