“That Tara Sparling one. She’s some tulip.”
“She tried to tell me how to buy a book. Feckin’ cheek of her. What’s next? How to get up in the morning? How to breathe??”
Look – I know it seems simple. But this is more of an inquisitive How Do? than a How-To. People used to walk into bookshops and judge books by their covers. But that’s all changed now, with digital options in the mix. So how do you select a book? What do you look for, when you don’t know what you’re looking for? And while we’re on the subject, for those of us who might want to sell a book in the future – what are our readers looking for?
Based on a completely flawed, statistically devoid survey I made up yesterday, one or more of the following would be the first to attract book buyers:
1. The Blurb on The Back
“Janey, Joanie and Jeannie have been friends FOREVER, since 5 years ago. They are growing up in the big bad world, discovering just how hard it is to pay those bills and discovering that NOT ALL SHOES COST THE SAME!!! Will Janey forgive Joanie for buying the Manolos first? Will Jeannie get her dream job in the shoe shop? Will Joanie ever get over her cheating cobbler boyfriend??”
2. The Picture on The Front
Wow. I love the way her head is entirely composed of sky and zeppelins. I’m totally buying that.
3. The Title
Sheesh. I never thought I’d see the day when I’d be buying a book called The Roly-Poly Pudding Boy and The Round Red Organic Tomato of The Heart but now that I’ve seen it I can’t leave it behind.
4. The Author
Oh, Anthony Bestseller’s latest one? I had it pre-ordered on Amazon for like, 6 years. Are you only reading it now?
5. Page 1
Most people believe that if the first page doesn’t grab you, nothing will. I admire this kind of decisiveness – great people to be around in a crisis, for instance – but because first pages are the hardest to write, I tend to give a bit of leeway here.
6. Page 59
The rationale here is that the first page could have been worked on by a team of editors for 4 weeks. It’s page 59 which will tell you what the book is truly made of.
On eReaders, this is standard. You download a sample, which generally includes Chapter 1, and then make your decision to pay for the rest. But reading the entire first chapter in a bookshop? Whoa, man, this is dedicated. I wouldn’t have the patience. Plus, if I do that and the book still turns out to be a total turkey, I definitely only have myself to blame.
8. Specific Subject Matter
Say, if you’ll buy anything involving rainbows, fiscal ruin, cauliflowers, schizophrenia, or vampires.
9. Thematic Flavour of the Month
This includes books which come from film or TV, or books which only became famous because of film or TV. Yeah. You know who you are.
10. Word Of Mouth/Friend Recommends
This can get ugly, so approach with caution. Sometimes, there is nothing more terrifying than someone saying to you, “Hey, I have to spend the next month in hospital! You’ll recommend a good book for sure, to get my mind off the intolerable pain and suffering!”
11. Professional Critic Reviews
We all have our trusted publications and trusted opinion formers. Most of the time we disagree, but that’s not the point.
12. Open Public Reviews
Ah, the denizens of Amazon and Goodreads. Approach with a battalion of caution. This can get uglier than a blobfish.
This is a tricky one. Does anyone really buy a book because of advertising, or does it only reinforce a decision which has already been made? Perhaps the radio ad merely alerts you to a new book by your favourite author, perhaps a book trailer looked good enough to finally force your hand to click that button. But it’s not always employed as standard, so hard to know how effective it is.
Tell us! What makes you select your books? And how has it changed?