Over at Fantasy Book Cafe, a post by Megan Whelen Turner, writing about the problem of discoverability.
I believe that Discovery, the process of finding books and authors that are new, is the most important aspect of increasing diversity in publishing. Some people find their new books by reading reviews regularly and getting newsletters in their inbox, but the vast majority of readers pick up the thing that’s on the endcap at Barnes and Noble.
Probably true, although in fact when I lived within 10 miles of a bookstore, I found most books and authors via the library. Physical bookstores are still really important for my sales, though. So I think that bit about tables at B&N is still basically true.
Here’s the bit I found most interesting:
I fall into reading ruts pretty easily. When I was a kid, I read all the Black Stallion books, all the Susan Cooper books, all the Alistair MacLean books. It took effort and sometimes blind luck to get me out of my comfort zones. Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God is one of my favorite books and I only read it because it was on the shelf in a small apartment where I was trapped as a nanny to a sleeping baby. I love Iain Banks and I am not sure I would have if his books hadn’t constituted 40% of all books in English in the Oslo Public Library the year I lived there.
… This is interesting because I really don’t think “reading all of x books” can be called a rut. I mean, I totally did that too as a kid, and still do as an adult. All the Black Stallion books, check, all of Alistair MacLean, check. Also everything by Dorothy Dunnett, say. Or everything by CJ Cherryh. Or much more recently: all of Martha Wells’ books, all of Andrea K Höst’s books.
But how can that be called a rut? Unless you read them and then re-read them and then read them yet again, rather than going on to something else. Does anybody ever do that? Because that’s a little hard for me to imagine.
If you read all of Martha Wells’ books, that’s only, what, fifteen or so novels. Then you’d go on to something else, right? So, that doesn’t sound like enough novels in a row to really count as getting into a rut.
Which of course does not derail the main point, which is that Discoverability Is Really Important and Really Hard.
MWT says: As more and more of my purchases are made online, as more of my reading is online, I worry about the algorithms that are used to put books in front of my eyeballs. Amazon’s whole imperative is to show me books just like ones I’ve read already. Even as I am trying to diversify, I can I see myself going down a narrower and narrower tunnel.
Which also makes me wonder, do any of you pay a significant amount of attention to Amazon’s suggestions? Or do you, like me, get nearly all your reading recommendations from bloggers? In that case, since no one’s taste overlaps perfectly, you should find yourself being pushed toward books you wouldn’t ordinarily notice, right? Chachic got me reading romances. Charlotte got me reading more MG. Brandy and Maureen got me reading contemporary YA. And I have no idea how many books on my TBR pile were recommended by commenters here, but lots.
Discoverability is still really hard, obviously. Bloggers don’t use algorithms to suggest similar titles, but on the other hand some titles come with a LOT of buzz and hype and every. single. blogger. in the entire universe reviews those books while a thousand others fall under the radar. I see no solution to that, basically.
But to do my tiny bit about the issue: in the comments, please mention one under-the-radar novel or series that you read recently (or semi-recently) and really loved.
I’ll start, obviously.
My pick: Rosemary Kirstein’s The Steerswoman