As an author who is strongly considering self-publication, I’ve been paying a lot of attention to what makes me choose one book over another. I’ve analyzed my habits, and I’m curious how closely my process mirrors your own, if at all?
There are about two dozen authors who are automatic buys for me – their books are pre-ordered as soon as that becomes an option. Some of my automatic buys include Nora Roberts, Janet Evanovich, Stephanie Bond, Catherine Coulter, Gerry Bartlett, Cheryl Bolen, Colleen Thompson and Mary Kay Andrews – these are authors I know I can depend on to entertain me.
However, I’m a bookaholic, so my favorite authors don’t keep me supplied in reading material. In fact, their books make up a very small percentage of the books on my shelves. These days, I am most likely to shop for new books on Amazon. I still love Barnes and Nobel and miss Borders, but by and large, I’m downloading from Amazon for my Kindle.
When I am perusing the shelves for a new book, the cover is the first thing to catch my attention. I like a cover where the title and author’s name are easy to read. The cover needs to reflect the genre and set the tone. Pictures shouldn’t be too busy or dark. I’m drawn to bold, bright colors.
If the cover has drawn my attention, I’ll read the back cover blurb. Bad grammar, misspelled words and difficult fonts will immediately cause a rejection. I am looking for a concise description of the characters and plot. This description needs to accurately reflect the tone of the book. If this is a debut book for this author, I want that information, also.
Next, I’ll check the copyright date. I prefer to read a book published within the last few years. That’s not to say I won’t read something with an older pub date, but I want to know before making the purchase that this story is set when there were no cell phones or when smoking was the norm.
Now it’s time to check the price. If it’s under three dollars, chances are I’ll put it in my cart – end of decision. For higher priced books, I’m going to look for a list of other published works by this author. The number of books published greatly influences how much I’m willing to spend — the longer the list, the more I’ll pay.
Another way I frequently choose books is from the free or discounted web sites, such as Book Bub, Book Bassett and Story Finds (to name a few). These are free subscription services that offer books for free or at a significantly discounted price. I’ve discovered many new favorites with these services. I’ve also downloaded countless books that I deleted within the first few chapters. Bad editing, missing words, grammar or spelling mistakes will make me stop reading and delete the book, no matter how much I’m enjoying the story.
Most of my reading is done on a Kindle. I frequently take advantage of the opportunity offered by Amazon to download a sample, usually about three chapters. If I get to the end of the sample and I’m not anxious to turn the page and find out what happens next, I’m not going to buy the book. I can’t begin to estimate how many books have not made it beyond the sample phase for me.
This highlights the importance of a strong beginning, especially important for new, fledgling and self-published authors. Beyond making sure the spelling and grammar are perfect (yes, perfect!) you need to establish a plot that has me involved and anxious to find out how it will end. The protagonist must be someone that I care about and can relate to.
Beyond that, if you want me to buy your next book, or go looking for your back list, you must deliver a story that lives up to everything you promised in those first few pages.
At least, that how it works for me. I’d love to hear how this compares to your process! Thanks, and happy reading!
Terri Richison (writing as Terri Rich) lives in Clear Lake City, TX with her husband and a giant Great Dane (giant even by Great Dane standards). She is working on self-publishing women’s fiction and avoiding getting a pie in the face if she doesn’t produce pages for every critique session! PIES OR PAGES! Terri started telling stories almost as soon as she could talk – she learned everything she needed to know about storytelling at her grandmother’s knee. Craft however, is something she is still learning – those damn commas give me nightmares!