Confessions of a whale reader

Third grade.

That’s when it started, with a Bobbsey Twins book, given in a Christmas exchange. The Bobbsey Twins at Meadow Brook Farm. It was the first book I ever read that I didn’t HAVE to read.

And: It. Was. Fun.

I wish I’d kept a list of all the books I’ve read, but of course I haven’t. They bounce around inside me, though, characters and settings and plots and twists, happy endings and sad ones. Mostly good books, thank goodness.

I’ve worn my bookworm badge proudly.

But language is cool, isn’t it? The person once called a bookworm has been linguistically morphed: You’re now a whale reader. Urban Dictionary defines that as “A reader who consumes annually more books than the rest of the population combined. A voracious reader.” (The term was coined by Michael Anderle of the 20BooksTo50K Facebook group. Read about him here.) And Michael Anderle is, of course, the king of indie publishing.

All this is a long intro to the main thing I wanted to share today, which is: As a whale reader, how do I decide to read your book?

I’ve read thousands of books, many of which these last few years have been indie. But certainly not all for this literary fiction/poetry/nonfiction bookworm. But as someone who’s bar is pretty high, what makes me decide to give your indie book a try?

Here’s a list (in random order):

  • Price point. Of course I’m Kindle Unlimited and Prime Reading, so trying books in those program is easy; otherwise, I have a malleable budget line of $4.99. Before I buy anything I check my library to see if the book is available there. BUT: If I read the sample and the book is awesome, YES. I will buy your book. That’s what whale readers do.
  • Cover. Working for a small publisher for many years, it’s easy for me to spot a professional cover vs. an amateur effort. I don’t need your cover to look like Mary GrandPré designed it; but if it looks like I did it, I’m probably not going to click.
  • Blurb/description. SO important. If your blurb has typos, is awkward, too long, too short, bad grammar, hasn’t been proofread, we’re done. If your book cover/title is your calling card to the world, your blurb is your sales pitch. If it’s not 100%, you’ve lost the sale.
  • Title. I don’t judge you on your title, although I can often tell if yours is a book I want to read or not by it.
  • Review stars. If once upon a time four stars was enough to draw me in, I’ve had to up my star game to four-and-a-half. I might read one good review, but I’m going to click through to the one-to-three star reviews. These are often the most honest. And it’s a really subjective judgement on my part–as a potential reader–which bad reviews I take seriously and which I ignore.
  • Book layout. Are fonts, spacing, chapter titles, chapter decoration, special formatting well-designed, consistent and attractive? Is the contents hyperlinked? In short, does the inside design look like someone (designer or author) took some time to do it right?
  • Sample. Just like for the blurb (if, by chance, I click “sample” before reading your description), if your sample has typos, is awkward, bad grammar, hasn’t been proofread, or has sketchy writing, I won’t go further.
  • Triggers. Finally, all readers have certain subjects or tropes they avoid. I have a few that, no matter how good your book is, I just won’t go there. And that’s okay, and not anything any writer could avoid.

And the good news? There is a lot of help out there for indie writers! From blogs and podcasts to Facebook groups, it’s easy to find a tribe to support and help you. Of course, people like me are ready to help you put a professional polish on your prose that will make readers click “Download” every time.

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