This feels a little bit like writing ‘what I look for in my ideal man’ lol. My ideal book is adventurous, with bright sparkling blue eyes and a tight ass… ahem.
You’re all aware that I’m an indie author, I write and adore urban fantasy. I’m also an avid reader, I celebrate things by putting shiny new books on my kindle. I absolutely adore books. I’m also a very fussy reader, I have high standards and particular tastes.
It won’t come as any surprise to anyone that my primary genre is urban fantasy, really that’s also my secondary and tertiary genre too, I really love urban fantasy. That wasn’t always the case though, I read a lot of horror and thrillers through my teens. I migrated mostly to non-fiction in my late teens. Urban fantasy is my comfy, squishy, happy place though. That’s what I look for first.
I put down perhaps 85% of the books that I try – the look inside feature is a godsend! The vast majority of books that I show any interest in are put aside before the end of the first chapter. If you consider all the books that I don’t even click through from the cover, or I dislike the blurb of, I pick up perhaps 5% of the books I look at. I’m really fussy and particular.
So what do I look for in a book? What makes me choose to put it on my kindle?
First of all, the cover. If that doesn’t catch my eye then I won’t even get as far as the title. It has to be professional and include the key genre cues that my subconscious has come to associate with books I love. That being said, I have looked at books completely outside of my usual reading purely because they had a stunning cover. I love cover art. I love art in general, but I have spent hours just browsing covers and admiring the artistry there.
Assuming the cover caught my eye, the title has to then do the same. Then we’re into the blurb. I’m not a big romance reader, and there’s a very distinct feeling of paranormal romance taking over urban fantasy, so if I see a romantic focus in the blurb, I move on. I love a good romantic subplot, but for me, it has to be a subplot, not the focus.
If the blurb sounds good, then I’ll go and read the critical reviews. I’m not interested in the four and five star reviews. They’ll just be gushing about how amazing it is. I want to know what the flaws are. If they’re things that I don’t think will bother me, then I read the look-inside. If they do seem like they’ll bother me, I move on.
Now we’re into the actual book.
The writing has to hook me. It has to grab me and make me eager to keep reading. For that to happen there has to be a clear feeling of tension and forward progression. I have no patience for slow-paced books. The narrator also has to have a voice that I enjoy. I’ve put down a lot of books for a narrator that bothered me. One was very noir, and I found the descriptions to be too much, they got in the way. Another was arrogant and shallow, and so on and so forth.
It doesn’t necessarily have to be a huge fight, but there has to be a feeling of tension, a question posed to get me wanting to read more. From there I want deep and interesting characters. I want characters that have realistic and interesting motivations. I want a good quick-pace that keeps me turning the page and wanting to know what happens next. I have no patience for long descriptions or walls of dialogue.
I like a world that I can lose myself in. Something vivid that I can hold in my mind and take pleasure in exploring on my own terms. There should be depth and nuance there. I also like a plot that builds on itself before it comes crashing into a big crescendo. There have to be reasonable stakes there. The characters have to be well enough developed that I give a damn, that I’m rooting for someone.
Now this doesn’t necessarily have to be high-octane, or even urban fantasy. I love Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Cycle. It’s probably one of my all time favourite series. That’s not high-octane. It’s beautifully crafted, it elegantly unfurls and has gorgeously rich characters. Then there’s The Magpie Lord that’s a m/m paranormal romance – I picked it up because it had magpies as the focus and I adore corvids, particularly ravens and magpies. That again has these glorious, wonderful characters and a rich world. I was swept off my feet in the best possible way.
I suppose really, characters make it for me. I love Tybalt in the October Daye books, I love all of the characters really but I want a Tybalt. The world in The Final Formula is rich and wonderful, but those characters make it into something so much more. I’d love to have a conversation with Addie and Rowan, and have a night on the town with James. The plot in Owl and the Japanese Circus was brilliant, the world was vivid, but it was Owl and her friends that really kept me coming back for more.
I try to apply these things that I love to my own writing. I write books that I want to read, that I love. I’m going to be incredibly sad when I have to say goodbye to Evie and co, I love them to bits. I really hope that some day there’ll be someone talking about my books the way I talk to just about everyone about the books I love. 🙂
Tell me what you look for in a good book!