From Sarah, With Joy

*Poet * Author * Wanderluster*

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Can Books Compete With Television?

A few days ago well-known indie-author and blogger Hugh Howey wrote a post about how and if authors can compete with TV in this modern screen-obsessed age. I thought I'd add a few thoughts to the subject and see if we can brainstorm some ways to pull people's attention away from their screens long enough to read our books. Hugh Howey argues that it's a bad move to rely on the few people who will read no matter what rather than trying to expand our readership, and I'm inclined to agree. We all want to reach as many people as we can, right? And a lot of those people are watching TV.

So before we get into specific ideas I want to say one thing first of all. The most important thing. If we're going to make our books worth other peoples seriously important TV time (because it is important, I understand that) then our books have to be...well, THE SHIZ. They've gotta be absolutely the best we can make them. Our stories have to draw the reader in.

Now that we've got that out of the way, let's get into some specifics. Once our stories are worth turning off the TV for, how do we convince readers and TV watchers of that?

Perhaps using film elements in our marketing, i.e. making a book trailer. There are some really creative and memorable ones out there, all sorts of different styles. It could be worth checking them out and finding someone to make one for your book, or figuring out how to make your own.

People who say they hate to read, in most cases, just haven't found the type of books they like to read. This means that in order to find a larger readership for ourselves as authors, we need to spread our passion as readers. As a kid I had a chore chart and in the summer months part of that chore chart was to read for half an hour every day and I fully intend to implement the same thing when I'm raising kids. We could read whatever we wanted, we just had to read. Basically we need to influence an early start of reading wherever we can. When you're picking out birthday presents, pick books.

We also need to embrace technological innovation. And I'm not talking about print vs ebooks, because we are so past that, right? Right. What I'm talking about are all the ideas that float around about stuff like a Netflix for books, or Hugh Howey's own Pie program that aims to do things like phase out boring text books and hugely expand the types of books kids read in school, basically trying to change the gut reaction many kids have of books as "boring things." Basically what I mean is that we should keep our eyes and ears open for other peoples awesome ideas about integrating books further and further into modern tech. Because even though I don't believe books are ever going away, I also believe things will continue to change, and that if used wisely that change will be exactly the thing that saves the books.

What do you think? What are some additional ways books can keep up with television? Because in reality, that's our main competition. Not other authors. There are more than enough readers to go around, if we can convince them we're worth the time away from the screen.

Sarah Allen


  1. A NetFlix for books. That would be great. It's a shame there isn't a medium like radio where a portion of our book could be read to people.
    I'm all for cool book trailers!

  2. In my house, I'm losing the battle, and I hate the feeling my kids have that reading is a punishment. #1 son loves playing Assassin's Creed so we bought him the book - he hasn't touched it.

  3. I prefer a book over TV any day. Good post, Sarah!

    Hugs and chocolate!

  4. I don't watch much TV and I do read - a lot. Alex mentioned radio, in England they used to read books on the radio every day. There was a reading 8:45 a.m. every day and another reading, different book and longer, on Saturday morning. I used to iron whilst listening to that programme. The morning programme was usually about breakfast time.

  5. I was buying books for my grandkids as soon as they were born and they started out loving to read. But as they hit their teens, one by one they started losing interest. The eldest said they have to do so much reading for school, it isn't fun any more. Sad.

  6. I'm not sure tv is the thing we'll all be competing with. The internet and niche audiences seems more likely, and stories will be able to find their place I'm sure.

    Moody Writing

  7. People who don't read are boring and frivolous and that's all there is to it.

    As to competing with television....well, that would be up to today's young parents. They have to limit screen time (and zero it out below the age of five) and take their children to the library. You turn kids on to a love of reading at an early age and you've hooked them for life.

  8. One of the respondents had the right idea - start your children and grandchildren out with books as soon as possible. That's what we did with both of ours and I usually give a selection of good children's books for a baby present. Both kids read!

  9. I am all over a Netflix for books. Bring it.

  10. As a teacher, I think I've pulled a few students away from the screen. I have a number of students this year who said, in a survey they took on the first day of school, that they NEVER read books that aren't assigned by the school.

    This year, they are getting books out of the library, carrying them around, and definitely reading them. Why? Because I turned them on to these books or these authors through read aloud. I think read aloud is the most powerful tool in my teacher-arsenal.

    This is my last year, though. My last class. My last chance to make a difference.


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