DVRs, eReaders, and Writing

For anyone who hasn’t noticed, let me start off by pointing out that I changed my name – again. (As did Karen/Kaye, this time.) We have decided to forgo the pen names in favor of our real names. If you want to know more, check out my website to find why I made this decision.

On Monday, I talked about how Pookie and I spent the weekend cleaning house on our DVR. I received emails, a phone call, and even one face-to-face comment that it was impressive that we were able to clean so much off of our DVR in one weekend.

In all honesty, it really wasn’t that impressive at all.

Over the years, Pookie and I have realized that the shows we end up loving the most are ones that either get terrible reviews or those that don’t sound that great in the beginning. So, when we hear about a new show, if it sounds like it may be the slightest bit interesting, we hit record on the series.

As the season progresses, the shows record, until we find ourselves with ten different shows that we have never watched, just sitting on the DVR and taking up space. Even worse,  we have recorded every episode in case we do like the show. So, of those ten shows, we have six to ten episodes of each.

So, this weekend, we found ourselves with eighty-six episodes of television shows we had never seen, most of which were an hour long. In total, we had almost 70 hours recorded, going back as far a September.

So, we sat down to sort it out before the DVR started deleting the shows we did like to make room.

There were some shows where we watched an entire episode, others where we watched only a few minutes. Out of all of these shows, there was only one we actually liked. Of the 70 hours we recorded, about 60 were deleted without ever being seen. Five hours were samples of shows we didn’t really like. And 5 hours are still sitting on our DVR, as part of the one show we did like.

Now, I am not going to get into what this may say about us (like the fact that we need to get a life). I am fully aware that this is a pretty sad ritual we usually go through a few times a year. (Granted, we usually do it a month into fall season, and again in February-March, then again in summer, rather than letting it sit for months on end.)

What struck me was that I do the same thing when I am reading. I start the book with high expectations, but, somewhere along the line, if the book doesn’t live up to those expectations, I put it back down. I may return to it one day, but it is more likely that I won’t.

I can’t tell you how many books I have bought over the years that remain unread because the first chapter or two didn’t draw me in. Now, with eReaders, readers don’t even have to buy the book. A free sample can be downloaded and read before the decision to buy the book has to be made.

While I will still often buy a $1-3 book without the sample, I always download the sample if it costs more than that – even if it is written by a beloved author as part of a favorite series.

As writers, we know the importance of a good opening. The question is, how much time do we have to hook our readers? I have heard people say as little as one sentence. Seriously – just one sentence!

Personally, I think that puts too much pressure on one sentence. While I do believe the first sentence is important, if I truly believed that it alone would make or break my book, I don’t know if I would ever be able to move past it. I would be too focused on making it “perfect.”

I tend to try to give a book at least a full chapter, sometimes two. Often, I will read the entire sample before making a decision (although, if I get to the end of the sample without buying the entire book, it is not a great sign.)

How much of a chance do you give a new book to hook you? Can you make a decision in a single sentence, or do you need more?If you have an eReader, do you download the sample, or just buy the book immediately?

Have extra books lying around that you don’t need?  Check out R.A. Evans’ post on Books for Soldiers, or head to their website for more information.  🙂

About Susi Borath

Susi Borath finds time to write between freelance marketing jobs, minor league baseball games, creating new cookie recipes, and juggling more laundry than any two people should be able to produce. You can find more about her at or follow @susiborath on Twitter.
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8 Responses to DVRs, eReaders, and Writing

  1. Shay Fabbro says:

    For some reason, I have always hated the “you MUST hook readers in the first chapter or two”. And in a single sentence?? I have never fallen in love with a book because of the first sentence. Many of the books I ended up loving by the end took quite a few chapters to get me truly hooked and invested in the characters. I think that for series novels, this is especially difficult to do. You have a lot of stuff to set up: scenes, characters, backstory, little tendrils that will become more important in later books, etc. It doesn’t always make sense to start out the very first chapter with an epic battle or some other action scene. One book I just finished took me about 1/3 of the way through to really get into it. But I ended up loving it by the end! And if people would have given up after the first chapter, they would be missing out on a great story.

    I guess for me, I have always hated that things get boiled down to an absolute that is expected to work for everyone. This way or that way. My way or the highway. It isn’t fair to expect everyone to be able to fit the “two chapters or else” mold. But to them I guess I would have to say that if they are THAT stringent in their ways, then they are missing out on some really great books 🙂

    • Susan Borath says:

      I agree, the first sentence is really extreme. Personally, I tend to go back to a book that I put aside if it didn’t hook me. Just because I couldn’t get into it the first time doesn’t mean I won’t end up loving it.
      I can think of quite a few books that took me two or three times starting it in order to really get into it.
      To be honest, I tend to do the same thing with TV. I may hate the show at first, but I will often go back to if a few months later and end up loving it. I think a lot of it depends on my mood. 🙂

  2. Karen DeLabar says:

    I agree with Shay. Unless the book is terrible, if I open it I finish it. There have been many books that didn’t hold my interest in the beginning but I ended up loving the book. And there have been some that I donated to the library because I didn’t want it near the books on my bookshelf.

    As a reader, I purchase based on the author (yes, there are some authors that are just an automatic buy for me) the synopsis on the back of the book and sometimes, reviews. I don’t download samples, I just buy the book. (Don’t tell Eric!)

    We’re the same with our DVR as you are. We see the previews and we just set up a recording, however, we’ll watch the first show and deem it worthy of our sparse DVR space. Unfortunately, because of kids and work we don’t watch as much tv as we used to. I guess that’s a good thing.

    • Susan Borath says:

      I tend to finish most books, too, but often not at the time I started them. If I download a sample and don’t like it, I will add it to my wishlist with a note that I tried it and why I didn’t buy it right away.
      Usually, I end up going back to it and eventually buy it. As I said to Shay, I really think it all depends on my mood. 🙂

  3. Amy Cavenaugh says:

    I’m new to ereaders but I don’t think I would bother with a sample. I usually buy the book if it sounds good. At least so far. 😉 I agree that trying to hook a reader with the first sentence is a bit extreme. I also will usually continue to read a book even if I’m not that into a story. There have been a few that I didn’t finish but I typically give a book the first 5 chapters to capture my attention. If it doesn’t, I’ll go get another one. Especially since my “Books to Read” list is so incredibly long these days!

  4. Amy Cavenaugh says:

    PS – as far as TV shows go, you are probably doing the right thing by deleting the series if you don’t like the first few minutes of the first episode. Really good shows are hard to come by these days! That may be why I have so many guilty pleasures 😉 Can I ask what is the one show you kept? I’m curious!

  5. 2blu2btru says:

    I usually give a novel fifty pages, although I hate not finishing a book. I stuck it out through all of The Secret History, and it didn’t get good until well into the 200s–maybe even page 300! I only stuck with it, though, because of all the praise and complements it got from all of the publishers. I wanted to know what the publishing world considered a “great debut.” Hmph.

    I’ve heard that the first sentence, paragraph, and page are the ones where you have to hook the reader. Definitely by the end of the first paragraph, I like to have established a good picture in the reader’s mind. Even if I don’t leave it that way, I always start in medias reas–right in the middle of the action, then go back to the beginning and through to the end. Beginnings aren’t usually snappy and fun, in my writing anyway; they are more informative. The Secret History had a great opening, at the point where the characters had killed someone (!), but then it went back to the beginning, and I kept thinking, “when are they going to kill this guy? When?” So I suppose sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t!

    • 2blu2btru says:

      For buying books: I usually go to the library and read them unless I know I want it. I buy Harlequin’s with little to no discrimination, LOL–I read the back of the book, or if it’s a specific author, I justj grab it. For other books, I listen to podcasts and radio shows where they talk to the author and that will intrigue me. I will buy some on name recognition (if their name is Stephen King, LOL), but people like to try something “new” or radical, so my primary mode of choice is the back cover and samples (Amazon’s look inside the book–I don’t have an eReader yet :-()

      I still have episodes of Chicago Code on my DVR and I haven’t watched the premiere. There’s still some Australian Open tennis on there, too. If it sounds interesting, I record one show (usually), watch it, then go figure out when it comes on so I can program it to record the season. If I already love the show (The Closer!), then I just program it automatically.

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