As one does in Dubai, I was killing time while the boys were having a snow boarding lesson. So I wondered into Virgin and did an exercise........I looked at books. I stroked covers and admired titles. I debated what made me pick up a book and what made me put it down then I read first pages as I have been thinking about mine. As an 'pre-published' writer I know that quite possibly my first page may have to 'better' (here read - a real grabber) than someone who has a following already. I know that because on authors I love I just pick up their books - at most I will read the blurb on the back. I don't read the first page in the shop. I also know I am not alone on this.
However yesterday I read loads of first pages of 'my' type of books - women's fiction. Yesterday's exercise wasn't about improving my mind or challenging it. It was about pleasure as a book buyer. It was also about trying to learn what would make me continue to read my own book - for I am after all writing for me or my type of reader - if that makes sense.
So I stroked and perused my way through maybe fifty books. I am sure the staff thought I was some sort of a pervert. The first book that grabbed me on the first page was Maggie O'Farrells The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox. I was intrigued and I would have read more but yesterday I was not in a historical mood and it struck as historical - dance cards yous see. Did I mention that I didn't read the blurb on the back of the books. I chose purely by title, cover and first page. So I put Maggie back for another day. Then I hit upon a section of Erica James' A Breath of Fresh Air. I will confess it wasn't the title or the cover but the fact I knew her name as she won the RNA Romantic Novel of Year award in 2006 with Gardens of Delight. So therefore my research was skewed. However the first two sentence had me:
"Charlotte had never seen a man cry before, so she wasn't sure how to react to her husband's unexpected display of emotion. Not once had she ever imagined Peter capable of crying; It went against all she had ever known about him."
I read on and I am now the owner of the book. I caressed a few more and the next book that ended in my basket was Christina Jones' Love Potions.
"Okay, so finding so finding a naked man in her bed wasn't unusual. There had been one or two in her past - not at the same time, of course."
There was another one that I loved but sadly left behind.....and I can't remember the authors name of the title. May have to return and add it to my list........
So what did I learn in this ... Covers are third on the list of importance to me, titles are first if I don't know the author at all, and the first page put the book into my basket so to speak. Now The cover and title told me it was 'my' type of fiction so maybe I should put them first because when you are looking through tables of mixed fiction I really don't see the covers of Andy McNab and Clive Cussler so packaging works.
You may be wondering how I read out of my 'box' because I do. I love reading the reviews in the weekend section although they never review 'my' type of fiction. Of course there are book club selections, friends books and personal recommendations that round out my trb pile.
When I came home I looked at the various opening lines of August Rock and wondered based on the above research which would make me put it in my basket.
1. Judith sat watching the incoming tide lap over her red toenails and wet the brilliant white lace of her wedding gown. Tears caused it all to blur to pink.
2. The cloying scent of oriental lilies permeated the heavy air. June was not supposed to be this hot on Cape Cod and certainly not on her wedding day.
3. The leaves in the birch trees hung limp as Judith looked at the grey sky. Even the birds were not moving in the heavy air but little girls in rose coloured dresses spun about her with stinking pink lilies clutched in their fists.
Interesting......I know which I would choose based on the first lines but which one would you?