Monday, September 13, 2010

The Book? Or the Author?

So I've been doing some thinking lately. I know that's always a scary thought. But whatever. You guys get to spend some time in the pink folds of my brain today.

And the great debate I want to bring up is this: Do we promote books? Or authors?

I've been wondering how much of a book's success is dependent on how good the book actually is, and how much author influence weighs. And I don't want anyone to bring up Suzanne Collins. I'm not talking about established authors. I'm talking debuts.

I'm sure we can all think of "big buzz" books. These are the ones we hear about on twitter, facebook, and blogs. These are the ones being talked about at book shows. It seems everyone is buying them, reading them, raving about them.

So is it a coincidence that these books also have authors that are accessible online? Likeable? Funny? Friendly?

Do we feel like we have to like the book because we like the author? How much does an author influence you in your decision to purchase a book? And after you read the book, how much does knowing the author/the author's personality influence your opinion of the book/the rating you give said book?

Are we promoting good books? Or nice/friendly/accessible authors? Can they be separated?

And...does it matter?

And dude! Go check out the WriteOnCon site today! Major announcement!

87 comments:

kangaroobee said...

Good point Elana. Even if you did buy a book from knowing someone though, you wouldn't do it twice if you didn't like their writing.

And by that time, others have influenced whether or not that writer makes another deal. Hmm... interesting

Natalie Aguirre said...

Mostly I read books because they sound great. But if I know someone online who's awesome like you and I know you have a book that I'd like, coming out, I'll definitely buy the book because I want to read it and because I want to support you, my friend.

Jeffrey Beesler said...

When I came upon Cell by Stephen King, I wasn't actually looking for the book, but rather for the author. I'd never read any Stephen King at that point, I know, for shame, so Cell wound up being the first one. I usually look for the author, rather than the book, unless the book has been buzzed about and not the author.

I think literary agents have the best answer to this question, as they're usually looking for more than just a one night stand with authors. They want to build careers, and therefore focus on the author aspect more.

Mary Brebner said...

There's nothing like a good book--except if there's an awesome person behind that book. That just makes it all the better.

Now, I will buy and/or review a debut book because I know the author (thru Twitter or their blog or whatever) and it probably does influence my overall enjoyment of the book (will I give it a higher grade in a review? Possibly.). But, like kangaroobee said, if I don't like their first book, I wouldn't buy a second. And I've passed over books because an author was a total B to me and others on Twitter (okay, just the once but still).

Just another reason for authors to be friendly and accessible online!

Tina Lynn said...

The disposition of the author is likely to have a huge effect on how I feel about their book. Dunno why. It is what it is.

Jennifer Shirk said...

I will buy an author the first time if I like them. No doubt. But I won't buy a book a second time by them unless I like their writing.
I recently bought a second book by an author friend and SO wanted to like it more than I did. But since I liked the first book, I'll read another book by her. :)

Kristine said...

I've had the exact same thoughts...without coming up with an answer. Good post!

The Golden Eagle said...

I find that if the writing's good, then the author doesn't really influence what I think of the book all that much. It's nice to know that the person behind the book is accessible and you can actually talk to them (like here) but I find that the writing style/quality affects me more.

Hello. My name is Elizabeth. said...

Just my opinion, but I think life today isn't much different than it was in high school. Sometimes good books get the credit they deserve, and sometimes people promote books they have no interest in simply because everyone else is doing it.

(Or, at least, everyone on their blogroll.)

I've seen books loved en masse just because an influential person loved it. And I've seen the reverse happen, too. But then, that's life.

Laura Pauling said...

Can't we be promoting both? I think the online stuff gives the buzz and gives the book a start, but it is only going to hit the bestseller if it truly is a terrific book.

If I know a writer/blogger I'm not going to give the book less than a 4, either that or I won't review, not even on Goodreads. It's a small world and I only want to help. So yes, my reviews are a little bit jaded. And to a point that bugs me, but there's no going back. In the long run, there are way more readers that don't blog and don't care about hurting feelings.

So, yes, the book and the author are very tied together when it comes to reviews and buzz.

Connie said...

Normally, I don't know anything about a debut author before I read the book. However, now that I'm following debut suthor blogs, I think it will make a difference. I'll be much more excited to read their books than I might have been otherwise.

Renae said...

I buy books because they sound good and I'm just dying to read them. That being said, when there's a lot of buzz about a book it makes me even more excited to get my hands on it. If I happen to like the author behind the story that's an added bonus!

Way to get us thinking Elana! And on a Monday no less!

Christine Danek said...

Something to think about. I usually try and see if the book is of interest to me then I buy it. If I know the author even better.
Great post!

kellyhashway said...

At first I was going to say it's the book that dictates sales for a debut author, but I know that after following your blog and tweets, I plan to read POSSESSION. While I love the premise of the book, I'd read a book just because you wrote it. I think your web presence and your participation in WriteOnCon will get you more readers. So I guess it can be either the person or the book that drives sales. And if you're lucky, it will be both!

Nathalie said...

Is there a way to combine the two? Can we plug a great debut author as well as their great writing? IMO, the author isn't worth the hype if the writing isn't up to snuff. But if it is, then not only should we stand by the work, but the fantastic human who made it possible.

salarsenッ said...

I read a book and calculate my own judgment which is determined by my likes, dislikes, and preferences. However, I won't deny that the more hype about a book/author there is, the more it influences me to read it.

Jess said...

You make a great point about friendly/accessible authors--I think an online presence and following is a huge advantage these days. The exposure is awesome, but I'm not sure that it's always the AUTHOR that sticks out for me. Names of books get thrown around, covers are all over the place, and, while the author's name sticks in my mind if I hear it often enough, it's really the plot that determines whether or not I'll read the book. Great post--thanks for letting us into your pink folds (ew, that sounded gross--I meant your brain)!

Christine Fonseca said...

Great questions - I think for the READER (not writers) - in my case YA readers, the author has little to do with it. I think in the writing community - buzz is more often created because of the author instead of the book. Staying power that results in actually long term book sales, however, is really do t product I think - a GREAT book! Just my 2 (or 3) cents

Stina Lindenblatt said...

For me it's totally the book. However, I have a number of writer friends (waves at Elana) who have books coming out next year. Fortunately, I really really want to read theirs because the stories sound great.

PS I finished The Mockingjay this weekend. Now I don't have to be afraid of spoilers. :D

Claire Dawn said...

Slinking around the blogosphere, I definitely do "meet" a lot of really kool authors. And they're so cool on their blogs, I can't help thinking they've got ot be awesome writers. So I pre-promote their books.

But after I read books, I'm honest about how I feel.

E. Arroyo said...

I purchased a few books of debut authors after "meeting" them on blogs. I wouldn't have otherwise. And I loved their books!

Hannah Kincade said...

I've come across situations where I want to love the book because I really like the author and I just don't. I don't think it matters, in any case but I don't do many book reviews. I do read a lot of book reviews though and if the reader didn't like the book, I would rather have the honest review over the gushing if the author review. Heading to writeoncon now!!

Annette Lyon said...

Both, on some level--but the sad truth is that a lot of great books never get much of a chance to be heard because they don't have marketing dollars. Any book with a massive marketing budget is going to sell more simply because more people are aware of it and will give it a try.

lbdiamond said...

For me, it's the book. If I like it, I'll find out more about the writer.

Michelle Davidson Argyle said...

This is a great, great question, Elana. Since I debuted my novel, most of my sales so far have been the first wave - people who know me, but I'll tell you this: they don't all give it 5 stars, and they don't all like it and rave about it or even mention it. This is actually quite comforting to me to know that it's not ME they are promoting and rating, but the book and how they really feel about it. I like that.

That said, I am much more likely to promote an author's work I know online and who is easily accessible. I'm more likely to try and do an interview, review, etc., but if I do happen to pick a book and I don't know the author or can't reach them, so to speak, if I love the book, I'll promote it, no doubt. :)

Michelle McLean said...

There are quite a few books I've purchased simply because I've meet the authors - and so far I've liked them all. And if there is someone whose blog posts (etc) I find entertaining, I'll buy their book even if the premise doesn't sound that interesting because I usually assume that if I like one form of that author's expression, I'll like another :) And at the very least, I like supporting my author peeps and buying their books is a small way I can do that :)

Rachael Harrie said...

Great question. I think the buzz out there can really drive the sales of a book, particularly when the author has a notable blogosphere presence. I'll either like the book or I won't, but I would definitely be more inclined to buy a book in the first place if I know or know of the author in question...

Theresa Milstein said...

While I'd buy a book from some of my closest blog buddies, I don't buy every book that gets promoted, even if there's huge hype.

If I respect the blogger who is recommending a book, I'm more likely to read it. But it has to be something I'm interested in too.

But there are some blogs I follow, and there voices just shine through. I'll buy the book, figuring if the author could convey her personality on the book's pages, I'll probably like it.

One example: Talli Roland (Marsha Moore). I don't read much chick lit but I'll buy her book when it's released because I love her sense of humor, so I'm sure her book will reflect her personality.

lynnrush said...

Wow, great question. I wish we could promote both, right? But I've had some of my fave authors write books I didn't like. Doesn't mean I don't like them anymore, just that the particular book they wrote didn't resonate with me. No harm. No foul. I'll still promote the author though, because they write good books in general...even if one or some aren't my fave genre or fave story to read. :-)

Interesting topic.

Mary Campbell said...

If I like the author I read their book, but I am always honest. If I don't like it I won't recommend it. I don't review books I don't like on my blog - I was terrified when I got half way through with Cinders and realized I might not like the ending. Michelle had sent me a free copy to review and do a contest with on my blog. I have to be honest - luckily I did like the end. If I love a book I end up loving it more if the author is cool and accessible too.

Matthew Rush said...

What a great question! When I select a book to read it can go either way, but that generally applies to established authors, genres or franchises. When it comes to debut novels I honestly don't usually find out about them unless I hear about the author through the blog network. Then, when I do choose to read one, it usually begins based on my opinion of the author, more so than the book.

C.E. said...

I think we only follow and stay in touch with people whos personalities we like, whos writing we like, who is generally talented, etc. So in a lot of ways they deserve to be pumped up by their online friends and followers just based on that. If they weren't good writers no one would care what they had to say.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Both! I think it's much easier (and a lot more fun) to promote a book when you adore the author. That doesn't mean there aren't inaccessible, butt-headed authors out there with uber-successful books, but it likely took them a bit more time to get there. Maybe? :-)

Kerri C at CK Farm said...

Good question!

For me I buy a debut book two ways.
Word of mouth & storyline.
I think it is the book that should have the main focus then after the first book the author should be the main focus. But hey what do I know lol.

Lucky for authors I like to read just about anything ;)

Kerri C at CK Farm said...

Good question!

For me I buy a debut book two ways.
Word of mouth & storyline.
I think it is the book that should have the main focus then after the first book the author should be the main focus. But hey what do I know lol.

Lucky for authors I like to read just about anything ;)

Pam Torres said...

The artist or the art, an age old question. What entices a reader to read a particular book is so subjective. However, the longevity of an authors support always boils down to the actual writing that propel a book. Even if there is buzz about a particular book and its author, once the lights go off it's the stories and writing. There are also books that slowly gain popularity or readership. These are the ones where the writing is exceptional.
That said, not all promoted authors gain a following and not all great writing gets discovered. It seems to me that both are important ingredients to gain readers.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I think it only influences me in the negative sense - if the author's a jerk, no way I'm buying his book. On the other hand, even if the author is awesome, if I don't read the genre, I don't buy the book. (One exception - my mentor p.m terrell writes thrillers and historical romances, neither of which I read, but I always buy a book to give as a gift to support her.)

Jo Schaffer said...

Both. If I think an author is cool I will get their book.
I'm not as influenced by what a bunch of blogs say about a book, but if enough friends say a book is awesome...then I will try it out.

WindyA said...

I think it's been said a few times above: the debut is a combo author/book-story thing. Once we're past the debut, the story has to grab me.

Heather said...

In this age of online social networking I have to agree with the above consensus, it is combination of the two. If I get to know the author a bit before their book comes out then I'll buy they're book. It its good then I'll buy it for other people and I'll definitely buy their next one. It is that connection that gets me to buy the first one though. I buy the books of authors I've connected to first. Anything else comes second.

Sandy Shin said...

Being a broke college student, I'm very careful with what books I buy before reading and what books I buy after having borrowed them from the library and loving them. I try to be supportive of debuts when I can -- if I "know" the author online and he or she is nice and friendly, I will try to buy his/her debut if it's within my preferred genre.

So, yes, knowing of the author online does influence my buying decision. However, if I don't fall for their debut, I probably won't buy the second book. So ultimately, it's the writing that matters.

Nicole Zoltack said...

Long gone are the days when authors could hide in their writing caves. Now authors have to be out there so the public can see them. So I think it's both, promote the book and the author.

Lisa_Gibson said...

I'm pretty much all about the book. I will of course make a few exceptions, but predominately, I'm into the book. :)
Lisa ~ YA Literature Lover

Sara B. Larson said...

Hmmm, interesting question! I imagine that knowing the author would sway me a bit, wanting to like the book because I like the author, instead of judging the book solely on the merits of the writing if I Don't know the person. Boy, now you've made ME think too. Double scary. ;)

Janet Johnson said...

I tend to like an author after I've read a book I like. Then I'll go read everything they've ever done. But books that get a lot of buzz will definitely do better simply because people know about them. An author without a book . . . well, you'll never read the book if you don't know the title. That's my take, anyway.

Wicked-Sassy said...

From a publisher's point of view, I can tell you that with debut authors, the author is the key unless the book has some huge tie-in to current event events. At BEA the term publishers and agents were using to describe authors they wanted was "Brandividuals." People who could go out there and embody their genre to their audience and be unforgettable.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I'm fairly new to the author blogging community, but I know I want my author friends to succeed. I'd certainly promote them first.

Holly Ruggiero, Southpaw said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Holly Ruggiero, Southpaw said...

The book is number one for me. Since I’ve been blogging, I have purchased books I wouldn’t have otherwise because I like the blogger – or at least how they portray themselves online.

If I like the book, I review it on Amazon, goodreads, etc. If I didn’t like it, I just don’t say anything. It seems dishonest to promote a book I didn’t like.

Still I struggle with this. Should I blog about the books I like? Will the authors of the books I don’t care for be insulted I don’t pump their book? Can I promote an author without endorsing their book?

Please tell me!

Meredith said...

There are definitely some authors I want to promote because I've loved their previous books, but I try to keep it about the book. If I don't love a book, I usually don't finish it--there are too many good books out there! So I only review books I love.

Jennie Englund said...

Wow -- really good quesitons!

I always thought it was about the book. But when I'm browsing, I always turn to the author bio/photo first.

Why do I do that? To make a connection? To reveal the credibility?

Hmmmm...

Tracy Loewer said...

If I find an author to be an arrogant so-and-so, I won't buy their books no matter how good they are. There are enough excellent AND nice writers out there that I'd rather support. Sure, it means I've missed out on some great books, but life is too short to feel badly about it.

Shannon Whitney Messenger said...

I think the two are kinda inseparable. I mean, have I read books by authors who weren't very accessible online? Sure. (I've even read books by authors whose presence I've found slightly less than appealing). But on the whole, yeah, I think connecting makes a BIG difference. I can think of quite a few books I decided to read because I connected with the author online. And while I would have loved the book anyway, I'm much more prone to become a cheerleader for it if I love the author. So I guess the two go hand in hand. For me, at least. :)

Kelly Bryson said...

Heaven help me if it is a requirement for authors to have a huge online following, because it's not happening. Online friends I have made, yes, but not hoards of followers. And I'm okay with that. I'm just trying to write the best book I can. For me, the focus is on the writing and being a nice person wherever I am, reality or cyberspace.

Lisa Potts said...

It's great to be able to get to know an author through their online presence, however, for a debut, I think promoting the book is more important.

After all, if you don't get the book's name out there and it doesn't sell as many copies as the publisher would have hoped, that author may not get an offer for a second.

VR Barkowski said...

Very provocative question. For me, it's all about the writing. There are scores of talented writers out there with great personalities who don't necessarily write the types of books I read, so I don't read them.

That said, my TBR pile of established authors is overwhelming, so when I jump the stack to read a debut effort (which I do frequently), it's ALWAYS because I've heard about the book online, either via the author's blog, or through another blogger's review. But I choose to read the book because it intrigues me, not because I like the author. I try never to put myself in the position of having to review a book I hate by a writer I like as a person. I review pretty much everything I read and my reviews are always dead-honest, but they're MY OPINION only, and I never want to dissuade anyone from reading anything.

Yikes! This comment is longer than your post. To make a long answer short. No author/book can't be separated. :)

Susan R. Mills said...

Hmm... interesting topic. I think we promote both. A great book isn't going to be successful if it isn't good or if the author doesn't get him/herself out there.

Patti said...

I think it's a little of both. I might buy a book based on if I know the author's on line prescene, but then I've boughten a book based strictly on the story not knowing a think about the author.

L.T. Elliot said...

I'm not sure where I stand on this one. I know that I dissect a book differently when I know the author (or know of the author) but a good story is just a good story! I do know this, I won't rave about a book unless I actually like it. I just won't--no matter how much I love the person who wrote it. Sure, that sounds harsh, but I wouldn't do any differently if it was a stranger, right?

j.leigh.bailey said...

I asked myself that very question when I debated buying Paranormalcy. Was the hype because we as community are so supportive and excited for Kiersten White or because the book was really that good? I bought the book--absolutely adored the book--but it made me wonder. I'm just glad that the book lived up to the hype. But, I think it's both. Without reading the book, we can be excited and promote the author, but that's all it will be until the book is actually realeased and we can say our efforts/excitement were justified.

Bish Denham said...

I pick out most books by the jacket blurb and (dare I say it?) the cover and also by what good friends say about the book. The author doesn't have as much to do with picking a book as I'd like to think it does.

AchingHope said...

I was just thinking about this too... And I'm not sure. I know I liked Shiver, but once I read Maggie's blog I found I liked it a little bit more than before, just like if she turned out to be a jerk I'd be disappointed and probably like it a little bit less. Good stuff to think about.

darksculptures said...

Yikes! It is my most sincere hope that a book can still stand on its own merit no matter how lame, boring, reclusive, or unpersonable the author may appear to be. If not, I'm so sc.... well, you know.

Tamika: said...

You raised a great subject. I've read countless books that I have loved and knew little to nothing about the author.

For a good book is the point. A likeable, even well known author is not a bad angle. But I want to love the book.

ali said...

Good question! I think for me it's usually about the author. Because usually I'm aware of the author first, book second. However, as a non-writer, it's the book first, author second, lol! Clear as mud, right?

Talli Roland said...

Interesting question. I think authors who are good marketers and have good PR presence are the ones publicists feel more comfortable pushing because they know they can deal with it.

Ishta Mercurio said...

You've inspired me to do some of my own research. I'm going to look into the top-selling books, and then visit the authors' blogs. I want to know how many big books are written by authors with a likeable/funny/warm online presence.

This is a great thing to think about, both as a reader, and as a writer: do I read books because they're good, or because they're written by people whom everyone likes? And when I write books, do I HAVE to have a likeable online presence in order for them to do well?

Summer Ross said...

I wouldn't like a book just because I like the author. I might like the author, but have no interest in the book at all, but I would post it if they had a debut novel, because someone else might enjoy reading it.

Jan Rider Newman said...

I love reading books by authors I know will deliver a great novel. But I discovered many of my favorites by picking up a book by an author I'd never heard of. The story sells me first, then I tend to stick with the author. Unless subsequent books don't meet initial expectations.

Carolyn V. said...

I think the book. Because writing can get better.

Although I've been known to p/u a book by authors I like just because I like the writer. =)

Lindsay (a.k.a Isabella) said...

I'd not thought about this before. Usually I read books because I like the sound of them rather than the author.

It's a big plus for me if I like the sound of the book, and I 'know' the author (via blogging/QT/Twitter etc) then that makes me smile (and promote them) even more. :)

ru0minations said...

I run a literary salon author series at a nonprofit writing community (WriterHouse--check it out!) and my experience is that the more engaging and entertaining the author, the more copies of his/her book we will sell at the event. My theory is that, at least at a personal appearance, if the author is personable, the audience members want to be his/her friend and will buy the book in order to seem friend-worthy (all this is unconscious, of course.) I've seen it happen time and time again.

Melissa said...

I usually have a book in mind when I go to the bookstore. I look for books with good reviews, books that other people suggest, and books by authors I follow. If I like the books of those authors, I'll recommend them to others, but if I don't I usually just don't say anything.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

I think they can be separated, but we don't want to - at least not completely. And I'm going to still like my friends, even if I don't care for what they write. And I'm still going to love a book, even if the author turns out to be a royal jerk - actually, maybe I won't buy his future stuff if he's too much of a jerk. Or kills baby seals. That kind of thing.

Katie said...

This is a fascinating discussion. As far as sales go, I don't think an author's likability matters. But what a great study this would be. Like does online presence affect sales? I've always thought it affects the amount of books that are pre-sold. Like, "I love her blog, I will order her book!"

But, after the first few weeks, there is nothing that sells a book, other than it being good.

I find myself unable to stop talking about a book that I adore, but simply adoring the author's warm online presence doesn't make me approach strangers in bookstores and recommend their book.

At least I don't think so... I need to think about this.

Lynda Young said...

I think there's a definitely popularity element involved in the promotion of books. So often they don't have to be good, they just have to be everywhere. And I'd be more willing to promote a friend's book if it isn't top notch because that's what friends do for each other.
W.I.P. It: A Writer's Journey

Lynn said...

I do read books by new authors I've personally met and enjoyed. The author may not write my perferred genre, so I'll pass along to friend who may enjoy it. And then the word spreads. Promotion and a well written book go hand in hand for new authors, I believe.

Kelly Dexter said...

A great debut is what really pulls me into an author's corner, regardless of whether or not I'd heard of them before walking into the bookstore. While there are some with fantastic and funny online presences, I always try to be objective going into reading their books, remembering that novels and blogging are two completely different animals. I may adore an author's humor, blogging style, and camaraderie with their fellow bloggers, but that doesn't guarantee I'll enjoy their book. If I do like it? Having some sort of connection with them is a bonus, but it doesn't mean I prefer them to an author with less of a presence but a book I liked just as much.

DL Hammons said...

And...does it matter?

That's the key for me...and the answer is no. At the end of the day, when I finish that book and put it down, I'll make up my mind abouts its worth independent of everything beside the story and writing.

I might purchase a book I'm borderline interested in because I read the authors blog, but if the writing or story falters, I won't buy the next one.

Bonnie said...

I don't follow any authors. I've found that just because I like one of their books doesn't mean I'll like them all. I pick a book because it just sounds interesting.

Krispy said...

This is a really interesting topic. If the author is cool, I am definitely way more excited about reading their book, but I still may not buy it until I've heard more reviews and such about the book itself. When it comes down to it, the writing and story is still the most important. I may love a writer, but if I don't like the book, then I don't like it. I will feel more disappointed though if I like the author and not the book so much.

Julie Musil said...

Thanks for letting us know about the writeoncon announcement, that's awesome!

As for authors & books, I rarely read a book based on who the author is! Mostly I read a book based on the blurb on the jacket flap and whether or not the first page pulls me in.

Jemi Fraser said...

So excited about the WriteOnCon announcement! :)

A couple of years ago I would have said Book and Only Book to your question. Now that I know so many writers online, I think I'm predisposed to like certain books because I like the online persona of the author. But, having said that, that only makes me eager to try the book. Once I read it, if it's weak, it's still weak, and I'll only buy the 2nd book to support the person.

Karen Lange said...

Hadn't thought about this. Hmm. I think both, but then it can depend on the situation. If I know the author or genre, I'm more likely to pick up the book. But if the book looks good...well, I guess there's just a number of ways to look at it. Thanks for always making me think:)

paulgreci said...

So far, I've mostly selected books based on whether I think I'll like them. When I meet an author, on line or off, whose work I haven't read yet I'll at least check out their book(s) at a bookstore or on amazon and see if I want to purchase it.

Samantha Vérant said...

I have to say it all comes down to the book. IMHO, blogging does not a good book make.

Kristine said...

Thanks for commenting on my TV post, Elana, and thanks for following. Have a wonderful day!

Kristine

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