I started doing monthly reading round-ups about halfway through last year (2020) and I’m enjoying them, so I’m going to carry the practice over in to 2021. I’ll bring them all here, so they’re in one place and easy to find.
I organized my bookshelves this weekend. For me this is big time drama. There are so many decisions to make. What order to put them in? Which have earned the right to prominence on the actual shelves and which have to be consigned to hidden niches among the dust bunnies and dog fur? Which to get rid of? When to read the ones that have to go, because giving away an unread book is a sin in my world. The struggle is real, people.
And I can’t even with my children’s shelves. OMG, I can feel the twitches coming on just thinking about it. I order them; they disorder them. I order them; they disorder them. This is a pretty regular cycle in our world. Maybe I shouldn’t buy them so many books. *<.< side-eyes that idea*
But when my husband later asked what I’d done with my day and I proudly answered, “I organized the bookshelf” (Notice how now it’s the bookshelf, not my bookshelf? This is a small dishonesty I allow him to believe. It’ a form of kindness.) and he was devastatingly unimpressed, I had a revelation. He doesn’t get it. He has no idea why this lights me up and makes me happy. (Because drama and decisions be damned, I love playing with my books.)
So, what makes him different, I asked myself… what makes me different? Well, I am an unrepentant bookworm. He is not. I don’t mean he doesn’t read. He does occasionally. I think he maybe even enjoys it, on those rare occasions he dedicates himself, over months, to finishing a book. But it holds the same place of importance in his world as, say, swimming. Which he does with the kiddos a couple times a summer, or playing computer games. Which he loves in theory but almost never gets around to doing.
I however live to read. It is THE primary (non-chore) activity in my day-to-day life. I would (and often do) forgo almost every other activity in order to finish the book I started that morning. And until I began living with someone who didn’t live this way, it seemed absolutely normal. On further consideration, I realized that there are a number of things I learned about my perception of self by comparison to him, a normal non-obsessive-reader person.
I considered making this post a fictional account from the perspective of the non-reader—11 Things I Learned Living With a Bookworm—but that wouldn’t really have been me, so it’s 11 Things I Learned About Being a Bookworm by Living With a Not-a-Reader.
- Hoarding books is not the norm? Apparently, non-bookworms don’t cherish every page they own, even if they didn’t like the book. They think nothing of tossing the text when they’re finished, or even (gods forbid) if they didn’t.
- Having marked off over half the books in Emma Beare’s 501 Must-Read Books isn’t considered impressive? Aiming to read them all eventually is just a random, shrug-worthy goal. Keeping this book for years, just for the occasional joy of marking a book out of the index is weird and maybe obsessive. Planning to get a new version when your done, because new books have probably made the list since you bought your copy in 2007, garners an eye-roll from the non-reader, normal person.
- Not-a-readers don’t care what order their books are on a shelf? Apparently, a bookworm’s need to have an understandable system, even if it changes regularly, is odd. They also obviously aren’t driven bat-shit crazy by random stuff, like tangled headphones or unopened mail, that gets tossed on them as if they are any other openly available flat surface.
- Books aren’t decorations in the not-a-bookworm’s world and a bookworm’s desire to decorate with them is often unfathomable.
- The ability to sit in sloth-like stillness for hours, while entire worlds unfurl in your mind is not an admirable skill? It’s, like, lazy or something.
- A book isn’t meant to be read cover-to-cover in as short amount of time as possible, preferably one day, so that there are no interruptions in the experience? Apparently, this is something only bookworms feel is important and not-reader, normal people think is gluttonous.
- Reading 300 or so pages in a day is not a reasonable expectation, nor is 300 books in a year? Not-obsessive-reader people often find these numbers shocking.
- Coming to the table for meals and discussing something other than the characters or subplots of the book you’re reading is considered good manners? A bookworm’s need to share what they’ve just spent six hours immersed in is somewhat off-putting to the not-a reader, normal person.
- Forgoing human interactions and declining social invitations in order to finish a book is considered rude? Some bookworms are apparently seen as antisocial in the non-literary world.
- Reading a book quickly and being able to pull out and discuss themes, genre expectations and tropes are apparently, under non-bookworm conditions, considered anathema?
- I never, ever want to have to live as a normal, not-a-reader person. Being a bookworm, for me, is important and gratifying. It is a way of life that I choose.
It’s this last point that was brought home to me most saliently. I could choose to not be a bookworm, which conversely means I choose to be one. I have an uncle in his late 60s, who I would characterize as a reader, maybe even a mild bookworm. He is loosing his eyesight. He’s facing the question of bothering to learn braille or if audiobooks will be enough to sustain him. He is living my nightmare, but it seems to me he is also facing the choice of whether to remain a bookworm or to move on to other forms of self-identity.
Bookworm is a way of life. Perhaps there are better names for it, but this is the one I decided on. This is the label I choose for myself. No matter what the normal, not-a-bookworm person thinks of me (us), no matter how odd or off-putting they find some of my (our) habits, I find it something to be proud of. I don’t want to live in a world where books have no order, or can sit partially read for months on end, or where going to a movie is preferable to snuggling up with a book. I don’t want to be a not-a-reader, normal person. I live at one end of the reader extreme and I plan to stay here.
Tere is a certain freeing aspect to recognizing this. I am a bookworm and if you’ve finished this post, you probably are too. Welcome to the community.
As a reader I love Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing program. Almost everyday I scour the free book list (which in my case is eReaderIQ, but there are plenty of other aggregate sites out there). I’m looking for new and interesting reads. I’m what you might call a power downloader…actually, I have been called a power downloader. (Yea, that was you Harv*.) As such, I’ve learned a few things about my own behaviour. I’m not claiming universality here. There isn’t any thing to say everyone does the same as me, but I thought it might be helpful to those authors who are putting their work up for free to know what a reader, if not all readers, is doing when looking at it. I thought you might also like to know what is helpful or not. Honestly, I’ll admit to secretly hoping the everyone takes my advice as law and the whole system becomes my perfect whole. OK, I’m not holding my breath on that or anything.
Here are the things I deem worth mentioning, in no particular order:
A good cover is key, but it has to be a real cover. A cool picture doesn’t cut it. Here is an example of what I mean: Last Hope. Nice picture, but not a cover (sorry Ms. Gardner). Everyday I look through hundreds of books, but I don’t have hours and hours to do this. So I scroll through the list looking for interesting covers. If one catches my attention I’ll read the description. Actually that’s not quite right. First I’ll glance at the listed genre to see if it’s one I’m interested in and then I’ll read the description. So it helps if all of the relevant genre/sub-genre etc are listed.
The book description makes or breaks my ‘sale’ but I’ve come across a few annoyances that effect my choice to grab a book or not. First off, this section is for a synopsis of the story, not for praise of the book. I read reviews for that. It really really isn’t a place for so much praise the reader can’t find a description of the book. This has actually become a pet peeve of mine. I’ll pass a book up on principle if I have to work too hard to find out what it’s about. Here is an example: HeartsBlood (sorry Ms. McCray). Someone tell me what that book is about. I actually suspect that certain publishers are more guilty of this than authors, but there it is all the same.
Second, I never have figured out why people think that just because it’s an ebook, and there isn’t a physical back-of-the-book to fit their synopsis on that they can write an essay here. Take a look at any one of my reviews and you’ll see that I often include the synopsis for readers. It annoys me to no end if that synopsis is more than a paragraph or two long. If it’s longer than my review is I’m likely to trim it, but then I feel guilty for altering the author’s work. I don’t need or want a breakdown of the plot. It ruins the story. Just a basic blurb and teaser is enough. KISS after all.
I read reviews, good bad and otherwise. If a book is a maybe, having a few reviews makes all the difference to me. I’ll take more of a chance on something that has obviously been read by others, even if they left bad reviews. Bad reviews don’t always put me off. Well, they will if the main gripe of the reviewer is poor grammar and editing, but if someone just didn’t like the story my interest is piqued. It’s almost a challenge to see if I agree or not. The point here is two-fold, don’t mourn over poor reviews, but it behooves you not to put the book up for KDP until you have a few stars under the title.
It helps me if your book is on Goodreads. I get that this one is almost certainly not a universal. I have roughly 2000 books on my ereader. There isn’t any easy way to keep track of them, but I’ve found the GR shelves very helpful. When I go through eReaderIQ I keep a GR tab open at the same time and do this: click ‘buy now with 1-click’, copy the title, go to the GR tab, paste it in and mark it as to-read/lendable or not. If the book isn’t there I sometimes will add it, but that’s a lot of trouble and I have passed up books just because I can’t be bothered. (If you haven’t discovered GR as an author yet, shame on you. It is one of your best online resources for reviews.)
Familiarity increases the likelihood that I’ll download a book. This is one of those vague tricks of the mind that I don’t really understand, but I know that if I’ve seen a book ‘around’ I’m more likely to grab it. So, I guess all of those blog tours, giveaways, cover reveals, etc do make a difference somewhere.
If a book is part of a series it is helpful to know this. It doesn’t matter to me if it’s in the title, description or just prominent on the cover. But if I download a book only to then discover it is book four in a series and I don’t have book 1-3 I’m unlikely to ever actually read it. I especially like it when all the books go free at the same time but that’s asking a lot, I know. I’ll often try to piece series together, but that requires I remember that I have part of it already and can identify the books as part of the same series. It’s not always easy.
I buy sequels. If I like a series I am more than happy to buy the next one in the series. I have limits though. It’s always hard to rationalise buying more books when I have so many already available to me, so the more expensive a sequel the less likely I am to buy it and I just find it rude when they get progressively more expensive at the series goes on.
Annnnnd lastly, if you’re story is a short story please make it readily apparent. I have more than once downloaded what I thought was a novel and discovered it to be a short story. Just about the only time I read short stories is on car trips, so while it is nice to have a few available to myself, I like to choose them instead of having them surprise me.
Now, I’ve spent a lot of text-time on my own complaints, and lets face it, even if couched as information or advice every item above could be seen as a complaint in some way or another. I’m not so self-absorbed as to not see a few places where my own behaviour might be annoying to authors and I’d be interested in hearing from them. The first is that, though I have every intention of reading all of the books I download (and reviewing them), I download more than I can read in any reasonable amount of time.
I’ve heard authors grumbling that KDP isn’t worth it because lots of people download the book, but no one posts reviews. It might be true. I’m not looking at your download numbers, but I know that I have picked up, read, and reviewed a lot of authors I wouldn’t have come across or taken a chance on if the book wasn’t free. Not just because I’m cheap (which I am BTW), but because I wouldn’t have a reason to look at lists and lists of books I have to pay for. I have plenty of books on my wish list to choose from already. So, KDP gives me a reason to be exploring new authors that I might not have otherwise.
Another bone of contention might be how eager I am to get a free book. The assumption is that I would pay for it otherwise and am therefore cheating the author out of their income. Fair enough. I do download books I wouldn’t pay for. It’s true. I admit it. I bet I’m not the only one who does this. I’m especially prone to download erotica in this manner. My only excuse is that I do it with the eventual intent of reading and reviewing it and probably wouldn’t even know about the book without KDP. But is that enough? I’ve also always been a little curious to know if my download contributes to advancing a book to the too 100 list, and if so is that enough of a bonus to an author to forgive my tardy reviews or cheapskate ways.
So there is the basic breakdown of my own download behaviour. Is it familiar to anyone else or just seem a little too OCD and cranky? Are you a KDP author? I’d love to have your take on the whole affair. What do you do when exploring your fellow KDP publishers? What are your criteria? Anyone just want to bitch me out yet?