by Susan Helene Gottfried
I think I offended a new friend last week by telling her that I haven't bought her book yet. Instead, my copy came from an online book trading site.
You'd think that, as a writer, I'd know better. After all, every single sale is important in the publishing industry these days. And her book is certainly the first on my list to buy. I really have no good excuse.
I could sit here and say that yeah, I could ride my bike to the nearest bookstore but I refuse because it's a chain and I prefer to buy from independents. That's entirely true -- but I'm in a certain local independent fairly frequently anymore.
Maybe it's that I feel cheesy, knowing she could walk in that same store and look over my shoulder and there I am, buying her book.
But the truth is that I've grown quite addicted to online book trading, and not just because of how easy it is. It's not because of the rush of discovering a listing for something I've been waiting for, nor is it the thrill that is there every time I see a package in my mailbox.
It's the ability to track the book's history that gets me. Yes, I use an online site to do this; every book that you register gets its own individual identification number and as books wind their way around the planet, I get to be the proverbial fly on the wall.
It's fun to get a book that six others have hated -- and find that I love it. It's not so fun to realize I'm the only one who disagrees with the raves of others. When that happens, though, by reading over what those others have said, I get a glimpse into why they thought what they did.
It never fails to teach me something about the way that readers approach the books we write. Do they focus on the plot (sometimes)? The characters (usually)? The setting (almost never)? How are they affected by pacing and suspense? Is there a willing suspension of disbelief, when it's necessary? And do they speak of a need to suspend disbelief that wasn't intended?
I breezily went on to assure my friend that I'll be buying probably four copies of her book. I fully intend to, so that I can watch them travel from person to person and read what everyone thinks. Maybe it won't help her write a better book, but it'll get her name out there, so that when the next book hits the shelf, and the one after that, our local bookstore won't be the only store with a line of people waiting to buy it.
Including me, who promises to buy five copies right there, on the first on-sale day.