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Finding Your Next Book

Reading in 2020 has been an up and down process for me, mostly down. Finding the mental space to simply escape has been a challenge. I’m a slow reader and lately it’s taking me twice as long to complete anything. Short novels and novellas have worked best.

As a writer, I’m exposed to recommendations from many sources: other authors, publishers, and all the places readers see recommendations. I also follow book review blogs, some Bookstagrammers, and BookTubers. Even without these sources, my TBR list is impossible to keep up with.

This got me thinking about where other people find their next read. As authors we are told that readers are active on social media (mostly Facebook and Goodreads) but I wondered if that was true outside certain specific genres and demographics. Many of the big readers I know have two things in common: they read multiple genres, and they don’t look for or discuss books online.

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I read several studies about reader habits, but they never asked the questions I felt were most pertinent. So I did my own informal research of 20 avid readers and 10 casual readers. Yes, the sample size is small, but it was all I had. Still, my hunch proved true.

It should be no surprise that word of mouth between friends was the number one method people have for getting book recommendations. But I want to point out a detail I think gets overlooked. Word of mouth does not mean either face to face or social media as the primary method. There were only 2 readers who used social media, 1 avid reader and 1 average reader. But even then, it wasn’t their primary source for new book recommendations. Across all generations, across all genders, the main form of word of mouth was texting. Face to face conversation was second.

For short stories and poetry, this was even more true, probably because there are few review sites and online groups that cover those. When I looked at my own TBR I could see that texts from trusted reader friends and relatives made up a big part of the list.

There’s no particular point to this exercise other than satisfying my own curiosity. As an author, it again points out that there are no absolutes and a given ‘wisdom’ may have nuances that must be looked at closely. Despite all the places online where people could engage about books, most readers simply don’t. Many people just don’t want to discuss their reading in public.

If there is a point, it may be this: those of us following readers on social media are only getting a sliver of the wider reading audience, and a view that isn’t representative. Social media isn’t reality, and due to algorithms deciding what your timeline contains, it doesn’t even reflect reality.

I’m sure there is or will be a way to advertise into a book-related text exchange, but no, please Big Tech. No one wants that.

How do you find your next book?