What Makes People Buy Self-Published Books?

In this post, I discussed the findings of a scientifically incontrovertible study (of myself) on the factors which influenced me when buying a self-published book.

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The findings surprised me (which surprised me, because I was surveying myself). I found that I knew what made me buy a self-published book when it was in front of me, but not what put that book in front of me, unless I was browsing by genre (e.g. today I feel like reading a romance set in Ulaanbaatar: therefore I will now search specifically for such a story).

It was still hard to know what put those books in front of my eyes in order to buy them; to quote one of the commenters on that post – this is the thorny issue of “discoverability”. How will we find these books in the first place?

So I did the unthinkable, and asked some other people. I surveyed readers and writers alike, in online groups for different fiction genres of crime, fantasy and general fiction,  and more than a few other people who just like to talk to other people about reading and writing. I asked them what factors influenced them most when buying books – particularly self-published books and any other books which aren’t pushed by the major houses.

Their answers were duly collected and poured into a spreadsheet, one rainy morning when I was in my pyjamas, and can be split into 2 camps. Some answers relate to discoverability; others to what makes people buy a book once it’s already in front of them.

In this sample, there are 72 answers. Some people cited more than one factor they considered before purchasing, so regardless of the order in which they placed these factors, I gave them all equal weight.

Having said that, it’s safe to say that in the vast majority of cases, if the cover was amateurish, or unappealing, the book would never have made it to the 2nd stage of vetting, be that the blurb or the sample.

Here are some lovely graphs with my findings. In case you didn’t know, I LOVE graphs. (Although take it from me, they’re hard to cuddle when you’re trying to fall asleep.)

First, we have the overall results:

Influences upon readers when buying self-published books

Overall, by far the most important factors were cover, blurb and the sample (for some, this was the first few paragraphs, through Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature; for others, the full chapters from the e-Reader sample download).

Your cover might be gorgeous. Your blurb might push all the right buttons for the hungry reader. But if there’s a mistake in your first 2 paragraphs, or the reader doesn’t like your style, then it’s good night, I’m afraid.

How Readers Discovered Books Online

Several of those surveyed said they had bought self-published books because they had seen other examples of the author online – either from their blog, commenting on other blogs, or articles in magazines or journals. They liked what they saw and then went to see what else was on offer. This is precisely what we mean when we talk about online platforms.

In the case of Twitter (which is the platform most likely to drive me mad when authors simply tweet endlessly “BUY MY BOOK!! SPECIAL ### OFFER!! BUY IT NOW ###  TODAY TODAY!!!!!! (hashtag exclamation point))) – a few people said that they liked to get a sense of the author on Twitter, and then maybe look up their book. So it wasn’t publicising the book on Twitter which sold books: it was the author being engaging on Twitter on a more personal level.

Facebook was more likely to remind those surveyed to buy the book of an author they already liked, rather than introduce them to a book for the first time.

Making The Final Book Buying Decision

Finally, it was cover, blurb and sample all the way. Reviews mattered, but in different ways. An interesting point, made by some of those surveyed, was that they looked at the worst reviews first – 1* or 2* reviews only – because they found it easier to ascertain whether they were authentic, and because they felt they got a better sense of the book from people who didn’t like it, rather than the people who said they did. (Or gave it 5 stars because they are the author’s Mammy. See here.)

Price was also an unusual issue. There were 2 distinct views: those who made impulse buys (without reading reviews or a sample) under a certain price, and those who would never bought books under a certain price point, because they had no faith that they’d be any good.

There were also good indicators on what turned readers off  self-published books. Another post will follow on that. I bet you can’t wait.

Time for you to weigh in: if you haven’t already had your say, is there something glaringly missing from the above graphs which makes your buying decision for you?



  248 comments for “What Makes People Buy Self-Published Books?

  1. July 31, 2014 at 9:46 am

    This, er…this romance in Ulan Batoor. Do they rub each other in rancid milk before they……well…you know?


    • July 31, 2014 at 9:52 am

      I had a romance in Ulan Bator once. I can’t believe I just wrote that. But, truly, I did.

      Liked by 1 person

      • July 31, 2014 at 9:53 am

        (no rancid milk was involved) but there was quite a lot of vodka


        • July 31, 2014 at 9:59 am

          Seriously? You had a romance in the place which I used to challenge people to find in atlases when I was a child? What are you waiting for – go and write about it!


          • July 31, 2014 at 10:09 am

            too personal, I suppose. It was actually on the trans siberian train, and it has certain unbelievable elements, like bagpipes, and ice cream races.


            • July 31, 2014 at 10:18 am

              I’m gutted… It has bestseller written all over it. Can you not pretend to yourself that you made it up?


              • July 31, 2014 at 10:45 am

                sometimes I think I have done. It was very exciting. And ultimately tragic (well, not too tragic). It all ended in Berlin on the Kurfustendam, before the wall came down. Sounds awfully cheesy, doesn’t it?


            • July 31, 2014 at 10:49 am

              I was chatting once to a Geordie (like me) engineer who had project managed the construction of a mint in, I think, Kazakhstan. When it was ready for the grand opening they told him the local brass band would play and asked for some sheet music from his country. That not being the sort of thing a civil engineer usually carries round with him, he wrote home for urgent assistance. And so it came about that the new Kazakh mint was opened to the strains of a Kazakh brass band playing Cushie Butterfield.


              • July 31, 2014 at 11:19 am

                How lovely that must have been. I asked a jazz band in the Peace Hotel in Shanghai to play Basin Street Blues once. All the musicians had been imprisoned during the Cultural revolution. They could only play to a strict tempo. It was the funniest and sweetest thing ever.


                • July 31, 2014 at 11:36 am

                  These stories are like the loveliest postcards ever written. You should start a new web movement, for literary scene postcards of 100 words or less. I’ll limit my share to 17.5%. 🙂


                  • July 31, 2014 at 11:38 am

                    What you mean a picture of a place, and a random memory?


                    • July 31, 2014 at 11:42 am

                      Not even the picture – it would be a literary picture, painted through a random memory (doesn’t even have to be yours), just one short scene with a strong sense of place. Exactly as you both did there, in fact. I thought they were gorgeous.


                    • July 31, 2014 at 12:09 pm

                      Here’s one I put into The International Sales Handbook (not out yet–scheduled for 1st October): I checked into a swanky hotel in Djakarta and had been in my room for twenty minutes when the phone rang. Would I, the concierge wanted to know, like a nice young lady to join me there? I thanked him for his kindness but said that, on the assumption that she would be neither nice nor a lady and quite possibly only too young, I’d pass. ‘Oh,’ he said. ‘You want I find you old woman?’


                    • July 31, 2014 at 12:12 pm

                      Hahaha! Exactly! That’s brilliant! (And 430 extra points for the use of the word “swanky”)


                    • July 31, 2014 at 12:23 pm



        • July 31, 2014 at 10:44 am

          Oh, I’m sorry–I see you already have.


          • July 31, 2014 at 10:46 am

            You can get really nice ice cream there, and in Novosibirsk. Strange, but true.


            • July 31, 2014 at 10:52 am

              I’ve worked on every continent except Antarctica but these days I’m limited to the Middle East where the ice cream can also be rather nice. Better than that awful Walls stuff I remember from my fifties childhood, anyway. It was about as good as their sausages used to be.


      • July 31, 2014 at 10:44 am

        Well, come clean on the milk, woman.


    • July 31, 2014 at 9:55 am

      Good grief, I hope not! The thing is, I can’t tell you, because funnily enough, I couldn’t find one to tell you about. Yurt love must not be flavour of the month.


      • July 31, 2014 at 10:45 am

        Don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it.


  2. July 31, 2014 at 9:51 am

    Blimey. I’m very impressed. I see it’s not just me who is attracted by a good cover, then. I’m certainly not put off by a book being too cheap. I am frustrated if there isn’t a look inside feature. I don’t like long, well considered reviews (write your own book, people!) I just scan the ones that are a couple of sentences. And, er, that’s it. Love the graphs.


    • July 31, 2014 at 9:57 am

      The only time I ever saw a long review which was justified, was when a reviewer was pointing out the 100 or so points where the book in question was, funnily enough, exactly like another far more famous book of the same genre. The review was entertainment itself. I do like that idea of only reading the bad reviews, though. I think it gives a greater sense of whether or not you would agree. The positive reviews are too often wishy-washy.


  3. July 31, 2014 at 2:22 pm

    Thanks, Tara. That’s an encouraging finding. It means that the things we CAN control about our books and their marketing, are the things that matter to readers. The stigma against authors publishing their own writing seems to pale in the face of the search, view and sample data. We’re getting there.


    • July 31, 2014 at 3:13 pm

      Absolutely, Richard. The only distinction between a self-published book and a traditionally published book should be the lack of a publisher’s logo on the spine. If a book is instantly recognisable as a self-published work, I can’t see a scenario where that is a good thing.


  4. July 31, 2014 at 5:41 pm

    Being an ex-print publication production worker and graphic designer I’m not exactly surprised that cover blurb and sample came out on top, because they’re more or less what I use when deciding whether to hit the buy button (or indeed in the library or bookshop, pre-buttons).

    However on the ‘recommendations’ front, I’ve recently joined a book review club (like a normal book club, that’s primarily aimed at authors buying and reviewing other authors)… it’s been a bit of a roller-coaster as regards quality, with predominantly cheesy, ill-chosen covers, but until this week there’s only been one book I couldn’t make myself finish and that was all down to (IMO) lousy, but ironically error-free writing. This is out of 15 books I’ve purchased now, mainly because they weren’t pricey, rather than because I really wanted to…

    So why am I doing it? Well – brownie points, when it comes to reviews, as the idea of this club is to ‘support each other by giving support’. Thus far I’m not exactly regretting it, but am fast approaching the conclusion that ‘you have to kiss a lot of frogs’ etc! What it is doing is improving my review status on the Amazon reviewer rankings and also forcing me to get out of my beloved SF&F ghetto – and would you believe the one I couldn’t finish was ‘epic fantasy’ that on paper had all bells ringing *rolls eyes*. On the whole I’m quite enjoying the experience and going with their policy that you only give 3 stars or more and that’s worked out because all of the finished ones had several things going for them even if they’ll never make it onto my personal ‘must have’ list, mainly because so many of them are YA and.or thrillers – both of which leave me cold normally. I’ve been pleasantly surprised a couple of times now.

    Price is actually my ultimate governor – I won’t pay over the odds for hardcover even if I have to wait more than a year to get the latest Discworld novel and I really hate paying more than £12 for paperback (unless it’s something very special indeed, Transworld) and £5 for eBooks. But that’s when I’ve already done the ‘will I like this book’ sift…. 😉


    • July 31, 2014 at 10:02 pm

      Hi Jan! That sounds like a great group – very clear lines by which to do things is never a bad idea. By recommendations in my graph I got the impression from the answers that these came more from friends and traditional book groups, even for the writers who answered. Well done on the Amazon reviewer rankings too. They’re slippery suckers…


  5. July 31, 2014 at 8:21 pm

    Wow thank you very much for this post as i am on the verge of completing a novella that will be my first release. Your post however have confirmed my assumptions as it is very useful information for first time release writers. Now i know what i will need to go forward with this with out having to worry about what i did wrong. All thee information i researched before was based on 3rd party successors and now you have clarified that info with this awesome post. Thank you for this really for i will be sharing it at some point to help others as well!

    My latest post: http://wp.me/p2aAA8-OC


    • July 31, 2014 at 10:03 pm

      Thanks for that Antonio, and the very best of luck with your release!


  6. August 1, 2014 at 4:37 pm

    Reblogged this on theowlladyblog.


  7. August 1, 2014 at 4:42 pm

    Reblogged this on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog….. An Author Promotions Enterprise! and commented:
    Some great stats from Tara, why not make your own survey and see if the results are similar 😀


    • August 2, 2014 at 12:26 am

      Great idea, Chris… Would love to see the results of that.


  8. August 1, 2014 at 5:11 pm

    Reblogged this on Write of Passage and commented:
    Are you self published? Check out Tara Sparling’s survey to see what will make readers purchase your book.


    • August 2, 2014 at 12:27 am

      Thanks for the reblog… And it would be great to see if people have their own thoughts on this too!


  9. August 1, 2014 at 6:55 pm

    Always love your informative posts. You do such great work! Long ago, I owned a small publishing company where intuition told me cover was NUMBER ONE together with blurbs. No social media at that time. So many things to take into consideration now. Thank you so much!


    • August 2, 2014 at 12:32 am

      Thank you! I love these stats myself, so it’s not work to me… Happy in my nerdiness. You always had it right, though- it seems that without the right cover, it’s all for nothing. It’s the only place to start, then we concentrate on the other stuff!


  10. August 1, 2014 at 7:27 pm

    so interesting. i’ve wondered what makes the magic happen.


    • August 2, 2014 at 12:35 am

      It’s the writing which makes the magic happen, I reckon. Then we just have to get the marketing right, so that we don’t make the magic disappear 😉


  11. August 1, 2014 at 9:41 pm

    Great insight Tara – thank you so much for sharing. I’m still getting up to speed on social networking and seeing the various styles there, and glad to see there is some level of commonality of my experience with some other rational folks. Direct marketing is annoying. Exploring and discovery is cool. And covers matter. Yup.


    • August 2, 2014 at 12:40 am

      Thank you for stopping by! Yup indeed- social networking is a minefield I think. I might have some strong opinions, but I’m far from having it worked out yet 😉


  12. August 1, 2014 at 9:41 pm

    I agree! I would first search by genre. If I could not find a sample of the book (and I prefer a sample), I might look at other people’s review of the book. One time, I did read a self-published book without first reading a sample—because—the book was written by a friend.


    • August 2, 2014 at 12:42 am

      You’re a lady after my own heart obviously! We’re persuaded the same way… And it’s all down to persuasion.


  13. August 1, 2014 at 10:39 pm

    I read books by people I like and have engaged with on forums, sequels or second books by writers I’ve discovered that way and books which are recommended to me. I’ll read the odd book by famous authors who I already like but I read pretty much entirely independent authors. I’ve no idea if they’re well edited, I have a form of dyslexia, but the stories are good and usually a bit wackier than others. I like that.




    • August 2, 2014 at 2:01 am

      Hi MT. I’ll bet few think that readers like you take so much into consideration. People tend to focus on cover only when it’s often only the beginning… I reckon we might be surprised how valuable this sort of info is to the writer when it just seems logical to the reader.


  14. August 2, 2014 at 1:22 am

    Very helpful. Shared and bookmarked. THANKS. Now following here and on Twitter. 🙂


    • August 2, 2014 at 2:03 am

      You’ve made my day! Your work is done, you should take some time off immediately 😉


  15. August 2, 2014 at 3:40 am

    Reblogged this on chrismcmullen and commented:
    The million-dollar question, along with some million-dollar answers. Authors, you really want to check this out. 🙂


    • August 2, 2014 at 11:02 am

      Thank you for the reblog, Chris. I was just wondering, though, you haven’t seen those millions of dollars, have you? Because I can’t seem to find them anywhere 😉


  16. August 2, 2014 at 9:59 am

    Interesting results. What the stats suggest to me is that readers/buyers are already at the sales channel when they make that final decision (cover,blurb,extract). If authors get all that info on the websites and blogs with an easy to find link to where the book can be bought will that help increase their sales, I wonder?

    I think what I’m asking is where does discoverability begin? At the Twitter/blog/website stage or at the sales channel stage right before purchase?


    • August 2, 2014 at 11:16 am

      It seemed to me from the answers that discoverability began with the social media side. Either the author was discovered, and readers thought “oh, I like her style. I’d like to read something else from her”, or the book was discovered first, most likely in comments, by recommendations or through non-author book bloggers.

      The toughest thing appears to be selling your book without being too pushy. Readers can spot it a mile off, if the only reason an author is communicating with them is to push their novel. It would be like a car sales rep, talking to someone recently bereaved, and asking them what car they’re travelling to the funeral in. But more to come on that next week in another post…


      • August 2, 2014 at 11:56 am

        I hope you’ll mention, then, that anything starting “Check out my…” is instantly deleted.


        • August 2, 2014 at 1:53 pm

          Oh yes… that’s already in Excel, underlined, in a pretty boxed border, highlighted in yellow, and linked to other cells by 16 extremely complex formulae… I’m all over it!


          • August 2, 2014 at 2:00 pm

            And will people learn? Let’s not count on it. There are a few blogs (yours is one of them) that I follow because they’re often hilarious and usually interesting. That’s how you build a following. Give the punter what the punter wants.


            • August 2, 2014 at 2:53 pm

              Oh, you’ve at least ten minutes to stop those compliments… do you know, when people say things like that, I stop crying for at least six minutes, making me (and a few people around me) very happy punters indeed. Score!


  17. @hell4heather
    August 2, 2014 at 1:24 pm

    Such a great and helpful article. For me it is always through social media. If I am interested in the genre, if I like the online honest personality I will check out the blog or book. Then it is blurb and cover. I wish authors would get the whole ‘stop tweeting you book links’ thing. I’m more interested in reading real comments from readers and getting to know an authors personality


    • August 2, 2014 at 1:42 pm

      Amen. Nothing is a bigger turnoff than a tweet that says, “Read my book.” The only possible answer is, “Shan’t!”


      • August 2, 2014 at 1:51 pm

        You know I agree! Setting out your stall online is the same as if it were a physical stall. You have to give the buyer a reason to want to buy something – e.g. by giving them a freebie or attracting their attention with something which interests them. Simply jumping up and down and screaming “Buy this stuff!” doesn’t work.


  18. August 2, 2014 at 4:20 pm

    Reblogged this on Confessions of a published author and commented:
    Absolutely brilliant post! thank you so much for posting


  19. August 2, 2014 at 5:36 pm

    Great insights here!


    • August 2, 2014 at 7:41 pm

      All thanks to the readers and writers who commented. We can learn so much from them, if only we listen…


  20. August 2, 2014 at 5:45 pm

    Interesting article, Tara, about the best advice on marketing I’ve read in a long time. I’m reblogging. Thanks!


    • August 2, 2014 at 7:42 pm

      My thanks to you! There’s another post coming on the sorts of marketing people said turned them off completely… bit of fun there hopefully amongst the cold hard truth.


      • August 3, 2014 at 10:59 am

        I’ve just read yet another post about marketing, about the secret is targeting, deciding on your writing persona, reaching out to readers who like that type of writing and…bingo! You’ll be a success. Written by someone who guess what? Writes books about marketing.


        • August 3, 2014 at 11:03 am

          Yeah. Nuff sed.


        • August 3, 2014 at 11:56 am

          Wow – the insight is amazing, when you consider that the readers who like your type of writing are usually queuing up outside your door, wearing identification badges. What would we do without the omnipotent marketing folk?


          • August 3, 2014 at 4:46 pm

            What you have to do is decide what your speciality is, what makes you different. So you define yourself as the the writer who does Eskimo police thrillers with heroines with a wooden leg and a rare eating disorder. That way, all the fans of Eskimo police thrillers will know where to find their next favourite author, and the ones who didn’t know they had a thing about wooden legs will have a new team to root for. Logical really. Can’t fail.


            • August 3, 2014 at 5:32 pm

              You’ll be snowed under with new readers.


              • August 3, 2014 at 6:28 pm

                I can’t like these comments enough. Even though there isn’t a like button. I just need to emphasise that.


              • August 4, 2014 at 7:22 am

                Ha ha! I think I might just get out that ms I wrote when I was four and dust it off. The one about the Eskimo with a wooden leg who couldn’t find his bi-focals and was saved from drowning in an ice hole by a polar bear who’d also forgotten his bifocals…


  21. August 2, 2014 at 5:45 pm

    Reblogged this on Jane Dougherty Writes and commented:
    Tara sets out the very basics of a marketing campaign. The rest is just froth.


  22. August 2, 2014 at 5:51 pm

    Great blog, Tara, especially as I’ve just spent all day reworking the cover of one of my books having read elsewhere that, of course, covers are where it all begins. So I’m going to follow you and do all that stuff. And incidentally – buy my book! 😉


    • August 2, 2014 at 7:45 pm

      You can’t fool me with your reverse psychology, Keith. Because you ironically told me to buy your book, knowing of course that saying it would in fact turn me off buying your book, I’m going to turn the tables and buy your book to prove that I can double bluff your reverse bluff, and er…. hang on. Something doesn’t seem quite right here… I’ll get back to you.


  23. August 2, 2014 at 6:19 pm

    Really good info here! I often find books through blogs and social media. Also looking for genre is a top method.


    • August 2, 2014 at 7:46 pm

      Thanks, Christy! And I’m a searcher by genre, like yourself, but that throws open a whole other can of worms (and a bunch of mixed metaphors to boot), about how a writer positions their book within a genre too. One door opens, and a hundred more are there to fool us…


    • August 2, 2014 at 7:48 pm

      Looking for your favourite genre would seem to be the most sensible method – but it does preclude serendipity, which is how I’ve discovered new authors when rifling through a table of ‘bargain books’ 🙂

      Having the right tags can also help readers discover your books, but I’m never sure how they search. It would be straightforward to search for a Western, but if you were looking for a humorous book would you search for; humorous novel, funny book, comedic fiction, comedy, humorous fiction, funny novel etc? always a bit of a conundrum.


      • August 2, 2014 at 7:54 pm

        Absolutely. And some of my favourite books have defied description, meaning that an online search would never have put them into my hands. Especially the so-called literary fiction genre, which has loads of books I love, but I think the genre title is absolutely meaningless.

        For instance, what would you search for if you were looking for The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared?

        “Senior Citizens and Elephants – Sweden”??


        • August 2, 2014 at 8:32 pm

          Exactly. Some websites don’t even have a genre ‘general fiction’, so you’re stumped if your book doesn’t slot into one of their categories. This used to be a problem with trad published books when the marketing team used to wail – but how are we going to market it?

          I see that Amazon uk have one of my books listed as ‘literary humour’. Not too often that you see those two words together 🙂


          • August 2, 2014 at 9:01 pm

            No, it isn’t – but it’s also a description that would make me look further, and probably buy it, if that’s any consolation!


  24. August 2, 2014 at 6:33 pm


    You’re not actually going to believe this but I went to Ulaanbaatar in 2007 on the Trans Siberian Express. Just thought I’d say 😉


    • August 2, 2014 at 7:47 pm

      I can well believe it! It’s a trip I always wanted to make (must be why Mongolia popped into my head in the first place). So tell us – any romance?!


  25. August 2, 2014 at 7:17 pm

    Thanks for the graph that clarifies that cover, blurb and sample are the main deciders for book buyers. I’ve heard the blurb described as the 100 golden words (and for most writers they are probably the 100 most difficult words to write, which is why publishers employ blurb writers!). Word of mouth has always been the best marketing tool – if only there was a way to harness that *sighs*.


    • August 2, 2014 at 7:50 pm

      Hi, Jan. 100 golden words is in itself a great description, isn’t it? As long as people don’t confuse word of mouth with social media – which is what I think many people do. They think that a recommendation on Twitter is the same as a friend saying “have you read XYZ, I think you’d really like it, I thought it was a great read”.
      They are in no way similar. And therein lies the “pushy” problem, because then nobody believes anything they read on social media, and we’re back to square one!


  26. August 2, 2014 at 10:28 pm

    Great article, thanks for sharing. I totally agree about the twitter comment – and it goes for all social media, in in my opinion – it should never be used as a blatant advertising platform. People want to get to know you (on twitter, fb, your blog or instagram – or wherever) – not forever be bombarded with BUY MY BOOK! Crass 🙂 In my case, I have either known the person, come across them at writing festivals, or followed their blog or website.


    • August 2, 2014 at 11:57 pm

      Great to have you here, Sara.

      The hard sell has always driven me barmy. People mean well, but sometimes there is nothing worse than an author pushing their own work. I know it’s necessary to sell books, but sometimes you wonder have they thought about the way they’re doing it, at all?


      • August 3, 2014 at 1:50 am

        No 🙂 Or they are just reacting our of desperation instead of responding in a way that they might like if the roles were reversed!


  27. August 3, 2014 at 12:22 am

    Interesting. I’ve only ever bought maybe 2-3 self pubbed books, and in all cases, they were by authors I knew via online contact or previous contact with trade published material by the same author (i.e. they were hybrid authors). For me, discoverability is a big obstacle. I read mostly SF and fantasy, and I just don’t “find” self pubbed books in brick and mortar bookstores, on sites like B&N, or even Amazon. I have a nook and an ipad, and I do buy electronic books, but all the books that come up on these sites as “recommended” seem to be trade published. Heck, I find it hard enough to find new (to me) trade published authors, and I suspect this is a common issue for lots of people. Someone was complaining (in an online writer’s forum) the other day how she can’t find any fantasy novels with actual magic in them anymore, and I was able to give her a list of 10 or so recently (trade) published books or series that sounded like something she’d like.

    Why is it so hard for people to find stuff they might like to read these days? I think it’s a serious issue for all authors, no matter how they publish. If potentially interested readers never hear about or “see” your books anywhere, how can they read them?


    • August 3, 2014 at 12:58 am

      And that’s what most self-published authors are concerned about. How will people hear of them, if they’ve never heard of them? But recommendations like the one you made go a long way. You may feel like only 1 person, but you had a big influence in that instance. Between that, and discovering authors online in groups or some like-minded forum, it’s a start.

      From the perspective of someone looking for books, if you know what content you want, I know it’s not elegant – but there’s always Google.


  28. August 3, 2014 at 11:22 am

    I’m surprised the title doesn’t play a bigger part in selecting a book, especially after reading this.

    n 1928 the publisher E Haldeman-Julius was considered to be a literary Henry Ford who had perfected the art of merchandising the world’s classics. In the previous 10 years he had sold 100 million copies of his cheap reprints.
    He believed that in order to sell a classic piece of literature, it had to have the right title. He believed that the title must have some connection with the three subjects which most appealed to the ‘reading masses’.
    1. Sex
    2. Self-improvement
    3. Attacks upon Respectability and Religion.
    His motto — By their titles ye shall sell them.
    In 1926 8 000 copies of Victor Hugo’s play “Le Roi s’Amuse’ were sold. He re-named it ‘The Lustful King Enjoys Himself” and 38 000 copies were sold.
    Theophile Gautier’s “The Golden Fleece” enjoyed huge sales when it was re-titled “The Search for a Blonde Mistress.”
    Scopeenhauer’s “Art of Controversy” was a dead duck until Mr Haldeman-Julius published it under “How to Argue Logically.” And De Quincy’s “Essay on Conversation’ sold like hot cakes when re-titled “How to Improve Your conversation.”
    Always, for obvious reasons, it has been necessary to keep the reader in mind. Any change in title must be validated by the actual contents of the book. The change must serve, not deception, but enlightenment; the change must advance some particular information as to exactly the book’s contents. It would never do to re-title Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, for example, unless the title were also to indicate that the tales were still in archaic verse.

    He never altered the text in any way — just the titles. 🙂

    Click to access FirstHundredMillion.pdf


    • August 3, 2014 at 12:01 pm

      Title is indeed a missing link in the above. Nobody said it affected them, but it was a small sample size to begin with, and perhaps people think it’s part of the cover?
      Thinking about it now, I have been attracted by some titles in the past, but sensationalist titles would completely turn me off. When you look at how it affects TV nowadays, show titles such as “Embarrassing Bodies” just make me sad.


  29. antarespress
    August 3, 2014 at 12:46 pm

    Thank you, Ms Sparling, for the time and work you gave to produce these charts. They give me standards to measure my efforts.

    A previous comment said Title should be considered as an influence. May I also suggest Advertisements as an addition to ‘How readers discover books online’. Recently I bought three books which were advertised in my email in 1) BookBub or 2) the Fussy Librarian or 3) Amazon promotions. I suppose the last may fall under Amazon suggestions.

    Did you know you are topic of discussion on Writers’ Cafe? http://www.kboards.com/index.php/topic,191168.0/all.html
    You must be a member to access the Writers’ Cafe but registration is painless and use is free.

    Again, I am grateful for the information you donated. Thank you.


    • August 3, 2014 at 1:32 pm

      You’re welcome! In some of the comments made after I did the initial graphs, a few people did cite Bookbub. It does seem to have some influence.

      I had seen that discussion – thank you very much. Great feedback there, too, some of which indicates that reviews have a far greater impact than I show above. I would agree with that myself because I would always check reviews before the book sample. But I would have to survey 1000 people to get more comprehensive figures, which I’d love to do, if I didn’t have a million other things to do! Thanks for visiting the site!


  30. August 3, 2014 at 5:39 pm

    Despite all the media outlets I still believe word of mouth is the most powerful. I’m an evangelist for books that have had a huge impact on me. If a specific friend comes to mind while I’m reading, I’ll let her know this is something she might be interested in.


    • August 3, 2014 at 6:30 pm

      Absolutely. Nothing beats a recommendation from a trusted source. Although I’ve made some recommendations before where friends hated the books – it’s a minefield!


  31. August 6, 2014 at 9:59 am

    Was directed here by the Romantic Novelists’ Association (which, as far as I am concerned, only exists to sort the correct punctuationalists from those who don’t know their possessive apostrophe from a dead fly), and read your Scientific Graphs with interest. I’m not self-published, but I read a lot of people who are (some of my best friends are self published) and have to say – that’s why I read their books. I have a huge horror of wasting money (I live in Yorkshire), and will therefore only read a self published book if I KNOW, absolutely, that I’m going to be quizzed on it later.

    Graphs are unnatural. Pretty, but unnatural. Like all things involving numbers.


    • August 6, 2014 at 10:22 am

      But graphs are lovely! Colourful… orderly… packed full of dodgy data which, once put into graphic format, become more weighty than a morbidly obese mathematician! Besides, they give me something to do in Excel when I’m having withdrawal symptoms.

      Good to hear that I’ve been linked on the Romantic Novelist”’s” Association. I have a few spare apostrophes cluttering up the place, do you think they might be interest’ed?


      • August 6, 2014 at 10:24 am

        Via the lovely Jenny Haddon, who follows your blog, and advises us all to read your Words of Wisdom. She is right! Apostrophe’s rule!


  32. August 6, 2014 at 12:23 pm

    Reblogged this on Writing and other stuff.


  33. August 6, 2014 at 12:29 pm

    I too was directed here by the Romantic Novelists Association. I like graphs. Pretty, pretty things. I find apostrophe’s distracting.
    I’m not self published either, but this information is relevant to any book. I had thought that reviews would have a bigger slice of the pie chart than they do. I’m off to read your next post about what puts people off. I hope there are more pie charts.

    Oooh. pie.


    • August 6, 2014 at 1:40 pm

      Well, I can’t promise pie charts (mmmmmm), because I’m trying to cut down, but you should SEE the infographic over there. It’s positively delicious. Do come back for some seconds, I have some ire with a dollop of tongue in cheek for dessert 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  34. August 6, 2014 at 4:06 pm

    “But if… the reader doesn’t like your style, then it’s good night, I’m afraid.”

    I’m actually grateful for that, and don’t even mind the (mercifully rare 😀 ) return. If they persist and read something they don’t really like, they’ll probably review it poorly and generate a bad word of mouth. Not what I want for my books! So, thank God for book returns, as far as I’m concerned! 🙂


    • August 6, 2014 at 4:08 pm

      Yup – some readers and writers are just never going to be a match made in heaven.
      I would never leave a review if that were the case, but The Internet has a tendency to speak loudly (and immediately)…


  35. August 7, 2014 at 2:11 am

    The writing (excerpt) has got to be the strongest factor in buying a book, if it wasn’t recommended by a friend. Although, I agree that the book cover can always draw me in and make me want to know more.

    Usually, when searching for a book, I’m first attracted to the cover, then I’ll read the blurb, and then use Amazon’s Look Inside feature to read a sample, or I’ll hunt down an excerpt to read online. If the first pages grabs me, then I’ll buy the book. I admit to reading the lower rated reviews, too, but they don’t always influence my decision.


    • August 7, 2014 at 9:42 am

      Hi Sherry. You should be proud of reading the lower rated reviews! It shows you give everyone a chance. If we all only read the 5 star reviews, we’d all walk around being permanently disappointed.


  36. August 7, 2014 at 3:37 pm

    Reblogged this on Sky's Universal Predications and commented:
    Interesting bit of information…


  37. August 7, 2014 at 6:49 pm

    Reblogged this on Skye Callahan and commented:
    Some great information on what readers look for first.


  38. August 7, 2014 at 9:18 pm

    Reblogged this on Helena Fairfax and commented:
    I found this interesting post on writer Tara Sparling’s blog. What makes people buy self-published books? There are lots of factors, but who knew the cover played such an important role? It’s a great post. There are handy graphs (I love a good graph) and plenty of interesting comments. So, what do you think? And what makes you buy a self-published book?


    • August 8, 2014 at 12:05 am

      Oh, I love people who love a good graph! And the fact that you thought they were good graphs. You’re on my Santa list 😉


  39. August 7, 2014 at 9:31 pm

    Reblogged this on O LADO ESCURO DA LUA.


  40. August 7, 2014 at 11:42 pm

    Hi, Tara, i got directed here by someone post this in the Southern California Writers Conference site. Great article and graphs, How many people did you survey?


    • August 8, 2014 at 12:11 am

      Hi, Richard. It wasn’t a survey, so much as people who commented on forums and another more previous blog post. It includes people with multiple answers but excludes a few who said exactly the same thing. I don’t have the most up-to-date spreadsheet on the computer I’m on right now but memory tells me my last count was 54 before I wrote this particular post. I know it’s a small sample size. Having said that, I could more than triple my sample size now from comments on my most recent 2 blog posts, once I get the time to do it. If the results are materially different, I will update the numbers: my feeling, however, from seeing the comments over the past few days, is that the sentiments have remained broadly the same.


  41. August 7, 2014 at 11:44 pm

    Re my previous question, I see there were 72 answers, but how many people was that, please?


  42. August 8, 2014 at 12:05 am

    Reblogged this on Richard Snow Writer and commented:
    Here’s an interesting article for authors about what makes people buy books. The four most common reasons are cover design, the cover blurb, reading sample pages, and reviews.


  43. August 8, 2014 at 1:04 pm

    Reblogged this on R. Leonia Shea.


  44. August 8, 2014 at 3:04 pm

    Reblogged this on Sally Ember, Ed.D. and commented:
    Who knew sampling would overtake covers, genre and anything else to consider for readers? Ebooks are now on an even par with print books for readers who access both, for sure!


    • August 8, 2014 at 3:07 pm

      Glad you found it interesting! Thanks for the reblog.

      Liked by 1 person

    • August 8, 2014 at 9:56 pm

      I suspect that the other factors brought the reader to the book and that reading the sample is the final, common, buying decision. So, if you got there from a recommendation, browsing the genre on Amazon and being attracted by the cover, blurb, and maybe the reviews, or whatever, most people will have “reading the sample” as their common activity.

      Liked by 1 person

  45. August 8, 2014 at 11:25 pm

    I’m about to release a children’s picture book on Amazon, and I have a new audiobook that I narrated fresh on the market, too. I’m marketing both with heavy online promo, so this is a very well-times blog for me to see!

    The big question I have: HOW does one know if one has a winning cover, blub, sample or not? Obviously, no author ever sets out to put out a stinker cover, blurb, or sample – yet they are undeniably scads and scads of them out there, so clearly we can’t go by our own “gut feeling” on the matter. Hmmmm, other than asking family and friends who may or may not really know, what kind of things can indie authors use as a litmus test for these crucial elements BEFORE putting them out live on Amazon, et al? Thoughts, anyone?
    – Marie


    • August 8, 2014 at 11:54 pm

      Hi Marie, and welcome! Your question really is the holy grail of questions, isn’t it… the best advice I can give you is to get feedback from as many people as you can, and make as many of them you can be people you trust. Online forums could help if you’re a member of any of them. I would also check out as many published books in your genre as you possibly can, and use them as benchmarks. There are common traits to all of them, and they’re there for a reason: because they work. Good luck!


    • August 17, 2014 at 5:52 pm

      Goodreads has groups that give cover critiques, or at least some groups have sections for cover critiques (https://www.goodreads.com/topic/group_folder/220417?group_id=50920). I changed my cover after it got mixed reviews on there.


      • August 17, 2014 at 11:55 pm

        That’s really good to know – thanks for passing that on. Invaluable information for publishing authors.


  46. August 9, 2014 at 9:14 pm

    Reblogged this on The Peers of Beinan series on Word Press and commented:
    This post from Tara Sparling offers useful information and analysis for marketing independent books.


  47. August 9, 2014 at 10:15 pm

    My book, SI Dimensional Equivalents, was purchased by a few people. However, my self publishing cost for on-demand printing was simply too much ($60/copy). The book would be well priced at, say, $29/copy but that would require a big established market. So, I have a chicken & egg challenge.


    • August 10, 2014 at 1:09 am

      I can’t pretend to know a lot about the costs of print-on-demand, but that seems nigh on extortionate. Have you a huge amount of graphics? Would e-books be a far better option?


    • August 11, 2014 at 1:43 am

      Are you dealing with a printer or a book printer? There is a really big difference…my book printers, POD my books and retail list is $30 & $18 for Hardcover and Paperback respectfully and I’m on Ingrams, so I have world-wide distribution. I sell them at events for $25 & $15 each and so do most online stores since they don’t need to make that 40% independent stores need. And I started my own publishing company, which so far only carries my own books…so aside from the Publisher imprint, I’m probably still considered a self-published by most people. My printer on the otherhand, I can sell books for less than he can print them…doesn’t keep me from using him for things like bookmarks and business cards, but not for books.

      Liked by 2 people

      • August 14, 2014 at 9:54 pm

        I did the same with my own books; essentially setting up as a publisher. I partnered with an old-line tiny subsidy publisher, she taught me the business and then sold it to me when she wanted to retire. I set up an account with LSI, which offered Ingram distribution – but I do local events and talks – especially to historical associations and book clubs, and sell directly. It doesn’t put me in the mega-mega-best selling category, but I am out there and known locally.

        I agree very much about the importance of the sample – the look-inside feature. When I was doing reviews of books for various on-line sites, I wouldn’t even consider reviewing, until I had checked out the sample. Cover – meh. Blurb could be deceptive, but a chapter or two didn’t often lie about what I would find in reading the whole thing.

        Liked by 2 people

  48. August 11, 2014 at 2:38 am

    Reblogged this on bhalsop and commented:
    Tara Sparling is a wealth of information, and this post, in particular, shows what the money should be used for to market a self-pub ebook!


  49. August 11, 2014 at 3:04 pm

    Reblogged this on Darryl Donaghue and commented:
    This is a fantastic and informative article by Tara Sparling on what influences purchase decisions in the self-published market. This is another great blog I’ll be following; thanks for working so hard to bring us great information.


    • August 11, 2014 at 4:11 pm

      Thanks for the kind words, the re-blog, and making Monday not as terrible as usual!


  50. August 11, 2014 at 3:09 pm

    Great post! I’ve just placed a well deserved vote for you in the Blog awards. Good luck!


    • August 11, 2014 at 4:12 pm

      Now you have me bright red. Which is almost a blessing, as I’m stuck inside with not even one sunny spell to enjoy today 🙂


  51. August 13, 2014 at 11:52 pm

    Reblogged this on Taylor Grace and commented:
    A fantastic post by Tara Sparling! Thank you so much to Winter Bayne for finding it!


  52. John Stickler
    August 14, 2014 at 1:39 am

    Ideally, a book buyer wouldn’t even know whether a title is self-published or not; Amazon is very careful not to mention the publisher of any of their books.
    I do my book shopping in bookstores and drugstores and they don’t carry self-published titles. If I buy a book on line it is because I’m familiar with the author (or read a review) or someone recommended it to me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • August 14, 2014 at 9:41 am

      It was like you read my mind, John… I was about to release today’s post, about how book covers shouldn’t immediately signal that a book is self-published, when I read your comment. Obviously I agree with you wholeheartedly.

      And that’s an interesting point about Amazon not blaring details of the publisher; I’d never thought about that before.

      Liked by 1 person

    • August 14, 2014 at 4:31 pm

      If you scroll down to the statistics section on a book, Amazon will show the publisher if there is one. Example: http://www.amazon.com/That-Which-Human-Bruce-Davis-ebook/dp/B003URRS6E scroll down to: Product Details, 4th item.


      • August 14, 2014 at 4:43 pm

        Hi Al. You’re right to point that out. I was thinking more of the fact that Amazon don’t emblazon the publisher details alongside the title and author, like you might expect, but yes, you can see the publisher if you scroll down far enough. It makes me wonder if the placement of those details is intentional or incidental.


        • August 14, 2014 at 5:37 pm

          Amazon is in the business of selling stuff. The name of the publisher probably doesn’t make much of a difference in the buying decision. Amazon will naturally put the enticing stuff at the top of the page. The rest of the stuff, lower down, is for those who are anal about such things.


          • August 14, 2014 at 5:43 pm

            What, like us, you mean? You’d be right.

            Seriously, though, you’d think that Amazon would be proclaiming their own status as publisher in that case, to promote themselves.


            • August 14, 2014 at 6:46 pm

              That won’t sell books. In fact, if Amazon touted themselves as publisher, it might reduce sales. If there is no publisher, they just don’t show that line. If you think that having a publisher is important, get one to publish you and share the wealth with them (they should at least give you 50% of their gross proceeds for eBooks, much less for paper). I like having a publisher, but that’s just me. Many previously-published authors are going “Indi” and doing all the work themselves so they can keep all the money. Some indi authors are getting publishers (after they get popular) so they can concentrate on writing and marketing without worrying about the distribution chain, returns, and such.

              What’s right for you may not work for someone else. It’s a decision you can change when your next book is ready to publish (assuming you haven’t tied your future work into an exclusive contract).

              Liked by 1 person

          • August 18, 2014 at 12:24 am

            I belonged to an early indy-writer support group a couple of years ago, which started with a couple of purposes – swap strategies for marketing, and to encourage us to write the very best books that we could – and one of the early contributors pointed out that if readers looooooovvved the book, they could care less who had published it. That’s it; if the writing is good, the cover design what is expected for the genre, the blurb promises what the book delivers … if they love it, readers so not care if the book was published by one of the Big Five, or by an indy author with a Tiny Publishing Bidness. They Do Not Care.
            This was pointed out to us by one of the most experienced members; she’s a nice retired missionary living in the mid-west, who writes Christian fiction and historicals, who has twenty or more under her belt, and is one of the most relentless personal marketers that I know of. She’s been an indy author for two decades, near as I can figure, so I guess that she would know what she’s talking about.

            Liked by 1 person

            • August 18, 2014 at 12:45 pm

              Great point, Celia. I suppose the thing is never to make readers aware of who published the book by making the overall package as professional and seamless as possible.

              So easy to do of course it’s a wonder writers spend any time talking about it at all!

              Liked by 1 person

  53. August 14, 2014 at 2:52 am

    Reblogged this on Infinitefreetime.com and commented:
    This post has been burning up the internet in the last couple of days, and for good reason. Give it a look, if you’re an indie author.


  54. August 14, 2014 at 4:01 pm

    Great post and very useful information. I will share this link with members of my Memoir Writers Workshop who might be considering self-publishing. I self-published and have no regrets in doing so!


    • August 14, 2014 at 4:38 pm

      That’s good to hear. Nobody should ever regret self-publishing. At its worst, it’s a learning experience, no need to wish it any other way.


  55. August 14, 2014 at 4:15 pm

    Wow! Really interesting! Thank you!


    • August 14, 2014 at 4:37 pm

      Not a bother! Thanks for visiting, and signing the guestbook 😉


  56. August 15, 2014 at 12:21 am

    I am very fond of this post, Tara. Some good info here.
    Yes, I’ve always thought covers were very important, but on my very first effort I had trouble finding one and settled for one that I didn’t think would work. However, the 600 copies printed didn’t last 6 weeks. Yes, 100 sold to people who knew me, but perhaps the others went because the cover made the customers curious.
    It will be coming out again as an ebook so you can see the original cover at Katie Lou’s Bookstore n’ More … http://katielousreviews.com/category/ebook/
    I’m also fond of your photo and if you look at my facebook author page you’ll see why.


    • August 15, 2014 at 10:32 am

      Hi Dave, I’ll check out those links when I get a chance, but I think your comment raises the question – do the authors themselves ever recognise the best covers for themselves? Sometimes we need to hand it over completely to an objective 3rd party (notwithstanding of course all the many traditionally-published authors who have quite rightly complained about the ham-fisted marketing and cover design foisted upon them by disinterested publishers).


  57. August 15, 2014 at 1:12 am

    Thanks for passing along the results of your survey. Very interesting. I’ve used the supported self publishing route for two books and I’m pretty pleased with the results. I gain editorial design and marketing help plus getting the books into all the bright online places in the world. So far so good. Where I fall down is the marketing that is involved but new opportunities continue to arise. Your results help me to now decide where to put some weight.


    • August 15, 2014 at 10:36 am

      I know a couple of authors who have had excellent experiences with assisted publishing too. I’m a big fan myself (provided of course it’s a reputable player, and not one of the many industry rip-offs). I’m very glad my little post has helped you a bit!


  58. August 15, 2014 at 9:32 am

    Hi Tara,
    Great to meet you last night. When I get a chance, I will trawl the blog, man up and commit to publishing.


    • August 15, 2014 at 9:35 am

      Conor – I do believe we just had the online equivalent of crossed lines! I was just on a flying visit over at your blogging house and loved what I saw. Great to meet you last night and I will be watching intently for that book you most certainly have to write.


  59. August 16, 2014 at 9:11 am

    I’ m e-published by http://www.museituppublishing and found this blog very interesting. My publisher and I are promoting my books blurbs, reviews, samples, book covers etc.

    All the best,
    Rosemary Morris
    Historical Novelist


  60. August 16, 2014 at 9:17 pm

    Hi Tara,
    Very interesting post. I was surprised to find out that samples was the top reason, but it makes sense. Self-pubbing, assisted or not, has a reputation for putting out inferior works. If someone can read a sample from an author, regardless of self-pub or trad-pub, they will realize the quality of the work.
    I know there are authors out there who, upon rising in the morning, start a new book, then publish it before retiring that night. That’s insane. Striving to do the best work is important, regardless of the publisher.
    My first book was with a micro-publisher – huge mistake. The two since then have been assisted self-pubbed. What a huge difference, on every level!
    Recently, I added a new tab on my website – a chapter from each of the books in my series, including the 2 books not yet published.
    Thanks to your survey, I now know I have to make more people aware of those chapters, and the other information about the series on my website.


    • August 17, 2014 at 10:02 am

      Hi Dayna! Pleased to meet you.

      On samples, I wouldn’t say that they were the “top” reason, so much as the sample was cited by more people – but in conjunction with other things. As it says in the post, many people rely on samples to make the final buying decision, but the teaser has no effect upon what makes people pick it up in the first place. So yes, the sample of your work is very important: but only once you’ve got the readers past the first hurdle or two. The very best of luck with your books and thanks for visiting!


  61. August 17, 2014 at 3:23 pm

    Great insights AND I love your writing style!


  62. August 18, 2014 at 2:58 pm

    Hi Tara, this is a VERY interesting and useful post!

    I just published it on my Google+ profile and also shared this link with my members in the Self-Publishing and Book Marketing Google Community:

    Best regards and have a nice day 😉


  63. August 18, 2014 at 3:14 pm

    The only category I’d add would be the title of the book. If the title intrigues me then I take a closer look at the cover. However, for me, I’d say title and back cover blurb influence me the most.

    Liked by 1 person

    • August 18, 2014 at 4:48 pm

      Hi MaryAnn – yes, I’m a sucker for a good title, myself. Especially the quirky ones!


  64. raeanneroy
    August 18, 2014 at 3:38 pm

    Hearing the author read from their book sometimes hooks me.


    • August 18, 2014 at 4:51 pm

      That’s a coincidence- the book I’m about to finish today was chosen for precisely that reason!

      The only thing is, I heard the author read at a book festival, so it’s often only the already well-established authors who can make use of this channel.


  65. August 18, 2014 at 6:28 pm

    Reblogged this on The Sorrow Song Trilogy and commented:
    Anyone wondering about this question that plagues indie authors should read this!


  66. August 19, 2014 at 2:01 am

    Interesting, Tara!!! 😉 The scientific method you used is very cutting edge, congrats on that! 🙂 😉
    I think your findings are pretty much accurate… there’s not a lot that came overcome a Truly Bad “first three” on the score chart. 🙂
    Thanks for sharing with us!!!


    • August 19, 2014 at 9:55 am

      I know. I’m surprised the greater scientific world hasn’t adopted my superior methods of tiny sample sizes, graphic creative licence and complete lack of peer review already. It would save soooo much time 😉

      Still, it satisfied a few curiousities!


  67. August 19, 2014 at 6:09 am

    Hi, Tara!

    I stumbled onto your blog because someone linked to this post on Google+. You’ve got some REALLY interesting stuff here 🙂

    I’m including this on a list of readables in one of my posts (and I’ll probably be stalking through your older posts); I hope you don’t mind. 🙂

    Just a quick question on the people you surveyed: did you find any trends in terms of demographics? It’s not that I don’t think self-published authors shouldn’t work on all the elements you’ve pinpointed; it’s just that I’m curious if certain groups of people are more drawn to one element compared to another. It might help if, say, you’re hoping to target a group based on the genre you’re writing for.

    In any case, thanks for this post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • August 19, 2014 at 10:00 am

      Stalk away, I don’t mind!

      I don’t have demographics I’m afraid, but suffice to say that the respondents would have had to have been very engaged with bookish social media, or else they wouldn’t have found the questions in order to respond in the first place. Many are writers themselves.

      Outside of this group I would imagine those most engaged with self-published work to be YA readers, and that’s a whole different survey.

      Glad you enjoyed it though, and hope you find other stuff of interest here, I’ve been pontificating for a while 🙂


      • August 19, 2014 at 11:48 am

        Thanks for the clarification, Tara! 🙂

        Now this kind of makes me want to do my own research on the marketability of self-published books.

        I’m really enjoying your stuff so far, and I’m looking forward to your future posts. o7



        • August 19, 2014 at 4:37 pm

          Thanks to you too, Elea! Delighted that you feel like hanging about for a spell 🙂

          There’s tons of research waiting to be done on this – and always worth doing. I’ll look forward to your findings!


  68. August 19, 2014 at 4:05 pm

    Good day, Tara. This showed up on my Facebook feed, I dropped in for a read, and was immediately hooked. You seem to have an intuitive knack for getting at underlying causes and effects of issues important to writers. I signed up to follow, and intend to cite your findings on my blog tomorrow, with link and full credit, of course! Fabulous work on this tricky subject, and I hope to be reading many more informative issues in the days and weeks to come; you’ve changed my outlook already.


    • August 19, 2014 at 4:50 pm

      Wow, Jack, I damn near broke out into a rash there – Irish people can have severe allergic reactions to strong praise, you know. But thank you 😉

      Please come back and tell us if you get any interesting feedback yourself, there’s even more information in the comments now than in the post, methinks.

      I hope to deliver even more helpful stuff in the weeks to come – interspersed with a little fictional messing, as I’m on holidays!


      • August 19, 2014 at 9:19 pm

        Hi, Tara. When us Vikings like something, we tend to let everybody know about it… Which is why I’ll be posting about this tomorrow. Vital information for my fellow indies, and I want to share as much as possible. I don’t like to self-promote on other people’s walls, but I’ll say this once so you know where to find me, then I won’t bring it up again: http://steampunkjack.weebly.com/. My posts go up on Wednesdays, and are usually in place between 10 and 11 AM Pacific time, so 7-8 PM for you. This was a fabulous find, and a treasure trove of information, and I plan to add a permanent link section to valuable items in the next week or so, and this blog will have a prominent place therein.

        A pleasure meeting you, Milady! May the wind always fill your sails…


        • August 20, 2014 at 12:05 am

          Great stuff, Jack, I’ll keep an eye out for it. Thanks again – I’m off to get some sails now 😉


  69. JD Mader
    August 19, 2014 at 11:40 pm

    As an Indie author, I have always wondered about this. But math and I hate each other. Sometimes we fight with tire chains. Enjoyed seeing the stats. Pretty much how I had it figured, but it’s nice to have numbers … sometimes … I guess. 😉



    • August 21, 2014 at 9:33 am

      But you shouldn’t be afraid of numbers, JD. They’re terrible cowards and are often so shaky that they’re not able to defend themselves at all (see further graphs on this blog for evidence). Glad you enjoyed it!


  70. August 21, 2014 at 2:29 am

    Very interesting! Thanks for the information and insights.


  71. August 22, 2014 at 9:33 pm

    Great post. Very interesting, with lots of ‘food for thought’.


  72. August 23, 2014 at 9:32 am

    Nice little survey. One thing that is particularly interesting is that a third of the people make the decision based on genre. And a large portion make the decision based on the cover.

    I’ll bet they actually use a combination of these things. Of course, people look for a certain genre. Once you get there, the first thing you see is the cover. If it’s a cool cover, you take a look at the content sample. If it catches your attention right off, and seems to be well-edited and well-written, then you look at price.

    I won’t buy an ebook for more than $7.99, I don’t care who wrote it. I don’t usually buy anything less than $2.99 because it tells me it’s not very good. I like to see self-published books between $3.99 and $5.99. It tells me the author has some pride in his work. If he’s done it right, then he’s also got some cash invested.

    Thanks for doing all that work.


    • August 23, 2014 at 11:27 am

      My pleasure, thanks to you also for your feedback. The price issue in particular is one I think authors struggle with and data like this is very important.

      Liked by 1 person

      • August 23, 2014 at 1:31 pm

        I agree that price is/should really be a major determining factor – it’s the reason why I won’t buy new hardbacks anymore for starters (not even if they’re Terry Pratchett Discworld books). And the nail has been hit squarely on the head for eBooks – anything below £2 is generally a stinker unless it’s a very skimpy novella.

        Liked by 1 person

    • August 23, 2014 at 3:42 pm

      We kicked around the pricing issue in the indy-writers group that I belonged to, when the Kindle/Nook e books first came out, and we pretty much agreed that 2.99-5.99 was the sweet spot for a full-length novel. Anything less was undervaluing your work, anything more was pricing yourself out of range.

      Liked by 1 person

  73. wearethefrugalfamily
    August 29, 2014 at 10:42 pm

    Reblogged this on Rambling Quill.


  74. T.J. Hargett
    August 30, 2014 at 12:06 am

    Interesting post, excellent job! I have self-published a book “The Most Powerful Way to Live” and I have sold about 250 going door to door this summer. The majority of people say no but the ones who say yes seem to be willing to pay the 20 dollars because they like the fact that I am showing initiative and pursuing my dream. The other group of people who buy read the kind of book I am selling so they are willing to take the chance on my book.

    Has anyone else out there tried to sell door to door? Its tough to take the rejection and to see people blow off what you spent years sculpting but that price has been worth it due to the fact many have bought a copy.



    • September 1, 2014 at 5:57 pm

      Hi T.J. – I’m not sure if many people sell door-to-door anymore, but I know John Grisham did start off by selling from the boot of his car. It’s a tough way of going about it when most self-published books are tending to sell online. It would be interesting to hear how you get on.


      • September 2, 2014 at 12:07 am

        I don’t sell door to door, but I do know of another indy-author, Janet Elaine Smith, who always has a box of her books in the trunk of her car, and pitches to everyone who casually asks what she does.

        I do craft and neighborhood markets, when the table fee is not much above $40-50 dollars, especially around Christmastime, when people are coming shopping for Christmas gifts. Two of my best and usually most profitable venues are Christmas on the Square in Goliad, Texas – where the table is free, thanks to a local enthusiast who has organized an author ‘corral’ for years, and another is the New Braunfels Christmas Market, which runs over four days and benefits a local museum. Both of those venues are worthwhile to me, because of the local history angle. I had another event a year or so ago at a local university where did barely OK in sales, but picked up a number of fans who loved the books, so in the long run the effort was well-worth it.

        I had another author friend, who had a historical novel about a certain event – the massacre of Texans at the Goliad presidio – and he got himself into the yearly reenactment event, which was incredibly well-attended, by people who were passionately interested in that event.

        I’d encourage indy authors to think outside the ‘big-box’ store – and to remember that when you are selling books in a bookstore, you are competing against every other book and author represented on the shelves. Selling at a local market event – well then – what is your competition, and how much more visible are you, in contrast?

        Liked by 1 person

        • September 3, 2014 at 9:42 am

          That’s really helpful info, Celia – brilliant stuff.


  75. August 31, 2014 at 5:31 pm

    Very insightful post! Thx for sharing your ‘graphing’ talents with us. As a hybrid author who migrated from traditional self-publishing, I’m really interested in your findings.


    • September 1, 2014 at 5:59 pm

      Great stuff Doreen, thank you, and I hope the migration is going well!


  76. Dawn
    September 4, 2014 at 4:46 am

    While I am not a self published author, I am a new author and one contracted to a traditional, yet small, publishing house, so I relate to most advice to self published authors. I am dreading the first bad review, but I know it is important and I know it is coming. I do hope that most people will give an author a chance even if they only have 8 reviews and they are all 5 star. My novel had eight 5 stars on Amazon, it now has eight 5 and one 4 star on there. I only know two of the people who gave me the 5 star reviews, one personally and one who won my book in a contest. I also know the one who gave me 4 stars personally as well. I have had great and glowing reviews on many other sites and know none of the people who have given me the reviews. It has made me look at my opinion of 5 star reviews a little closer. I had always thought the same thing, too many glowing reviews and the people must know them or have given them a free book in exchange for a good review. I hope people do not look to unkindly upon my book as it gains recognition. It only has a few reviews and its amazon score is not high, but it is raising.


    • September 4, 2014 at 10:38 am

      Hi Dawn. Congratulations on your publication and stellar reviews, and I hope they keep coming! The most important thing for book sales is merely that you gather lots of reviews, regardless of what they say (unless they’re all 1 star, of course).

      I think the impact upon you is really dependent on what you think a bad review is. For you, is it 3 stars, with some positive commentary, and some negative? Because I would think that’s just an average, in the mathematical sense. Or is it 1 star with nothing positive to say at all? Many authors I’ve spoken to have just set the bar very high and have ended up very disappointed as a result.


  77. Layna
    September 16, 2014 at 12:41 am

    Reblogged this on Layna Pimentel and commented:
    An excellent post. Food for thought…


  78. Joshua M Swenson
    November 7, 2014 at 3:10 am

    So glad that I found this and that you’re posting on this topic. Will be sure to read more of your stuff. Thanks for sharing! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  79. December 28, 2014 at 9:12 pm

    For me it is, without a doubt, the cover. If the cover isn’t well-done or engaging, I won’t bother. Case in point, my book group will be critiquing Shine, Shine, Shine by Lydia Netzer next month. The star cover is terrible and even though I am interested in the plot, I have yet to get the book. The above graph tells me that I can give myself a break when it comes to judging a book by its cover.


    • December 29, 2014 at 10:12 am

      That’s very interesting, Tyra- i looked up that cover and I can see that it tells absolutely nothing about the book… Something an author friend recently said worried her greatly about her own novel. The cover for Shine Shine Shine is an oddity, i would agree.

      You should definitely give yourself a break about your reaction to covers! It’s the first gut instinct anyone has to a book and therefore, I believe, the most important.


  80. January 18, 2015 at 6:14 am

    Great article, very interesting.


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