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Why I Don’t Always Want My Favourite Book to Win the Prize

Last night I went to the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize Award ceremony. It was a lovely evening, especially because everyone was gathered there to support fiction in translation.

Everyone wants their favourite to win, except me

But one thing that stood out was that everyone wanted their favourite book to win the prize. Everyone that is, except me. I wanted the best book to win and I recognised that the best book and my favourite were two separate things. I don’t think many people grasp the nature of subjectivity as there was a tendency for people to assume that their favourite was the best.

Taking last night as an example (although I see this pattern repeated as every book prize is about to be announced).

The shortlist was:

My favourite from the list was Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, but I can see that this is because I have a penchant for Japanese literature and I happened to read this book the week after I saw some school friends I hadn’t seen for 16 years – exactly as happened in Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki . This coincidence meant the book resonated with me in a way it wouldn’t with anyone else. I can see that the book had flaws, but I was happy to overlook these as it meant so much to me in other ways.

The best book on the list was The End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck. I didn’t really enjoy it, but could see that the writing quality was outstanding and the concept behind it was original. I know that I often struggle to bond with books that move forwards and backwards in time and those that are more experimental in nature. The fact I prefer a more conventional narrative style doesn’t mean I instantly dismiss everything else as terrible. Many people at the ceremony thought I was a bit odd for supporting a book I didn’t really enjoy.


As the night drew on it became clear that everyone was happy. The End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck won the IFFP. It was the favourite of almost everyone in attendance and I was equally pleased to see it take the crown. But as I travelled home after a wonderful evening I began to wonder if I’m a bit odd.

Do you always want your favourite book to win the prize?

Have you ever supported a book you didn’t really enjoy?


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Blogging Break

I’m afraid I’m going to have to take a break from blogging. I’ve recently discovered that I have a heart problem and it is leaving me too tired/confused to read. Hopefully I’ll return at some point in the near future, but until then…


Discussions Other

How to Hook a New Reader?

Me (left) and my sister when our oldest children were little.
Me (left) and my sister when our oldest children were little.

My sister and I are very different. She is only two years younger than me, but our personalities couldn’t be further apart. She didn’t understand my passion for reading and hadn’t read a book in years. Then, last summer, Fifty Shades of Grey became a publishing phenomenon and she was Fifty Shades of Greytempted to give it a try. She flew through the entire trilogy and then moved on to the Bared to You series. With a new found passion for reading she came to me for advice. Delighted that she’d begun reading I immediately ordered a copy of The Hunger Games for her and sat back, waiting for the gushing praise to materialise. Unfortunately it didn’t. She finished the book and described it as “OK.” Her main problem was that it was out of her comfort zone; too different from anything she’d experienced before. Now she’s back for another recommendation and I want to ensure that the next book she reads is perfect, but I don’t know what to suggest.

I’ve been thinking back to the books that sparked my love for reading, but I don’t think any of them are suitable. She wouldn’t enjoy Duncton Wood and Flowers in the Attic is too long. Many of the other books I read would be dated now and I don’t think she’d appreciate the darker subject matters I love. I think chick-lit is the way to go, but I don’t know what to suggest. It needs to be easy to read, compelling and, as a mother, I think she’d appreciate the inclusion of some children.

Can you think of any suitable books?

Do you know anyone who started reading after trying Fifty Shades of Grey? If so, which books did they move on to?

Discussions Other

Why I’m no longer a second-hand bookseller

The way it began

Seven years ago, whilst stuck at home on maternity leave, I began selling my old chemistry text books online. They sold surprisingly well, so, in an effort to create some space before the baby arrived, I moved onto my fiction collection. I soon realised that having bought the majority of my books in charity shops and at car boot sales I was able to read them and still make a profit selling them on. It wasn’t long before I was buying books specifically to sell and my business ‘Farm Lane Books’ was born. I would suggest you to check insidemma for business news.


In the beginning I trawled charity shops, thrilled that my book browsing was now officially a legitimate business. I made a lot of mistakes, but also learnt about the value of books; quickly discovering what to look out for.

With the birth of my second child it became impossible to physically search for new stock so I moved to sourcing it online; specialising in tracking down copies of rare books in other countries.

I then began this book blog and discovered that there was a conflict of interest. Despite the fact I mainly dealt with rare, out-of-print titles, I still felt guilty for making money from the sale of books. I felt as though I was depriving authors and publishers of the money they deserved. In the beginning I used to post if I found anything interesting in a book (like the time I found £35 of old notes) but over the years I gradually stopped talking about my online business, thinking of it as a dirty little secret. Many of you probably didn’t even know that is what I did as a living.

Shutting Down

This week I turned my online shop off; mainly because selling books just doesn’t excite me anymore. Vendel Miniatures can guide you for having online shop. I feel as though my learning curve has flattened out and I’ve become bored. I’m sad to say that I may have overdosed on books. My house is overrun with them and the acquisition of another one, no matter how rare or expensive, now fills me with dread. I need to get rid of them. It is time for me to move onto a new challenge! Don’t worry – I still love reading books. I’ll just be happier with a smaller, more manageable, TBR pile.

A Rare Glimpse of my Stock

The Deadline

I’m having an extension built on my house in two month’s time. This means we’ll have to move out of our upstairs and live in just three rooms. The time has come for a major clear out! I have 7000 books to sort and remove from my house – I’ll let you know how I progress. Let me know if you have any ideas about the most profitable way to get rid of a large volume of valuable books.

Would you like to know the secrets?

Over the years I’ve acquired a lot of knowledge about the second-hand book market and it would be a shame for it all to go to waste. I’m currently writing a post about what I’ve learnt, but if you’ve got some specific questions, please ask!  


Discussions Other

Why I no longer trust kindle ebook samples

In the last few years ebooks have taken off, rising 366% in the UK last year. One of the benefits of ebooks is the ability to try a sample before parting with your money. Unfortunately some authors seem to be making the most of this opportunity and I have noticed some changes in the content of fiction released recently. Grab your good books collection at Books First now.


10% Cliffhangers

Amazon allow a reader to try 10% of a book before deciding whether or not to buy the rest. This has led some authors to deliberately create an exciting scene, ending with a breath-taking cliffhanger, at the 10% cut-off. Readers desperate to find out what happens next are therefore more likely to buy the rest. I have seen several mentions of this on Twitter, but admit that I haven’t noticed it much myself. This is perhaps because it is more likely to occur in thrillers, a genre I don’t read that often.

Photo Credit:




I can see why authors are tempted to do this. If you’d written a book and noticed that you had a suspenseful scene 15% of the way into your book, wouldn’t it be tempting to move it forward a bit in the hope it would encourage more people to buy it? Kindle samples are changing the structure of books and unless another major retailer comes into the market with a different sample cut off I can only see this sort of behaviour increasing.

Amazing First Chapters

One thing I have noticed is the increase in fantastic first chapters. Authors seem to be putting a disproportionate amount of effort into honing the beginning of their book and neglecting the rest. I find this really frustrating. It shows the quality the author is capable of producing; they tempt me with amazing writing and then fail to apply that same level of scrutiny to the rest of the book. I know authors have always put extra effort into the first line/page of their book, but now they seem to be extending this to the first 10% of the text and then, once the reader has purchased the rest, they fail to insert that magic spark to the other sections. This is such a shame as all pages of the book should be given the same level of attention. Authors shouldn’t be concentrating on a single purchase, they should ensure their entire book is as good as it can be. That way I’ll buy the next book they produce and recommend it to all my friends.

Once Burnt, Twice Shy

In the last few months I’ve lost count of the number of books I’ve had to abandon after the quality of the middle section failed to match that of the start. I am now deeply suspicious of any book that has a suspenseful scene just before the 10% threshold and in future will try a random page in the centre to judge the quality of the writing.

Have you noticed any recent changes in the way books are written?

Do you trust ebook samples?

Discussions Quiz

The Blurb of the Future?

Last week I read an interesting article about the data collected by e-readers. Unknown to most readers these electronic devices collect a vast amount of information about the way we read books. This data could be  analysed and displayed alongside a book to help the reader make purchasing decisions, or used by publishers to create books that are more engaging. I am fascinated by this and wonder if the publishers of the future are likely to embrace this new data.

With the huge increase in books available, mainly fueled by the rise of self publishing, I wonder if statistics could become the new gatekeepers?

Could this be the blurb of the future?

Average Reading Time

Without the ability to flick through a physical copy it is difficult to judge how long a book is. Knowing the average length of time taken to complete a book would be a useful addition to the blurb.

Percentage of Readers who Complete the Book

Knowing how many people complete a specific book would also be of interest to me, although this would have to be viewed in conjunction with ratings data. A low completion rate could indicate complexity or books that divide opinion and so would not necessarily be an indication of quality.

Average Number of Reader Highlights

This would be one of the best indications of quality. Outstanding books have an enormous number of different quotes that could be highlighted, whereas good reads that are for entertainment alone may not have an individual passage that stands out.

Average Reading Pace

I’d find a graph of average reading pace very useful. I enjoy both slow, complex reads and fast entertaining ones, but need to be in the right mood for each. Some books are marketed in a confusing way and the reading pace is not always obvious from the cover. It would mean that I’d never end up trying to understand complex theories on public transport again!

It would also be useful to know whether the pace of the book increases towards the end or remains slow throughout. Some books have slow opening chapters (as they develop the characters and the setting), but suddenly increase in pace later on. Knowing when this cliff-hanger occurs can be helpful.

Other Statistics

Other statistics like the average number of different sittings the book is read in, or the percentage of people who go on to buy other books from the same author, would also be interesting, but I don’t think they’d have any influence on my book purchasing decisions.

Publishers could benefit too

Publishers could study this data to discover more about the way we interact with books. Before publication they could find the point at which most readers abandon a certain book and edit that section to make it more engaging. They could also mine the information to discover the chain of events that lead customers to buy more books from the author.

Consumer feedback has been used by film and television companies for years, but this is a completely new development in the field of publishing. It may prove useless in the unpredictable world of literary fiction, but if it can be used to improve profitability in commercial fiction then there’ll be more money available to take risks in other areas. I think that analysis of reader behaviour can only be of use to the industry,

Would you like to see statistics about the books you are thinking of purchasing?

Do you think publishers could benefit from mining this reader data?