New Ways to Experience Books
by Mina V. Esguerra
First, I was a reader, and I enjoyed reading books my own way. Quietly, in my bedroom, no food or drink or social activity required. Then I became an author, and found out that it mattered how readers responded to the work. Soon I began publishing my own books, and then realized that this thing I enjoyed was a social activity for a lot of people, and that while many people read quietly and by themselves, they likely belonged to a community of fellow readers they shared their thoughts and recommendations with. This was how books got noticed, and appreciated, especially when it’s one of a gazillion already out there.
I was part of one such community, called #romanceclass. We are authors and readers of romance in English. Most of us are Filipinos, living in the Philippines. We share book recs, write our own books, and sell them. Being part of this community and seeing the many ways that a romance book could be written, created, published, and enjoyed, made me think that my own little private reading style needed an update.
Readers get together to celebrate stories, books, covers, characters. We began to understand that, and the community began little projects to enrich our experience of our books in different ways. We began selling them in fairs, for example, stepping out of our smaller circle of indie authors and introducing ourselves to the Philippine publishing industry.
We recorded audio excerpts and released them as podcast episodes, found here on romancepodcast.com. This started because we wanted to experiment with audiobooks, but couldn’t decide which books to produce full versions of. Instead we recorded scenes, and the ten-minute episodes are an effective shot of kilig, and also a valuable teaching tool when discussing writing in English.
Some authors in the community made shirts, stickers, merchandise that declared our love for the books. We organized an event that brought all of this together, #AprilFeelsDay, and that included live readings of scenes from the books with the actors from our podcasts. How was it received by readers, even those who hadn’t read the books being performed? It might be because our actors are just that good, but the audience got it — and reacted to the scene as if they’d read and loved the books way before they saw this.
Something I’ve been learning: There’s more than one way to love a book. There’s more than one way to notice a book, even one that might have been ignored before. We’re more invested in this because we write and publish and need readers to find us, but I’ve gained a new appreciation of the books I read and love. Give a book a chance and it just might rock your world.
Mina V. Esguerra is a romance author and publisher. Visit minavesguerra.com to read her publishing experiments. She’s also part of #romanceclass, a community of authors and readers, and their books can be found at romanceclassbooks.com.