The new slush pile.

My to-be-read pile grows weekly. I make a dent in it every week but then it grows some more.

  • I make a random ebook purchase.
  • I grab a book or two from the library.
  • Books arrive in the mail that I’ve won online.
  • I make a bigger purchase of new hard covers. (I always read these.)
  • I download free traditional ebooks, usually the first in a series.
  • I buy used books for a penny plus shipping off Amazon.

The hard truth is that I don’t read them all – even ones that at some point I couldn’t wait to read.

Samples that I enjoyed build up on my Kindle so I remember to buy them later when I need a good read.

In this new digital age, the slush pile is transferring to the reader – and this includes both traditionally and self published books.

More than ever we need to hook our reader from our premise, to the blurb, to the cover, to the first page and the first chapter.

For me, there’s a crack on the first page and it’s either wide open or it’s just a sliver.

Sometimes I sense just a sliver of emotion, voice, and story but I try. I push my way across the page, hoping to squeeze into the book and fall in love. Unfortunately it doesn’t always happen.

Other times, the emotions are raw, the voice captivating, the words powerful. Maybe a question is raised with a strong mystery; and I fall headfirst into that wide open crack and don’t look back.

How do you determine which book to pluck from your pile?

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39 Responses to The new slush pile.

  1. Andrea September 19, 2011 at 10:28 am #

    Good question, Laura. It usually depends first what I’m in the mood for, because I usually have a variety of books waiting (adult fic, MG fic, adult non-fic). How tired I am (I read mostly before bed). And yes– how cool the cover or blurb is (okay, I admit it, I sometimes look at the covers instead of the content).

  2. Creepy Query Girl September 19, 2011 at 11:54 am #

    I’m feeling the same way right about now. I just bought four new ebooks and have three on my kindle that I haven’t even read yet. It’s hard because i’m a ‘mood’ reader so I won’t get into a book until I’m in the mood for that particular genre. This is why I feel like the agent system is sometimes imperfect. They’re people and what they choose to represent isn’t always based on great voice or craft or hook. It’s a mix of what they’re looking for, their mood, and falling in love with a certain idea or character. But they have so much more responsability than we do as readers because they decide who will be seen and who won’t.

  3. Stina Lindenblatt September 19, 2011 at 12:13 pm #

    I’ve still got books I bought a year ago to read. They were books from a series, and I had planned to reread the other ones first. Um, yeah. Like that’s happened. Because of this, I’ve been told by my kids that I can’t buy anymore until I’ve read ALL my unread YA books.

    Yeah, like that’s working.

    For me, it depends what mood I’m in. Do I want a super romance-y read? A paranormal? A thriller?

  4. Ava Jae September 19, 2011 at 12:41 pm #

    That’s a really interesting question. I actually don’t have an e-reader, so I haven’t quite developed that kind of a slush pile yet (especially since hardcover books tend to be expensive).

    I imagine once I get an e-reader though, it’ll be another matter entirely…

  5. Matthew MacNish September 19, 2011 at 12:42 pm #

    I’m not sure I can really put a finger on how I choose what to read next. It involves too many variables.

  6. Patti September 19, 2011 at 12:53 pm #

    It really depends on what I’m in the mood for. Do I need to laugh, do I want suspense, or something more serious. It’s always good to have a wide variety. My TBR pile is getting low, I think it’s time to stock up.

  7. amie borst September 19, 2011 at 12:59 pm #

    i guess i’m lucky…i usually don’t buy more than two or three books at a time. and sometimes i will read all of them at once (well, not at the EXACT same time, but a chapter here, a chapter there of each). that way i don’t have to wait because i’m totally impatient!

  8. shelley moore thomas September 19, 2011 at 12:59 pm #

    It totally depends. I am about to finish a book (probably tonight) but am not certain what to start next.

    Wishing desperately that I had more time for reading.


    • Laura September 19, 2011 at 1:25 pm #

      A lot of what rises to the top for me is what i’m in the mood for combined with the appeal of the first page. There really doesn’t even have to be a reason other than something drew us to it and kept us engaged!

  9. Joyce Shor Johnson (@thewritejoyce) September 19, 2011 at 1:44 pm #

    I have books everywhere. I am trying to decide whether to buy another kindle or the new nook ereader for storage.

    So many options, never enough time.

  10. anne gallagher September 19, 2011 at 1:49 pm #

    Mood. Which one I’m in. But then I don’t read when I’m writing so I don’t read all that much. And if I do read, I do it all in one day. Two Sunday’s ago, I read a romance, an old one, from start to finish. I just felt like it.

    I do have a TBR list, but no pile. I can’t commit to that.

  11. Susan Kaye Quinn September 19, 2011 at 2:48 pm #

    This is a hard one, because I have so many I want to read. It’s usually whichever one is screaming loudest at the time. 🙂

  12. Lisa Green September 19, 2011 at 3:03 pm #

    Wow, that is a really good question. I too have so many books I fully intended to read that sit there waiting for me. I also have many samples on my Kindle also waiting for purchase. It’s tough. Honestly I usually have a priority because of an interview or a promise or something along those lines. But not always. And I guess that’s when that first page is vital, eh?

  13. Elle Strauss September 19, 2011 at 3:18 pm #

    You make a very good point here. Just last night I closed a book a quarter way through, where in the past I would’ve just chugged along. Actually I closed up two books, started a third and my eyes started to glaze. I wondered if it was just me, I read too much in the same genre and it’s all starting to sound the same? Or I’ve just become too demanding of a reader– having fallen in love early with books before, it’s hard to settle for less of an experience now.

    Of course, raising my bar for authors’ in that way just means I’ve raised it again for myself as a writer. hmm.

  14. Paul Greci September 19, 2011 at 4:16 pm #

    For me, it’s a combination of who wrote it, the subject matter, and the first few pages. I’m more likely to stick with a book if I’ve read and enjoyed other books by the same author b/c I’m already interested before I even open the book. For authors I’ve both never read and don’t know, the premise and first few pages are usually my determining factors.

  15. Pat Newcombe September 19, 2011 at 4:23 pm #

    I’m exactly the same! I never thought of it like that but you’re right – the slushpile has transferred to the reader!

  16. Alicia Gregoire September 19, 2011 at 4:23 pm #

    This couldn’t have come at a better time. We just did a huge purge at our house because the TBR has taken over our lives. There have been books we grabbed because they sounded interesting at the time but that is no longer the case most of the time. I had to reread a lot of book blurbs to determine what to keep.

  17. Loree Huebner September 19, 2011 at 4:24 pm #

    I believe mood and hook makes the decision in the end.

  18. Christina Lee September 19, 2011 at 4:24 pm #

    This is such an interesting way to look at it, Laura!! And I’m in the same boat. Except, I don’t think it was this way BEFORE I started “officially” writing novels. Back then, I got friend or on-line recs and it didn’t pile up like that. NOW my kind of reading is way different- because I’m reading for craft.

    • Laura September 19, 2011 at 4:33 pm #

      Maybe it’s just writers. We get books from friends, for free, and we tend to hold on to them b/c well, we love books. Others probably hand them off no problem and it never piles up. most of my friends live from one best seller to the next and word of mouth. The life of a non writer is so different when it comes to reading.

  19. Sherrie Petersen September 19, 2011 at 4:51 pm #

    Having just moved an obscene number of boxes marked “Sherrie Books” I’m kind of appalled by the number of books I have that I haven’t read. There’s a huge stack that I’ve started and abandoned. It includes classics as well as newer books. But I hang on to them to see if I like them better when I’m in a different mood. If I don’t like them by the third try, they’re out of here.

  20. Elizabeth Arroyo September 19, 2011 at 4:52 pm #

    It depends what I’m in the mood for. Much like the other comments and if the first chapter holds me I’m there. If not…

  21. Jennifer K. Hale September 19, 2011 at 5:26 pm #

    Laura, this is a topic that’s been stressing me out!! 🙂 My “to be read” pile is now the size of a mountain and I wonder if I’ll ever read all of them. Ever. Sometimes I choose the ones that everyone is talking about so that I’ll be in the loop. Other times I pick ones for a guilty pleasure read, and other times I read what I can in order to stay on top of what’s going on in my genre. And then there are those pesky “how-to” writer books. I read one and 20 more pop up. Every writer seems to eventually write one and I’m always trying to learn and grow…so what is one mountain will soon be an entire mountain range.

  22. Karen Strong September 19, 2011 at 5:44 pm #

    Ha. I thought it was just me. Like you, I have tons of sample chapters on my Kindle and lists of books I want to buy.

    I try to buy hardcovers of my writer friends (so that they can sign them) and as for plucking things out of the slush, I read the authors I love first.

    But the slush keeps getting bigger and bigger. I don’t think I’ll run out of anything to read anytime soon.

  23. becca puglisi September 19, 2011 at 6:16 pm #

    Glad to know this isn’t just me ;). When trying to choose, I usually go with 1) a sequel of a previously-read book, 2) a book that was recommended by a friend or generated a lot of buzz, and 3) whichever book’s premise I’m most excited about.

    Becca @ The Bookshelf Muse

  24. Robert Guthrie September 19, 2011 at 6:27 pm #

    I give it a sit. If I don’t want to sit and read again, then I move on.

  25. Ghenet Myrthil September 19, 2011 at 7:21 pm #

    Lately I’ve chosen book based on recommendations from other readers. I also pick books by authors whose work I’ve enjoyed in the past, and books in the genre I like that have enticing blurbs.

  26. Donna K. Weaver September 19, 2011 at 9:05 pm #

    Current mood definitely plays a part. If I’m in the mood for something light and happy, some genres won’t cut it.

  27. Carolina Valdez Miller September 19, 2011 at 11:02 pm #

    First few pages have to grab me or I’ll set it down, (unless, admittedly, it’s a book written by a friend, and then I’ll give it a better chance). I just don’t have time to read books that don’t suit me, not when I’m trying to find a book I love well enough at the end to review every week.

  28. Heather Sunseri September 19, 2011 at 11:04 pm #

    This is so hard, because you’re right. My pile is growing faster than I can keep up. I hate to say this, but often I choose based on the mood I’m in. Sometimes I’m in the mood for something dark or deep, and other times, I’m looking for light and romantic.

  29. Carolina Valdez Miller September 19, 2011 at 11:09 pm #

    Oh, I generally will choose something totally different from what I read last.

  30. Leigh Moore September 19, 2011 at 11:14 pm #

    Covers. LOL! I know, but that tends to be a big seller for me, and then word of mouth. But that’s kind of always the way, isn’t it? I mean, even in the days of bookstores. How did we ever decide wandering through all those rows?

    I think folks are just glad you’re *buying*… 😀

  31. Lynda R Young September 20, 2011 at 12:15 am #

    haha your post made me laugh. I can so relate. My TBR list is growing every day.Depending on my mood I’ll give a book one page worth of chance or a full first chapter. I can usually tell from the first paragraph, though.

  32. Stacy September 20, 2011 at 1:08 am #

    Great question, Laura. I have such a long to read list. I pretty much stick to suspense because that’s what I write, but there are a few other genres I want to get to. I’ve also got about 10 suggestions from my crit partner that I know I’ll enjoy because we have such similar taste. I try to go by my mood, and I try to limit myself to one new purchase a week. That helps a bit:)

  33. Leslie Rose September 20, 2011 at 3:40 am #

    I try to read comp. books for my latest WIP, or the ones that someone gushes over, or one that grabs me from a blog, or one I want to read before I see the movie, or the craft book that will magically erase all my writing flaws, or one I’ve read before and miss, or…

  34. Lucy September 20, 2011 at 8:31 am #

    It’s tricky! I’m a compulsive book buyer who fully intends to read all books bought. However, then I do what I did at the weekend and accidentally walk into another bookshop! My main trigger for picking a book up from my large TBR pile is difference – I find it really boring to read two books of a similar genre or by the same author in a row. I like variety. I mix up fiction with non-fiction and throw short story collections into the bowl. It means that I get through books a little more quickly because everything’s new!

  35. Samantha Vérant September 20, 2011 at 8:57 am #

    I’ve got to put this into practice. I have too many TBRs and not enough time. Maybe I’ll give it the first chapter! Thank God for sample pages!

  36. Marcia September 22, 2011 at 12:15 am #

    “In this new digital age, the slush pile is transferring to the reader.”

    SO SO SO true. And not everything gets read, although I think people have always had books in their libraries that they’ve never read.

    These days, I give a book about three pages to grab me. If it doesn’t, there’s always something else.

  37. Karen Lange September 22, 2011 at 12:58 pm #

    I usually go for the ones I couldn’t wait to read, or ones that I agreed to do a review for. I am pushing my through a book now; it’s okay but nothing to scream about. I keep waiting for it to get better, but I am thinking maybe I just need to move on.

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