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!

The Last breeze of Summer

It’s finally raining in Austin. After an entire dry month of August, in triple digits and the heat index frying my outside, like I was walking in the desert, the temperatures are lowering down to a normal weather. Summer is coming to an end, at least at the calendar, and it was possibly the worst one yet, for everyone. On the planet. So much for a year that it looked so promising, so many plans were made, goals to be reached, life accomplishments, so everything could change in March. Just like when you just put shampoo in your hair and someone cut off the water. Now what?  From March on, we were all left with shampoo sticking in our head, not know when the water would come back if it ever would, I will dare to say. 

In January, we took a short trip to LA, it was my longest dream to visit the city be able to see the Hollywood sign, and walk around as I belong there. It was great and I’m thankful I took this trip when we did because if we had tried to book to March or April that trip would have never happened. At least I made some memories for this horrible year. From January to March, the Corona Virus was still a novelty, a mystery. One case in China, then Italy and Spain, and them boom, America. We rushed to close everything down, the borders, the businesses, all the entertainment industry got cut off, students were sent back home, visas cancelled and we were led to believe that if we stayed home for a month, we would be able to get out of it sooner. We are in September already and we don’t see the end near. 

This year I had some important goals I’d liked to achieve, I had in mind to go back to LA to get screenwriting classes, meet people from the film industry, and network. I wanted to take film classes here in Austin, to learn how to make movies. I planned to take improv classes. I planned to see my friend at DisneyWorld. 

“Be thankful you are healthy, you didn’t get the virus” 

Yes, I’m thankful, but that doesn’t diminishes the fact that I’m an active person, who likes to have dreams and work for it. Instead of that, I spent a lot of time at home, in my own head, hoping and praying that my family in Brazil will be safe and that I eventually would be able to go see them. I also filled my days with self with little projects, such as improve the traffic on my blog, learn how to market it, I finally made an Instagram account for it. I soak up the sun. 

I went to the apartment complex pool a couple of times and I also got the chance to visit a swimming hole in Wimberley, Texas. It is a beautiful place, but because of the Corona, we had a time frame we could stay, so we booked, went in the morning, and stay for a couple of hours.

Blue Hole- Wimberley, Texas.

During quarantine, I also managed to work with my friend. 

My friend is a Chef and she is the owner of a catering company, Starving Gypsy. She knows how much I love photography and invited me to take some photos of her dinner parties, I got super hyped, forgot we were in the middle of the Corona Crisis, mask up, and went to work.   Working on those parties kept me sane. I’m used to dealing with different kinds of people and clientele because of my years in the service industry, so I didn’t even blink, I’m used to be thrown at the lions, and only get out with psychological scratches. 

During the past 3 months, we had all kinds of clientele to serve and all surreal stories to tell. We had a couple of bachelorette parties, The One with the White Claws, filthy AirBnB pool, and starving ladies. When Chef Demeatrie started cooking one of them came to the kitchen, excited “It smells great!”. Chef looks at her “We haven’t started cooking yet”, we looked at each other like what food is she smelling?  The number of White Claws in the garbage could answer the question. We had to cook and serve dinner in the dark. Definitely, the most stressful one. 

On our way to the client’s house, Chef received a text, saying the client’s house ran out of power. She stops to read and replied to the text, that it’s followed by another one, saying the power was back. As we got there, unload the car, started to get everything ready, the lights start to flick. Not surprising, the stove was electric too. Chef rushed to get whatever was possible ready and the lights went off. And this time, it didn’t come back. The only source of light was my Rory Lights, a mega-powerful flashlight, that can illuminate a stadium, at least for a couple of hours. We could barely see what was the outcome. They sat down to eat, in the dark, the dim lights were coming from the window. There was no air circulation and to add, the house smelled like weed. Not a big deal to get hot and high by contact while working. When we were ready to serve dessert, the power came back. Just like magic.

It all worked in the end, but the stress caused by all the circumstances will be the one for the books. It was all good, except that there were a weird vibe in the air. Probably the cloud of weed. 

Everyone got a little break in the quarantine to rebuild or work from home, we worked outside. Hard. Like I wrote in the previous post, if you work with food, you will have a job, either cooking or serving the food. We prayed to be protected against the virus, got all the required safety gear, and kept moving. All my memories from the 2020 summer will be the ones laughing on the way back from the dinner parties the beautiful houses, the unleashed dogs, and cooking in the dark. 

For all the people that are used to have a summer filled with adventures, this one seems useless. It was the worst for all of us because what they call the “New Normal” is not normal, trying to convince me to accept a horrible situation by giving a different name, won’t erase the fact that someone is to blame for this chaos. I wanted my summer to be patio season, barbecue eating, travel, music festivals, food trucks, and all the great things life has to offer. 

Life is still great and we are going to get over this. Hopefully soon. Let me know your plans for fall and if you are thinking about Halloween costumes!

Be safe out there! Enjoy the Labor day weekend with care!


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.