January 6, 2014

Writers Don’t Buy Books

Giacomo & Slick

Giacomo & Slick

The only books writers buy are advice books: how to write, how to edit, how to create dynamic plots. The list goes on and on. But writers do not buy fiction books.

Excuse Me While I Dodge Stones

I know. I hear all the writers screaming. I buy books. A lot of books.

I understand that. I buy a lot of books, too. But there’s a difference. It’s not me, the writer, buying these books; it’s me, the reader, who is buying them. I don’t buy your new romance novel because it got great reviews at Romance Times. And I don’t buy Author X’s latest horror because of it’s meteoric rise up the charts on Amazon. I don’t plunk down my hard-earned $2.99 or $4.99 or whatever the price is, for the latest urban fantasy, or YA novel, despite the new dystopian spin it has. I don’t even buy erotica, though it seems as if I might be the only person on the planet that doesn’t.

But…if a new mystery or thriller catches my eye, or an epic fantasy, or yet another retelling of Hannibal’s struggle with the Roman Empire, you can bet your ass I’m digging deep in my pockets to get those books. I might even skip a few cups of coffee to get them.

What’s the Difference?

I’ll say it again. It’s not me, the writer, buying those books. It’s me, the reader spending that money. So all of your time spent in social media hawking that book, and touting your reviews, and listing links to your interviews is useless—unless—it’s targeting your readers.

Let’s look at it another way. Assume you manage to scrape together 2,000 Facebook likes and get 10,000 followers on Twitter. How many of them are fellow writers? And of those fellow writers, how many of them are in your specific genre? And of those in your genre, how many can afford to buy your book—even if they are driven to do so?

If you’ve got a blog, more than likely it’s geared toward writing. Once again, your followers are writers. Not readers of your genre.

What to do?

Find the readers. Your readers.

Below are some great places to start.

Goodreads—join groups in your genre; do giveaways to draw attention to your books; run an ad; link to your blog; upload and review books you’ve read. All of these things help draw readers.

Librarything—you can do a lot of  the same things on Librarything that you can on Goodreads, but Librarything offers the ability to do digital giveaways of books. Goodreads doesn’t. This is great if you’re trying to get reviews.

BooklikesI recently joined Booklikes, so I don’t have a lot of information on them. But I know they also allow for digital giveaways, similar to LibraryThing.

Shelfari—add extras to your book and make it more interesting for the digital readers. Review books, join groups.

Kindle Boards—I haven’t done much with Kindle Boards but I know several writers who swear by it.

Nook Boards—Same thing. I hear it’s good for exposure to the Nook platform. Try it out.

Book Clubs—If you’re able to get into active book clubs, this could be huge. Make sure you have a list of discussion questions prepared beforehand. There are thousands of book clubs online, so a quick search should turn up a number of them to suit your needs.

Other options—If a reader writes you, take the time to chat with them. Ask how they found out about your books. Engage them in conversation. You might be surprised at what you’ll learn.


I’m not at the top of the sales charts. People aren’t flocking to buy my books, so take this advice at your own risk. As a reader, I don’t like seeing the continual stream of self-promotion. It sometimes seems as if social media sites are nothing but authors touting their books, listing every review, bombarding people with endless plugs. I have to say, it doesn’t make me want to buy your book; in fact, it makes me not want to buy your book. If you want advice from a guy who doesn’t sell a lot of books, but one who buys a lot of books, try this…


  • …tout every review you get.
  • …ask people to check out your book as soon as you meet them.
  • …tell people how great your book is.

I know you get excited about a good review. I do too. But the rest of the world doesn’t, and you telling them about it won’t excite them. It will wear thin before long. Of course if you happen to get an exceptional review, one that you can’t bear to keep to yourself any longer, and, if no one else is around to tell. No spouse, or sibling, or friend—then by all means, shout it out. Just make sure it’s not too often.

If you have a special sale or promotion going on, definitely tell people about it. Some of them might have been waiting for a sale to purchase it. As far as telling people how great your book is—let others do that. It’s far better for a reader to hear from someone else that your new mystery kept them up all night. They won’t believe it coming from you.

Think About This

Suppose you had a neighbor who sold Amway products, and every night they knocked on your door pushing something new, telling you how great it was. “It will clean your floors, take the stains out of your clothes, keep your dishes sparkling…”

You don’t have to answer that. I know how you feel. Before long you’ll be peeking out the curtains to see who rang the bell. And you won’t be answering the door if it’s them.

Now imagine that a different neighbor—someone you trust—tells you about this fantastic new product for cleaning tile. She goes on and on about how great it is, and then she tells you she got it from Bob, next door. Before you know it, you’re knocking on Bob’s door to see if you can get some of that cleaner.

Books Are The Same

Readers resist every attempt at hard sells but a recommendation from a friend, or even a well-written review, will have them reaching for their credit cards. As a writer, your goal is not to sell books yourself, but to convince others to sell them for you. And the best way I know of doing that, is to write good books. And when you’re done, write more of them.


Ciao, and thanks for stopping by,




Giacomo Giammatteo is the author of:
No Mistakes Resumes
Murder Takes Time
Murder Has Consequences
A Bullet For Carlos
Finding Family

He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with 45 loving “friends.”


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3 Responses to “Writers Don’t Buy Books”

  1. Re: Once again, your followers are writers. Not readers of your genre.

    Amen. I’ve been saying this for years.

    You listed some great options too.

  2. Maria: I know you have. I remember a post you did a year or so ago about this. I think everyone, including me, needs to be reminded now and then.

  3. I was going to go a little nuts but you know what? You’re right. Mostly.

    I DO pay out for books I want as a reader, but at the same time the books I pay out for, are by authors who write the same way I do. That is, in first person.

    I read it first as a reader, then a second time as a writer to see how and why their stories draw me in so that I can hone my own craft.

    There’s a couple of links in there that I didn’t know about though, so thank you for that! 🙂

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