Friday, February 03, 2012

How do you choose your books?

For most readers out there, there is nothing more special than going to the bookstore (offline or online) and browsing through all the books there, before buying one (or two, three, ten, twenty). Personally I'm interested in why someone picks up a particular book. I have listed a couple things that are important for me, before I buy a book.

* Cover 
For me this is the most important thing before I pick up a book. If I don't like a cover it's very unlikely I will ever pick up a book. Unless I've heard very positive things about the book. Publishers make the same sort of covers for books that match in style, genre and readers. So it's not really strange people pick a book by it's cover. And sometimes a book can really surprise you if you pick a different kind of cover than usual.

* Title
The first I notice about a book is the cover, but more importantly is the title. If I can't find a title or if it isn't readable, than I most likely will not pick up the book. It must be a title which makes me curious for a book. I think this is one of the most important things about a book.

* Synopsis
So if the covers is pretty enough and I have picked up the book, the first thing I do is read the synopsis. This one is really important for me. Between all the things this is the one which makes me really buy the book. But it has happened that I didn't like a synopsis and still bought the book. Good reviews can be a dealmaker too!

* Style of writing
If I still like the book after looking at the cover and reading the synopsis I start reading the book somewhere in the middle. I just open the book ad randum and start reading. In this way I don't know what's going on and I get a good idea of the style of writing. If I read a couple of pages without "noticing" the style is good! Most of the time I buy the book by now.

* Reviews
I'm really good at expressing my own opinion and it's kinda hard to make me think differently, especially when it comes to books. If I like a book, I like it and no matter how many bad reviews there are I will still like it. Luckily for me it doesn't work the other way around. If I don't have high hopes for a book, it can be changed by good reviews. I read reviews if I'm not sure if I will like the story.

* Author
There are some authors out there who I think are really good! I choose to buy their books without looking at the cover or reading the synopsis. Sometimes I'm more hesitant. Expecially if the authors write series and start writing other books, then it's the reviews that are of the most influence.

* Recommendations
I love websites like Goodreads and Amazon. Both have their great things, but one thing they have in common: they give great recommendations! (okay, actually they have two things in common, also the reviews) With the recommendations I always pick up new books. I'm a reader who goes back and forward between being scared that I won't have enough time to read all the books I want and that there will be a point where I don't know what to read anymore, because I can't find any great books. It's a bit silly, but luckily for me it has never happened that I really ran out of great books to read.

* Publisher
A couple of weeks ago I discussed this topic with some other readers and one of them said that she had a couple of publishers which books she always bought without looking at the synopsis etc. Personally I've never really noticed this, but it started me thinking about it. And there are a couple of publishers I really like (according to my book collection). So I added this to my list of things to look at before I pick up a book.

So what are your conditions before buying a book?


  1. Interesting thoughts about how you choose your books. Your first two, the cover and the title, are two areas where authors have limited if not zero input. Authors are at the mercy of art directors and the marketing department when it comes to the cover. Editors often have a lot of input on the title, too. Of course this in traditional publishing and not self-publishing or even some e-books where authors have more input.

    I've sat in many discussions where authors lament their covers. I'm thinking of one in particular, an early book of Christina Dodd that displayed a 3-armed heroine. You have to wonder when those things happen....

    1. I'm an intern at a Dutch publishing house, so I know how books are made. That's why I don't completely agree with your first argument. Your right that authors have little to say about the cover and/or title, but what to you think about the content? There are made a lot of changes there to by editors. But it's part of the publishing industry.
      Every person along the way to publish the book thinks about reaching out to the right public. I've seen authors make their own covers, those wouldn't sell (of course there are exceptions). And what about titles? Seriously, some people are really bad at thinking about titles. I want to add that a lot of times an author does get a say in it. Well, at least here they do, also with the cover :)

    2. Hi Helene, Sorry for being out of pocket. :)

      I think covers play a huge part in the way the majority of potential buyers start the process. A cover that makes a huge visual impact, especially in a display, can attract many potential buyers. Where I see a disconnect is when readers assume the author had a large hand in the cover design or even the title. When it's bad, they blame the author. :)

      Sometimes covers can be deceptive and give off markers that aren't necessarily held by the content but generally, I'd say the covers are pretty good these days. Covers are important. No question. Self-published authors have to think about the cover design in relationship, now, to how it's viewed digitally in thumbnail or screen format.

      Titles are definitely important. I remember our booksellers lamenting the lengthy titles because the search systems only allowed for so many characters. :) It often caused problems when trying to find a book for a customer.

      You're right that an author's participation in the choice of title, cover design, blurb content, etc differs from publisher to publisher. A good cover, a great title can definitely draw me toward a book. But I'm probably more willing to look at those who aren't so stellar than most of the public. But covers and the creation of titles are definitely mini-art forms.

      I don't always read a synopsis. Sometimes I'll read 2-3 sentences but often stop at the first.

      For me the big moment happens when I open the covers and read the first page. Despite my protestations during my early years of writing, I've realized that you truly can tell within sentences whether an author is in control of the material and worth reading. I know it's harsh but true--and I say that knowing I've written a lot of weak beginnings in my day. :)

      Ultimately, a sense of the content and the author is what closes the deal.

      A review can cause me to look at a book. They often let me know of books I've missed and want. I'll read a review, then hop onto Amazon to read the editorial input on a book and maybe check in to read some content online if I'm able to.

      Publishing a book is such a complicated process and way more involved than the average reader assumes. Good books are left untouched every day due to lackluster covers, weak titles, and sloppy content info.

      On the other hand, really bad books can shoot up in immediate sales due to the "shiny thing" infatuation. If it looks and sounds good, it must be good. :)

      There are houses that encourage more input from their authors. It's good to hear that your house is author-friendly.

      Editors are usually good to have around but I've seen a few times where they caused some major consternation for the authors. The biggest bone to pick with self-published authors is the lack of editorial discipline. They often don't put the work out for true editorial content review but often think all they need is someone to clean up their punctuation. If only....

      The perfect marriage is with a publishing house that is author-friendly that provides a great editor, a stellar art director, and healthy gung-ho marketing team.

      I'm pretty eclectic when I pick books and will generally forgive covers and titles and all that if I open the pages and find myself reading...and reading...and reading.


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