Book Marketing Survey

Last week, some friends and I were discussing over dinner what makes us pick up a book by an author we’ve never read before. We all had different and interesting answers and it made me want to hear more.

So, I ask you: What persuades you to try a book by someone new to you? When you walk into a bookstore, what makes one stand out amongst all the competition? Conversely, what qualities would absolutely deter you from reading or even sampling a book?

Some of my own reasons are pretty mundane so there are no ridiculous answers. The more impassioned and subjective you are, the better!



  • Reply
    Shelley P
    September 8, 2009 at 1:03 am

    That’s a great question, PCN! And a great topic for dinner party conversation – I’ll file that away in the memory banks. If it has a dull cover, I won’t pick it up in the first place. {Ok, I can be shallow.} If it has a cover illustration that appeals to me, I’ll read the cover/dust jacket. If it’s a mystery, I’ll give it a tick. If it looks like there’s humour in the writing, two ticks. Then I take my chances. But it’s all hypothetical for me nowadays, because outside of books that are given to me or new releases from favourite authors, I’m flat out working my way through my “PCN list let alone picking up ‘cold’ books. 🙂

  • Reply
    September 8, 2009 at 1:39 am

    I have a few reasons:

    Word of mouth from a reputable source, i.e. review in a publication or recommendation from someone I trust.

    If the author has won major awards in the past (Pulitzer, Man Booker Prize, the Edgar), that’s a big plus. Eye-catching covers help, too.

  • Reply
    September 8, 2009 at 6:41 am

    In the public library: I peruse the new book shelf, particularly the scifi section, as I know that’s what I like. The title is what will induce me to pick up the book and read the description. A recent one was “Breathers” also “Vow of Silence.” If I like the description, I’ll read it.

    Electronically: I keep a list on LibraryThing of what I’ve read. It automatically generates recommendations based on this list as well as a list of recommendations from other LibraryThing users specific to books I’ve read. Kind of a reader’s advisory “If you like this book, you might like that one.”

    Also, as a librarian I keep up with pre-pub information on new books coming out. Those brief descriptions and categories will lead me to try out a new author.

    Finally, of course friends! If a friend has read a book and liked it, I will give it a shot.

  • Reply
    September 8, 2009 at 7:16 am

    “What persuades you to try a book by someone new to you?”

    Cover art. [I know it’s highly frowned upon, but there it is]

    A quote by an author I do read and enjoy on the cover. [This also works in reverse]

    Friend recommendations.

    Proximity to authors I know I like. [This often backfires, but alas, if your name is in the B, G or H range, I have checked out your books]

    If my sister reviewed it on her blog:

  • Reply
    September 8, 2009 at 8:07 am

    Sadly – cover art does influence me & I prefer drawings to photographs

    I usually won’t pick it up if it says something about a major motion picture (unless I’ve heard good word of mouth)

    Interesting title ; I like funny books so it can absurd but not too punny.

    Something indicating it’s about another country/culture/time period. I tend to be fussy about getting details more or less right so if it’s not about mainstream modern American culture, I like a blurb about the author so I can gauge how much they might know about what they are writing.

    Info on any awards the author has been nominated for or won

    Word of mouth from friends &/or reviews on NPR or publications I trust

    Recommendations from Amazon, LibraryThing

  • Reply
    September 8, 2009 at 8:54 am

    I tend to do the usual drive by in the new section of any library or bookstore and then just start wandering. I get lost in bookstores. What I pick up is so random. Admittedly, I will avoid it if the cover is pink and has a very thin girl in her 20s on the cover, but my usual rule of thumb is if the first four or five lines grab me, then it will stay in my arms all the way to checkout.

  • Reply
    September 8, 2009 at 10:09 am

    I stay out of the Self Help section and gravitate toward the Mystery, Sci-Fi, Art and the New sections, book covers are like business cards in that they have to stand out a bit on some level. Colors grab me alot, but, as we all know, a strong color rarely equals substance between the bindings.

    More times than naught, I will just browse a section until I find something. Never enough time to spend in a bookstore!

  • Reply
    September 8, 2009 at 10:14 am

    I haven’t really put a lot of thought on it… but I think that I pay a lot of attention on the cover art (same as a lot above), or I was recommended by a friend or somebody I trust as a “critic” (I know a few people I would classify as that).

    There’s a lot about what the book says about itself… y’know? The back cover text (how is it called?), reviews, and so on.

    I tend to buy a lot of fantasy (mainly gothic and sword&sorcery) and historical novels; then there’s thrillers and mystery and so on.

    I really don’t know. I’ve been known for buying books with lame covers and little or no back-cover text, just because the title intrigues me.

    I think the main reason would be curiosity. If a book -wether by its cover, reviews, the first lines, or its title itself- intrigues me, then I’ll walk with it to the checkout.

  • Reply
    September 8, 2009 at 12:34 pm

    I pick the books that jump out at me. Yes, I read the first line or two to see if the words live up the the cover art, but the look is what grabs me first.

  • Reply
    September 8, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    Half of the time for me, it’s what friends (analog and digital) have read and enjoyed. The other half involves perusing reviews (again, analog and digital) or scanning book synopses of releases (old or new). I guess I’m all over the place when it comes to trying out someone new, but it works for me. Thanks, PCN.

  • Reply
    September 8, 2009 at 6:49 pm

    I buy a lot from Amazon and sometimes they’ll recommend another author I might like based on books I’ve purchased in the past. If it looks interesting, I’ll click on it to see what kind of reviews it’s getting.

    I also like to try out books from small presses. They have smaller budgets so I figure they’ve got to be REALLY picky about the manuscripts they buy.

  • Reply
    September 8, 2009 at 8:28 pm

    The cover has to be awesome. Make it beautiful, non-generic and relevant to the book. I hate just seeing a city skyline that you know somebody just grabbed from some photographer’s stock portfolio. Don’t be lazy; be creative!

    But that’s just the beginning. After the cover grabs my attention, the writing has to deliver on the promise. First paragraph, first few pages have to make it impossible for me to put the book back on the shelf.

    And here’s a weird quirk I have which no one else mentioned. How the words look on the pages is important to me. The font the book uses and the spacing have to be pleasing to the eye. If it’s a distracting font or if the size is too small or the text is too crowded because there’s not enough spacing between paragraphs and in the margins, I won’t read it because I don’t want the eye strain.

  • Reply
    September 8, 2009 at 9:35 pm

    Everybody’s pretty much covered how I choose my books so I’ll just address the last part of your question.

    If it’s got James Patterson’s name on it anywhere, as the author or in a blurb, I ain’t reading it.

  • Reply
    September 8, 2009 at 10:02 pm

    The main grabber for me is a big fat sticker of any award(s) the author has won, even if the person was only a finalist. If it’s won the Pulitzer or the National Book Award, chances are very high I’ll buy the book and will continue to buy that author in the future. I’d take a look at a book even if it’s only been blurbed by an award-winning writer or a well-respected one, not necessarily a bestselling one, which means nothing to me.

    And I hate to say it but size matters. If it’s small enough to fit in my bag, it has a better chance of making it into my bag. If it’s big, thick and unwieldy, I don’t want to sit down with it. I’m not saying I can’t handle a 1000-page tome, just make the paper thinnner and the font smaller.

  • Reply
    September 9, 2009 at 9:52 am

    I am always looking for something worth chasing down the movie rights to. It has to grab me. Title or story is what drives me. Sometimes a title is so good it will give me an idea for a story I want to write even though it has nothing to do with what the book is actually about. Books are an all around creative outlet. Bookstores are still the candy stores of my youth.

  • Reply
    September 10, 2009 at 6:32 am

    For authors new to me:

    Friend recommendations/word-of-mouth.

    Author interviews on NPR or other media

    Comparisons to other authors. For instance, I picked up my first Robert Crais book because his works were favorably compared to Gregory Mcdonald’s Fletch series. (The books, not the movies.)

    Title/cover. This doesn’t always work well for me. A couple of books that I picked up years ago, but I’ve yet to read: “Nibbled to Death by Ducks” by Robert Campbell, and “Killed in the Ratings” that had an image of a TV anchorman slumped over a news desk. Sounded clever.

    Books that are set in the region where I live. Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi.

  • Reply
    September 10, 2009 at 4:28 pm

    If there are immediate paperback versions or audio cds of the book…(to me) it is an indication that the book is popular and successful. Call it “The Bandwagon” effect, but popularity ratings are nothing to be sneezed at.

  • Reply
    Cara Powers
    September 15, 2009 at 4:46 pm

    Cover art, cover art, cover art. I don’t care what anyone else has to say about the book. I want a good ACCURATE synopsis.

  • Reply
    Amy Jacobs
    September 22, 2009 at 3:22 pm

    I hate to say it but if the cover art doesn’t look good then I wouldn’t buy it. I want it to tell me with just a look what I would be reading about. Does that make sense?!LOL

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      September 22, 2009 at 3:37 pm

      Yes, absolutely! I do that, too. If the cover’s a mess, I probably wouldn’t give it a second glance.

  • Reply
    Ian@ Book Marketing
    April 11, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    For me…if I’m in a store it goes like this:

    Cool Cover Art (Book in hand now)
    catchy title
    explanatory subtitle
    (Flip book over) Look for testimonials
    Back cover copy (read to see if it’s something I’m really interested in.
    (Open book) Read a couple of lines to see if I’m riveted to the page.

    Great question!

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