Thursday, April 30, 2009

You DO Want Me to Buy Your Books, Right?

Okay, so Fictionwise is having a half-off sale and I'm running around filling my cart. There's this writer I've liked before, I read the first book of a series (sort of a psychic-urban-fantasy sort of thing) and it was good, so I look up her name to see if the next book in the series is there. Well, they've got number three, but not number two (or even number one) and I'm not about to skip number two because I'm uptight that way.

I see that she's got another series going, though, another urban-fantasyish setting only this one's about vampires. I read some of the plot descriptions and they sound pretty cool. Okay, I want to try the first one and see how I like them. Except... there's no indication on Fictionwise as to what order you should read them in. :/ And in fact, there seem to be two series here (Fictionwise lists them in the SeriesName: BookTitle format and there are definitely two series names) but descriptions from both series mention the same character so... I guess they're linked? I can tell which series comes first, since Fictionwise tells you what year a story was published in and the second series is 2009, but all the first series books were published (or maybe just hit Fictionwise?) in 2008, so no help there.

I fire up the Google-fu and find the author has a couple of web sites and an LJ. One of the web sites has all the books for the first series (the one I've got number one of) in the proper order, but doesn't even mention the other series. (Either one.) Nothing helpful on the other web site. I check the LJ and... nothing helpful there either. I mean, there are probably individual posts to the journal as each book comes out (I would hope so, anyway) but I'm not about to go paging back through this writer's journal by hand. The logical thing with a journal is to have some obvious place -- like a pinned entry which is always on top, or a listing or link in the journal's profile -- where a reader with money in hand can find things like buy links and lists of what order to read series books in. No luck.

Now there might well be some other web site farther down the Google page with a list of the books in the series I'm interested in, in reading order. I've checked the writer's sites, though, and I don't think I should have to go wading through fan pages to find basic information. I'm assuming the writer wants me to buy her books and I don't think it's too much to ask for her to give me reading-order lists on her web site or journal or whatever, where I can find them without going on a web-wide Easter egg hunt.

And not to pick on this one person -- I've had similar problems with other writers, both e-published and folks whose books are on the shelves at bookstores, where I'm standing there with my credit card in my pocket and there's nothing on covers of series books to tell me which order to read them in. At least with a paper book I have in my hand in a bookstore, I can flip through and find the copyright page (which usually gives month as well as year) or maybe a reading-order list somewhere in the front- or backmatter. Although I've run into lists of an author's other books before which were not in reading order, so that can be a trap.

And then there's the question of aggravation level, diminishing patience, and my willingness to overcome same; it's probably not going to fall out the author's way unless they're just that high on my Favorite Writers List. Take Jim Butcher, to name one person whose books inexplicably say "Book One [or whatever number] of the Dresden Files" until they hit book six or so, and then just say they're "A" book of the series. [headdesk] The Dresden Files really rock, so I'm willing to grit my teeth and mutter imprecations about Butcher's publisher for changing the series line at the bottom of the cover, while I stand there in the bookstore juggling five or six of his books, trying to get them into copyright order so I know which one to read next. If you're much lower on my Favorite Writers List than Jim Butcher, though, I'm much more likely to just give up on your series and move on to the next writer.

Right now, I have money. I want to give it to this writer. (Well, all right, a chunk to the writer, a chunk to her publisher and a chunk to Fictionwise, but still.) These are e-books, we're doing this online, she has two web sites and an LJ. Is it that hard to post a list somewhere telling me which book to buy first? :/

Sorry. Moving on to the next writer.



laughingwolf said...

i'm with you, angie... they start mucking with your head, maybe hoping you'll buy a book already bought by you? grrrrr

Charles Gramlich said...

Fictionwise has expanded rapidly but they could seriously use a bit of organization

Angie said...

LW -- that's quite possibly it, although I'm perfectly willing to go with the idea that someone just wasn't thinking when they set up the system. :/

Charles -- very true. Things are inconsistent in how they're presented and it'd be nice if they could straighten it out a bit. I'd be willing to buy that part of this issue has to do with what info they get from the publishers, though. It'd be interesting to see how the info flow works -- what the publishers give them, how it's formatted or whether they fill out a form for each book or whatever, and then how that info actually gets translated into what show up on Fictionwise.

I just wish someone would make series info easily available, and although it'd be great if the publishers and retailers would do it, it's just as easy for the writers themselves to do it on their own web sites, and I can't think of any good reason for a writer not to.


Shauna Roberts said...

I agree with you totally. I find it very annoying, too, when an author's Website doesn't tell you which books are a series and what order they are in.

Angie said...

Shauna -- exactly, this is Marketing 101. [nod] Make it as easy as possible for the customers to buy your stuff.


writtenwyrdd said...

I also find it annoying when I can't figure out what order a series is in. You could always go to Amazon and look up the order there. It's not always that simple, even on Amazon; but you likely can figure it out with a bit of work. Then you can buy from whomever you wish.

Angie said...

WW -- that's assuming the info is right there on the book page on Amazon, though. Digging through fan pages and lists on Amazon is, IMO, just as bad as having to dig through the listings on Google.

Also, Amazon only lists e-books which are in the Kindle format. The series I was looking for isn't. :/

I do use Amazon to look up book info, and keep my main to-buy list there, whether I plan to buy from Amazon or not. They do have a lot of useful data there, and it's often easier to find there than anywhere else. But sometimes it's tough to figure out what order to read series books in even on Amazon.


Holly Jahangiri said...

Did you pass this suggestion back to the author and publisher?

That would be irritating. I hope you found some good books to spend your hard-earned cash (or even your ill-gotten gains) on. ;)

One author, whose books (though formulaic) never ceased to amuse and entertain me, started re-releasing the books with different covers and even different titles. I bought about three of them, because given the formula, they all looked alike at a glance in the book store. Unfortunately, by page two or three I recognized them as books I'd read once or twice in years past, and I resented being bilked out of the cover price TWICE. I still enjoy his books, but it did affect how I thought of the author.

Angie said...

Holly -- I don't know that that sort of suggestion would be welcome, although if the relevant writer trips over this post and gets a clue, that'd be fine. [wry smile]

But yes, I did find plenty of other books to blow my money on, so all is well in the TBR pile. :D

Re: re-releasing books with different covers and titles, I really hate that. :/ I usually catch it when I pick up the book to check it out, but I've been fooled once or twice and it's always annoying. I'd much rather have spent my book money on books I don't already have, you know?

I've noticed some publishers re-releasing shortish novels in two-fer omnibus editions with a different overall title. There've been a couple of two-novel omnibus editions of the Bujold's Vorkosigan books, for example. Luckily I know all of those and wasn't fooled, but it was still damned annoying to get all excited about something new being out and then finding it was no such thing. [thwaps publisher]