Some Surprise Lessons Learned at the Bookstore

Fellside by M. R. Carey. Photo credit: Amazon

Fellside by M. R. Carey. Photo credit: Amazon

Last weekend, while I killing some time at the local mall, I decided to go into the Barnes & Noble to do a little market research in the Fantasy & Science Fiction section. And, it was a good excuse to breathe in some coffee and books scented air (who can resist that pull?). While I was there I learned a couple of surprising things.

This section is way bigger than it was the last time I checked it.

This is both a good thing and a bad thing, of course. It's good, because that means these books are finally being taken seriously by publishers and booksellers alike. So, go you, fantasy writers!

The bad side is obvious. A much larger field means it is harder for new authors and existing authors alike to attract the attention of readers. So, you've got some work to do, fantasy writers!

This section is now split between young adult fantasy/sci-fi and adult fantasy/sci-fi.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised, considering the number of people I've seen posting on Facebook and GoodReads that they have written or are currently writing a YA fantasy novel or series. I just didn't know we needed a whole section devoted to it. I'm not sure if this is due to the rapidly growing list of books in the YA category or some need on the part of booksellers to keep the kids out of the sometimes-inappropriate adult-targeted fantasy.

Books with simpler covers both attracted my attention better and had better opening chapters.

I took down books with both types of covers and read the first few pages to see if the book was something I would buy. Universally, the answer was "no" to books with complicated, fancy covers, and "yes" to books with simpler covers. Books that had a "character cover" or a realistic representation of a character in the book had opening pages liked the least by me. I cannot help but wonder if this is because the publisher attempted to make up for less compelling writing with what they thought was a catchy cover.

I liked the cover and opening pages to Fellside, pictured above, but my favorite of all of the simple cover books? A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab. Great cover and great opening pages.

A Gathering of Shadows by

A Gathering of Shadows by

In case anyone is thinking, wait, didn't she just say character covers don't work for her, the character on this cover is pretty abstract and isn't the center of the cover, so it didn't really bother me.

For book blurbs that were longer than two paragraphs, I never got to paragraph three.

I got bored after two paragraphs. In fact, I realized that I would have preferred if the publisher got to the point of the book within one paragraph. Let this be a lesson to any indie authors struggling to understand how long or short their book blurb should be. Shorter is better, if you want a potential buyer to get through it all.

Noticed anything that surprised you the last time you paced through the shelves of your local bookstore? Add your comments below.

A.M.