Monday, 3 June 2013

Finding a great read—Navigating the Bookiverse

There's nothing quite like curling up with a book that you just can't put down—a book that makes you devour it's pages, that makes you cry, laugh, think. I have talked before about how I'm finding it increasingly difficult to find great reads. There was a time when my reading selection was based on the bestseller shelf at local bookstore, or what was on the 20% off stand at Target.

Not anymore. Not just because I'm fussier (and I am BIG TIME), but because the book market has evolved. Forget about being limited to what's stocked at the bookstore, we have eBooks available instantaneously!  Not only do we have eBooks, we have more producers of them than ever before. The big pubs and all their digital imprints, small press, and then there's the almost infinite Indi market.

All this boils down to two things; more reader choice, but also market saturation. We have so much to choose from and reading has never been more affordable. But to find those great reads we now have to navigate through the virtual haystack of good and not-so-good, well-produced and not-so-well-produced choices.

So how do you navigate all this choice, expand your horizons and find those gems? Well here's what I've learned.


Most of us have been using Amazon or Goodreads reviews to scope out potential reads for a while. I no longer make choices based on them though. While ratings are a good gauge (1-3 not great, 4-5 better), these reviews are so subjective and have steered me wrong too many times. We all have such different expectations of what makes a book good. Some people don't like alpha heros, some love them. It's all subjective and reading too many reviews tends to spoil the book for me.

Personally, good writing trumps everything, so if I skim and see reviews that say a book is poorly edited, full of mistakes and errors, this will make me cross it off my list. That is a better guide for me than personal opinions and preferences.

The best way I have found to navigate reviews which lead to relevant recommendations is to follow the reviews of like minded people. Whether it's a friend, a book blogger, or a reviewer who shares the same taste, finding reviewers whose preferences match your own will lead to more meaningful and credible recommendations. So go find your friends on Goodreads and Amazon! 


So, I mentioned recommendations by like minded people? There's no one that takes reading quite as seriously as a devoted book blogger. Finding a book blogger who's on your literary wave-length can be a fabulous source of inspiration. If that's not a good enough reason to follow a few good book blogs, I'll give you some more. Giveaways, author interviews, sneak-peaks, and cover reveals. I have won several free books (good ones that I would have purchased), Amazon vouches, not to mention the excitement of getting the heads up on the awesome books coming soon that I may not have otherwise known about.   
Here are a few of my favourite book blogs—for romance of course!


When I was a teenager and wanted to broaden my reading horizons, I found nearly all of my inspiration from Amazon's 'So You'd Like Too' guides. One of the reasons they're so good, is that if you visit your favorite book and scroll down, you'll see the three most popular guides with that book on it. Again like-minded people with like-minded suggestions.

On Goodreads try Listopia. The only thing I don't like about Listopia is that books are voted into position. That ruins it for me because what I love about lists is finding the quirky reads I wouldn't have know about rather than the most popular books.


Many small publishers and digital imprints are turning out good quality and affordable books very quickly. There are a few I watch closely because there lines match my tastes, and because they have produced some of my favorite recent reads. It's worth watching their websites and twitter accounts as they often announce one-day book giveaways, and discounts. Here are a few I just can't get enough of.

Entangled - This has to be mentioned first because it produced two of my recent top three reads! Not only that, but the editing rivaled the big pubs. Whether you're into romance or YA this is one to watch.

Momentum - Another producing some favorites! Momentum produces some really edgy Urban Fantasies and Paranormal Romance's all with great editing. They frequently giveaway books too!

Escape - A division of harlequin, Escape really covers all bases when it comes to romance. I've read romantic comedy, scri-fi and contemporary, and loved them all.

There are many more out there. This is by no means a comprehensive list of the best, just a few I have enjoyed stalking reading.


With the seemingly billions of self-published books, how do you know if one's any good when it is so easy to slap anything on the internet? It's hard. Some authors put the work in, get editing, do it right... and some don't. But there are a few telltale signs. 

Firstly, you know how you were told not judge a book by its cover? Well kind of forget that... What I mean is, if an author has sourced professional cover design it's a good indication they are taking a professional approach.  Also if they have several ratings, if they have reviews by bloggers, these are signs the author is putting the work in, marketing their product, and being professional.

But by far the best way to navigate self published work is to download a sample. It provides a preview of the story, the writer's voice, your ability connect with it, and also an insight into the editing. 

To be honest I download samples of everything now. The few times I haven't I've ended up regretting it. A word of warning—downloading samples doesn't just screen out the 'bad' books it makes it impossible not to buy the great ones because by the end of the sample you're hooked! So hold on to your credit cards.


With social networks, asking your friends for suggestions or what they are reading is easy. Send a Tweet asking for suggestions, or make a Good Reads recommendation request, or simply stalk your friend's (in the nicest way of course) currently reading shelves, and recent ratings.

How do you find your reading material?

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