Sunday, March 14, 2010

What Makes You Buy a Book?

There's been an interesting discussion on one of my authors' loops the last few days about a particular author and why this author is so successful when there are so many authors out there who are more talented, but don't sell nearly as many books. Is it strictly marketing? Is the publisher pushing this author to success by extra promotion or publicity or bigger print runs? Does this author have that "thing" that makes people snap up the author's books as soon as they're published? What the heck is that "thing" and where can I get it? :-)

I buy a lot of books. I'm an author, but I'm a reader first. I love books, both e and print. I love curling up on my loveseat with a cup of tea close by (or a cold Dr Pepper) and losing myself in the author's world. I want to be so involved with the author's words that I block out everything around me. Sometimes that's hard to do. Sometimes I buy a book because of an excerpt/blurb/friend's recommendation and it turns out to be a snooze. Maybe my friend loved it, but it did nothing for me. Do I throw it against the wall? No. I read every word. I keep thinking it'll get better. I'm so disappointed when it doesn't.

So how do I pick which books to buy, you ask? I have an autobuy list of authors I love and know will never disappoint me with a wallbanger. I go to that list first. If one of those authors releases a new book, it's soon on my bookshelf or in my e-reader.

Next, I look at covers. If a cover grabs me, I'll turn it over and read the back blurb (or read the online blurb for an e-book). If I like that, I'll read an excerpt. I want a taste of the author's voice. That has to come from his/her own writing. Hook me with the excerpt and the chances are very good that I'll buy the book.

Do I buy a book based on reviews or bestseller status? No. I used to, I'll admit that. I used to look up reviews and buy my books based on ones that received 4 stars/hearts or better. I learned very quickly that tastes vary widely. What that reviewer considered a 4 I would've called a 2, and vice versa.

I love discovering new authors and adding them to my autobuy list. So what if some of my favorite authors aren't bestsellers? They're tops to me and that's what counts.

How about you? What makes you buy a book?



Nikki_Soarde said...

Like you, Lynn, I have a few authors on my auto-buy list. Even those have, on occasion, disappointed me, but once there's enough 5-star reads from them under my belt, it takes more than one or two disappointments to turn me away!

For the most part it's titles, covers, subject matter and, of course the first page or so. I can generally get a good idea of the flavour of an author from a few paragraphs...but even that is no guarantee. My favourite reviewers are my family. My husband and #1 son are often good gages. If they love a book...and it's not a sci-fi or fantasy...than chances are I will too.

One thing, though that is almost always an automatic "no-buy" for me is a first-person perspective. Unless it's an autobiography, I generally do NOT enjoy that in a book as I love getting into various character's heads. I recently made an exception and bought a first person POV by an author I usually love and...lo and behold, it's not my fave. Seems I should trust my instincts!

silverpixies said...

There are a lot of things that make me want to buy a book. If its not from a writer i follow than sometimes i judge a book by its cover. But the summery and the preview tend be the reasons i buy a book.

Lynn LaFleur said...

Good point about the 1st person narrative, Nikki. I'm not crazy about that either and usually avoid those books too.


Micqui Miller said...

Good points all, Lynn. Covers are very important when I'm choosing a book, but I think the excerpts make the difference, especially with a new author. If the excerpt grabs me, and the plot tweaks my curiosity, then it's a sure sale.

Recently I've been disappointed by some of my old favorites. I think we (authors) get into a rut, especially our sister authors with 40 and 50 books on the shelves. Even Grisham has hit some low points. Best cure, discover a new author and if she lives up to your expectations, let your friends know to embrace her, too.

Good topic!


Diana said...

Recommendations from friends go a long way in getting me to pick up a book. Blurbs can be enticing, but first chapters give me a better feel. I've been known to stand in the aisles of bookstores reading the first chapter before I purchase. If I can figure out the ending of the book before I finish the chapter, it goes back on the shelf.

I don't mind first person narratives, actually. Diana Gabaldon does a neat job of mixing Clare's pov (done in 1st person) with everyone else (done in 3rd). I do, however, think 1st is much harder to write. You have to tell the story from a very limited viewpoint -- and that ain't easy! :)

Cait Miller said...

I buy a book if the blurb grabs me, and if I read an excerpt then I am ten times more likely to buy it. I don't buy just on the cover but a good cover will make me pick up a book and look at it. As will a good title. SO I guess all of the above :)

Liz Flaherty said...

First pages will grab me, though a great cover will make me pick it up, plus there are a few auto-buys.

I like first person, the immediacy of it, though some are better than others.

Mostly, though, if I have the tea and the blanket and t he couch, I'll read anything!

Virginia, Researchers Anonymous said...

Most books rest on the shelf spine out, so you do not see the cover until after you pick up a book. Covers will not convince me to buy a book but a cover can convince me to NOT buy a book. If the cover makes my face turn red, I'm not buying it. If I have to explain the cover to my husband/son, I'm not buying it.

There are some authors I can count on, and those I await their releases with baited breath.

Titles begin my screening. A title will tell me what kind of book I'm looking at and the author's sense of humor (funny steampunk, steamy historical, depressing modern, etc.). Those 3-5 words set the tone for the book. If I'm in the mood for a Scotsman, I look for a keyword like "Highlander", "kilt", "Claymore",... When I see a book with the appropriate keywords/humor, I pick it up and flip it over.

The next clue to the book lies on the back cover. The blurb sets up the storyline and conflict. Is a shapeshifter trying to drop a fire elemental into a volcano? Is a lord masquarding as a used car salesman to bust a drug cartel? Will I care about these characters? Will the story hit too close to home for me to be comfortable?

If the title sounds fun, the characters and plot compelling and the cover is not embarrassing ("Mama, why is there a nearly naked lady on your book?"), I open the first page. The first three paragraphs will tell me the quality of the writing and the author's use of words. Liz Carlyle is the master of the first page. Not only does she employ a hook within three sentences, her grasp of compelling grammar and dynamic sentence structure would make an English teacher weap with envy.

At this point, if the author has done her job well, I can't put the book down. If I am forced to disturb my reading for annoying things like food, sleep or work, my mind will linger in the story until I finish the series.

As much as I would love to take credit for this method of book selection, it's how my librarian taught us to choose books in kindergarten. That was back in the days of paper card catalogs. Oh, so long ago.

For print books, I generally buy authors I have not read before at used bookstores, where I can afford to take risks, and authors I can invest in at retail stores. Online, I'll buy short stories before novels.