Why that book?
Dee Power Brian Hill
of bestselling authors make a beeline for their favorite writers
at the bookstore, hardly pausing on the way from tables stacked
high with the latest and greatest to the cash register. But sometimes
another John Grisham, Nora Roberts, or Danielle Steel isn’t
quite what you’re in the mood for.
browsing through the stacks of novels at the local bookstore, how
does a customer choose a new author? Marketing research firms spend
thousands of dollars trying to determine consumer behavior and ways
to manipulate that behavior.
you ever watched customers meandering through the aisles, picking
up one book, perusing the cover, then selecting another? Why do
they select any one particular book?
conducted an unscientific survey to see if we could find out. Most
readers, even when selecting a new author, will stay within their
favorite genre, whether romance, mystery or thriller.
of mouth, or recommended by a friend was the factor most
often mentioned as the number one factor. Some books are simply
so memorable that readers become anxious to tell their friends about
them. Publishers spend millions of dollars on advertising, book
tours, etc., but one of the most powerful forces driving a book’s
success is basic grass roots, one-on-one word of mouth.
Readers told us:
me about a book they really like, so I try it. If I like it too,
then I pass on the information as well as looking for other books
by the same author.”
“I buy a lot
of books based on comments made on one or two online book groups
where we post our reads for the month. Again, I particularly note
comments from people whose tastes I know are similar to mine.”
“How do I
select to read books by a new-to-me author? Almost totally from
recommendations from people I know. In this case word of mouth
sells. If I hear enough people raving about a new author...I will
get the book.”
word of mouth wasn’t the most often mentioned factor. The
cover either entices or detracts. The importance of the
cover is reflected in the enormous amount of time and effort publishers
and authors devote to designing the cover, often going through dozens
of variations before deciding which one is perfect (they think).
interesting aspect of covers is how successful ones are imitated.
Just look at how many recent chick lit novels feature bright colors,
highly stylized lettering and cartoon type characters.
Don’t judge a book by its
cover doesn’t ring true with most readers. They told us:
look at the cover. If it has a half-naked woman, I put it back.”
“I take my
books with me to read while I'm waiting and I'd rather have a
nice scene on the cover.”
“If I'm just
looking through the shelves, the cover catches my eye first.”
cover that will attract me pick up the book.”
But not every reader
feels this way.
“For me, the
cover has no effect on choosing a book.”
“I do most
of my book shopping online. I rarely buy in the store. Having
said that, the cover does not sway me at all.”
infamous back cover blurb overwhelmingly had the
most votes, but in second or third place, not in first. The back
cover blurb wasn’t the key deciding factor for many readers.
Perusing a sample chapter either clinched the sale
or resulted in the reader deciding not to buy.
on the back cover is the first test. Then, I read the first couple
of pages. If I'm not hooked, I keep looking.”
“I pick the
book up and flip it over to read the back cover.”
“Then I read
the blurb and a sample chapter if they provide one. If not, I
look for the author’s website and see if they have a sample
many authors valiantly struggle to get reviews and endorsements
from well known celebrities and authors, it really doesn’t
hold much sway over the majority of readers. Reviews increase the
visibility of an author and their books, but it isn’t the
deciding factor of whether to read that particular book.
Readers told us:
“I don't go
by recommendations generally...such as the pages and pages of
book recommendations by newspapers, magazines, people I never
“I only take
notice of reviews from reviewers I respect, and who I've been
reading regularly for some time.”
“I don't even
look at the endorsements on the cover/inside the book by other
authors. I once bought a book based on an endorsement by an author
that I liked, and I hated the book. It left me wondering if these
authors actually even read the book.”
Of course being selected by Kelly
Ripa in Reading with Ripa, or by Oprah Winfrey is the exception
to the rule. Carly Philips’ “The Bachelor” went
to number one on amazon.com in a matter of hours after being selected
So it would seem that
the main factors in the buy decision are:
Back cover blurb,
The writing itself
But there were some
interesting comments that really don’t fit in any of those
“I also like
to attend local author presentations my library to show support
for fellow writers.”
will even look at a book with less than 375 pages long-- unless
it's a beloved author or the subject matter has influence upon
something I'm writing.”
“One of the
authors in the anthology had such enthusiasm in her postings about
her first published novel, that I wanted to show her that at least
one stranger in the whole world cares enough to buy her book.
I felt good doing it, and now I find it was a darn good purchase.
I love that.”
“If it is
by a new author I have met online or at the book fair at I felt
was nice towards me I'll buy a book from them. I know this sounds
vain but I refuse to support a person who is rude to me.”
Copyright April 2004
MyShelf.Com. All Rights Reserved.