Friday, December 11, 2009

Books as Gifts

I let myself be a slug and sleep in this morning because Crazy Happy Fun Time begins tomorrow. It all starts with the dress rehearsal for the choir performance of The Messiah on Saturday morning. That afternoon I have a club meeting, and then that night I'm going to a party. I have to be at the church at 7:45 Sunday morning for the first of two performances, and my parents are coming over, so I guess I need to straighten my house between now and then. Tuesday night is my last ballet class for the year, and the adults in the class are having a party after class (in other words, going out for drinks). Wednesday night is the choir party, and then I'm the soprano soloist for the music we're singing next Sunday morning, so I have to work on that and know it well enough to sing while having a panic attack (I was assigned the solo, and I don't think the choir director truly appreciates the extent of my massive stage fright). I think that's it for scheduled stuff, but it's possible that I may sleep through Monday.

Meanwhile, I've realized that I'm a big old hypocrite. As an author and participant in the book industry, I'm happy to push the party line that Books Make Great Gifts! And yet, I don't often give books as gifts. If you're doing it right and not just grabbing some coffee-table book, then it's really, really difficult to buy books as gifts.

Buying someone a book is almost as intimate as buying lingerie -- you have to know the person really, really well in order to know what the person would like and what "fits." But, unlike lingerie, you have to know what the person already has or has already read. And if you're dealing with a voracious reader, that's nearly impossible. If there's something that would be perfect for the person, there's a good chance that person will have already snagged it. With my family, we have a talent for getting things from the library the moment they go on the shelf. We pick up paperback books as treats for ourselves. It's almost cruel to find a book and then withhold it until the gift-giving occasion, and if I read something that I think would make a good gift, then I don't dare talk about it because chances are that the people on my gift list who might like it will go get it for themselves. And maybe we're just selfish because our way of "giving" books is to buy something for ourselves and then offer to share it.

I have given books I've loved as gifts as a way of getting someone hooked on a series (mostly so I'll have someone to discuss it with), but that does take some one-on-one interaction to know for sure that the person hasn't already tried it and disliked it, and that's tricky because it's hard to have the "have you read?" conversation without it turning into a recommendation that leads to the person going out and buying it or checking it out of the library.

As e-books and e-readers become more popular, the task of finding the right book that the person doesn't already have will become harder, because you can't snoop around someone's shelves to know what they already have. If the person read the book from the library, they might not mind having a keeper copy, but if they already own an e-book, will they want the paper copy?

I'm not normally big on gift cards, but when it comes to books, that's probably the way to go. You can enclose a list of recommendations that you think the recipient can enjoy, and part of the gift is the pleasure of a browse-and-splurge session in the bookstore. To me, that's even more fun than unwrapping a book.

1 comment:

The Davenports said...

Shanna, I just wanted to leave a random comment letting you know how much I enjoyed the Enchanted, Inc. series! It's interesting, because the way I actually came across it was when I was reading Kristin Nelson's blog (I'm a writer and currently trying to publish, and read her blog frequently). I was reading one of her postings about a good query letter and she used yours as an example. Well, needless to say, your query letter completely sparked my interest so I bought all four books and absolutely loved them--to the point where I couldn't get the chracters out of my head at night. I read Damsel Under Stress from start to finish one night, my constant page turning keeping my husband awake. I got no sleep, but felt it was a night well spent. I'm REALLY hoping everything works out with getting your 5th volume out there, because I can't get enough of it! Thanks for the entertaining reads and good luck!
Jennie