« Dishing With the DotMoms | Main | A Murder »

August 11, 2005

More Dishing With the DotMoms

More Dishing With the DotMoms

Yesterday, the DotMoms discussed some basics about their reading and book buying habits. The good news is that they’re reading, many of them a lot (anywhere from one to two books a week–which we love to hear!–to four books a year). While book clubs are still a popular forum, thanks to Ms. Oprah, none of the DotMoms are currently part of such a group, though several have been in the past. Most just don’t have the time, or find reading their personal joy and don’t want to read titles others have selected for them. As we all suspected, book covers and even titles do play a large role in choosing books, at least where our DotMoms are concerned. Packaging is as important for novels as for other products on the shelves in stores. Bright and attractive seems to urge a first (aRingnd possibly second) look. Covers and titles that don’t catch the eye–or imagination–might not have a shot when other more enticing choices abound. Author loyalty is a reality, too. Readers who enjoy books by an author will continue to read his or her books, so long as the quality continues (and sometimes even beyond).  Like having "24k" stamped on a pretty bauble, treasured authors are pure gold to their fans.

In this second part of TLC’s conversation with Julie Moos, editor of the DotMoms’ blog, and a group of volunteers from the site (Jennifer, Jenn, Peyton, Christine, Robin, Amy and LauriJon), we tackle bad reviews, author turn-offs, indies vs. chains and Amazon, and book signings.

TLC: What turns you off an author? Are you influenced by negative reviews?

Julie: I’m not at all influenced by negative reviews, although sometimes positive reviews will make me more inclined to keep an eye out for something. If I’m interested in an author or a book, that’s enough for me. I know that my interests, tastes and reading needs may or may not overlap with the reviewer’s.

Jennifer: I rarely read book reviews other than the ones that are in People magazine, and those are almost always good--so I can't say that I'm influenced by them. What turns me off in an author is obviousness and unnecessary formality. Not writing the way you think, writing the way you think you should.

Jenn S.: The only thing that will turn me off of an author is if she has completely changed her style in a way you can tell that she is just "phoning it in." It wouldn't take just one book that way, though. It would have to be more than a few to show that it is a new writing style and not just a change for one book or series. As for negative reviews, I usually will BUY a book that has negative reviews because I rarely agree with them. I could care less what a review says. They are not me with my tastes and my likes. It's just an opinion, after all. The only reviews I pay attention to are the positive ones to see if I can be "introduced" to a new author.

Peyton: I don't like page after page of descriptive narrative (i.e., describing the scene). There has to be some action in the book.

Christine: Negative reviews make me intrigued. Was the person having a bad day when s/he wrote that? It is especially obvious when there are a lot of good reviews from a variety of people and only one or two bad ones. What turns me off is when the author writes badly, when the characters are as flat as the paper they emerge from, and the storyline is predictable. When the writing is snappy and smart, I'm like putty in your hands. I want more, more, more!

Robin: I don't even read reviews. I also don't listen to movie reviews. Only I am able to say what I like. If I am reading a new book and the author is too wordy, I won't read anything else that they wrote. Sometimes it will take an author two pages to describe a tree blowing in the breeze. That drives me insane. I have seen a tree in the wind...let's move on to something interesting. Too much description makes me skip the pages until I find dialogue.

Amy: I'm influenced by negative reviews from friends/family and from book critics. But if I'm just looking for a quick, easy read, I'm less likely to take into consideration what book critics have to say.

LauriJon: What turns me off an author is when the second book isn’t as good as the first. I’m not influenced by reviewers.

TLC: How do you find new authors to read?

Julie: I browse bookstores fairly constantly (independents, chains, etc.) and spend a fair amount of time on Amazon clicking through the links to books purchased by people who read what I read. My favorite new authors are the ones I find serendipitously.

Jennifer: Friends. My best friend has read every book ever written.

Jenn S.: Word of mouth usually. I listen to what other readers are saying. I see if the author has a website or if other bloggers or writers have been talking about this author. I listen. Sometimes, a rare time or two, I will find a great review and find a new author that way. But mostly, it is word of mouth.

Peyton: Recommendations from friends, browsing the bookstore, and I try to read authors who went to my college (Hollins), which is known for creative writing. I'd have to say my primary influence is my mother--we have similar tastes in fiction.

Christine: They usually approach me and say, "Would you mind reviewing this?"

Robin: I work in a doctor's office. Most patients come in reading books. When I call them into a room I ask what they are reading and if they like it. I have had some great references this way.  I also go to the library once a week for my daughter's Brownie troop meeting. I ask the librarians what's new and what they like. They are a great resource. I also wanted to add that I tend to read books that have the same characters through many books. I love Nora Robert's trilogies for this reason. It lets me connect to the characters. In Jonathan and Faye Kellerman's books, they use the same lead character in many of their books so even though the story is different each time, the main person is someone I "know" from before. One uses a psychiatrist; the other uses a police detective. Someone familiar guides me through the scary mystery and somehow I feel safer. It's very comforting.

Amy: Recommendations from friends, perusing book stores.

LauriJon: Usually in the new authors section in bookstores. Sometimes I’ll also do web searches on topics I’m interested in and find new authors that way.

TLC: Where do you buy most of your books? (Chain stores, independent booksellers, discount retailers like Wal-Mart, etc.)

Julie: I probably buy most of them from Amazon and Borders, because they’re most convenient. But as often as I can, I drive the 45 minutes to an hour that it takes to get to the nearest independent bookstore. When I lived in Chapel Hill and Durham, almost all of my book purchases were made at independent bookstores. That’s my preference, but not always my reality.

Jennifer: Barnes and Noble, or I check them out at the library.

Jenn S.: Wherever I can find them! Sometimes it is a small bookstore (though, sadly, those are few and far between where I live). Most of the time, it is a chain bookstore or Amazon.com.

Peyton: Barnes & Noble (I'm a "member").

Christine: Amazon.com by far. I buy German books from the store, but a lot of English books can only be found via amazon.

Robin: Usually I will buy books in Wal-Mart but I also love shopping in Borders because the selection is so huge.

Amy: Chain stores, discount retailers (Target).

LauriJon: Chain stores, independent booksellers and online.

Linebaugh1 TLC: Do you attend author events in your town? What do you like about them?

What don't you like?

Julie: I don’t attend author events. In fact, when I was in college, I was given the opportunity to meet my favorite author (William Goldman), and I turned it down. I love his writing and didn’t want to risk ruining that pleasure in any way by discovering (inevitably) that there might be something human and less-than-lovable about him. I think these days, I’d enjoy sitting down with writers and talking about their work, but that’s not my perception of how most author events go. If there were no readings or signings involved, just interactive chitchat, and I really enjoyed the author’s work, I’d consider it.

Jennifer: I haven't attended any author events, mostly because Baton Rouge doesn’t have a lot of them! Also, the mommy thing is a tad time-consuming at this point. When my husband and I go out, we usually have drinks, dinner, etc., just to relax. I’m not against them, just don’t really have any opportunities to go to them.

Jenn S.: Absolutely! I want to meet the person who wrote what I am reading. I want to tell them face to face how much I admire their work (both the book itself and the very fact they will come out and do a book signing!) The only ones I have nothing to do with are the celebrity book signings. Not going to stand in line to hear what Monica Lewinsky or Madonna has to say about writing. No thanks!

Peyton: No--I would if I had the time!

Christine: I haven't, no. I bought one book by a local author. In Charlottesville, VA, there are tons of writers. If I lived there, I am certain I would attend more such events. As it is, I attended the world's largest book fair in Frankfurt last year. It was interesting to see the difference between BEA and the Buchmesse.

Robin: I never have attended one but that doesn't mean I wouldn't in the future.

Amy: I have never attended an author event. There aren’t many author events in Central Pennsylvania. On the rare occasion that there is one, it isn’t usually an author I’m interested in.

LauriJon: Some, although it’s been more difficult since having my baby. I like when authors do readings.

TLC: Thanks to Julie and all the DotMoms! We appreciate their helping us out as we try to make sense of this crazy business from various perspectives. Now we’d like to hear your comments! What draws you to a book? The cover or title? The author’s name? What inspires author loyalty? Have you ever attended a book signing? Spill. We want the dirt! We Book Tarts promise to weigh in.


This is so great! Hearing what these women are saying gives me energy to get busy on book 4. So often as a relatively new writer, I am discouraged by lack of publicity and by simply not knowing what the readers think--and I am so interested in that, am so thrilled when one of them contacts me from my website. But what was even better about what I read today is that the dotmoms seem to like what I like. Mostly, "Get going with the story already." I have been criticized by the powers that be (Um, I love you dearest editors) about beefing up description because I write "lean"--but hey, I want to action, entertainment and I don't want to wade through 4 pages of wafting winds and swaying palms to get it. I'm pumped!! This is such a great blog and thank you for cheering up a lonely writer today.

Well, Leann, so glad we could help make your day cheerier! I'm with you...it's so interesting to hear what readers look for, why they're buying certain books and sticking with particular authors, rather than focusing all the time on what publishers or agents want, or Amazon numbers. I'm so grateful the DotMoms so graciously helped out with this column. I've learned from it, too!

I've enjoyed the DotMoms responses. I don't pay that much attention to covers but I do seem to be drawn to book titles. If a title grabs me I will stop and look the book over. As a reader I'm drawn to wonderful characters, people I can care about which is probably why I enjoy series like Robert Crais and Janet Evanovich. Both have very different writing styles but vivid characters who draw me into the story.
A bad review doesn't sway me but many good reviews will. I notice that I'm paying more attention now to what bloggers have to say about books. I was initially intrigued by The Traveler due to some good reviews but after reading several blogs decided to pass on the book. I get a lot of recommendations from friends.

I never purchase books online choosing to purchase from local stores.

There are some authors I'd love to meet and would drive to a signing if my schedule permitted.

Thanks Susan. Great idea to include the DotMoms.


Thanks, Kimberly! And thanks, too, for your input. You know, one reason I really love talking to book clubs is because I gain such insight about what other readers (since I'm one, too) think about what's out there on the bookshelves. Sometimes I can recommend really good titles and authors they've never heard of, and they'll do the same for me. Discourse between readers--and writers, who are also readers--is so important. Sometimes I feel like it gets lost in all the yakking about "the business." I don't believe Amazon rankings or best-sellers lists give the whole story. I know people who buy much-hyped books and never read them. From what the DotMoms are saying, it's pretty simple what we all want: it's the story, stupid, as Leann pointed out. Hopefully good stories will catch on somehow, even without the prettiest covers or the zillion dollar ad campaigns. Hey, you gotta believe, right?

Neat topic!

I think I am mostly attracted by titles, but if a title I'm interested in has a cover that matches what I'm feeling that day (color, design, etc.), that helps, too.

I read the book magazines that have lots of reviews in them. I read several reviews of each book plus read review blogs and get a general feel for what people are saying about a book. If it sounds like a plot or topic I would like, I'll read it even if some reviewers didn't like it.

I went to a Madelein L'Engle author appearance when I was little. And most recently I've seen Will Thomas twice (but he's a friend, so that doesn't really count does it?). I feel sort of stupid though because I don't have any brilliant questions.

I like to buy books from a store because I am a tactile shopper. I like to hold the book in my hand a sniff it (guilty secret) before I buy.

Continued quality inspires author loyalty for me.

I'm a faithful Amazon.com customer and will use Amazon to buy authors I've already read or new authors whose books I want to try. I also hit Barnes and Noble locally. I check out new books out and new authors. I like reading the back cover. I go by what people I know suggest, for example I found this blog thru Nora Roberts ADWOFF board and just reading whay you blog about intrigues me enough to go find your books. ADWOFF is how I started reading Lisa Scottoline. I don't often do straight romance, I like mysteries, thrillers and a darn good story. I find Lorna Landvik's books to be funny, wonderful stories that I enjoy every minute of. I've been a book nut since I was 4 so I don't know if I count. ;)The other thing I've started to look for is books about women my age, early 40's, and how they cope with moving out of the mommy phase and into the next phase.

Thanks for the great blog entry. It really got me thinking. Well Susan, you asked for imput so here it comes,lol. I'm a big fan of series books. Once I find an author that I like, I make sure to get all the books in the series to read. Admittedly, I like some of the books in the series more than others, but I generally like them all. I like finding old friends between the covers and trust them to introduce me to new characters that I will become attached to or in the case of the bad guy, be glad when my friend defeats them.

Cover art really makes a difference in whether I pick a book up to read the back or not if it is by an author that I am not familiar with. I prefer covers that are bright colors and have witty drawings. For instance the cover of Blue Blood with the women's legs under the table. I don't generally like the photo type cover. For instance, one of my favorite author's covers changed from drawn characters to a photo of a Clark Kent looking man with his tie askew. It kind of reminded me of the old fashioned bodice ripper covers (not that there is anything wrong with those, they just aren't my thing). I still bought the cover with good old Clark, but only because I love the author.

Book Reviews- I don't read them. I know what I like and they don't.

Where do I buy?- B&N.com (I am a member as well). Sometimes I go to one of the stores, but usually online.

I really enjoy reading the blog each day. It's one of the first things I do in the mornings before I head to the office. Keep up the good work.

Great topic. I do most of my browsing at the local Barnes and Noble, the only bookstore for about 15 miles in any direction from my house. I'd love to have a local independent available, but don't. I sometimes browse Amazon, but usually just use it when I have something specific I want that the local B&N doesn't have.

I always start with authors I know and love. Authors attain that status by writing about characters I can like and care about (best of all is when recurring characters become friends and family . . .); writing quality prose (it doesn't always have to be eloquent, but I do enjoy the occassional gasp at a particularly evocative description, unusual metaphor, etc.); creating believable dialog (I hate it when an author thinks s/he can fool me into believing that long expository passage is dialog just by wrapping it up in quotation marks); and giving me some sense that whatever events the plot traverses somehow lead to growth in the main character.

Conversely, authors lose "favorite" status by cranking out books so fast that they lose continuity within or among books; start getting sloppy with the "crafting" of the work; or start writing the same book over and over again -- just renaming the characters. I also simply refuse to get involved in certain plot devices (generally involving a range of sexual politics that I find abhorent at best and damaging at worst).

Anyway, once I've exhausted my list of favorite authors, I hit the new hardbacks. I use a combination of title, cover art, and cover blurbs (if any) to pick books up, then read the cover material. If that looks good, I often try to find a previous book by the same author (because, if I'm going to take a chance, I'd rather do it with a cheap paperback than an expensive hard-cover!).

I would love to attend signings by my favorite authors, if only to tell them "thank you" for the work they do. I try to do that anyway if I can find a way to do so :) I am in awe of anyone who can write good fiction and eternally grateful for the lifetime of pleasure and solace I've received from their hands!

You guys are awesome! I love reading your comments. I'm learning something from every one of you. Adrienne, I love holding books in my hands before I buy 'em, too. I look at covers, read the back copy, maybe even the first page. I do buy often after meeting an author I like, or if I've heard someone speak who was particularly interesting. I'm with you, Cindy, as I don't pay much attention to book reviews. I rely more on what friends say. If they love a book, I'll give it a shot, whether the reviews were good or bad. Kerry, I also hate it when a favorite series loses that special something...though now that I'm writing series books, I can see how easy it would be to let things get stale. Which is why I'm glad I write to please myself first, since I'm a reader and tough critic. If it doesn't feel fresh, I have to find another way to tell the tale. Anyway, I'm so enjoying your remarks, so keep 'em coming!

I've never thought about why it is I choose to shop locally for my books but as I read the other comments I realized how much I enjoy browsing the bookshelves. Discovering a new favorite author is such a treat.

Susan, I'm so ashamed to admit this but I've not read any of the Tart's books. Tonight I remedied that and picked up two of yours. I'm sure I'll enjoy them as much as I enjoy your blogging. I'm in the midwest and would love to come to a signing. ;)

I loved this comment:

"I like to buy books from a store because I am a tactile shopper. I like to hold the book in my hand a sniff it (guilty secret) before I buy."

I'm the same. I love my books. Hardcovers, specificially. In fact, most of my books all look brand new because I can't bear to crack the spines.

I am totally drawn to cover art. And I hate admitting because it strikes me as totally artificial ... I know there's a marketing department behind each book. Colour and style don't matter to me but if it's well-executed it *will* catch my eye and I'm more likely to pick it up.

And if the pages are printed on good quality paper I'll pet it a little as I make my way to the cash register. ;)

Unfortunately, beautiful books cost a lot of money I've been forced to frequent the library a little more often.

I love to immerse myself in a book. I love words/creative use of language - I totally eat it up - but really dislike awkward & desperate use of metaphor that trips me up as I read i.e. "As he stared at her ample bosom, he daydreamed of the dual Stromberg carburetors in his vintage Triumph Spitfire, highly functional yet pleasingly formed, perched prominently on top of the intake manifold ..." (winner of the 2005 Bulwer-Lytton fiction contest)

I have my favourite authors. I just read two of Wayne Johnston's in a row. I will pick up a new book if I've read a positive review and the subject seems interesting to me. (Mostly fiction, some non-) I use the Chapters/Indigo wishlist feature to help me remember that I once thought it'd be a good read. I can't begin to count the number of times I scrawled a title on a scrap of paper and lost it forever. Who knows how many great books passed me by for this reason?

Great post!

Kimberly, don't be ashamed about that! We're just glad you've discovered us...and thanks for getting my books! Hope you like 'em! Where in the Midwest are you? (You can email me off-list, if you like.) Maybe I'll see you one of these days when I'm signing near you! Andrea, thanks for your comments. It's good to know other people scrawl on bits of paper that seem to disappear into the ether. I do that all the time!

I’m a sucker for a cover- that’s how I discovered terry pratchett. I love dragons, I collect them, read about them, buy books on them, and have two tattoos as well. I was at the library looking for a read- and since my favourite authors seem to be everybody else’s favs too- I couldn’t find anything I knew. I saw a book with what looked like part of a dragon on the spine and I took it home- turned out to be Guards! Guards! By Pterry and I was hooked!!! Now I have almost all of his books in paperback and can’t wait for the next one to be launched. I have never been to a signing- the authors I would most like to meet don’t seem to visit my end of the planet: Anne Rice, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Patricia Cornwell, Eoin Colfer, James Herbert. I have author loyalty and don’t sommer stop reading someone and I also try my friends recommendations.

The comments to this entry are closed.

The Breast Cancer Site