Recently, I bought a book not because I liked the author or subject matter, but because I wanted to support a guy whose book got some undeserved criticism. J. F. Lewis was recently interviewed on Dragon Page: Cover to Cover episode. His book, Staked, was the cause for him and his family to nearly be kicked out of their church. It’s hard to explain, so I can only recommend that you listen to the podcast. I was quite appalled at the way the church talked to him about the book, and so I decided to buy a copy to support the guy.
While my intentions may have been noble, I have discovered 90 pages into the book that I really shouldn’t have bought the book. There were a few reasons. Mainly, the book came across as juvenile to me. The transitions in the book were bad; the characters didn’t act in a believable way. Also, I haven’t read vampire novels in the past, but I thought I’d try something new. I should have listened to my gut instinct here. When I think of vampires, I think of Dracula. I prefer to think of individual monsters with strength of personality, not some sort of secret society caste system where being a vampire is almost commonplace. At 90 pages in, I’m ready to trade the book in at a used book store. Others may find it to be good, but it just didn’t work for me.
I began to look at this book and think of other books that I bought over the years, and wondered how many others were bought for the wrong reasons. First, though, I think we should define some good reasons to buy a book. Perhaps you enjoy a particular setting, or you like the author. Maybe the book has art that you enjoy, such as a comic book. Maybe the book has vital information, such as an RPG sourcebook. You may have a friend who broke into the business and you want to offer him your support. The list goes on.
There are, however, some reasons not to buy a book.
1. I’m making a statement. See my story above as an example. All you’re really saying is, “Here’s my cash. ”The chances of your hard-earned dollars making any sort of statement are minimal at best. In the case above, I may have been better served either e-mailing the author to express my point of view or just venting to a friend. Now I’m out $14 on a book I probably wouldn’t have read normally.
2. The author had one good book, so they must all be good! This one is real tricky. How do you know? You might be able to catch some clues from reviews, but oftentimes, you won’t know until you read the book yourself. I enjoyed Scott Sigler’s podcast novel The Rookie quite a bit, so I also listened to the podiobook of Infected. It was well-written and well-produced, but had way too much gore for my tastes. I tend to buy print copies after hearing the podcast novel version, but I really can’t justify spending the money on this book when it is just…gross. Don’t get me wrong, I like Sigler’s writing. I just think he can write a good story without all the gore.
3. It’s got a cool cover! Remember foil covers for comic books? They could sell the worst of comics because they were all shiny. And the price was jacked up too.
4. It’s part of a collection. Guilty! I’ve got quite a bit of that collector gene in me. I collected the original X-Factor comic book series, and have every issue. I was quite proud of this collection. Yet despite having them all, I hadn’t enjoyed the stories since issue #100. That’s nearly 50 issues I bought just for the collection’s sake. I read characters acting out of character, had bad art…all for the sake of a collection. I need more.
There are probably a few dozen more, but you get the idea. You’re not buying the book for the right reasons. Your brain suffers a serious malfunction, and you spend your hard-earned cash.
I don’t have a lot of advice here. If I did, perhaps I would know how to stop myself. I think, though, that the best one can do is to just stop, put the book back, and think about it for a while before making the purchase. If you’re still interested later, you can just get your book. However, you may find that the interest is fleeting at best.
I may have lost a few dollars and a few hours reading Staked, but I came out of it knowing a few things. I know now that vampire books are not for me. I know what genres I like and what ones I don’t. I’m not afraid to try new things, but I must expect that I won’t like them all. I know that buying a book based on some sense of’ righteous fury’ just isn’t good. In other words, I know that I bought the book for the wrong reasons.
Be sure that, when you buy a book, you do it for all the right reasons. Happy reading!