A Toolkit And Compass for Romanceland
Because All The Roads Are Being Re-Built (Maybe)
Finding Books – Part 2
Last post, we explored all the ways of using Google Alerts results to mine the Internet for useful blogs, sites and newsites, and the bounty they give up: romance titles for your growing list of potential books to buy.
Here are even more resources to tap.
Even if Amazon doesn’t have every single romance title published available for sale on its virtual shelves (and if it doesn’t, it’s only by a gnat’s whisker), it comes a lot closer to 100% than any other bookseller in the world. For this reason, and one other, Amazon is one of the most advanced search tools on the Internet.
The other reason Amazon outranks any other publisher, bookseller or database in the world when it comes to searching for books, is that readers, publishers, authors…anyone…can categorize and tag the books that Amazon offers for sale. In other words: keywords.
And those keywords are searchable.
You may not like shopping via Amazon. But searching via Amazon is hard to argue with.
With your keyword groups in hand, head over to Amazon, and in the Departments drop down box, select “Books” and hit the “go” button.
Underneath the search bar, you’ll get a row of menu items, including the “Advanced Search” link. Click on that.
You’ll come up with a screen called “Book Search” and the first row of the range of fields you can fill in is…keywords. J
Don’t add any other conditions than your keywords. You’re not trying to narrow down the range at this stage (quantity, remember?). Just add your keywords, separated by commas, and hit enter.
You’ll come up with a list of titles that may be surprisingly long or short. If you think your list is too short, try searching again, and dropping off one of your keywords — whichever one is the least critical in your opinion.
For each title that pops up in the search, open up that book’s page (use the right hand mouse button to open the book up in a new tab, so you can save the search page and come back to it later). Have a quick look at the blurb, etc, and add the book to your list if it makes your interest level twitch at all.
Also check out the books listed under the “Frequently Bought Together” titles and add them to your list, if they beckon in the slightest.
Then check the books listed under the “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought….” section. Books under this section are often similar, but not always. A quick look at the blurb will tell you if you can add them to your list or not.
And don’t forget, for each book that you click through to, you should also check their “Frequently Bought Together” and “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought….” sections for similar types of titles.
And start adding titles to your list.
Repeat this with all of your keyword groups.
There are romance reader groups all over the Internet. And I will give you a list of places where you can start looking for like-minded peer groups in a minute.
But there are strong pros and cons to joining reader groups of which you should be aware before signing up.
A romance reader group that works well is a fabulous resource for word-of-mouth about great romance novels, changes in the industry, help, support, friendship, and fun. When reader groups work well, they’re fabulous places to hang out. And you will hear of so many great books you will never catch up!
If you can find a group that is “closed” (there is some sort of formal subscription process) and has a stable membership, you’ll find yourself making friendships that last years. If the group caters to a small niche category that you love and adore, you will wonder how you ever lived without it.
Reader groups that function well bring all the best qualities of each of its members to the group. The knowledge of each member provides a pool of information that all members draw upon for a unique resource that provides support for the group as a whole and enhances it. A strong coordinator/manager is a must.
Many “reader” groups are over-subscribed, or open, and subject to spam, hackers, or the abuse of authors who use the group as promotional platforms, to the detriment of free discussion and fellowship. In the very large reader groups, you will hear of many, many romance titles via promo posts from authors or promotional companies, but not much else. These larger groups are rarely niche groups. They cater to larger divisions of romance (e.g. “erotic romance” or “paranormal romance”).
Smaller niche groups have tiny memberships and are often moribund through lack of activity or current interest in the niche.
All groups may also be subject to bias via group pressure. If the group is aligned with a website or publisher, then discussion will be limited to that website’s reviews, or publisher’s books. There may also be more subtle or political prejudices: The group may have a bias against indie titles, or e-books, that isn’t apparent on the surface, but only via consistently bad reviews of anything other than New York published titles, for instance.
Even if none of the above occurs, groups sometimes break out into bickering and sniping, if there is one or two forceful members who don’t see eye-to-eye. If these frictions are not resolved, groups can end up disbanded or deserted because members grow tired of the conflict.
Despite the downsides, there are more well-functioning groups than not. Each group has a lifecycle and groups are forming and disbanding all the time. You just need to find a group that works for you, if you think one would be useful for you.
Where to find Groups
Yahoo Groups – The grand-daddy of groups, Yahoo is still the one most people think of when they talk about “groups”. Posts are delivered via email as a defaul, although you can check your group’s postings online if you want. There are dozens, if not a hundred or more, romance novel-related groups on Yahoo.
Google Groups – Google took over the old Usenet bulletin board style groups, then added their own Groups on top. One of the oldest writing groups on the usenet boards is still going on Google – rec.arts.sf.composition. One of the problems with Google, though, is that the groups are semi-open, so hackers and spam is rife. I’ve looked for romance novel groups there, but didn’t find any. However, if usenet groups are your thing — and some people like them — then you may consider the idea of creating one of your own in your favourite niche.
Facebook – Whatever you think of Facebook, there’s no denying the numbers it commands. It’s #2 on Alexa (Google is #1). And Groups is Facebook’s next “thing”. If you’re a member, go to your home page, and type your keywords into the search bar at the top. There’s potentially a group page will pop up with your keywords. If not, drop the least critical keyword off and try again. Sooner or later you’ll end up with a group showing up in your search results. I guarantee that group will be talking about romance books in your niche. And you can always ask for recommendations, too — and brace yourself for impact.