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Friday, February 6, 2009

What makes you want to pick up a book?

In these credit crunching times the big question for authors and publishers everywhere is what makes readers pick up a book. Here is a list of factors that the industry experts think are important. What do YOU think?

1. Word of mouth - Who do we really trust? When it comes to the important things in life - like reading - it's the opinion of friends, family and colleagues that counts. According to The Bookseller magazine, word of mouth is one of the best ways to sell a book, even in these media-saturated times. A quarter of people surveyed by the magazine said that they had bought their most recent book on the basis of a recommendation from a friend. Of course, word of mouth is not always a natural process and publishers do their utmost to think of ways to use the phenomenon. From viral marketing to social networking, there are many avenues to try to get a book into the hands of the literary pioneers in any group.

2. The Book Group - An influential way to create a buzz about a particular book and have fun at the same time.

3. Recommendations from TV Book Clubs - Oprah, Richard and Judy, the TV book group is hugely influential and has backed many titles that have come to be bestsellers.

4. The author - The author as a brand has become even more important. The survey found that the only factor more influential than word of mouth in making a reader pick up a book was if they had read and enjoyed a previous book by that author. Moral of the story - always write the very best book you can because it is your most important selling tool. Of course this is exactly what authors try to do, which is why reviews that suggest that you have rushed out a book or failed to do a good job are particularly disappointing.
5. Great cover art - it's official, people do judge a book by the cover. Luxurious thick paper, cut-out sections, embossing, full colour, even glitter all play their part. According to the research, a good cover can make or break a book.

6. In-Store Marketing - The 3 for the price of 2 offer can be very seductive, as can those pyramids of books by the front door of the ground floor of the bookshop. It take much more dedication to search through the shelves in the dark far corner on the fourth floor - though for some dedicated book-lovers that can be half the fun!

7. Prize Nominations - There is nothing more valuable than free publicity and book prizes can offer that in spades. This isn't a sure fire route to success, though. Some Booker Prize winners have fallen completely flat.

8. Unusual Titles - Can be gimmicky but also eye-catching. What's your favourite?

9. Reviews - Are they influential or do you like to make up your own mind? Good reviews can be brilliant; thoughtful and thought-provoking, insightful, well-written. Poorly written ones... Let's not go there.

10. Newspaper or magazine publication - If the attention brings sales then great. If it persuades people they've had enough then hopefully the writer has still got a fee from the newspaper.

Are there any other factors that make YOU pick up a book? What do you think of the experts' view? Do you find reviews helpful? Do you judge a book by the cover? Do you like unusual titles?

You are invited to join me tomorrow on the UK Regency Authors Blog to discuss the enduring appeal of Scotland as a setting for historical romance!


Michelle Styles said...

Have you read the tao of publishing in the Dec RWR? Steve Axelrod had interesting take. Some of it is chance ie sometimes it is people trying to make patterns and connections when none exist.

I do think word of mouth, back cover copy and covers help. If I am in a bookstore, I will glance at the sections that I am interested in. I believe Julia Quinn chose her pen name so she would be shelved near Nora Roberts and Amanda Quick. I have picked up books because they were near to an author and the title sound intriguing -- or like something I would want to read.
Being able to read an excerpt/first few pages helps.

Jan Jones said...

For me it's the author first and foremost.

Nebula said...

I usually choose a book first and foremost by author, secondly by the interest level of the title and/or the cover which might catch my eye, third by the blurb on the back (which can be totally misleading, but gives you at least a gist of what's inside). Word of mouth doesn't work well with me because very few people I know have the same reading tastes as I do. Reviews help if I read them, but I don't spend much time reading reviews because you go crazy wanting to read EVERYTHING.
I'll take recommendations from the public library's website if I like the summary of the book. I've found the best books I've read in a serendipitous manner, though, just browsing through a bookstore, so I never discount that method!
I've come to hate book clubs and very rarely read bestsellers when they are bestsellers, maybe years later.

Minna said...

Favorite author and/or the blurb. Nice cover might catch my eye in the bookstore, but in the end it's the author and the blurb that helps me to make the decision to buy the book.

Helen said...

I love reading romance historicals are my favourites but I read new authors by recommendations from friends I have on the internet and from blogs and getting to "meet" authors viva the net.

I also will pick up a book because of the cover but I will read the blurb on the back first and of course once I have tried a new author and enjoyed the book I must have the back list and will buy their books when they are released.

Have Fun

Nicola Cornick said...

Thank you all for sharing your thoughts on this. Looking out for the next book by a favourite author seems to be the most important factor. It's interesting that the blurb is so crucial. Editors, please take note!

GladysMP said...

I am likely to pick up a book if I am familiar with the author's name and know I have enjoyed the author's works in the past, but often I pick up a book if the cover catches my eye.