What makes you buy a book? Ideas from a reader’s point of view.

What makes you buy a book? Is it good marketing? Is the author engagement with the readers? Charisma? A higher number on lists? For me: the subject and how the author engages with readers.

I remember when I was a kid, I used to buy comic books from the same author, week after week. It was a whole brand of products and that helped the brand to be known everywhere we go. It was almost an emotional connection.

Books are my favorite companion. I like to have them around, for fun and for advice when no one can hear me. I’m so glad I was raised with the habit of reading it, my house might not have much, but we did have books, magazines, and music.

Yesterday I bought a food photography book, from a YouTube channel photographer. I found out about Joannie and The Bite Shot when I was looking for more information last year about venturing into food photography. Two passions I have in life.

Food Photography.

Photographing The Starving Gypsy events, in Austin, last summer

After the first video, I followed her page on Instagram and started to learn all the food photography techniques, which I applied while working with Chef Deameatrie, at The Starving Gypsy, in Austin. I even made a few photography boards, as Joannie taught in one of her videos, it was a lot of fun. After knowing the book was coming out, I saved it on my list and planned to buy it as soon as it was available. When the book arrived, I started to think: What makes people buy books?

I would like to share a few ideas based on why I buy books I do, even though most of them keep piling up because I buy too many.

1- Favorite Author.

We all have one. Even if she acts crazy on Twitter, if she comes out with a reimagined Harry Potter book, people would still buy her material. She might even come out with a pen name, to protect her identity, because she butchered her persona with the lack of caring. I was never a Harry Potter fan, I did watch the movies, but I had a hard time engaging with the books. I always liked more the Bridget Jones Diary types of series. In 2005, I read a book by Sophie Kinsella and from that point on, I read most of her work. At that point, the story of a mid 20’ years struggling with life, while living in London, had all my attention, as I wanted to live there too.

2- Author Engagement with the Audience

As an author, and you have to blast the internet with your content or your soon-to-be-released book, you are not doing it right. I bought a few books, just by some of the people I follow, interviewing another author. It doesn’t matter that the author makes the New York Bestseller list, what matters is: the author engages with the audience and talks about their book selflessly. Yes, you can have an entire marketing team, but nothing works better than showing why this book is so important to you, and why I need to have it. What makes me resonates with you and your story.

3 – Good Marketing skills.

Not only it’s important to engage with the reader in a more approachable way, than showing that you have the skills to acquire and maintain the audience long term. Once they know you, they will keep coming back to new releases. It’s a good idea to have a Facebook page, an IG account, a Twitter account.

Be creative, and show the audience why do you care. Make connections. More important have a Pinterest board and invest in some ads. I was led to so many different websites through Pinterest and if you are not constantly making pins to promote it, you should try it. Last but not least, create an author website.

4- The book is relatable.

Self-help books take the most space on my shelf. I love a good story, but since I was fifteen years old, I keep trying to find answers to my questions and ways to improve myself. At that time, we only had books for that kind of content.

Now we have podcasts, Youtube channels, IG TV, audiobooks, and an array of different ways to consume the media, but a well-written word still makes me buy the book. I like to have something to come back and read it again, the marked pages with underlined passages can’t even be compared to listen to the podcast.

I’m also deeply passionate about cooking books, yes, I could find the recipe online, but if my internet goes down, I would still like to know what I’m doing.

5- Big promotion or Lists

Lists on Pinterest are how I find my next book to buy or Good Reads. I usually save the Pin or the picture of the book, to get it eventually. I also love promotions at Target. They usually have books selling with 30% off the full price and Amazon is usually butchering the Author. Lowering the price so much, the author has to sell a lot to make a profit.

Unless the author is already established. I don’t mind paying full price for a book if I know the (indie) author is getting paid too. I have a full understanding of how difficult it is to be a writer, I wrote and self-published a book for the Creative Writing Degree, and putting all the work together was intense.

I have been following and reading a lot of content about books and about what works and what not when it comes to selling your work. I don’t have any published (yet) neither I’m a famous publisher or whatnot.

The only thing I know is what makes me buy a book and talk about it with other people. Sometimes buy the book as a gift, because I liked it so much and I want people I like to read it too. That happened with “Girl, Stop Apologizing” by Rachel Hollis.

I understand she is also in hot waters now and probably taking a break from social media, but that book resonated with me when it comes to make time for yourself and stop making excuses as to why you can make it.

Here is my question: What makes you buy a book? Please let me know in the comments I would love to read your opinion!

Things I don’t understand in America- Food Edition

Every year is the same when it comes to Thanksgiving. It’s usually me and Josh and every other year we either receive family for dinner, or we go munch in someone’s else house. This year we were alone again, in the Airbnb, we very limited space to cook. Well, I had limited space to cook, Josh only cooked the first two years we were together and I took over. 

The past couple of years, we were buying the whole meal pre-made from Whole Foods, but this year, why not cook in a kitchen that it’s not yours? With little supply and space and with a stove that is more like an RV type of appliance. 

I made it through. We had all the shenanigans like turkey breast, homemade cranberry sauce, gravy, mashed potato, and two desserts. For two people. We are not afraid of eating. 

While cooking all that food, I thought about all the types of food we eat here in America, and for some of us, still looks weird. So I made a list of the foods that make no sense for me, even after all these years living here. The way people eat tells a lot about their culture. Since I watched a show with Padma Lakshmi, called Taste of a Nation on Hulu, I realized that everything we eat in America was brought by immigrants and adapted to the American palate. To my surprise, even the most American food of all, the hotdogs, are not American. German. Hamburger? German too. 

Taste of a Nation on Hulu

In the first season, Padma traveled across the United States, getting more information about how the immigrants influenced the daily American eating habits. In a particular episode, she interviewed her mom, that came to America to study and looking for a better life, while Padma stayed back with her grandparents in India, was so honest I cried. How hard it must be to leave your kid back home, while you are in a completely foreign land trying to make it out. I left my parents back home when I left, but I was also 26. And sick of my country. 

On the show, as the Padma interacts and cooks with the chefs, she also gets to know their personal stories and how they are keeping their homeland food culture alive. Like one of the Native Americans said, while she was serving the food and I quote “It’s a spiritual connection”. American food is an increment of all the cultures we have here. 

Based on that I made a list of American foods I don’t understand. And it’s not influenced by any other culture, but born and raised Americans themselves.

Mac and Cheese

Taste of the Nation.

Mac and Cheese are dated from 1769, according to our old and most reliable source Google. During the Great Depression, it was commercialized by Kraft Foods, in 1937. I understand the fact that you eat this when don’t have any other option, but this being consider a side food at any restaurant is a disparity.

I was first introduced to Mac and Cheese by my American husband, back in 2013. I don’t trust his cooking abilities, but the mac and cheese were bland beyond my expectations. It’s like chewing a rubber band. Yes, I did that when I was a child, so please move along. 

2 out of 10. Hard pass.

Sloppy Joe’s

You mix this with ground beef and put in a hamburger bun.

A tomato sauce based ground beef sandwich that looks like some kind of regurgitated food. It’s ground beef in a bun. Originated in Iowa, dated back to the 1940s and created by a worker named Joe, the loose sandwich, got its name because of the fast-food counter type of food. 

Again, Americans sustain their bodies with easy to make food. Since it’s a fast pace culture of, working to succeed in American capitalism dreams, people don’t pay much attention to how they are feeding themselves. Or others. You work the entire day and you get home have to be creative on what to cook for dinner for your kids? Nope. Sloppy joes for everyone.   

5 out of 10. I ate a couple of times, but then start learning other recipes. 

Road Kill Steak

This was on the menu of Texas Road House, a super popular and cheap chain restaurant here in America. As far as I know, Roadkill is the term used for the animal killed in the road and the carcass is left to rot on the side. Yet, the restaurant industry thinks is cute to serve that kind of food. 

Roadkill is the leftover steaks, like the pieces that the chef trim on the meat and put aside, to not waste the food. They glue the pieces back together and put it on the menu. I didn’t know what roadkill was when I ordered. Sometimes my language barrier gets in the way and for some reason, I just saw it was a different type of cut. It wasn’t. I felt like somehow I was eating Rose, the Raccoon, from Curios Creations of Christine McDowell. 

As soon as I took the first bite, I couldn’t eat. I told the waitress and she removed from the check. I still tipped accordingly, it was not her faulted I was tripping when I order that dish. 

0 out of 10. All I could think about all the carcass left to rot on the road, being on my plate.

Brown Sugar Beans

Photo retrieved from FoodNetwork Website

From the same network that brought you Sloppy Joes, comes a new delicacy called Brown Sugar Beans! It’s exactly what it stands for Sweet Beans. I understand that different cultures have their version of it like Japan has the Red Bean Mochi and pancakes, also Korea. My country is famous for the bean stew called Feijoada, but it’s savory, not even close to being sweet. 

We also eat beans daily, so imagine my surprise and many other Brazilians when they eat the beans, and it’s sweet. And it comes from a can, not a pressure cooker. My mom threw a fit when she was visiting. 

7 out of 10. I like beans and I rather have any beans added to my lunch than skip it altogether. 

Waldorf Salad

This big glob of salad. Photo retrieved from FoodNetwork

My mother-in-law to go-to dish. As many different occasions, we spent there, that salad popped up on the table. It’s Josh’s biggest peeve. He warned me before we eat, and I even recreated the scene for the script I’m worked on, for the Nickelodeon contest pilot episode. 

What could go wrong when you mix Celery, grapes, apples, and Mayo? Everything. 

There are multiple versions of that salad, my sweet Jane, Josh’s mom, used about 6 full spatulas of mayo to mix it all up. She doesn’t measure, she just goes as it, please. And I learned how to skip it every time. Or I usually clean the grapes with a napkin. Level 10 of difficulty, I do not recommend it. 

5 out of 10. I respect my mother-in-law for trying her best.

As I said many times before, I love talking about food. I enjoy learning about how different cultures come together to create and keep history alive through food. I love cooking too. Like Native America from the show said “It’s a spiritual connection” and I couldn’t agree more. 

What’s food got to do with it.

I love talking about food and creations, this is probably my favorite subject because I grew up surrounded by my parents’ hope of succeeding in the food industry and my mom working alone to raise me, while working with food, to feed us.

I remember the day when she was at the kitchen cooking her lunch boxes and she told me something would stick with me forever: “If you work with food, you will never be out of a job. People stop buying shoes, clothes, and earrings, but they will never stop eating.”


From that point on, it was ingrained in my brain, that I would never be jobless or broke, as long as I knew how to either cook or work in a restaurant. That’s exactly what I did for many years.

At Two Birds Taphouse in Marietta- 2016
Brie on the menu for New Years Eve- at Two Birds Taphouse- 2016

In 2009 when I was working in a ski resort in Colorado, I realized that people working in a higher position at the restaurant were loading in money. Not only the managers and Food and Beverage director, but the servers were making good money too.

Where it all began.

Spago was my first restaurant job, as a hostess, and I had no idea what I got myself into until I start my training. The Ritz Carlton has very specific training, from your voice tone to the way you address the VIP guests. At that time, I was trained to not talk with my hands.

I’m from Brazil, and if we don’t express ourselves with gestures, might as well mute us, instead of try engaging in a conversation. Anyway, I was heavily trained to work with wealthy people, even though it was 2009 and the financial crisis were booming, I don’t think it affected the riches. It never does, as they keep living like their fortunes are save, meanwhile, the peasants, are scrapping to get by and will always be there to serve them.

Waitressing in wonderland

Every day at the restaurant we had a pre-shift meeting, to talk about the specials and how the servers would pair the wines with the dishes. My favorite part of it all was the tasting of the food, the humiliation of the servers by the chef and managers came as side dish. One of my main duties was switching the menu for the day, I remember talking with one of my co-workers about the price of the salad, at that time, 23.00.

I started calculating how much would it be for a dinner of 1, then I multiplied by a family of four, adding wine and drinks, coming to the conclusion that the server was making a minimum of 50 dollars after tipping the other working peasants, like the hostess, busboy and food runner. On a Tuesday night. I can’t fathom about a fully booked Saturday night.

After those months working at the Ski resort, I figured out that I wanted to work with restaurants. Young and naive 23 years old me, thought about that daily aggression they call job, as a career. I started planning what would be my next move, think about it for months, and while in Australia, I decided I should go to Culinary School back in my country. I’m moved by plans and that would be my next step, as my internship there was coming to an end. Back in Brazil, I applied for Culinary School.

I love cooking, but I’m not about the pressure.

Culinary School was amazing and painful, as I cut myself multiple times. I enjoyed the classes, but something was off. Probably the fact that, as in restaurants, you have to deal with a lot of ego and people who know a little bit more than you, or a bit less, trying to make you look stupid.

Heck, I was there to learn and the feeling that I had was that I was paying for the school brand and not the learning itself. Friendships were flouring, people being part of groups and cookouts, and I was left out. Over and over.

I wanted to learn how to cook, simple cooking and go from there. How can you know all the types of french cutting names, like battonet, julienne, measurements and all, when they tell you not to season the chicken, to not lose it the original taste. Yes, sir, I want my chicken tasting like a dead animal, at this point, I should leave the feathers for garnishing?

Nothing it was being taught made sense. At the same level of insanity, I learned how to deboned a quail. The stress of removing the bones of a tiny little bird is real. I got to taste it, which I didn’t want to, but I guess once again, degrading yourself is part of working in a kitchen according to them.

So when I moved to Chicago, I upgraded myself to be part of Front of the House, aka Server. I would talk about food, sell it, without having to be in the kitchen, tasting little birds.

Restaurants always have the same troupes.

I worked in many restaurants and they all have one thing in common, not the food, the people. Here is how I separate the crew: A dumb boss, who listens to people he is not supposed to, like the senior server. An assistant manager that does all the job, the boss is getting paid to do.

The food runner, delivering food to the wrong places and wrecking the entire restaurant system, the busboy who takes his time to do whatever he is asked because according to him, he is not getting paid enough to do this job and the server could perfectly do it. The rude bartender.

The magic behind the bar is real, when I had to make a couple of drinks one time, it was like some powerful awakening took over my body, for no reason I yelled, “Get your lemons somewhere else or cut your own.”Bartending power trip is real. Last and most important of the food chain, the Server, that deserves their own paragraph.

You can do it all!

If you ever work as a server, you are capable to work in any field. Servers are sales associate, marketing, food connoisseurs, team leaders, stress jugglers, working under a high level of stress, skilled improv masters, especially on Valentine’s day, Restaurant Week. Mother’s Day will deserve an entire post alone.

On a busy Saturday night, servers dance like the ballet of serving food, drinking coffee and RedBull to be awake, and downing some heavy alcohol to be able to sleep. Besides it all, serving food has some perks.

While working in a restaurant, I learned and tried wines I would never be able to afford and ate all kinds of different food. From sushi to wood oven pizza, to steak salad and Italian hand made gnocchi. Learned about different cultures through food and learned other people culturally eating habits. I learned fast what countries don’t tip and their peculiar way of ordering.

Above it all, my love for food was what kept me finding jobs at restaurants. After a few years in the industry, I call it quits to write.

Today marks a year I left the restaurant industry. Am I making money with writing? Not yet, but I’m once again working with food, this time my dear friend and chef created a position for me at her uprising company, where I can take photos of her private dinners and plates, also doing some admin stuff. We talk about food all day. We talk about clientele and how clueless the requests are.

We didn’t stop working on quarantine, we masked up, kept a distance, and did the work. Like my mom said, people will stop buying random stuff, but they will always buy food.

Chef Demeatrie its the creator and owner of Starving Gypsy here in South Austin,Texas. She can be found in all social media’s handles @starvinggypsy and on her website https://thestarvinggypsy.net/ where you find some great pictures

Be safe, Stay healthy !

J.G Snelly.

13 years of trial and error with blogs.

I had a few blogs before this one picked up pace and I will let you know why I think this one is finally working. I have been blogging and creating content since 2007, along with my Flickr account, I used to talk about my passions, such as travelling and photography.  It was a difficult time, most likely because I didn’t have a laptop or the internet speed required to keep the flow of the post, sometimes I think that at 21 years old, my voice and expectations were limited at that point of my life, I saw every dream I had falling through the cracks because of my financial status.

Working for the Lonely Planet Magazine was one of my early 20’s biggest dream

Working as a National Geographic Photographer was once my dream job, I also looked into writing for Lonely Planet guides and some other travel publications. Once again, I didn’t have a writing/communication degree, I was still working on my hospitality management bachelor’s, which I naively thought that would allow me to travel around the globe, to be adventurous with a camera while writing about it. The only thing this degree allowed me to do, was to be the front of the house employee, and work like my life depended on it. The first blog I had was called “Where the hell is Joana?”

“Where the hell is Joana?”

I created the blog in 2007, clearly inspired by the cartoon “Carmen San Diego”, so I could post about my experience with my internship abroad in Black Mountain, North Carolina, instead of sending emails for my friends. At that time Facebook was still not even close to being popular and abused by civilization, especially in Brazil, which only picked it up in 2010. (I had a whole 3 years of pure fun before the anarchy started.)  

The blog was full of widgets, like music, translation, photos on the post from the trip, a carrousel of nonsense. It was also written in my native language, Portuguese. That’s where my main problem came from. The moment people who knew you forever realize you are telling a story about something they are familiar with, they jump in and feel like judging what you are writing about, also who are you writing about. My biggest problem was with my mom. I couldn’t write anything without her nagging me, saying I was being over dramatic, she would not like her or my dad being exposed. Well, their story is kind of my story too, sorry. She would write me a long email or send me a message on MSN Messenger (remember that?) for me to delete certain things, or whatever she interpreted wrong. Censorship.

The time passed, I wrote less and less, in a blink of an eye, I was back home. Where the hell is Joana, well, she got back to her boring old life in Brazil.

I tried to keep the blog alive and I wrote a little about my experience in Australia, in 2010, but after that I let go of the idea of having a blog.

“What a Bao Asian”.

I love food and especially Asian cuisine. I worked for almost two years in a Macanese/Portuguese fusion restaurant the first time I lived in Chicago. Learning about their food, eating habits, and ingredients got me fascinated for the flavors and the creations on the menu. I have never been to Asia, by that time I decided I was going to create a food blog about Asian cuisine, I was living in Marietta, GA. Yeah, it had everything to work, but the only thing that worked was my Pinterest Board, with ideas of what I could cook, in order to post on the blog. I think I had two or three posts. It was incredibly hard to find Asian ingredients in Atlanta, my kitchen was tiny, and once again my mom made fun of me for creating a delusional blog. More like Julie Powell without succeeding. 

“Waitress in Wonderland”

I was furious with a comment I read on a Facebook post, from an acquaintance in Brazil, where she yelled “I rather be unemployed in Brazil, than be a waitress in someone else’s country.” Oh! Hi there! I live in “someone else’s country” and I’m a waitress, that doesn’t disqualify me from anything, in any possible matter. That doesn’t erase who I am, my goals, or what I want, because of the type of job I have to pay to fulfill my livelihood. I didn’t reply on anything, because it was not something related to what I posted, so I decided to create a blog, about how even though I was working as a waitress, I could still travel and have a fun life. My intention with that blog was eventually turned into a student travel blog, where I would go around showing cities that you could study abroad here in the United Stated. I once again, focused on the Brazilian audience and even though the website turned out pretty cool, I was paying the domain and the host for no reason. I was not traveling either. The travel blog without traveling was like the food blog without food. I got super sad when I deleted it, so I decided to apply for Creative Writing school. It was the way I found to keep my creativity flowing and my brain to not go down into a deep dark path.

“Live Out Loud Too”

In the middle of my Creative Writing for the Entertainment Business degree, I felt the need to share how it was like to be a writing student, with English being my second language. All the trouble I had to go through, so my story could make sense, while still working at a hotel, focusing on the speed of the classes. During the school, I really didn’t have time to write about how it was to be in school. Very seldom, I passed by on the website, and posted something about my writing for comics class, or my transmedia projects, so I could keep myself motivated.  For almost two years, I had no audience. This time I made sure to write in English, keeping my native language people exclusive to Facebook and Instagram. The blog turned two in May.

Live Out Loud Too turned out to be a space where I can have my voice heard, like I mean it, loud. I want to have my opinions validated too, and not set aside, because I was not born and raised here.  It’s a space to talk about change and take risks, like switching careers, or job positions to something you always wanted to, in your mid 30’s or later. It’s a space where I share my work, my ideas and opinions about starting over as a writer, following my dreams.

Getting the bull by its horns with my own hands and inspiring people to do the same.

The reason why I think this blog is working, first of all, I don’t write in my native language. I focus on the language and the country I live in. Second of all, I have a way to promote my posts, with different media outlets, such as Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram, to grow my audience. I don’t use Facebook for that at all. At this point, I rather deal with judgmental people I don’t know, than the ones I went to school with. Third and last reason, I found my niche. I write about being a struggling writer, trying to make it work with a huge leap of faith, that someday I will finally finish the web-series I have been working on forever. By the way I finally have a logline! I will write more about it next post.

Stay Safe!

JG Snelly.