What You Need To Know About How People Really Judge a Book

I have recently had reason to start looking into the arcane field of marketing; something most writers and other creative people try to leave to others.

I found the information in this slide show fascinating to say the least. It got me thinking about how I pick books to add to my reading list, and I found that I actually do follow most of the steps outlined. Now, as a writer, the sequence of steps is a little different, since I often follow fellow writers through their social media, and have a good idea when a new book is upcoming.

So, with that in mind… My list would read:

  1. The recommending source. – This is often the author themselves, or people I know follow that author. As a member of several social media sites, I work with fellow authors on blog tours, cross-advertising books, advertising competitions, and more. Authors like Terry Pratchett and Jim Butcher have become authors who  know I can trust when it comes to writing the stories I like to read, and I’ve followed them for years. However, I’ve discovered writers like Lilo Abernathy, Angela B. Chrysler, and Christina McMullen through working with them on social media sites, and learning about them personally, as well as their books. These are writers who have earned my trust before I even opened a page of their books.
  2. The book description. – This is quite often, for me, the make or break on a book by an author I’m not familiar with. The description makes a promise about what I’m going to find inside the cover. At that point, if I don’t like the description, the book sits on a back-burner, or ends up on the pile of ‘meh, if I get bored, I might read it’.
  3. The blurbs. – This is a chance for the book description to be redeemed. A mediocre book description will get a book to step 3, and what other people have had to say about the book can sway me to buy, or not. This is odd, since I know that the blurbs have likely been picked from a big pile of reviews and comments, and only the ones that show a positive side to the book have been selected. But then, that’s the power of good advertising, and word of mouth.
  4. The book cover. – A plain cover is almost never going to get my attention, and a cover splashed with fancy graphics and overly fancy fonts is probably going to get it, but for the wrong reasons. For me, a cover is a chance to set the tone of the book, a well as offer an idea of just what I might be able to expect. Most of the books that get my attention, by cover alone, have a simple layout with clear images and minimal graphics (or at least a clear branding graphic).
  5. The title of the book. – Really, this is something that I don’t consciously pay much attention to, but possibly has more influence than I might realize. For some authors, or series, the titles follow a given format, or theme. Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files books use two words, with the same number of letters and syllables – until something really dramatic happens in the series and the next book title was significant in it’s difference. Jackie Ivie‘s book titles are drawn from a set of vows that she wrote for her Vampire Assassin’s League books, and when the book titles are laid out in order, they form the vows. Yes, things like this are clever marketing, but they are also very distinctive.
  6. Reviews. – For writers I’m unfamiliar with, this factor probably moves up to the number 5 spot, simply because a book by an unfamiliar can’t sell on a title alone. I know the value of book reviews in my selection process, so I always try to take the time to leave one for every book I read. The level of detail that goes into that review might be minimal, or it might be more extensive – to be honest, that often is more a reflection of how much time I have available to write the review, than it is about how much I have to say. Usually though, the less I have to say, the more positive the review is likely to be, because I’ve not found anything negative to say. And while I try to avoid being negative in a review, there are occasions where I feel that feedback can improve the book – usually these are comments about grammar, spelling, or even plot issues. I hate to admit, I’ve read some well thought out books that suffered one or more of these problems.
  7. The Price. – The comments in the sideshow couldn’t be more accurate on this if they tried. When I am buying physical books the price seems to matter so much less than when buying digital copies. I belong to several mailing lists that advertise free or reduced price ebooks, as well as using online tools to earn myself gift cards for Amazon. I am more likely to buy ebooks when I’ve cashed in one of those gift cards than when I have no balance available – especially if it’s an author that I’ve not tried before. However, if I like that first book, I am less likely to consider the price, and then pick up other books, regardless of the pricing.
  8. The book text itself. – If I can get a preview of the first couple of pages of a book, I can get a feel for what to expect from the writer. Sometimes I might like EVERYTHING else about the book, but then I open the first page, and something about the writing style, or word usage puts me off reading further.
  9. The Author Bio and picture. – I rarely even look at these any more, because I read so many ebooks, and have interacted with the writers already.

So…. There’s an insight in how I select my books for reading. How do you chose yours? I’d love to hear from you… (timothy.bateson.author@gmail.com)

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