I get BookBub every day, and every day I skim the list and ignore most or all of them. My biggest reason for not clicking on anything is that they tend to sound alike. The romances are all about billionaire rock stars and the women who reluctantly fall for them; given what little I know of billionaire rock stars (or Wall Street guys or billionaires in general) that’s a bad, bad idea. The paranormal seems to be clustering around dangerous shapeshifters. The mysteries are about murder and pastry or inns at the shore. Women’s fiction is about women who must go home again and rediscover themselves. YA still tends to dystopia. I know some of those books must be good, and I know that a lot of what’s working there is a signal that “this book is that kind of book” which has nothing to do with how well it’s written. My question is, how do I tell which ones are the same cookie cutter plot and which ones are worth my click?
Okay, obviously, the easiest way is to go read the sample on Amazon or wherever. But I don’t have time to read twenty samples a day, so there has to be something that triggers my click. A good PW or Kirkus review will do it if the book sounds at all out of the ordinary, especially if the quote says that it’s funny or fast-paced. I’ve been stung by “heartwarming” too many times, and “sexy” at this point makes me scroll faster. And even a good review won’t make me click on “billionaire;” I keep thinking of Mnuchin and his blonde bride soaking the country for their fancy travel and bragging about it on social media, not to mention the rest of Trump’s rapacious cabinet.
The real key comes down to the coding, I think. I am probably not going to like a billionaire book, so it’s good that I don’t click on that one and end up leaving a bad review. But for people who really love the King Cophetua or Cinderella or whatever trope it plays on, that’s a powerful ping on the imagination. The same with “woman goes home and opens a pastry shop or takes over the family inn.” There’s a cosy, nesting factor there, the idea that this protagonist is going to spend her life taking care of others that’s retro enough to be comforting while putting her in charge of whatever business it is, with a callback to Gilmore Girls. The similarity in the plots says “This is the kind of book you like,” which is a smart way to market.
Except it makes them all sound alike. “Will Jess/Tess/Bess find happiness with her billionaire?” Sure. “Will bodyguard Dan/Jack/Joe be able to resist the temptation he feels for his comely client?” No. “Will there be a hunky handyman/handsome client/gorgeous pastry freak at Melanie’s/Patricia’s/Brittany’s Come On Inn?” You betcha. So if the reader wants the same hit over and over again, she’s safe. The last thing she wants is for the pastry freak to turn out to be a serial killer and bake Brittany into one of her flans. She wants that story. And that blurb gives tells her this book is it.
But it also cuts out the reader like me who thinks “cookie cutter plot” (there’s Brittany and her baking again) even though the book might be marvelous, just badly blurbed. On the other hand, if the book has a quirky blurb–“When Brittany meets notorious serial killer Daniel, will her muffins be enough to keep him from killing again?” –it’ll lose all those cosy readers. Although, I gotta say, I’d click to read more about Brittany and Daniel.
So I’m thinking enough clues to let the reader know the kind of book it is (if starts with two people at odds, it’s either a romance or a serial killer book, possibly both given Brittany’s taste in men) and then hit whatever the overall mood and tone of the book is: cosy, quirky, suspenseful, whatever.
And no billionaires. Those guys are ruining the country.
(You know, I kinda want to write that Brittany book . . . )
(Please give me credit for my not using my “Brittany is a cake baker, Daniel is a cookie cutter” blurb.)