Sometimes What You See Is What You Get Is Just Plain Wrong.

It used to be I would say to my friends, “I’m a What you See is What you Get, person.” iceberg 2I’m not sure when I actually changed, or as some would probably say, matured, in my thinking but I have definitely come to realize that there is so much more beneath the surface that doesn’t show – and not just as it pertains to me, but as with everyone.  

We’ve all heard the clichés, “Looks can be deceiving, and “Beauty is only skin deep.” Or, how about “Beauty fades but ugly is forever?” Clichés: Meaning, a phrase that has been used time and time again. Sometimes they are silly, some mean or boorish, but sometimes, as in the aforementioned, all too true.

How often have you formed an opinion, good or bad, against someone or something based on how they, or it, looked, only to find when you delve beneath the surface to find the complete opposite? To look beneath a dull exterior only to find a beauty within so brilliant, it transcends to make the whole spectacular; or, to look behind the layer of dazzling beauty only to find a dull and shallow carcass which then casts a forever shadow on the whole.

Now I’m not here to preach to you about how you should or shouldn’t size up people BUT I am here to talk about sizing up a book.

life_of_pi_book_cover_01I’ve seen some really pretty, outstanding graphics, stand-outs, works of art, even, on a book cover – however, what lies inside can be anything but. On the contrary, I’ve also seen some less than eye-catching book covers as well but the pages within are literary masterpieces. I haven’t read the books, only seen one of the movies and intend to see the other but have you ever looked at the book covers of “Life of Pi” or “The Help”? Judging a book on those covers alone, who would have thought that the pages within would place it on bestseller lists or be made into the movie blockbusters they turned out to be?

So, now we’ve determined book covers aren’t all “it”. However, they are the first thing you see so you do want it to be the best it can be in relaying the theme. The next thing the reader is going to do is look at the back cover or inside flap to read the synopsis. This is where the writer can keep or have a second chance at gaining the reader’s attention or, to lose them completely. 

After the reader has gotten this far, here’s where it gets tricky – at least for the unknown authors. The public has gotten so wary of the unknowns that many steer clear of them, particularly the self-published unknowns. Thanks, in LARGE part to all the “authors” that feel they can submit a piece online, call it a literary work, sell it as such, when it has not been edited, proofread or beta read by anyone OTHER THAN the “author” him or herself. The reader, therefore, has gotten use to looking at Reviews and Ratings the book has garnered.

I’m going to try not to downplay the importance of Reviews on books too much as far as helping a reader’s decision to purchase but between an author being required to have a certain number of reviews posted before they can buy a paid advertisement for a book, which, since no one else except the authors’ friends, family, associates or peers even knows the existence of the book at this point, the author must rely on them to write the first reviews; to the Amazon Police removing seemingly at random, five-star reviews without any notice to the author or the reviewer; to the scrotumheads thinking your book is somehow competition to their book and leave a scathing one-star review based on inaccuracies or downright lies to dissuade a purchase … well, you can see how I can jump on a soapbox declaring Reviews and Ratings having as much value as the ink they’re printed on. And, more and more I see complaints from the consumer in their review saying the reviews they read had not been accurate. So, where does a reader go from there?

Without Reviews and Ratings, how are readers to know whether a book is good or not? To them I respond, “you really think someone else’s opinion, their review or rating, is going to be the same you come away with? Unless you’re both cloned, it’s not.” So, scratch giving a lot of weight to the Reviews and Ratings for books in making your decision to purchase or not purchase.

Then what’s left?? Only the best thing to come along since sliced bread (did you really think I would stop with the clichés?).

Readers, have you ever noticed above the picture of the book, the Click to LOOK Inside Button? Or, the Read Instantly Button situated below the book on Barnes and NoblesUSE IT. This is and should be your main source for an opinion of the book – the most important opinion of them all – your own opinion.

Click-to-look-inside

I’m learning as I hope you will, just how valuable a tool this button is. I can tell you that for every one book I’ve read on my Kindle, there are two I began to read but couldn’t finish and removed them off the carousel. The cover may have looked good or I liked the description of the book but once I started reading it, it quickly turned into something that did not appeal to me. Ultimately it doesn’t matter whether it had good reviews or not so good reviews, it is my opinion that matters. So, now I’m using the Click to Look Inside button, previewing the sample, and LOVING—IT!! It sooo works. Usually there are two, sometimes three, or even six chapters within the sample. And, like anyone else, if you aren’t grabbed by two chapters in, or say by the end of the sample, chances are you’re more than likely not going to get grabbed in the rest of the book. To me, there is nothing worse than at the end of the book, putting it down, not being satisfied and lamenting the hours it took to read it when I could have been reading something better and more suited to my taste.

So, sample away. If you like it, buy it and then recommend it. Leave a review and tell everyone you bought it after reading the sample and spread the word about what a great tool it is, but just as important, if not more so, is to shout out your recommendation of the book by word of mouth. Facebook it, Twitter it to all your friends and followers, tell your co-workers. As my good friend, R.S. Guthrie says, “The most profound, life-altering gift you can offer the Indie writer you love is to TELL as MANY avid readers as you are able. ~ R.S. Guthrie

Thanks for reading. I know this was a long post but hope it was worth your while. And Don’t Forget, Use That Click!

Click-to-look-inside

cool-library-books-art

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13 Responses to Sometimes What You See Is What You Get Is Just Plain Wrong.

  1. I read Life of Pi over two+ years ago (at the recommendation of my sis) and loved it. You couldn’t BE more correct on the value of the sample feature on Amazon (and most other eBook vendors). Reviews and flashy covers aside, there is really only one way you can know if YOU may like the book. Give ‘er a test drive. (And you’re also correct about the lack of pizzazz of Pi’s cover—proof that what really counts, as the adage has always proclaimed, is what’s on the inside.)

    I will say this: for Unknowns, a noticeable cover is still, unfortunately, a necessity. However more great articles like this one will help change that. I’ll second you again: sample an author’s hard work; just as you wouldn’t buy a car no matter how many great ads or recommendations you experienced, nothing beats trying it for yourself!

    • Gail Gentry says:

      I am on the band wagon to give that Click a try if you’re not familiar with the author or the content. It would certainly go a long way to helping the cream rise to the top of the indie market. And no doubt about it, that’s just a part of what it takes to get noticed. The cover and description are equal with it.

    • If you count the number of covers showing guys with ripped ads, or someone’s silhouette, usually far down the road, you can only discern a difference by reading the sample. I have had reviews that show they totally didn’t read the book, or opened to one random page and reviewed that. Frustrating, and out of our control, more so when you get a positive review from someone else. I wonder if that forum where they flame reviewers is still active on goodreads?

  2. Scott Bury says:

    I remember a publishing cliche from the days I used to work for a major publisher: “If a book sells well, it is a good book. If it doesn’t, it has a bad cover.”

    Every book needs a good cover. This is something that all writers, new or established, independent or signed to a major publisher, need to understand. They need to pay attention to the visual appeal of their work: cover and interior graphic design. All these factor into the reader’s experience.

    In today’s world, where e-books dominate, readers also need to take greater responsibility for raising the quality of the published works and ensuring the variety of voices available to the world: read the samples, buy the books if you like them, and then tell other readers what you really thought, through reviews or social media or word of mouth. And don’t give unwarranted praise, but don’t make unwarranted disparagement, either. And especially, don’t write a review motivated by anything other than the merits of the book in question.

  3. When it comes to reviews – I quite agree, however many 5* reviews a book might have, it still may not be ‘the book for you’. However, I can think of one occasion when this may not be the case. If you find someone, be it IRL or online, maybe a professional review site (Dear Author, Smart Bitches et al) or even someone you follow on Twitter, who has very similar tastes in reading to you; whose opinion on books you’ve already read chimes with yours. If they continually give good reviews to books that you subsequently read and enjoy, then sometimes buying a book on their ‘say so’ can be a good move.

    But yes, always, always try the See Inside function!

  4. Reblogged this on New Author -Carole Parkes and commented:
    Reblogged.

  5. Pingback: Random Wednesdays: “Looks Ain’t Everything” | Jackie Jones

  6. cg12311 says:

    Traditionally, the cover is used to make a book stand out on bookstore shelves; it’s what catches the reader’s eye. Its job is to get them to open it up and read some of what’s inside so that they can get a feel for the text. This is just as important in online outlets as well. I agree that the “Look Inside” option is one that every author shhould be using, and one that all reaers should use to make their own mind up about a book rather than relying on reviews alone.

  7. I wish they would look at the samples.

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