Tuesday, September 2, 2014

TUESDAY TIPS: A Banquet of Beginnings

AS YOU HAVE probably assumed by now, I am totally sold on my Amazon Kindle.  
   I am on my second one. My first Kindle was the keyboard model; it had both wifi and 3G cellular connectivity, and I vividly remember being on a cruise ship leaving the Azores, leaning out over our stateroom balcony railing to catch the last vestiges of a cell signal so I could download a guidebook for Lisbon, our next stop.
   A little over two years ago, that Kindle bit the dust when it fell off the back of our couch (we live in Florida: ceramic tile floors), so my wife took pity on me and bought a replacement, the keyboard-less model. And now I am trying to figure out a way to kill it, so I can get a Kindle Paperwhite (I know, I know ... thou shalt not covet ... I'm still a work in progress).
   As an author, I know that Kindle ebook sales dwarf every other form of digital delivery. 
   And as an author, I use my Kindle as a tool (you can also do this with virtually every other ebook reader) to read the beginnings of books.
   Why the beginnings? Two reasons, really.
   The first is that the beginning is the free sample that Kindle will allow you to download when you are considering the purchase of the book. So (provided most of that beginning has not been taken up by front matter) if that book is a novel, you'll usually get most, if not all, of the first chapter. Sometimes more. This is far more cost-effective than buying every book that piques my interest, and it's much more efficient than a trip to the library.
   The second reason I browse beginnings is because, particularly in this age of free digital samples, that first chapter has a great deal to do with whether the reader is going to buy, or engage with, a book ... especially a novel. By perusing the beginnings of dozens of books every week, I get a pretty good sense of what works and what doesn't, and that is a very good sense for a novelist to have.
   Many ebook delivery platforms, Kindle included, also have two bestseller lists: one paid and one free. If I spot a book that looks interesting on the free list, I will download the entire book. That said, if anyone at Kindle is analyzing my reader use, they will probably notice that most free books spend no more than five minutes on my reader. Most free ebooks are self-published by writers not yet ready for prime time, and if this becomes apparent in the first page or two, I delete the book to keep my library screens down to a manageable minimum. The free "bestseller list" is mostly like the remainder table at a bookstore, and you don't want to reflect that; you want to emulate the books that sell well. Still, some very good novels occasionally show up on the free list; generally these are put up by publishers trying to promote the author's newer work.
   If you don't have an ebook reader, you can still browse samples. Most platforms allow you to download an app so you can use your smart phone, tablet or computer (i.e., whatever you are reading this on right now) as your e-reader. By going to the online store and clicking on the "send free sample" button, you can still browse beginnings at your leisure.
   All good writers are good readers first. Get acquainted with how great books tend to begin, and you can't help but up your game.
   And now, if you'll excuse me, I am off to balance my aging Kindle on the back of the couch.

No comments:

Post a Comment