Author, Cover or Blurb – How do you choose a new book?

Author, Cover or Blurb – How do you choose a new book?

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 Rich

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!

10 thoughts on “Author, Cover or Blurb – How do you choose a new book?

  1. I’m still do most of my reading old school – hardcopy books that I hold in my hand and dog-ear pages as I move through the chapters. (And screw all you book purists who think dog-earing is sacrilege. I prefer a well-worn favorite rather than a pristine showpiece – but I digress) So for me, cover is the number one selling point. Yes, I suppose I have my favorite authors, but in fantasy, sequels often take a while to come out. Just ask Game of Thrones fans. So yes, covers are what grab me most, but like you, Terri, I expect the cover to be reflective of the genre and tone of the story inside. Once the cover grabs me, its back cover blurb time, and if that passes muster, then its inside to read the first one or two paragraphs of the book. That’s where I learn first person, third person. That’s where I see tone, pacing, and the author’s voice. So, yes, you’re right, stories must grab readers right away – at least in popular fiction. So I guess in a nutshell, I do Judge a Book By Its Cover (See HBA RWA JABBIC contest)

    1. So, after posting this, I realized I didn’t mention title – and I wondered if anyone would comment about that. So far, no one has. SO – does that meant titles don’t matter? I guess we are truly a visual society – show me the cover!

  2. You are stronger than I am when it comes to stopping a book. I feel guilty putting a book down that I’m not into. I keep thinking that maybe I haven’t given it enough of a chance so I keep reading. (seldom does my opinion change btw)

    I shop on Amazon too, my shopping methods are very similar to yours. I will also say, I tend to look at the average rating of the book. If 500 people think its four and a half stars, I will most likely try it out.

    1. Cassie – you are hereby granted permission to STOP READING A BOOK YOU ARE NOT INTO! Time is too precious, life is too short, there are too many good books waiting on you. But, I know exactly how you feel. I spent years doing the same thing – it was like after I read the first page, I had an obligation to see it all the way through to the end. That stopped when I realized that the author also has an obligation to keep me engaged and enjoying the story. I will say, however, that an author I’ve read and enjoyed before will get more leeway than someone I’ve never read before.
      After I posted this, I realized I didn’t mention title, and so far titles have not come up in the comments. So, are titles important to you?

  3. In these digital times, I check out Amazon’s Look Inside the Book feature. If the cover looks like my Aunt Molly made it, I skip the book. After that, I check out whatever LItB offers me.

    What I don’t like about LItB is that I usually can’t skip as far into the book as I’d like. Everybody who writes popular fiction has the importance of the first chapter drilled into their heads, but I’ve seen many a manuscript collapse around Chapter 4. So if this is an author who is new to me, I like to skip to about page 50 to see how things are going: Is the dialogue still interesting? Descriptions fresh? Grammar correct?

    I have so little free time these days that I’m much pickier than I used to be…

  4. Look Into The Book is a feature that I have not taken advantage of. I’ll have to try that out – it might keep me from downloading samples of books that just don’t make the cut. Interestingly, after I wrote this post, I realized I had not mentioned titles – and so far it has not come up in comments. So – what do you think – are titles important?

    1. I think samples are a great way of getting a feel for a book! Amazon usually cuts samples off at 10%, so that’s usually enough pages to tell whether the story nosedives on page 42… That would probably be my 3rd evaluation step, actually.

      I admit to being jaded re: titles. Back when Dead Reckoning was due for release, I was told by my editor that we’d have to come up with a new title for my story because another book using the same title — by a well-known author — was going to be re-released and Silhouette didn’t want any confusion about the two books. Well, given that my story was nautical and used the concept of dead reckoning as a metaphor throughout, I was reluctant to let it go. What other title would have suited? Fortunately, my wonderful editor managed the issue for me.

      But ever since, I’ve taken titles with a grain of salt…

      1. I agree Sandra – titles are more about what the marketing dept thinks will sell and don’t necessarily reflect the story. I can’t imagine a better title for Dead Reckoning than Dead Reckoning! It totally fit the book. Just for grins, I did a search on Amazon for Dead Reckoning – I stopped counting at 50 – 50 books with the title Dead Reckoning. That’s just crazy!

  5. Wow! Lots of threads here.

    How I choose: Yes, I have my auto- buys. Also, when I find a new author I like, I’ll usually start picking up her back list, and I guess you could say those kind of become mini-auto-buys. Unlike most others, the title does factor into my decision. I managed to escape my Harlequin years without receiving a “trope” title as I call them, but even so, I hate them. You know: Virgin Housekeeper Woos the Reclusive Billionaire or Teaching the Fireman to Love. Yuck! It takes a lot for me to buy something with those kinds of titles.

    I do like tongue in cheek titles, like Sara MacLean’s A Scot in the Dark or The Rogue Not Taken or titles that make it obvious you’re reading a series, like Born In Fire, Born in Ice and Born in Shame from Nora Roberts. Even more, I like it when I find the title in the book, like the aforementioned and fabulous Dead Reckoning. Generally, this helps me remember the title of a book. (I have to admit, I read so many, so fast, that I often forget titles, even though they are a big part of my buying decision.)

    As for cover: Number One, I have to find the people on the cover handsome. If something about them turns me off, I just can’t get that picture out of my mind, so I generally don’t buy the book. Number Two, like Sandra said, if has to look professional. If an author skimps on investing in a quality cover, I automatically assume they skimped on the editing and writing as well.

    After I read the blurb, if I’m still on the fence, I will look at the reviews. If several people mention spelling and/or editing issues, I pass. I try not to be too influenced by people’s opinion in reviews because that’s so subjective and because some people intentionally leave bad reviews to mess with an author’s career, but if more than one person mentions the same issue, I admit to giving it some weight.

    1. I will admit to being swayed by review comments about grammatical issues. Everything else is frequently a matter of taste — something that’s my cup of tea might not be yours — but comments about basic grammar will usually cause me to avoid the book.

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