Wednesday, 16 May 2012

How do you find reliably good cheap reads? - Guest post by Tahlia Newland

Today I'm pleased to welcome Tahlia Newland, an author who writes magical realism & fantasy for young adults and adults. Her first publication, A Matter of Perception, is a diverse collection of thematically linked short stories, and her young adult magical realism novella, Give me a Break, comes out in mid June.


How do you find reliably good cheap reads?

Imagine that you’ve just got an ereader and you’re looking for some cheap books to buy. Maybe you’re a student, or simply on a tight budget, but books under $5 are looking good, 99c and free books are looking even better, until you try a few. It soon becomes clear that there are two kinds of free and 99c books:
  • those written by authors of a professional standard who are providing a sample of their work at a cheap price to encourage you to buy more of their writing. These come in three forms,
    o    a short story as an advertisement,
    o    the first novel in a series, to get you hooked on the series,
    o    a stand alone novel where the author has more books available to purchase
    o    a limited time promotion of a single novel or collection of short stories to try to raise the books ratings and hence its visibility to the browsing public.
  • those written by authors who can’t get their work read any other way,

Some of the cheap books clearly aren’t very good; some are pretty average; some are okay; some are every bit as good as a book you would pay more for if it was published by a traditional publishing house, and some are pure Indie gold ie something new and exciting that is well written.

So how do you find books you can guarantee are worth spending your time reading? Apart from the blurb and the cover, you can sample a book (though you can’t do that with the free ones on Amazon), you can read the reviews or you can buy only those in the top 100. But it doesn’t take you long to discover that:
  • you can’t tell a book by its cover or its blurb
  • a book can start out with promise and plummet to miserable depths very quickly
  • reader’s reviews are unreliable. I have had several instances where I have bought books that on Goodreads had an average of over 4 stars with about 20 reviews and discovered that despite the fact that many readers loved the book enough to give it 5 stars, it was poorly written. Readers know what they like, they recognise a good story and great characters but they don’t necessarily recognise when the story is poorly written. If you do, then you want a more reliable method of recommendation.
  • Just because a book sells well doesn’t mean that it is well written. It could be selling well because it’s free.

So you look for sites that might help you to negotiate the plethora of cheap ebooks and you find:
  • sites where authors pay to be featured. There is no quality control on these sites at all. As a reader looking for quality, these are useless. All they are telling you is which author has an advertising budget.
  • sites where authors don’t pay to be featured but there is still no quality basis for the listing.
  • sites based on reader reviews. These are unreliable for the reason mentioned above. The best option here is find a few review sites whose tastes mirror your own and follow that person’s recommendations. The trouble is that many of them either don’t review the cheap books or they rarely do, so you can be whetting your appetite for books you can’t afford to buy, while waiting weeks or months to hear of a good one that you can buy.

What you need is a site where books are listed based on quality as decided by people in the business of writing, people who presumably know their craft well enough to be able to notice if the book is well written or not.

When I was looking for such a site, there wasn’t one, but there is one now because I set it up. It’s called The Awesome Indies.

Because all the books are independently published and therefore don’t have the overheads of a big company, the author/publisher can afford to charge less for their books than a traditional publishing house. Most of the books on the site are less than $5, many are $2.99, single short stories are 99c and some are free. Most of these books have occasional special promotions where they are free or cheaper for a short period of time, but all of them are excellent quality, so if you’re looking for quality cheap books then this really is the place.

What do you think of the idea behind this site? Will it be useful for you?

Author details

Tahlia is an avid reader, an extremely casual high school teacher and an occasional mask-maker. She has studied philosophy & meditation for many years and likes to write inspiring & empowering stories that question the nature of reality, mind and perception. After scripting and performing in Visual Theatre shows for 20 years, she is now a bona-fide expatriate of the performing arts. She lives in an Australian rainforest, is married with a teenage daughter and loves cats, but she doesn’t have one because they eat native birds.

Author links!/TahliaNewland