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What Makes You Buy a Book?

This is it. The question all authors want to know. Why do you buy one book as opposed to another?

Should be a simple question, right? But it’s not. At least not that I can see.

I have five books sitting out there on the shelf. Okay, only one and that’s only if Books-a-million or Walmart forgot to pick up all the October releases. But they’re out there, you know? You can get them on amazon.com or Harlequin.com. Used copies abound and there’s always that little thing called an ebook. Yeah, they’re on kindle, nook and other ereaders. So the big question is – how do I go from obscure to…okay, not famous…but noted?

I’d really, really like to know.

Because here’s the deal-e-o. I tweet, I facebook, I visit forums, and I blog with three group blogs. I give away prizes, do guest blogs, and will gladly participate in booksignings or speaking engagements. So, I’m out there, but is that enough? Is it ever enough? Do I have enough followers, enough readers to make an impact? Who knows?

I certainly don’t.

It’s all rather confusing. I wonder constantly should I advertise? Do my own blog on my website? Give more stuff away?

And then I really think about it, and I have to say that though I like being very accessible to readers and other writers, my main job is to write a good book. That’s what everyone says, but I don’t think that’s altogether true these days. Plenty of good books getting no love, and plenty of horribly written ones getting lots of love. So I’m thinking that social networking (like exactly what I’m doing right here, right now) is pretty important. Writing a good book? Yeah. Kinda required. Putting yourself out there? Also kinda required. So I wonder, what make YOU buy a book?

Recommendations? Reviews? Advertisements on websites? Features on certain sites (like the power of those Smart Bitches?) Promo items? Cost? Best seller lists? The book plastered all over creation (yeah, I put mine up there…maybe you’ll buy it. Maybe you’ll wonder why my hero’s hair looks sorta blue. )

I’ve been tap dancing for too long, friends, and my shoes are getting a bit worn. I really would like to see what you think. So, leave a response and tell me what influences you the most when buying a book, and I will pick a lucky winner at the end of the day, and send her/him any book from my backlist, a precious Christmas bookmark, and a giftcard to, say, Starbucks or B&N.

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35 Responses

  1. I love romance books, historicals, paranormal and more!

    What I look for in a book? Lots of things such as… Does the book in question have a story-line that will hold my interest? Does the book in question have (for murder mysteries) a lot of really cool twists?

    But what makes me find new-to-me authors is reading blog posts from authors I follow, or the ole stand by talking to friends and family about what books and authors they really loved.
    Thank you for the awesome contest =D

    Emily T
    emilytardy@yahoo.com

    • Think you validated what I already know – the most important thing of all is to write a good book that will keep readers coming back to you as a “go-to” author.

      Thinking about mysteries/thrillers, I think the working in of the cool twists is what makes me always pick up a Harlen Coben novel – there seems to be a “what you think was really was not” in his books that always leaves me saying “cool.”

      And having a trusted friend say, “you’ll love this” is pretty much an auto-read for me.

      Thanks for the comment 🙂

  2. I agree with Emily. Recommendations and good writing are important.

    But I have discovered recently that I have different standards now for print and Kindle (e-books). Some of my choices are different depending on the “venue” of the story but some remain the same.

    The same?

    Back blurb – the story synopsis has to interest me from the get go.

    Excerpt – this is especially important if it is a new author or if my budget is tight for the month. Especially with the “sample” option out there on e readers.

    Reviews. I write em but I tend to look at reviews with a grain of salt. They make me give a book a second look but if I read a bad review, I look for other reviews as well.

    Different?

    If the book is in a paperback series, I am getting it in paper. If a series lets me down, I still get it in paper. I am one of those “complete the set” kind of people.

    If the book is a hardcover, I am getting it on my kindle for purely economic reasons.

    If the author is new, I will get the e version first if it is dramatically cheaper but otherwise I get it in paper since I donate a lot of my books to the library.

    What doesn’t make me buy a book?

    Oh, covers. They seem to be the big casualty with ebooks. I just get irritated if the cover characters don’t match the story line but that is about it.

    Advertising. I ignore it.

    I am sure I will think of something else. Mainly I buy your books because you have proven yourself to be wonderful at character development and setting. Keep it up 😉

    Peace, Julie

    • Thanks for the compliment, Julie. I appreciate your reveiws and that I got to go overseas with you 🙂

      Very interesting to see how owning a kindle has changed your buying habits, and I suppose that makes sense. Writers I love (including friends) I tend to buy the actual, physical book in print. Others I purchase on the Kindle. Interestingly enough, I found a book in Sam’s I was interested in, pulled out my Kindle (which was in my purse) and found out it was nearly $3.00 more on the Kindle. Surprised me. Needless to say, I ended up with the print copy.

      Oh, and I’m glad to know there are set collectors because my new series coming out in 2012 has one big panoramic picture so that when the three books are shoved together, the covers make one big picture. I’m pretty excited that the art director is trying this out on my books 🙂

      Thanks, Julie 🙂

  3. Thanks for the reminder about ebook pricing. Folks have got to watch it. And ebook prices are no longer the total bargain they once were.

    What was the motivation for the new cover concept? You were already in my series buy paper pile but this has added a new wrinkle for sure!

    peace, Julie

    • Some of the markup on ebooks is just as high as the actual paperback, so you’re right, no bargains for some of them. And that makes me wonder why…no distribution costs, no paper/material costs…so why the big markup? Okay, I guess we know the answer to that one.

      And, as to my covers, I think the art director was looking to do something new. This new series features an old plantation home and Louisiana bayous so maybe she was excited about that background. No matter, I’m excited they’re trying it on mine. I think its a cool concept.

  4. Great post, Liz! Word of mouth is first. Then for me, it’s the cover that catches my eye and the blurb that seals the deal. 🙂 Can’t wait to read the responses here!

    • I think we’ll see a lot of word of mouth.

      But ironically, I tend to do my own looking about. The cover catches my eye first, then back cover, but here’s where I’m different – I usually open to the middle of the book and read there. I look for quality of writing and voice to seal the deal for me. Maybe it makes me snobbish, but if the writing is too simplistic, I likely won’t buy it. I do like sophistication in what I read…and I strive for it in my writing though I think I might sometimes fail in that department allowing voice to win out.

  5. I love trading books. I love romance. Everyone should read one because they wouldn’t’t be able to put it down after readied the first line.

    • I love when I can find someone with the same reading tastes as me adn we can trade books. And I agree, romance really sucks you in and makes you long for that happy ever after.

  6. What makes me buy a book:
    1. Price Point – I simply can’t afford to buy hardbacks anymore, even when they are $16 or so at Sam’s Club. That a bite into my budget I won’t take. If I really want to read the book and it’s only in hardback and the twitter cost is = to hardcover or greater than $5.00, I’ll get it at the library.

    2. Author – I buy the books of friends as much as I can. I also buy the books of authors I love. Both of these actions are done to support the author as much as they feed my reading habit. I want to make sure my favorites earn enough to keep working.

    3. Category Matters – I’m more likely to buy books in certain HQ categories than others. Super Romance? I’m there. HQ Historical? Not so much.

    4. Social Media – I have found new authors (new to me anyway) via twitter mostly. I’m on Facebook but I don’t really go there much. Too much trash there. I read a number of group blogs, which I usually find via one of their authors. If I enjoy reading the blogs of a certain author, I’ll try a book. If I like it, I’ll buy more, etc. I think the advantage of Social Media is finding new authors and learning more about authors I enjoy. I hate authors who use social media for promo and that’s it.

    5. Promo – I do look at some of the ads on popular sites. Can’t say I’ve ever bought a book that way.

    6. Free Publisher Signings at National – Heck yeah. I’ll go through and get books of new authors. I’ve discovered quite a few that way.

    7. Word of mouth is probably the most valuable tool for sales…and the one that is the hardest to get.

    • Price seems to be a pretty important consideration, though if it’s a favorite author, I will shell out the $ with my BAM or B&N discount card.

      I have found more authors through Amazon recs and through social media. Mostly, if I connect with someone I will buy her book…even though I might not have done so if I didn’t know them.

  7. This is a hard question to answer in a helpful way because as a writer I don’t believe I’m a typical buyer. Reaching back into memory, though, when I was more of a normal reader and shopped in stores I picked up a book based on title plus cover plus back cover blurb. I bought it if I liked what I read in the first few pages.

    Now that I’m online and part of a community of writers on Twitter, I read almost exclusively from recommendations. either here on ENALR, books written by writers I’ve ‘met’ or given a thumbs up by them, along with my ;’must buy’ favorites like Jenny Crusie, Virginia Kantra, Karen Templeton or Susan Elizabeth Phillips.

    I do think an online presence is a big plus, but only if you do it right, and that means interacting, not just slapping book promos up. I’ve read books I’d never have picked up two years ago simply because I met the writer online and liked them. I’ve never bought a book just because the writer put a bunch of promotional stuff on Twitter or Facebook. Social media is only useful if you are willing to participate in the ‘social aspect’. Otherwise, you’re more likely to annoy than attract.

    Check out Susan Elizabeth Phillips on Facebook and Twitter. For a huge name writer, I think she does an incredible job of interacting with her fans.

    • I agree that using social media for promotional purposes only deosn’t help an author. First, the communication always seems forced and comes across as impersonal. Second, I use social media for my own purposes. Do I sometimes mention a release or my writing life? Sure. But I would still tweet and FB if I weren’t a writer, so my main purpose is the connection with friends and people who love books (like I do!)

  8. What a great question Liz – it made me really stop and think about it.

    I think first and foremost would be the cover that grabs my attention – then like most I read the back to see if the book looks as interesting as the cover.

    I have a few authors that I collect their books as auto buys (JR Ward, Nalini Singh, Gena Showalter, Sherrilyn Kenyon, LK Hamilton, Delilah Devlin to name a few). A few of them I have started waiting until the hardcovers go bargain to complete my set because I can’t afford a lot of hard covers.

    I have a kindle and absolutely love it. I agree my buying has changed too because of it. i have a lot of free books, review books from Netgalley & requests and then a lot of personal books on it. I tend to be more willing to try new authors when I can pick their books up for a couple of bucks.

    Recommendations from friends is also a big hit for me. I have a book club and we read a lot of the same stuff so I know typically if they like it – I will too.

    Overall cover and word of mouth are probably my biggest factors in choosing a book. good writing techniques, interesting characters and interesting storys are what keep me coming back to specific authors.

    oh yeah, worse turn off is if a book is poorly edited. I know it’s not the author’s fault so I will try another book by them before I write the author off completely though.

    • Oh, I hate bad editing, too. One or two misprints I can understand. Hey, it happens. In fact, that’ s happened to me, but lots of them…not to mention horrible syntax and grammar usage and my brain refuses to move on.

  9. This is a really good question and one I’ve struggled with. I recently turned my attention from erotic books, written under a pen name, to focus on romantic fantasy. Oddly enough, though I haven’t spent a minute in promo the last 6 months, my latest erotic book is still up there in sales, while the romantic fantasy, while not doing bad, is still not doing as well. Why?

    I wrote them both, albeit under different names. They are fairly equal in terms of writing–something I wouldn’t say about my first few erotic books. The romantic fantasy has been well-received by reviewers and nominated for awards…but the erotic is still out-selling it.

    I always think I should be doing more, but I’m not quite sure what that more is. ; )

    For me, I buy books from authors I know and recommendations from friends.

    • Funny, how hard it IS to know what is the best approach for an author to take. I often wonder if I do enough, but honestly, I don’ tthink I can find anymore time for my writing life than what I have now. So spending all day on twitter or FB isn’t an option. Nor is adding a personal blog. I can barely do 4-5 a month as is.

      I also wonder that if I publish in another genre should I change my name and dilute my Southern contemporary brand or go with a different name and lose what little visibility I have. So many questions….and not a single right answer for a lot of them.

    • Shawna, I think the difference is simply the size of the target market. Just like a show like CSI will always have bigger ratings than a show like Chuck, erotica will always have a bigger audience than…anything. 🙂 And fantasy seems to be pretty small.

  10. I do heed a lot of the book recommendations I get from various author blogs and review sites like Dear Author and The Romance Dish. If one of my favorite authors recommends a book, I’ll probably check out the reviews on Amazon and determine if it’s a story I’ll enjoy.

    • I think many people take a good deal of stock in reviews…and while I appreciate many of them, I have found some to be so dissimilar from my opinion that I no longer rely on them as much. Oftentimes, I can see a veiled motivation behind panning an author as much as I can find a less veiled attempt at skewing the ratings for an author. Too many family member and friends giving really high ratings, and too many jealous and just plain mean people using that small power to cause an author trouble. Seems to be worse on Amazon than places like Goodreads, and I’ve found the Smart Bitches and Dear Author to be brutally honest, but even there, at times, seems to be blood in the water with some vicious attacks forthcoming. But if you take those sort of things into consideration, you can often find the true reviews that actually tell a reader the books’ worth.

      Thanks for the comment, Jane.

      • When I review books I try and be objective and provide honest feedback. If there is something that doesn’t work for me I try and give reasons why and I always try to end the review on a positive. I know my reviews can get long but it’s hard to do a complete review in a couple of paragraphs.

        I honestly have more trouble writing reviews for authors I know and books I really love because I want to do them justice but not over do it or give spoilers away for the book.

        I hate people that review books and don’t take the time to get the correct information, such as character names. I see it alot on Amazon.

  11. I don’t think authors have “valid” answers to this question. 🙂 (Valid for them, of course, just not for readership as a whole!) I know for a fact that how a book gets on my radar is different than it would be if I’d never become part of the writing community.

    Someone I know was just at a reader’s conference, and she said she learned that the vast majority of readers don’t read author blogs, but find books through friend recommendations and the “if you liked this, you’ll like that” feature at bookstores. Which isn’t very helpful. LOL

    • I think this is pretty true and sometimes authors overvalue the impact of social media. That’s not to say that I don’t think it’s worthwhile…it is. But I also think it matters what kind of book you have. If it’s ebook, I would think your consumers are savvy enough to be online more often since “technology” doesn’t scare them. I have found many of my readers pick mine up at Walmart and are wary from buying anything online. Also, genre could make a difference in what kind of readers you reach. Of course, I’m generalizing or maybe stereotyping, but I think there’s some validity to thinking about who your target reader is and then appealing to her in a fashion that will actually reach her.

  12. What usually makes me buy a book is when I am able to read an excerpt and it catches my attention. Once I get a little taste I most often will buy the book to get the rest of the story.

    9 times out of 10 that’s what gets me.

    • And this, Helen, is exactly why I just sent excerpts to my website designer. When I thought about how often I read an excerpt before buying a book on my Kindle, I knew I was missing the boat.

      And let me tell you how often I buy the book after read the first two chapters….well, maybe we shouldn’t talk about that just in case my hubbie finds out. LOL.

  13. good questions! I know a lot of authors–so my buying habits tend to cycle around the ones I know. 🙂

    that said, if their book is 9.99 I just..can’t. I’m sorry. I love you fantastic author but 9.99 for a 100K book at MOST? No can do.

    As for finding new, Cyndi brought up a great point. Those publisher Spotlights. Especially when you *drive* to nationals 🙂 I go through and if the cover catches my eye I pick it up.

    • I find lots of new authors this way too, Keri. In fact as I sat at the orthodontist office today, I read one. It’s a sure fire way for me to find new authors.

      I try to buy my friends’ books…even if they just sit there on my kindle patiently waiting for me to get to them. I figure my buying them is half the gift, right?

  14. I’ve started a feature on my blog of putting together links to all the reviews for ebooks from a particular publisher every Monday and featuring a couple of books. Ebook Review Central at http://www.readingreality.net

    It’s interesting to see trends. If all the reviews are about the same, say either a B or a 4/5, it’s probably a good book. If there are a whole lotta reviews, it’s probably good. There are a couple of reviewers who always rate low.

    And I get to see a lot of people’s blogs and see what everyone is reading. I get way too many recommendations!

    • I agree with you about watching trends. I have a book I reviewed months ago and it got an ok review – either 3 or 3.5 out of 5 and that review is probably one of my most viewed reviews on my blog.

  15. Tough, but important, question Liz. Before I started writing, I mostly read books based on recommendations from others or something that caught my eye on the shelf. Also anything from fave authors.

    When looking for new RS authors, I looked at who blurbed books for the writers I liked, or who else was on the shelf nearby.

    Covers are important, but more to tell me if it’s the type of book I like than anything. A half-naked man means it probably has the right heat level. Guns, badges, camo? RS *and* steamy. Perfect. 😉

    • So you’re the one all those publishers with the undressed heroes are targeting? LOL.

      I think the cover is pretty important for drawing interest…yeah, I will pick up based on cover, but I don’t buy unless I’ve read enough within to validate my getting out the credit card.

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