Readers Respond To

Julia Quinn's Guest Column

January 10, 1998

I spent a great deal of time during winter break working on re-building my office, which had grown to resemble Dorothy's Kansas just after she got bonked on the head. There were books everywhere, covering every square inch of counter space and flooring - it was getting hard to negotiate a path to my chair and even harder to access my computer, what with paperbacks falling on my keyboard at inopportune moments. Between the books all over the place and the scraps of paper with titles scrawled haphazardly, my office was a disaster and could probably have qualified for federal funds.

This, then, has been the result of my being on the Internet for a few years. Rampant list making, glomming, discovering new authors, book buying, piles of trade-ins, piles of books to be entered into my library database, bookshelves meant to house 30 books instead housing double that amount. . . Well, you get the idea.

So my husband built me a new desk/computer desk that included 6 more bookshelves and I'm currently in the process of clearing off the mess on the other side of the room of the stacks discussed above. Eventually I'll move the glider/rocker I used when Rachael was an infant into the corner for a reading corner. Eventually the Health Rider that now is stacked with scraps of paper will be available for riding once again.

For today, I'm pretty satisfied. I spent seven hours re-organizing my library and making sure my database was complete - when you get behind for two or three months, it really messes things up!

I love the Internet for the people I've met, sites I've visited, and new discoveries I've made. But for those who say computers have made our lives easier, I say, "Hah!" But then again, I've managed to create an entire career out of it.

What follows are the responses I've received from Julia Quinn's guest column of Laurie's News & Views.

Lee Brown (Marlee@aol.com):
I just went to the bookstore a couple of nights ago, and bought four books by authors I hadn't read before. Not to stroke anyone's ego overmuch, but I bought those 2 (or was it 5??) books based on reviews from Romancing the Web. I haven't read 'em yet, but will as soon as I get some time, preferably before 1998. I buy certain authors as soon as they hit the shelves, some in hard back and some in paperback; who cares? a book is a book is a...well, you get the point. My TBR 'pile' is no longer that; I have built 2 floor-to- ceiling bookcases for 'em, but what the heck, there is always room for more. So, I may have added to my favorite author mile-long list, and maybe not. Whatever, new ground to be traveled, and if I could only split myself into 2 separate entities, the working and the reading parts, I'd have it made. If only!!

Kathleen (ewing@bslnet.com):
By scanning the Net I have discovered I've been missing out on books by my favorite authors because they aren't available at my local bookseller. Now, thanks to the Net, I can order the books and have them as soon as they are published.

I'm also discovering some new authors I've never read before. It's fantastic! The two that come immediately to mind are Stella Cameron and Karen Robards. My favorite authors are Linda Howard, Kathleen Eagle and Nora Roberts. Ms. Cameron and Ms. Robards are now filling in the empty spaces when nothing new is available from my favorites.

Michelle Majewski (mamajews@uci.edu):
The Internet has drastically changed my book buying habits! About 2 years ago I bought The Prize by Julie Garwood on a whim. I had never read romance and was a little embarrassed about buying romance, but thought I'd give it a try. Well it sat on my TBR pile for at least 4 or 5 months until I finally picked it up and to my great surprise read it in less than a day. I loved it so much that over the next month I bought and read every book Garwood had ever written. Then, I happened to find out that one of my very best friends had just started reading romance (we were both closet romance readers). I loaned her The Prize and she devoured Garwood's books with the same fervor I had. The problem was, after finishing Garwood's books we had no idea who else to read. We were weary about just picking up a new author that we knew nothing about and we were too embarrassed to ask the people at the bookstore for recommendations!

Then, one day while searching the net I discovered The Romance Reader and the reviews!!!. I can't tell you how excited my friend and I were to finally find a place devoted to romance readers. We would avidly read and discuss the reviews every couple of days and try to decide which books and authors to try. From here, we've discovered authors like Christina Dodd, Jill Barnett, Andrea Kane and Jo Beverly, all of whom we might never have picked up if we were blindly browsing the shelves at the local bookstore. From The Romance Reader we were soon linking to The Romance Novel Database where we could check out backlists, and then right on to publisher's pages to check out upcoming books. I am also constantly looking at your Desert Isle Keeper Reviews and the All Time Favorites Page to find out about great old and new books that I might have missed.

It's great to find a reader that has the same likes and dislikes because we pretty much know that whatever they recommend we are really going to like. We have even started buying books over the Internet - it cuts out the embarrassment we both still have about buying romance at our local Barnes & Noble.

Bottom line, I developed from a hesitant romance reader who may have stopped after reading all of Julie Garwood's books to a fanatic, who buys at least 3 to 4 new romances a month. In my case, the internet opened up a whole new world of books!

Julia did a great job. I have to run out and get her books now!

Alina Laurie (a-laurie@nwu.edu):
To give you some input, the Internet has drastically changed my book-buying habits. I love to read and I'm a fast reader. I used to spend at least and hour walking around the library, trying to find good books.

I read all types of books - sci fi, fantasy, romance, straight fiction. . . one thing that bothers the heck out of me is reading books out of order. I hate that and I would accidently pick up book 2 of so-and-so's series at the library.

After discovering bulletin boards and chat rooms in 8th grade, I started making lists and ordering books from the library (my library has a great county-wide ordering system). After a while, I started ordering books for a few of my friends (they actually gave me their library card numbers !!) and my mother - people who like to read but will stop in the middle if they don't like the book. I like the challenge of trying to pick out books that they will like.

Okay, I'm babbling. . . the bottom line is that I love talking with other readers over the Internet. For example, you and I have similar tastes in Romance - I will read anything you recommend because 9 times out of 10 I will like it, too. And that's a nice feeling, because I hate wasting time on books.

Plus, I love talking to authors via e-mail. Especially romance and sci fi/fantasy authors. For some reason, these genres of authors really like to talk to readers - and we love to talk to them!!!!! It's fun to hear what they have to say about characters and upcoming plots and it's fun to find out which authors influence their writing.

I was probably too young to start reading romance when I did start, and for a few years in the beginning I was embarassed about the books and I never took them to school. But after I found all of the other women out there who love the books then I stopped feeling embarassed! When people ask me what type of books I like to read I say "Romance, science fiction and fantasy, mostly..." Most people respond "Romance? You like those kind of books" and I say "yes! They always have happy endings... would you like to try one? I'm sure I could pick one out for you " Most people say "No thanks" at that point... and they come out of the conversation looking like the silly one!

Wow, sorry I wrote so much, I'm just very happy with the affect the Internet has had on my reading habits!

LLB responds: I "met" Alina on the Prodigy BB while she was still in high school and, until she told me how old she was, I had no idea she was in her teens. She is now in her second year at Northwestern University, studying engineering. She has also written two excellent reviews for me of all-time keepers we both love - The Lion's Lady by Julie Garwood and A Basket of Wishes by Rebecca Paisley.

Mary Beth (mb1atcourt@aol.com):
During the past year, I have been looking for some new authors. I've been mostly partial to historicals, but do have contemporary favorites as well, ie. Jayne Ann Krentz, Susan E. Phillips, Elizabeth Lowell, Judith McNaught. Last summer a friend hooked me up with Nora Roberts. I've been hooked ever since. I think I've cleared out the library of her books. In the area of historicals, I've been a bit disappointed in some of my old favorites. Julie Garwood's Come the Spring, for starters. It didn't have the depth of character of her past novels.

I've reacquainted myself with Mary Balogh and enjoyed her most recent releases. Luckily, I have access to a good used book store to keep me supplied with past releases.

I also really need to voice my displeasure over the trend toward hardcover books in the romance genre. Anyone who reads as many books as I do (sometimes 2-3 per week) can't afford the hardcover books. The public library gets my readership before the bookstore does. If I think a book is a keeper, then I wait for it to come out in paperback and get it from the used book store. Sorry.

My newest discoveries are Pamela Morsi, Emilie Richards and Stella Cameron. I've been reading Stella Cameron for a couple of years now. Emilie Richards and Pamela Morsi were names given to me when I sent out a query via a message board on a reader's web site I found. I've since lost the site, because my husband was doing some housekeeping on the computer and proceded to lose all of my (as well as everyone else in the family) favorite places. I enjoy your website. Luckily I was able to find it again after the oops my husband made.

Melisssa Dowell (markdowell@aol.com):
Just finished reading Julie's column, and it was great. What a sweetie to help you out!

I have had such wonderful luck on the net. I have met so many wonderful authors, and book buffs such as myself. I have discovered some wonderful books, that i cannot believe I never read before. Julia Quinn, Patricia Gaffney, Deb Stover, are just some of the ones I discovered, and everyone of their books are truly treasures! And I got to chat with my all time fave author, Nora Roberts. And so many others I cannot even begin to name them all, for fear I would forget one.

Every author I have met on the Net has been so wonderfully kind, they take time out of their busy schedules to chat not only about their own books, but about life in general, and others books they have read that they liked. It has truly been an experience that I wouldn't trade for anything. I give up part of my precious reading time every day just so Ii can hop on the Net to catch up. And I have found that there are so many wonderful women (and men) out there who enjoy romance/romantic suspense just as much as I do and everyone of them have been wonderfully open and generous!

Whoa, off my soap box now. Sorry, but I just discovered the Net about 6 months ago, and I love it! My computer calls to me when i don't have it on, and I just can't miss out for a day! I tell everyone who likes to read, you gotta get on the Net! You just don't know what you are missing 'til you get on!

Thanks for letting me ramble; love your site!

Melody (zipmel@aol.com):
I agree with Julia. She was a new to me author several months ago and I have now three of her's and one more in my TBR box. I've gotten so many great new favorite authors by following suggestions from my new online friends. I've even learned which of my new friends have tastes different enough from mine that I'll have to be in the mood or just won't enjoy the titles they suggest as much as others. Great site. Thanks.

Andrea Trivax (atrivax@flash.net):
Before I became Net connected, I did my book buying by browsing the latest offerings at the drug or grocery store. If I really liked an author, I would glom a bunch of stuff from a bookstore. The large selection at the bookstore, however, was intimidating and I never knew quite which author to try.

Once I started reading reviews and news on the Net, my world opened up. There were actually people out there who read this stuff and could help me pick through the flotsam & jetsam and find the real pearls out there in romance land. I have "discovered" many new authors in the past 2 years: Gabaldon, Roberts, Ivory, S.E. Phillips, M.J. Putney, Maggie Shayne, Patricia Rice... the list goes on. Books I might never have given a second glance to are now in my top 10 list. I still glom, but rather than a few shelves of Devereux, Lindsey and Krentz, I have many, many more shelves of my new faves.

Alecial (alecial@ctinc.com):
I love the "availability" of authors on the Net. Not only do I (generally) get a clearer picture of an author - likes, dislikes, pet peeves, and interests - than in the bio on the covers of books, I'm more likely to actually contact the author in question. Let's face it, in this busy world we live in, who has time to sit down, write a letter by hand, then post it? And I never have stamps! But sending e-mail, that's just a few keystrokes away, and something I use everyday in my business so incredibly easy to access. I've also had much better luck at receiving responses from authors via e-mail than snail mail.

Liz Zink (moonrose@initco.net):
The Internet has changed my buying habits tremedously. I never knew about RT or anything like that so I would basically go to the bookstore and just start at the A's and look for books using back blurbs. It still amazes me that I've found all the wonderful books that I did this way! Of course I did work at a bookstore for 2 years, so that helped! Seriously though, I can't imagine going back. Of course I still scan shelves for interesting books that catch my eye, but so many of the books I pick up now have been referred to me through the interent sites and the romance lists. BSJ has been a true miracle, too. I do have a pretty good used book store where I live, but it doesn't have many of the older books that I'm looking for. The Internet has truly "revolutionized" my buying habits. My husband would say Not for the Better, but what does he know?

As for author/fan communication, this is another area that was totally undeveloped for me. There are no romance author booksignings in Great Falls, Montana! I had never hoped to actually be in communication with an author. And now I've even got some personal mail from a couple authors! The other thing that this communication has done is given me new authors to look for. When an author writes in on the lists and just answers subject threads that are occuring and talking generally about her work, it makes me interested in them as a person and I'm more willing to try one of their books. One example for me in this is Stella Cameron. I'd never read any of her books and just from her posts I decided to try her work, same with Jo Beverley. I can truly say that I'm not sorry! I probably would've never looked up their books otherwise.

Communication with the authors is one of the nicest benefits of the internet, I think.

Rebecca Ekmark (drekmark@www.lakenet.com):
Julia Quinn did a wonderful job as a guest columnist!

As far as the Internet helping me as a romance reader, well, let me demonstrate with an example. I am heading to the local Walden Books (their preferred reader program encourages me to check there before B & N) with my daughters, which is generally how it occurs. As we walk in, my 4 year old begins tugging on my shirt "Not the book store, Mom! I don't like the book store!" while my 9 month old is presently content in her back pack. As soon as I get to the romance section, I have time to read the back of maybe four books - 90 seconds tops, before the four year old starts helping me. "This one looks good Mom, it's got a princess." Then the baby starts wailing, due to lack of change of scenery. So, I sigh, and head out of the store usually without a book. Now, with the Internet, I have a list, so in that minute and a half, I have a handful of books to purchase, and odds are I will enjoy them. I am also much more willing to read from authors that are new to me, because I have read positive reviews from people that have similar tastes in romance that I do. Needless to say, finally my TBR book shelf is getting wonderfully full, and I am never lacking in good reading material, much to the dismay of my husband, who has seen my book budget triple.

I also really like the fact that I now am able to e-mail authors to let them know I enjoyed their books. I am pretty much guaranteed the author is receiving my letter, and I get responses back rather quickly. When I e-mailed Julia Quinn to complement her on Brighter Than the Sun and her column, she replied very quickly and delightfully! It surprises me that there are many authors who are not on the web (JAK in particular). More times than I can count, a book has moved me enough to want to write to the author, but honestly, life is hectic, isn't it? I get busy and put it on the back burner - looking for stamps and addressing envelopes takes up precious time when the kids are asleep and I could be reading.

One final quick comment. I was delighted to hear that B & N is regularly carrying mid-list authors. Hopefully more book stores will do so.

Aileen Dayao (adayao@st.nepean.uws.edu.au):
I loved your column, Julia Quinn! The bookstore you work at sounds great - I wish I could just come by and look around the store - especially the romance patch of yours (section).

As for has the internet changed my buying habits.. not really to be honest (well to my knowledge, perhaps sub-consciously? For one, the new books mentioned on the listserv (and bulletin boards I used to visit on the 'net) usually take months to reach Australia. I buy mostly depending on my mood when I'm at the bookshop (and the size of my wallet).

Julia Quinn's guest column
Julia Quinn at AAR

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