Monday, 7 May 2012

Reflecting on the A-Z Challenge


Yay! I did it - I completed the challenge! Phew. It was hard. The hardest part was checking out all the new blogs as they kept clocking up in Google Reader. Just when I thought I was getting on top of them, I'd find new blogs to follow and the number of posts would increase again.

I didn't get as far through the list as I'd hoped, so I hope - over the next few weeks - to stop by a few new ones. Finding new blogs is a fantastic experience!

I had almost 3000 page views last month which is double what my blog usually receives (apart from a very anomalous March which got a random 4600 views ???), I've gained 46 new followers and I'm following roughly 60 new blogs. That's not bad, is it?

My theme was the books that have inspired me, which I thought was a good theme for my first time - pretty easy. I also assumed everyone would know the books I was referring to - how wrong was I!

Apparently the books and authors I've taken for granted, the books and authors that I've known about almost by osmosis since I was a very young wannabe author are books and authors that lots of people haven't heard of before.

Few people had heard of Fay Weldon; fewer still knew that Daphne du Maurier wrote short stories. Even Margaret Atwood and Toni Morrison were new authors to some - and I thought they were standard! Quite a few people were astonished at the variety of my choices, and I learnt a lot about my own reading habits, as well as everyone else's.

I don't know if this is the correct use of the reflections post, but I thought I'd explain how I choose new books and maybe inspire you to read slightly outside the genres you're used to.
  • Avoid bestseller lists and award winners
  • Visit a bookshop if possible. Browsing on Amazon inevitably leads you to the same authors and genres, especially with their recommendations list based on previous purchases
  • When you're in the bookshop, look at the covers - choose a cover that doesn't look like any of the others (you'll recognise the covers of books in the genre you usually buy, avoid them)
  • Be curious about unusual titles
  • Look for authors you've not heard of before. First time authors are you in a year's time, you now, or you five years ago. Wouldn't you love the thought of someone stumbling across your book without prior knowledge and be drawn to buy it?
  • In the UK, Waterstone's employees hand write recommendation cards which are useful. Is there the same scheme at Barnes and Noble maybe? 
  • Give yourself a time limit. You want to buy a book, you've got the money in your hand - look around for ten minutes and then pick one up. Do not second guess!
  • Read the last book your partner/best friend/sibling bought. 
This isn't an exhaustive list - I've been known to smell books, surreptitiously of course; I've even read over people's shoulders on buses and made a note of the book if I've enjoyed that snatched paragraph. I particularly try to avoid series, I'm just not keen on them, I prefer standalone books - but this also means I only have more than one book of five or six authors on my bookshelf!
 
I would love to hear from anyone who tried a new author based on my A-Z posts. I'd also love to hear if you go out tomorrow and buy a new book. Mostly, though, I hope some of you enjoyed the books I recommended!

I'm really looking forward to next April! 

50 comments:

  1. With all the blog reading, unfortunately I haven't read any of your recommendations yet! I know, yikes!!!

    But I've got Madeleine's Ghost up next and I've been trying to find Sliding Doors to rent or something. I've totally wanted to see it since you mentioned that movie. :)

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    1. That's so great you've got two things from my list. Let me know how you like them!

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  2. Congrats on making it through A-Z! I am sure you have inspired lots of people to check out the books you recommended! I've added a bunch to my "to read" list. :D

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    1. That's great, Kyra. I hope you like them as much as I do.

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  3. Excellent list. Thanks for the tips. I love discovering an awesome new author or book.

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  4. Excellent advice. There's nothing like a bookstore to browse for treasures. There are just so many authors and new books published every year. No matter how much we read, we're only scratching the surface!

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    1. You're so right about the numbers of new books - sometimes it feels like there are more authors than readers! I hope not!

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  5. Congrats on finishing! I like the way you choose books. I usually choose what books I'll spend money on by 1-the premise 2-the cover 3-the reviews. I've read a lot of great books this year- both tradi pubbed, self pubbed, and small press pubbed. Can always count on the blogosphere to help me find new adventures:)

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    1. I tend to read the reviews afterwards. For example, the reason I loved the book The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake was the same reason that a lot of people on Goodreads hated it. Conversely, I just read Death Comes to Pemberley, and REALLY wish I'd read the reviews and avoided it!

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  6. i have your suggestions on my tbr lookup list! great job with the challenge!

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    1. I'm feeling a huge responsibility right now - I hope you like them!

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  7. 'I don't know if this is the correct use of the reflections post, but I thought I'd explain how I choose new books and maybe inspire you to read slightly outside the genres you're used to.'

    That was a very good part of your post. I appreciated it quite a bit.

    Congrats on making it all the way through and meeting so many new people!

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  8. Glad you enjoyed it! My Google Reader is a mess. As I added blogs, I created new "New Follower" folders. I'm juggling quite a few now!

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    1. I'm hoping to organise myself better - those folders are a great way to divide blogs into manageable chunks.

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  9. I loved your A to Z posts, but yes, many I hadn't heard of, but lots of good idea's for authors to try. I think you had a great month. Here's to next year!

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  10. I choose books the same way, always looking for something different. Lately, I mostly buy books by authors I know. Makes it even more interesting. I like to read what's hot in the genre, too, just for my information.

    Something was screwy with Blogger in March. Sitemeter didn't have the same stats as blogger.

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    1. That explains my 4600 then. It was weird to see the numbers ticking over everytime I refreshed the page - and there I was thinking I was popular lol

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  11. How I would love to visit a bookshop! One of the downsides of living here is that the only shop that stocks English books is a swap shop full of airport and beach books. I'll b ein the UK in September - family visit - and one stop will be Waterstones in Haywards Heath, even if I have to wait in the rain for the bus!

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    1. Ah, that's such a shame. Sounds like Waterstones will be a full day-trip!

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  12. I love the idea that when I choose a new/new to me author to read, it's kind of like good karma - I will be that new author, that new book for someone in the future. :)

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    1. Exactly, Madeline... and that reader is waiting out there for you :-)

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  13. I've been enjoying reading books of some of my blogger buddies. It's neat to read it and be able to say, "Hey, I know that person!" Congrats on making it through the challenge :)

    Allison (Geek Banter)

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    1. Yeah, it's cool when you can do that.

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  14. It's easy to get into the habit of reading books either by authors we know, or that sound as though they'll be similar to books we've enjoyed in the past - I do that a lot myself.

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    1. It's never been a conscious decision for me, I've always just looked out for new authors. The A-Z posts made me realise that I'm the odd-one-out not all you guys :-)

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  15. The A to Z Challenge does tend to be blog discovery overload doesn't it? Oh, but what fun it is. Good suggestions about finding books. I tend to read pretty randomly so that I'm not hung up in any one particular genre. I'm going to go back over your A to Z posts to see what I recognize.


    Lee
    A Faraway View
    An A to Z Co-host blog

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    1. 'Discovery overload' is the perfect term for it! But May is feeling surprisingly empty at the moment.

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  16. So many amazing blogs...what a wonderful time I had. Now to see what everyone brings to the table in the future. Oh, and next April...LOL!

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    1. I agree, I'm really looking forward to seeing what normally happens on all these new blogs I'm following - including yours :-)

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  17. You definitely had some great books on your list - and a few I wasn't familiar with. I just spent a fortune in Amazon fees ordering all the books people recommended in this challenge, including some from you :)

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    1. It's just so easy to spend on Amazon isn't it? I have to set a limit before I start or I'd easily spend far too much. I hope you enjoy reading them all!

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  18. Congrats on completing the challenge! I absolutely loved your theme! The challenge was definitely hard but fun nevertheless.

    Eat Live Move

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    1. Thanks Ro - I didn't make it back to yours as much as I wanted, but you had some really good stuff going on too!

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  19. I loved your theme, and really appreciated your comments on my posts-- glad the AZ brought you new followers and visitors.

    If you'd like to guest post for us over at www.a-to-zchallenge.com to talk about books, or blogging in general, let AZ co-host Tina know at 2012AZinfo at gmail dot com.

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    1. I'd love to guest post, but at the moment I really have to get my head around my WIP - I'll be in touch with Tina a bit late.

      Thanks for co-hosting - you did a great job!

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  20. Hi Annalisa .. great reflections post and I like that you set out how you go about selecting books - and I think you should take up Damyanti's suggestion above!!

    I need to read your posts through .. as I only came by a couple ..

    Great to have you on board .. see you soon - cheers Hilary

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  21. I hadn't checked my Blogger stats in a while, but your report made me curious about the number of page views my blog got during the challenge. So I just checked and Blogger says 6426 page views for April! Pretty cool!

    Here in South Africa I've seen handwritten recommendation cards from employees at some of the Exclusive Books branches.

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    1. Wow, your page views are really cool! Well done!

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  22. Its so good to be finished. I love browsing in bookshops and Amazon, but I have so many book both onkindle and on my shelves I really have to stop buying until I read them, but then another one catches my eye,it's an addiction.

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    1. I know that feeling - far too many waiting, but then that new book which you just have to read gets published. My Kindle is filling up too. I even had to stop going to the library for a while, but Number Two son is eager to start going again! Addiction is the right word... but it's a good addiction!

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  23. This is a very interesting wrap-up post. Congratulations on completing the challenge!

    Ellie

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  24. Congratulation on finishing the challenge. I didn't visit all blogs during the challenge but, cross my heart, I'm visiting every single one with reflections post! Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    Evalina, This and that...

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    1. Good luck in getting to the end of the list - at least it's smaller than the challenge list! Thanks for the follow.

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