It turns out I hate a lot of books. This came as something of a shock to me, because I grew up as that sad stupid kid who had books for friends. Various characters guided me through life, informed my (occasionally idiotic) choices, and in general were there for me. I always had a book at hand, in my bag, on my nightstand, next to my cereal bowl.
Until suddenly, I didn’t.
Books had ceased to do it for me.
I can remember when that happened pretty clearly. I was twenty, wandering desperately between the YA and adult section of the public library, realizing that for the first time in my life I’d be going home empty-handed. I wanted nothing offered there, nothing. Not one page. Stuck between high school drama and mid-life crisises, I felt like sitting down and crying.
Instead, I re-read my favorites for the next five years.
Five years, with nothing new to read.
I tell a lie. Katherine Addison’s book was a lovely jewel in that time, as was The Thirteenth Tale. I wandered into the world of Terry Prachett by complete accident and devoured his works, all thirty-something of them, multiple times until I was sick and tired of his worlds and could spot the plot holes and the subplots that never actually got wrapped up and I couldn’t bear reading his newest stuff because I could see what disease was doing to his mind.
I read manga. Online comics. Vast quantities of non-fiction in the form of blog posts, architectural coffee-table books, and various research on Japan.
But not new fiction. Not the stuff I wanted, craved. I went from five novels a week to nearly zero because I couldn’t find them. I didn’t know where to look, didn’t want to spend $20 for an ebook only to find that it sucked. There didn’t seem to be any options left, and so I hated books passionately, because they weren’t good enough. Reading wasn’t the fun adventure it had once been. The magic had been stripped away by money and market and people in New York who had no idea what I wanted in a book.
It sucked. It sucked a lot. Non-fiction was fine, but not enough, and so I stayed away from that even, after a while. I wrote my own stories, and read them, edited them until they were new and read them again. If you want lonely work, that’s it.
And then last March–March–I was scrolling through the “if you liked this story, try this” for my own short story on Scribd, curious to see what it would recommend, and stumbled upon Trailer Trash by Marie Sexton only to realize that my books were out there. They just aren’t on the shelves of the library, or the bookstore. They don’t come in paper form, mostly, and they don’t appear in airport stores. Still, they are there for me, often cheap, sometimes bad but mostly good, and better than they’ve been in years.
I’m not back to five novels a week. I don’t really have time for that. But two, three? I’m there. And this time, the library doesn’t own them; I do.
Hey! You, reader. There are books for you. They exist, not $20 an efile, no, they are out there, cheap and good and ripe for reading, any flavor you desire for free or less than a dollar, two at the outside. There are services that want to email those deals straight to you, because authors pay them to run those ads. But those services vet the books they send, because they don’t just want to send anything, because you might not like just anything. They want to send you stuff you’ll love and buy, so that you’ll keep using that service and the service will keep getting paid by authors who want to advertise there because readers who are looking for that sort of thing will want to buy them.
It’s rather beautiful. And clever. And addictive. And as an author who uses that sort of service–to get eyeballs on my work, to get people to read the first in the series, to change my Amazon ranking and myriad other things–I’m telling you, read those cheap-free-up-for-grabs books guilt-free.
Some sites that have good email lists:
I get emails from all of them, once a day each. I probably end up buying stuff or downloading stuff from them a couple times a week. Books without spending hours searching, it’s a delight, let me tell you. A treat.
And if you go searching and you still can’t find what you’re looking for? Shout to the world that you want it. Writers will listen.
Right now, What Boys Are Made of is up for $0.99 on every platform that isn’t malfunctioning. (Hint: Kobo is having trouble right now, but if you use the coupon JUN50 at checkout you get 50% off, so it’s only $1.49.)
You can also preorder The Mercy of Men and have it appear on your ereader the day it’s out, so you can start reading right away–on a plane, in a car, by the pool, wherever!
So, where do you find books? Are you a library bookworm, or have a favorite shop? Do you follow a certain reviewer, or just go with friend recommendations? Let us know in the comments below!
For those who want to know, yes, I had a very refreshing sabbatical. There might be a few changes around here coming up, so keep your eyes peeled. Thanks for reading!