How the Tepid or Too-Busy Reader Can Benefit From Publishing Trends  

In a recent poll conducted for HeadOverTales.com, 80% of respondents said that they read 5 or fewer books a year. This is consistent with some reports that reading is declining as an enjoyable hobby in our country. In that same poll, the most reported obstacles to reading more were lack of time and not knowing where to find good books. These results are interesting in the face of unprecedented growth in the overall book publishing industry. More books than ever before are available to those who want to read them, but that doesn’t change the fact that people seem to be busier than ever and overwhelmed by or unable to find those resources on the web that would match them to the books they’d most likely enjoy. So, if you’re a tepid or too-busy reader, what would help you most ? I’ve provided tips like these for making more time to read, but I think there’s more to it than that. It’s also helping you understand that the publishing world is changing a lot these days, and if there ever were a time that you could most benefit from those changes, it is now.

Why?

1. Non-fiction rules:

Self-help, memoir, cookbook, political commentary books have consistently been selling better collectively than all fiction titles for at least the past three years. This means that there are more self-help and how-to books available, which means that the tepid or too-busy reader has much more of a chance of improving their lives through what they read. Even in the face of so much content being available for free on the web, the old axiom still applies: you get what you pay for. Those self-help and how-to books that are published tend to be more impactful and richer than anything available for free. This is BookBub’s  list of the 38 best self-help books (of them, I’ve read 4); I’m working on compiling a list of my own and putting together a reading challenge for you! I’m also reading You Are a BadA* by Jen Sincero and The Self-Esteem Workbook by Dr. Glenn Schiraldi, and highly recommend both of those. 

 

More novellas and anthologies:

Whether in response to economics or shorter reader attention spans, more short stories and compilations of short stories are available than ever before, according to PressBooks.com. For the reader who doesn’t have a lot of time to read, or isn’t sure what kind of book they prefer, these kinds of books can provide either quick, easy reads or samplings of such. Anthologies of genre awards such as the Hugo Award Showcase, for example, provide a great list of speculative fiction award-winning literature, in short form.

Paperbacks aren’t going away any time soon:

Sales of book hard copies have not dived as precipitously as publishers first thought they would when ereaders and tablets first came on the scene. Some would attribute this to digital fatigue, or people wanting to reduce their screen time. Whatever the reason, this means that readers can still find paperback copies of almost any book priced competitively–and sometimes better than–ebooks, especially if one buys a used copy of a book.

A mysterious eye, set in a dark-skinned, painted face, over the title "Truth Seer"Many more self-published books (i.e., published by authors) than traditionally-published (i.e., published by companies):

Although most readers, especially the tepid or too-busy ones, don’t know how to determine whether a book is traditionally- or self-published, and probably don’t care, they should realize that knowing how a book was published can increase their chances of finding a book they’d like to read, just by looking at the cover and/or first few inside pages. Self-published books are edited and marketed differently than traditionally-published books, so if someone wants something to read that is probably more “indie” or “alternative,” they’re more likely to find that in a self-published book. Self-published books also don’t go through the extensive vetting process that traditionally-published books do, so there is a much wider spectrum of writing abilities to be found in that category as well. Thankfully, there are many more online review sites and media resources available to help them find a read they would enjoy. They just need to be savvy with a few particular hashtags and URLs, like #bookstagrammer on Instagram or #[genre] on Twitter (where [genre] equals your genre of choice). Also, I wrote about how to get custom book reviews here.

 

So What Does This Mean?

Maybe it does all come down to giving you, if you’re a tepid or too-busy would-be reader, a list of those sites, hashtags, and social media groups. Whatever the methodology, this is a truth that will hopefully one day be universally acknowledged: that everyone can benefit from reading more books, and any effort expended by you is worth it for that reason.

 

The text "four ways to find more time to read" set over one picture of a bookshelf stuffed with books and two smaller pictures of people enjoying reading

Four Ways to Find More Time to Read

A while ago, I asked those of you that have a hard time finding the time, money, or wherewithal to read books why you have a hard time doing so. I genuinely want to understand why, and if I can and you want me to, help you. If I can help you find more time to read, make your book-buying money go farther, or increase your motivation to read, I feel like you’ll be able to enjoy life a little more. Let me address the time problem first, though. In my survey, the number one obstacle most respondents faced to reading was not having enough time. I often get asked how I find the time to read so many books given how busy my life is. My response is usually three-fold: I multi-task, read fast, and purposefully make time for something I enjoy. I suggest you take a similar approach, if you want to read more books (and you should, because they’re AWESOME!). Specifically:

  • Multi-task, which probably means you need to get Audible: You can read while you’re cleaning house, driving to and from work (i.e., without kids in the car), riding as a passenger to anywhere, exercising, and eating. Sometimes, when I’m cleaning house, I’ll have a printed or Kindle book in my hand. Other times, I’ll listen to audiobooks on Audible. It took me a while to warm up to the subscription audiobook service, but now that I’ve found ways to get the books I want through them, I love listening to audiobooks. It can really enhance my enjoyment of a book, especially if it’s well-narrated or particularly action-packed. If you sign up for the free trial, making sure to download the app on your phone, you get two free audiobooks of your choice and then, after 30 days, you pay $14.95 a month (I have mine set on auto-pay) for one audio book, with 30% off any additional audiobooks you wish to purchase during that month. You can cancel at any time, and if you do, you keep the audiobooks you bought. Since audiobooks can easily cost upwards of $25 each, I consider $14.95 a month a good deal. And it generally takes me about 3 – 4 weeks to listen my way through a book. If you can get audiobooks through your library’s Overdrive app, I suggest that too.
  • Read faster: Reading’s not fun if you feel like you’re plodding through a book, if you’re interrupted frequently, or if you have to keep rereading certain parts to understand them. If you increase your reading speed, you can fit more reading into what time you already do have. Try this exercise to train yourself to read better faster.
  • Purposefully make time for something you enjoy: This answer’s a bit more complicated because there’s a lot that goes into “purposefully” doing something and defining something you enjoy. Of the survey respondents who didn’t find lack of time to be their biggest obstacle to reading, many said they either thought it was “a waste of time” or seemed pointless if they could watch a movie, binge-watch Netflix, or do stuff outside. I enjoy an active lifestyle with my family, boating, dirt biking, fishing, and camping; there’s usually a long drive, though, to get to the places that we do those things, and those long, boring drives are when I read. I like some movies (obviously, because I talk about them on my blog), but I don’t watch a lot of Netflix and very little of regular TV. It’s a question of priorities. I enjoy escaping to fictional worlds and using my imagination more than I enjoy flipping channels or fighting with my husband for control of the remote.
  • Seek custom book recommendations: If you don’t think you can find books you like anywhere, trust me when I guarantee that there is a book out there for everyone. If fiction isn’t your thing, there are plenty of non-fiction how-to, memoir, or information books to choose from. If you want to understand more about human nature or historical events, there are lots of books I can recommend. This post provides several ideas for getting custom book recommendations that can be modified for any genre.

 

If there are any obstacles to reading that you face that I haven’t addressed here, let me know and I’ll help you! If you find the right book(s), reading can enhance your enjoyment of life in a way that no other medium can.

What are some other things that prevent you from reading?

If You Don’t Read, Tell Me Why…Please

No, I don’t have an agent or a job yet, but I’m still actively writing and looking. I’ve still been reading too—two books, in fact—but can’t really recommend either one. Let me  tell you a little bit about Glimmer by Phoebe Kitanidis and Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer, because I think they’d both be worth reading for the right audiences, and then give a pre-announcement of sorts.

Glimmer

From Goodreads:

When Marshall King and Elyse Alton suddenly wake up tangled in each other’s arms with zero memory of how they got there or even who they are, it’s the start of a long journey through their separate pasts and shared future.

Terrified by their amnesia, Marshall and Elyse make a pact to work together to find the answers that could restore their missing memories. As they piece together clues about their lives, they discover that they’re in the idyllic mountain resort town of Summer Falls. Everyone seems happy there, but as Marshall and Elyse quickly learn, darkness lurks beneath the town’s perfect facade. Not only is the town haunted by sinister ghosts, but none of its living inhabitants retain bad memories of anything—not the death of Marshall’s mom, not the hidden violence in Elyse’s family, not even the day-to-day anguish of being a high schooler.

Lonely in this world of happy zombies, Marshall and Elyse fall into an intense relationship founded on their mutual quest for truth. But the secrets they’re trying to uncover could be the death of this budding love affair—and of everyone, and everything, they love in Summer Falls.

It’s well-written, but because Marshall and Elyse are amnesiatic, their lives are somewhat discombobulated and fragmentary, which makes it a little hard to follow and harder still to connect with them. I feel like I’m going to have to read this one at least one more time to fully understand it, but it may turn out to be much better on the second reading.

It is $3.99 on Amazon right now, for Kindle. It’s very much worth it, especially at that price, despite my perspective.

 

Life As We Knew It

From Audible, which is where I bought it:

Miranda’s disbelief turns to fear in a split second when a meteor knocks the Moon closer to the Earth. How should her family prepare for the future when worldwide tsunamis wipe out the coasts, earthquakes rock the continents, and volcanic ash blocks out the sun? As summer turns to Arctic winter, Miranda, her two brothers, and their mother retreat to the unexpected safe haven of their sunroom, where they subsist on stockpiled food and limited water in the warmth of a wood-burning stove. Told in journal entries, this is the heart-pounding story of Miranda’s struggle to hold on to the most important resource of all, hope, in an increasingly desperate and unfamiliar world.

It’s a story about the end of the world, told from a teenager’s perspective. As a writer, I’d say the author did a really good job with the voice of the book; it very much sounds like a teenager telling the story. As a reader, though, I think she did a little too good of a job. Her bubble-gum-popping tone and focus on things like dates and friends made me feel like the real plot was passing me by unnoticed by Miranda. Indeed, there didn’t seem to be much of a plot other than day after day of she and her family surviving the slow destruction of Earth. To tell the truth, I can’t finish this one, even though I’m more than halfway through. Very little has actually happened.

Life As We Knew It is only $6.19 on Amazon right now, which is a pretty good price too:

Announcement?

Preparatory to an announcement of some additions that I hope to be making to HeadOverBooks in the next few weeks, I’m doing some research. Would you mind completing this very short, three-question survey if you read 10 or fewer books a year, or even sharing it with your followers and friends online? I watched this dispiriting Jimmy Kimmel clip the other day, about how little people actually read, and want to understand why.

Don’t worry: I’m not doing this survey so I can try to convince more people to read; I just want to understand where they’re coming from so that I can plan changes to my website that will meet people’s needs. Hint: those changes might involve video games and movies. What do you think?

Top Eight Ways to Get Custom YA Sci-Fi/Fantasy Book Reviews

So, say you’ve been reading my posts for a while now, and have gained an appreciation for science fiction and/or fantasy books (yay!). Say you want to read more of them but aren’t sure where to start, other than subscribing to my blog.  You can go to the Science Fiction/Fantasy section of Barnes & Noble, but how do you know which books you’d like best, other than the blurbs on their backs or inside covers? Physical library books aren’t sorted by genre. You can search by genre on Amazon (although there is no YA sci-fi/fantasy subgenre, which I think is unfortunate), or even look up books that you’ve liked or heard about and then check out the books listed below them in the “customers-who-bought-this-item-also-bought” section.  And, of course, you can check out the reviews on either Amazon or Goodreads. But did you know there are other ways to find recommendations for books, recommendations more customized to your tastes that won’t take forever to find? Let me tell you about a few.

  1. mybookcave.com – I love this site because you specify what genre(s) of books you like and what your preferred price point is and they email you whenever something comes up in those genres and at or below your price point. You indicate whether you’d like books with or without gay/lesbian characters,  and the retailers you prefer. It’s only for ebooks.
  2.  Tor.com – Tor is a publisher of speculative, science fiction, and fantasy books, one that I dream of getting published with one day. I recommend looking at their books list, which links to sites where you can buy the books.
  3. thebooksmugglers.com – because they review a lot of speculative, science fiction, and fantasy. Their tastes run a bit more liberal than mine,    but I’ve bought several books that they’ve recommended and agreed with their ratings every time. The thing I like about their newsletter,        which I signed up for, is that it doesn’t fill up my inbox. They only send me something when they have something important to say.
  4. On Amazon, search for “Nebula award showcase.” You’ll get a list of anthologies of winners of the Nebula award, one of the top honors for        any science fiction or fantasy book to receive. Each one contains a collection of excerpts and short stories of the winners. Reading one of          these (something I don’t normally do) was how I discovered Nancy Kress, one of my favorite “hard” sci-fi writers.
  5. Facebook – I highly recommend searching for book club groups such as Science Fiction Book Club, and asking to join them. You’d think that GoodReads.com would be a good place to get recommendations, but I’ve found it much easier to ask for recommendations in the Facebook book groups that I belong to.
  6. On Pinterest, if you search for “science fiction book reviews,” then click through on interesting titles, and then on “read,” you can find some reviews.
  7. Twitter: if you search on #scifibooks, you’ll find some reviews, although there’s also a lot of promo, and self-published authors doing promos. I recommend following publishers of science fiction and fantasy books, such as @Tor.com, @TorTeen, @Tor Books, and @IReadYA  (associated with Scholastic), as well as your favorite authors.
  8. Instagram is a surprisingly good place to find talk about books, given its picture-centered format. Discussions are usually centered  around the hashtags #bookstagram, #book, and #booknerdigans. There aren’t many hashtags that are specific to sci-fi or fantasy or that link to reviews that tell you why people liked the books they post about. I’m thinking of starting the hashtag #scifibookster.