What Gets You To Read A Book?

I’m muddling my way through a post on the power of word-of-mouth and as a writer of the hybrid variety (I get great gas mileage), I wonder:

What gets you to read a book?

We worry so much about marketing and promotion, about guest blog posts and book trailers and interviews and signings and readings and Q&As and panel talks and nude fireman calendars and beard-wrestling competitions and cupcake bake-offs — further, so much it is is expected, it is assumed that these things are What We Do and it’s maybe not often enough that people ask If They Work.

They may! They may, indeed.

But I want to know.

And while I don’t mind hearing from the writers on this as to what works for you I am more inclined to hear from the readers on what exactly gets you to pick up a book. An advertisement? A reading? A funny tweet? Free swag? A recommendation from a friend? A NUDE FIREMAN CALENDAR WITH ME, A BIG HOSE, AND A SLUMBERING DALMATION? (I hope the answer to that is “yes” because I just ordered like, 10,000 of these things.)

What works for you?

What gets you first to try a book?

Then to buy that book?

191 responses to “What Gets You To Read A Book?”

  1. Word of mouth in general. I have to have heard of a thing before I can look for it.

    When I was a teenager I would search in my fave genres at random (usually gravitating to a good cover, title, or a particular logo on the spine); but since nowadays I read a lot less and there’s a lot more available, I depend on others to winnow down the list for me.

    That said, I don’t seem to have the same taste as a lot of writers (who are most of the folks I talk to online). I have pretty lowest-common-denominator tastes in many ways, but I’m also sort of reactionary: “Oh, everyone’s raving about that, I don’t want to read it,” which is obviously stupid.

    My big test whether I want to read a book is to flip to a random page in the middle and start reading. If an author can make me care what happens in the middle of a scene which I don’t even have the set-up for, then that will be a good book.

    • So this sums my own reading habits up almost exactly. A good title and a good cover are key if you want me to jump on something I’ve not previously heard of. Word of mouth works as long as it’s supported by a sufficient and compelling plot description.

      A free or heavily discounted ebook will at least get me to read something by a new author (though if in the first paragraph it reads poorly, maximum effort – minimum gain, clunky, bad grammar, odd langauge/description, I won’t read on). Also if the author actively engages in conversation with their readers I’m more likely to read their work. It allows the option of discussing it with them, which is always a nice touch. I suppose I just like to know there is, in fact, a person behind the marketing.

      What turns me off a book (other than the above mentioned popularity killer) is if a writer over promotes their book. In that case I won’t even attempt to read it. It feels to pushed upon and to purchase/read said book would feel like the author has won the game of marketing. It’s not a pleasant feeling.

  2. I must say while I browse reddit.com/r/fantasy and keep an eye out for ideas. I really just use Amazon recommendations. Periodically I will browse my recommendations and anything with a good looking cover gets added to my wishlist. Then when I am caught up with my current authors I am reading, I will go through my wishlist to see what fits what I am in the mood for and then see what is available from my local library. My wishlist is probably 35 pages long at this point.

    Amazon makes their recommendations more difficult to use these days ever since they removed the ability to easily rate books. Now to rate a book without a review you have to add the book to your wishlist and then add it again. Once you add it a second time it bumps it to the top so you can delete it at which point it lets you say if you own it and lets you rate it.

    This is how I discovered you, Myke Cole, Larry Correia, Faith Hunter, Jennifer Estep, etc.

  3. There’s a definite list of “what works” for me, but most frequently I think that word-of-mouth is the ultimate powerhouse. And following tangents. I’ve read a massive amount of books from the author R.A. Salvatore, and then he oversaw a series called “The War of the Spider Queen” which was written by six other authors. For the books I thoroughly enjoyed, I decided to pick up those authors’ other works and follow those tangents (which led to reading Paul S. Kemp’s novels, including the Egil and Nix book from Angry Robot Books, which in turn led me here). In that sense, the Internet has played a vital role where word-of-mouth falls off. I ended up here through the Twitter/Website channel (I can’t really remember which came first, it’s sort of that chicken/egg mentality). Now I can pick through the Angry Robot website and follow other tangents when I’m looking for something new.

  4. I am always on the lookout for new releases and good authors to get to know. I am most certainly partial to books and authors recommended to me by friends with similar tastes, but a lot of the time I discover my new reads on my own.

    I follow a handful of different book review newsletters (NPR’s, Shelf Awareness, Goodreads) and skim them to see if any new releases catch my eye. I choose based on genre, blurb/summary–premise matters to me, but tone is a much bigger factor, and, yes, the cover. I work in PR so I am especially aware of how much the publishing industry is manipulating me with the cover art and review placement, but it’s still been the best way for me to find consistently good reads.

    To be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever picked up an author’s book based on a guest post, no matter how much I liked the post. I don’t think I’d even remember an author’s name later from a guest post.

    One particularly effective method for discovering new authors was a group author tour. I really enjoyed Tahereh Mafi’s Shatter Me, and she toured giving talks with a panel of other writers. This gave an op to get to know those other authors with similar works out and got me interested in their stories too. I’ve also had my interest piqued by established authors I love simply giving a shout out to a new writer they personally love at talks.

  5. For me it is generally word of mouth or my own perusing, either in a bookstore or catching an article on the book. When perusing though, I usually look for certain authors, but an interesting cover or catchy title will make me stop and pick up the book to read the flaps and see what it is all about.

  6. In your case, I probably discovered you on Twitter or some such place and started reading your blog. I was amused, so I then tried out your Pen Monkey books. Then, I bought the Miriam Black book because, at that point, why not? I was not disappointed.

    I actually bought a book electronically and totally on impulse yesterday. It was Nalo Hopkinson’s Sister Mine. I was writing, I think, a writing advice website, but at this point I couldn’t tell you anything about the article. I just saw that she wrote a book about conjoined twins that were separated and half god. That’s all it took for me, and I read quite a bit of the book yesterday while things were quiet.

    I actually usually get recommendations from Big Idea type posts like the ones you and Scalzi do.

  7. Someone I knew recommended it to me. I’ve read and liked the writer’s other books. I look through a LOT of books, most often on the net, so usually it’s the title that looks interesting before the rest. Past that, it’s the cover, to see if it reflects the title; beyond that it’s the description, first line and first page.

    If it’s a physical book I’ll frequently take a peek later in the book to see if the complications look interesting. The first page is crucial, though, if something doesn’t catch my attention on it it’s going to be hard to keep me in it.

  8. The Big Idea at John Scalzi’s blog (whatever.scalzi.com) has been a great source for new book recs for me.

  9. I pick books mostly on the cover, author, genre (though that is harder to pick one kind anymore), price, and outlet. Price is a factor only if this author or book is a risk to me. Some books I buy regardless of price tag, others have to be under $8. In recent years, I include recommendations in my selection factors. I doubt I would read Chuck Wendig, Joe Hill, Steven Montano, and other authors as I had no previous exposure before Twitter and the covers aren’t grabbing my attention. Twitter led me to John Scalzi and Myke Cole but these authors I would buy based on covers and genre. Joe Hill would be in that group by now because he’s getting exposure and because of his dad. Same with Owen King.

    Don’t get me wrong; literary heritage is important but it only takes you so far. This leads into Brian Herbert, Kevin J Anderson, Todd McCaffrey, etc. Out of these, Todd is the only one I will read now. I don’t dig the other’s styles as much as their parents.

    One more bit before tl;dr. Glen Cook led me to Jim Butcher long before the internet had any influence. He might be my fav. Top 3 for sure.

  10. Mostly, recommendations — from friends, family, bloggers I like, and people on goodreads who have a pattern of similar taste to mine. Sample chapters online are also helpful. Most of the time, that first book will be from the library (since my local library is badass) but once I like an author they go to auto-buy pretty frequently.

    The one exception to this for me is that in two particular genres (romantic suspense and paranormal romance) I will just scan for premise and spot check that there aren’t things I hate (handsome vampires, wilting heroines, badly written sex scenes) and buy whatever looks good, because they are such fast reads and my “go to” authors alone don’t come out with that many new books in a year. (Thank goodness. Because the pressure to do 2-3 books a year has taken several of my former “auto-buy” authors down to “maybe check it at the library” as the quality has plummeted.)

    A good cover will make me pick it up, but won’t make me buy (it will make me note the artist’s name to go look at their website, though. 🙂

  11. I buy a lot of books after reading reviews on book blogs. Unfortunately a lot of the book blogs I used to read have stopped reviewing recently.

    I use Goodreads a lot. I like that I can keep track of my favorite authors using Goodreads, to see when they have a new book out. I also like to see what my Goodreads friends are reading, and if a book looks interesting I’ll tag it as to-read, and next time I’m about to go to the book store or place an online order of books, I’ll check my to-read list. I’ve found lots of great books and authors that way.

    I used to browse bookstore shelves to find new books, but these days the selection just seems so low and so skewed to the most popular authors (shelves and shelves of one author!) that I do almost all my book shopping online now. My local bookstores are bad about not getting new books until a week or two after they’re released, too, which drives me crazy. It’s like they don’t want to sell me books.

    Guest posts and interviews aren’t interesting to me and I’ve rarely bought a book (or remembered the author name) as a result of reading one. In fact, usually I don’t read them.

  12. If I’m just randomly looking for a book on Amazon, I’ll look through their recommendations. If I’m intrigued by the cover, I’ll look at the synopsis and reviews. Reviews are a big piece of my decision making process. I like to compare the best and worst reviews for the book and I find that usually gives me a pretty good idea if I’ll like it, especially if I focus on the reviews that seem to have the most thought put into them.

    My other main method of finding new books is by checking out websites of authors I like and seeing if they have links to any books they love or authors they recommend.

  13. There are a whole boatload of things that will get me to give a book a chance, but the one thing that will get me to sit down with the intent to read a book all the way through is an excerpt. Usually this comes from the first few pages that I give a chance to for all the other things that likely have been mentioned here and elsewhere a thousand times (personal recommendations, reading previous works, catchy titles, cool covers, some tiny personal connection).

    Examples illustrating the difference.

    I gave one of Amber Benson’s books a chance because I recently watched the entire run of Buffy for the first time.

    I gave one of Nathan Lowell’s books a chance because I recognized the name from some writer’s board or other.

    I looked into The Name of the Wind because someone told me about it. I read the excerpt on Rothfuss’ site and immediately bought the thing.

  14. Generally, I can rely on certain friends to recommend good books. Various blogs and twitter are fairly helpful as well. My absolute favorites have all been discovered in the same manner though. I hit the thrift stores every few weeks and dig through other peoples literary refuse. First edition copy of Contact? Found at a Salvation Army when I was a child. In more recent times, a couple of months ago actually, I found a first edition of the Andromeda Strain at a Goodwill. How these books came to be abandoned on a lonely thrift store shelf is a mystery to me but I’m quite glad they came into my hands.

    Now, I’m off to write a treatment for Pixar’s next hit film about talking books abandoned at a lonely old junk store and trying to make their way home. See you in 3 months!

  15. I’m still a fan of browsing book stores for hours, searching for interesting titles, covers, and blurbs. However, when it comes to online, I look at what my friends with similar taste are reading, or when I find an interesting blog (such as your own), I try to see if the books are for me.

    Oh, and if John Green recommends it, I’ll usually check it out as well. Even though I haven’t actually read any of his books yet (my trip to Barnes and Noble is happening shortly, and then ALL THE BOOKS will be bought).

  16. I read a lot. What gets me to read a book?
    1) Make it easy. Simple to acquire. I can only download books from amazon.com because that’s where I got my free kindle.
    2) It must have a free sample.
    3) I must like it when I read the free sample. Typos, grammatical errors, gaps, changes in fonts(formatting problems) can sometimes get to be too much.
    4) Poor writing will turn me away from that book faster than unicorns can jump a rainbow.
    5) On average, for every 20 books I sample, 1 will grab me with can’t-put-down. It doesn’t matter much what genre. It’s just got that magic twinkle.
    6) Lastly, price. I won’t pay more than about $5. for an ebook, no matter how good I think it is or might be. There are so many thousands more.
    I try to keep my reading habits in mind when I plan how to self publish.

    Twitter tips.
    1) Follow back. I follow very few ppl who don’t follow back. It’s Social media. Not Prima Dona media.
    2) Tweet a link to your work every now and then, so that someone who wants to retweet you doesn’t have to do an archeological dig to find a link.
    3) Make it easy.

    • “Follow back” is rough advice if you only want stuff in your feed worth reading. I have to admit I don’t follow everyone back who follows me. If I check out their feed and find they only post advertisements of their work, I won’t follow back. As you say, it’s social media. Not prima donna media. I want people to be social if what they want is a return follow. Otherwise, why are we connected?

      • That’s very true – if someone follows me, I read their last few tweets, and if it’s not something I want cluttering up my feed I’ll just ignore them. Otherwise, I’ll follow them, and I have found a few interesting leads this way.

  17. Okay. First, I am a bookseller, so customer and coworker comments can make me buy a book. Interesting titles (First Grave on the Right) and cool covers (Sandstorm by James Rollins) will make me at least pick a book up and read a chapter. New to me is falling for an author on Twitter and getting their books. If you can make me laugh or think on a regular basis, I will at least read one book by you (Maureen Johnson, you, Kevin Hearne, and Nicole Peeler.)

  18. Word-of-mouth is definitely a big factor. If it’s not something a close friend recommends, but I keep hearing about it, I’m likely to eventually look into it. That changes, of course, if it’s a “popular” book – then I have to have friends’ assurances that “No, it really is good, it’s not just one of those shitty books that inexplicably does well” before I look into it.

    For non-fiction books, I use amazon recommendations a lot, and read a bunch of amazon reviews before I purchase. That’s actually how I ran into Chuck Wendig – I was looking at writing advice books, and his were all rated highly. Eventually that led to me following him on Twitter, which led to me actually using Twitter. I do pay attention to tweets that say “Hey, follow this person, they’re awesome,” and if that person is an author (so far I think they all have been?) they go on a List of potential-reading. I’ll follow them for awhile, and if they are indeed awesome they stay on the List, but if I don’t find them interesting (either their tweets or their website, which I usually visit at some point) then they fall off the List and I un-follow them. I’ve probably put more fiction-authors on my List through Twitter recommendations than I have through amazon, but I do look at amazon reviews and whatnot to narrow down which book I’m most interested in reading first. Then those books go on their own List, and if I still feel like they’d be interesting the next time I’m looking to place an order then I’ll buy them.

    It’s apparently a very long and ponderous process for me, and it almost makes me seem very organized and discerning. I promise it’s just orderly laziness.

    • But wait! I have more opinions!

      I don’t really pay much attention to blog posts featuring guest authors, the one exception being Delilah S. Dawson’s from awhile back. That definitely put her on my List, although I haven’t made any purchases yet. I do pay more attention to posts that ask readers to comment their own recommendations, and if a few commenters recommend the same author that name goes in my head and hangs out for awhile. Then, when I encounter another mention down the road, my head goes, “Hey, didn’t I hear a recommendation for him/her before? Maybe I should check it out.”

      Also, if I’m wandering through a real-life bookstore, I like to pull books off the shelves that simply look interesting. I read the cover, maybe, and read a couple places in the middle to sample it for entertainment value and readability. That’s true for both non-fiction and fiction books. If I purchase a book, I want a high likelihood that I will actually read it and finish it.

      Having a couple cheap kindle options available when I first check out an unfamiliar author increases the chances that I might try them simply because it decreases the risk involved. If I buy a 99 cent ebook and find it enjoyable, even if it’s just a short story (although the description should mention if it’s a short story!) then they’ll definitely earn a spot on my prestigious List.

  19. I don’t read as much as I used and I am EXTREMELY picky when it comes to when I actually buy a book. It’s either picked at random for researching the market, a gift someone gave me, or I know the writer (like your books). Also, sometimes if the news about the book gets big enough, I’ll buy the book to see what all the fuss is about (Harry Potter, The Hunger Games) except for Twilight (just not my cup of tea).

    However, once I read that first book, if it’s good enough, I’ll automatically buy the next one if its a series. As soon as possible. I think the only time I didn’t do this was Ender’s Game, because I heard the sequels weren’t as good and I didn’t want to be disappointed.

    I doubt I’m the average reader, so yeah. Not sure how that helps lol.

  20. The cover. I see a cover and it makes me want to read about the contents of the book. If the description sounds as intriguing as the cover promised, I’ll probably read it. I know, I know… “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” but this is instinctive and automatic. I just can’t help it!

  21. As so many others have said, I’m a fan of word-of-mouth. On the very rare occasion, if I see a blurb from an author whom I respect, I may give it a glance and maybe read the synopsis on the back cover. But the only time you see me really pick up a book from somebody I don’t know is if the word-of-mouth is incredibly positive. If I wind up being a fan of the book, I’ll look up other stuff by the author.

  22. The nude firemen would help.

    Before I pick up a book cold, it needs an evocative title that accurately provides a hint of what the book is about – clues that the character is interesting, or there’s an interesting story concept, or a compelling theme. Something fresh that offers insight about life.

    I need to have the sense that the author’s personal views are not going to intrude upon my reading experience. If I find out that an author is a hater, I never touch their work again. If a writer is a hater, he or she needs to keep that hidden or find another audience.

    I need a book that grabs me within the first three paragraphs – it offers something unexpected, the promise of intrigue or excitement, with emotional resonance. I need to identify with a character right away. I’m always looking for a rich emotional experience and/or interesting ideas…preferably both. Depth counts. Good story telling can overcome shitty writing…to a point. The crappier the delivery, the stronger the concept must be.

    I will look at the front and back cover, the first page – and that’s it. Grab me there, or I walk. The only thing that overcomes that impatience is the recommendation of a friend. People I know and trust can talk me into giving an author more time to make a connection with me on the page. So, if there is buzz about a book, I will give it closer examination. But sometimes the buzz is wrong. I can’t count on that.

    Otherwise, it comes down to personal preferences about subject matter. But I’ve read across many genres because theme is more important than literal, superficial content. I want to read books that say something about life, that put me in touch with who I am on a deeper level. That’s what I remember and value.

    In your case, Chuck, I gave “Blackbirds” a chance because I liked your style in your writing books. I like your blog. Getting a sense of what you’re about (accurate or not, doesn’t matter) made me want to root for you. As in all other fields, “networking” counts.

  23. This year it’s been all about friend recs. I’ve read pretty much anything people take the time to recommend to me in person. It’s led me down some interesting rabbitholes. Seeing authors speak at cons is huge. If you’re funny and interesting on a panel it’s likely I will like your book. I found a ton of new people at FogCon this way in March.

  24. The back cover and the cover art (Yes, there are times I judge a book by it’s cover but, it can’t be helped with being an artist and all). There is only one movie that has been made that I felt the need to read all books in the series and that was Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I have no word of mouth as my social circle is more like a dot.

  25. Word of mouth, recommendations from friends/family, and occasionally just from browsing. I look at the cover, the back cover blurb, what people whose tastes I know are fair matches for my own had to say about it, etc.

    It also helps when it comes with a free unicorn.


  26. There are three ways I try books.

    1. I browse. love going to the bookstore and just looking through the books in the genres I enjoy. It has proven less and less likely that I will discover something I want to read this way but I still enjoy it and have discovered some gems in this fashion.

    2. Twitter. I follow authors that I enjoy(like you Mr. Wendig). They will talk about authors that they like on twitter or on their blogs and I will discover a new voice to add to my reading list. This is how I Discovered James Tuck.

    3. Word of Mouth. My friends, both IRL and on twitter, will point out books that they have enjoyed which may be of interest to me. Hell, My friend Kristin introduced me to Delilah Dawson and Karina Cooper and I am so excited to read their stuff!

  27. This here website, combined with your G+ postings, got me to read “Blackbirds.” (Which I enjoyed.)

    Covers often get me to read a book. Sometimes successfully (“The Beasts of Valhalla”), sometimes not so much (“Snow Falling on Cedars”).

    Reviews will drive me to a book — though interestingly I find that books that sound good in NPR reviews are often pretty crappy. To this reader, anyway.

    I’ve also picked up books quite successfully after mentions on Boing Boing. I suppose that falls into the “reviews” category. (“The Diviner’s Tale,” “The Last Policeman”)

  28. I was at Calgary Expo convention a few weeks ago and I visited a small publishing company’s table (boldly sitting right next to Chapters!) and was so impressed that the woman I talked to knew enough about ALL the books I asked about to give me concise & accurate blurbs that I bought two.

    I like to see what favourite authors are recommending (in the same way I listen to what music my favourite bands were influenced by). But the first thing that catches my eye when I’m browsing is the cover art. Then I flip to the back to see if the blurb actually tells me something about the book. Then I flip to the first page and have a peek.

    Things like reviews mean nothing to me if I don’t know what the book is about. And if a bookstore has stickers covering up vital information such as the title, back cover blurb or most of the cover art, I get pissed off.

  29. The last four books I purchased were from authors I follow on twitter but were previously unknown to me. I mean, I knew of some of them but not all. I started following Neil Gaimon. Neil led me to Joe Hill. Joe led me to you and you led me to Delilah. I have enjoyed everything I read but I grew interested because of how you all were interested in each other.

  30. I once bought a book because the author thanked Anne Sowards at the beginning. Didn’t regret it, either. It was a good book.

  31. What makes me buy a book… hmm.

    My treat is to go into a bookshop and just stay there for a few hours having a look around. To pick something off the shelf, I usually just look for interesting titles and things that I haven’t seen before, plus sometimes authors I recognise. Anything and everything can grab me depending on my mood, not that there’s much to see on spines. Then I’ll take the book out and check out the back.
    Occasionally, a blurb can put me right off, but mostly the degree of interest I’ll accept simply depends on whether I think I can afford to buy many books or not. If I can only afford one, I’ll hunt longer before I settle on something to look at; if I have a limited amount of time, then I’m more likely to test the first thing that comes to hand.
    I’m apparently a natural speed-reader, so I’ll read one or two or three chapters right there in the bookshop, which only takes a few minutes. If it starts fast-paced and drags me in, I’ll try to restrict myself to one chapter, but if it’s a slower start, I might read several to give it a fair chance. (As a kid I used to read entire books by going into a bookshop with my family for fifteen minutes and reading several chapters every visit, particularly after we moved somewhere further away from a library. I’d always eventually get around to buying them, though!) If I like what I see a lot, you have an instant sale (and I probably got carried away and already read half the book while standing there), otherwise I note it and track down the e-version, preferably from the same shop I was looking in. I read so much I can’t afford the room to store all those physical books any longer! So now, I only buy my favourites in physical editions.

    Word of mouth is another brilliant way to get my attention. Unfortunately, what with reading so fast, I’ve usually read more than most of my friends! Not always, though; sometimes they’ll have found something shiny that I haven’t come across yet.

    Adverts have never really worked on me. In fact, I’m usually rather cynical about them!

    I’ve recently started reading various authors’ blogs and/or following them on Twitter, having caught sight of them on the Internet one way or another, and that has actually made me think I should really out what they’ve written (assuming I’ve never looked at it before). So I have little shortlists of people to look up the next time I have enough money to go book-hunting, now.

    I’ve only ever been to one reading and signing event that I can remember. It was an author whose work I really love and have physical copies of, and he happened to come through the town I’m currently living in, so I brought along an entire backpack full of books and he very kindly signed the lot! Normally a signing/reading is something I’d attend if I was walking past and it happened to be on, or if I already knew and liked the author’s work. I don’t drive, and value my own time, so going into the town centre is a lot of hassle just to attend an event that’s a completely unknown quantity.

    So I guess for me, the main things that get me to buy are, in order: the first few chapters of the book itself; a friend’s recommendation (and sometimes a book loan! I’ll buy anything I enjoyed reading, regardless of whether or not I can get free copies); and the author being awesome on the internet. Once I know I like something, then I’ll go to the extra effort and expense of attending signings, buying shiny things, and whatnot.

    (Incidentally, interviews, etc. are slightly higher on the list in written form than otherwise, because the audio/video forms take up so much more time, for me, than reading the written equivalent! 1200 wpm vs. speaking speed is just no contest. But that’s probably not something you should take into account, just a peculiarity of mine thanks to how fast I read… it does have something to do with why I like blogs so much, though!)

  32. A variety of reasons.

    Now that most of the bookstores in my area are gone, browsing the shelves isn’t as much of an option. I’ve gone to recommendations from friends and reddit, but also if an author has a blog I enjoy I’m likely to give their books a try.

    Goodreads/Amazon recommendations don’t hold much weight for me, because too many people give 5 stars when the book doesn’t deserve it or they’re afraid to say a book isn’t any good because someone might get offended. But if it’s a book I’m interested in, I might actually read a few of the reviews to see what they say, because I don’t trust the stars.

    I’m also a sucker for filling my Kindle, and I check the daily deals every morning. I’ve found several authors I like this way, but also had some real dogs, including a “paranormal mystery” mixing the Greek pantheon, nanites and a middle-aged mom’s wish-fulfillment fantasy that was so bad I’m too embarassed to add to my Goodreads list. (And I gleefully rate and review Sweet Valley High books.)

    Self-published books on Amazon are a minefield — now I only buy if I have strong recommendations from a source I trust or its an author that I’ve enjoyed before.

  33. Since I joined Twitter I’ve been getting a lot of suggestions from there. I originally joined to follow my favourite writers (and musicians) so I would know when things were comming out but then I found that their Twitter conversations included some very clever and amusing people I had never read. Because of their Twitter personalities I looked up their books on Amazon and have now bought several things that I otherwise would never have even heard of.

    I tend to go by whether the author is interesting on Twitter/blogs/interviews or by recommendations from authors I already like, friends or the very knowledgable staff at my favourite bookshop. Also by looking at the ‘other people also bought’ links on Amazon and sometimes from the acknowledgements pages in books I like. Otherwise, it’s just browsing the shelves.

    I do also look at covers and blurbs but, since one of the best books I have ever read (Heroes Die) has one of the worst covers I have ever seen, I try not to do this often. And thank you for that valuable lesson, Mr Stover!

  34. I have a couple things I look for:

    1 – The blurb on the back, coupled with the genre. I have specific tastes that I want to make sure are met.
    2 – If I know an author’s work well, I may buy their books without knowing anything about them.
    3 – If enough people suggest a book to me, I’ll give it a shot. Usually this leaves me unimpressed.

    Unfortunately, no form of advertising has ever resulted in my purchasing a book I would not have otherwise purchased.

  35. Love the blog, first time commenting here. Stumbling through the sections in the bookstores waiting for something to catch my eye was how I did it in the past. But when I bought my first Kindle, everything changed. No longer was I on the receiving end of the judgmental stink eye from the cashier when I purchased a romance novel with a cover that had a half naked man in cargo pants gazing off in the distance. With Mr. Amazon acting as my book crack dealer, I never have to wonder where I’ll get my next fix. He knows what I like and gently guides my fingers to the click button. Facebook and Twitter allows me to keep in touch with like minded readers that feed my addiction. I still read reviews as long as they aren’t an entire outline complete with flowcharts on every chapter. Just tell me if I’ll like the plot, if the author has a strong inner voice and if it’s a safe bet that the characters won’t bug the shit out of me, I can pretty much take it from there. I know a lot of readers still love the smell and the feel of a real book. I get it. But for me, the convenience is unmatched and I love discovering new indie authors. If I want to cuddle something, I’ll buy a puppy.

  36. 1) a male friend once told me he’ll buy a book if the author photo displays a “cute chick.”
    2) recommendations from writers to whom I have already formed an attachment (blogs, tweets, whatever form)
    3) I have had many a cover turn me off. Simple, realistic, not steeped in something that’s supposed to be sexy and is just… smarmy, please. Unless it’s a smut book. Then smarm away.
    4) price. I won’t lie, I’m more inclined to try a new author who’s book is $2 than I am to try one who’s e-book, E-BOOK is $12 or $15 or even more.
    5) Pre-order kindle edition. Not always available. Often, by the time it happens, I’ve forgotten.
    6) recommendations from friends with similar tastes.

  37. 1) Authors who have interesting and relevant blogs.
    2) Meeting the author (obviously more rare).
    3) Good reviews from authors I like on the front/back covers.
    4) A well-written plot as described by the back cover.
    5) Naked fireman on the front cover. I know, I’m weak.

  38. Either authored by Chuck Wendig (bought Double Dead on a fluke and now I’ll read/buy anything you write or…I’m into 3 series, Warhammer, Warhammer 40,000 and Forgotten Realms. I’m big on world building and each series has 200+ novels so I don’t buy outside of these realms too often.

  39. Hi Chuck,

    A lot of different things work for me and I think it is usually particular to the time, book or author. I personally love reading and personal events and try to get to as many as I can. I like to get exerpts of other books, yours for instance, Blue Blazes has a particularly strong hook right off the bat with the snippet I got to read; Blackbirds and Mocking bird have particularly hookey beginings. Fopr some authors its getting to hear their work via podcast like Scott Sigler and Mur Lafferty.
    Sadly soemtimes I am particularly shallow in that it is the cover that is the hook for me as with Evie Manieri’s Blood’s Pride. Other times it is mearly the genre like weird westerns or steampunk or the writer in question I know from short fiction like Saladin Ahmed. I do also look at blurbs, read review blogs and check Goodreads.
    Another thing that is highly influential is blogs like your where you question authors and sive us a look at them as creatives…

    there you go

  40. Beyond the wormhole that is the Amazon recommendation engine, I have two specific sources for books. The first is any blog of an author I already like. Practically all of my favorite authors have some sort of website, and many share what they’re enjoying reading at the moment.

    The second source is the website pajiba.com. Although pajiba is mostly a movie and TV review website, they also host reviews by contributors that are a part of an annual reading contest called The Cannonball Run (52 books, read and reviewed, in 52 weeks). It’s a lot of reviews by a community that shares many of my tastes and preferences, so I can be sure I will find lots of reading material to try there.

  41. Step 1: Walk into a Barnes and Noble. Step 2: Meander to the genre I am looking for (always horror, fantasy or sci-fi). Step 3: Pick a booger Step 4: Flick the booger Step 5: try to find the book with the booger on it. If I find the book with the booger, I pick up the book next to it (because who wants to buy a book with a booger on it? Eewwww…)

  42. If I hear about a book through any of many different sources then I’ll put it on a list to look into. I try to avoid reading blurbs and don’t give much credit to what authors or bloggers have to say. A book cover may make me slightly more or less likely to buy a book, but primarily I read the first couple of pages, or a chapter if available, and base my decision on that.

    I put almost no stock in what others have to say, because often the most enthusiastic people are gushing over something that could be the next Twilight or the fictional equivalent of Justin Beiber, which just aren’t for me. I’ve noticed that many people are perfectly happy with books that I find greatly lacking in their complexity of language and/or thought, so I really do need to investigate myself, so as to avoid those efforts.

  43. I read books that have good reviews from newspapers and other authors that I like on the cover. Also, the “If you like (POPULAR BOOK), you might like (LESSER KNOWN BOOK): are helpful for me to step out of the New York Times best sellers

  44. I’ve always been a bit finicky when it comes to picking up a NEW AUTHOR. I’ve had a long history of never reading a book I didn’t actually like. In general, I take book recommendations from people whose taste lines up well with mine, often including the very authors that I’m reading. In the specific case of Chuck Wendig, I discovered you when a friend of mine linked your very viral BEWARE OF WRITER blog post. I stuck around for more blogs, because hey, free words! This eventually led to me buying a few of your writing books and ALL of your fiction to date, because I liked the style, and once I got a bit of the juice all I wanted is another hit. But as somebody who also follows you on twitter, I found Stephen Blackmoore, and picked up one of his books, that I really dug, and will be getting another soon. For me taste is really important, and I trust people who have really good taste. If our tastes are aligned, I will follow you down whatever rabbit hole you choose to send me. There are only a handful of people I’ve taken book recommendations from in my life, but I will say maintaining a website like this and giving people bits and bobs of your writing really helps to build audience. It’s why I’ve been here for almost 2 years now, and will continue to come back. And why i’ve gotten several of my friends, who trust me with book recommendations, to pick up a couple of your books. Because they trust my taste.

  45. Authors I know and like, word of mouth, reviews, impulse buying (due to blurb, cover, title), and only in rare cases advertising and ‘people bought this also bought’-recommendations.

  46. Two main factors: good Amazon reviews, and pretty covers. I know it sounds insanely shallow, but covers are really one of the most important things to me. If it has a cover that wouldn’t look out of place here: http://bookcoverarchive.com/, I’ll buy it, particularly if it’s simple, stylish, and creative, and has a nice-sounding name. I’m very unlikely to pick up a book that has a photographic cover featuring one of the characters. That’s one of my pet peeves, alongside those books that have ‘A Novel’ written on the front (Ohh… I see! It’s a /novel/! No wonder it tasted funny…)

    • Oh! I forgot to say: I read around what I’m writing. I do venture outside that little circle for some variety now and then, but mainly I’m attracted to a book by some common factor it has with my own writing. It can be very vague, e.g. a similar theme, a similar feeling I get from the title, even just a character that has the same name… Because I write what I like, I generally hit on a book that suits me. Plus, it gives me a legit excuse to be reading – I’m researching, dammit!
      Also, books that are blue. I do like a blue book. Don’t ask why. Powdery royal blue is the colour I associate with good books.

  47. I follow authors whose books I like, and when they say “holy crap this is something you should read,” I say, “okay.” I like to know what influences the writers I admire, and I find that my likes tend to run pretty parallel to theirs. Neil Gaiman got me into H.P. Lovecraft, for example; I found you through Erin Morgenstern.

    I also do occasional shelf-browsing at my local B&N (alas, no local indies, though I browse those whenever I know I’m near one) to see if anything jumps out at me.

  48. I know this is going to be buried in the comments, but it’s funny that you asked this when just the other day I was tweeting about this very topic.
    I admit I’m not your ‘average’ consumer. I’m a book nerd, a very entrenched and particular fan of certain genre and it’s really hard to budge me out of my comfortable wallow. I prefer to read one book 5 times, then buy five new books, mostly b/c I like reliving the worlds I love best. (It reassured me when Maureen Johnson admitted to being the same way.)
    So that’s who I am, and the way to market to ME might not work with everyone, but I’m happy to weigh in.

    1. NETWORK WITH OTHER AUTHORS. I read Urban Fantasy, mystery, and a smidge of sci-fi and suspense. When I’m trolling for a new book I look at things in my genre, by authors that I’ve either a) spoken to on twitter, or b) seen mentioned by another author I love either on twitter, at a con, or a flat out book rec from said author. I hunt the web of social networking.
    That’s how I found you, Chuck, years ago, because Seanan McGuire interviewed here and said you were awesome.

    2. BLURB IT. Make sure you have a concise blurb of your book somewhere to really lure readers in. If you tweet about this new book, but I have to actually WORK to find a blurb or sample to lure me in, then I get bored and wander off to elsewhere on the web. SHILL YOUR WORK. Say “THIS IS MY BOOK, THIS IS MY BLURB.” And mention it long after release day. At least once a month. Vary your promo’s though. If you run the same promo every damn week you get the spam hammer.

    3. Giveaways Rock. I’m a sucker for a free sample. Even more so for a free book. I was trying to decide if I wanted to commit to buying Seanan McGuires first book, when lo and behold there was a giveaway, and I got lucky. If by “winning” you mean I developed an unholy addiction for all books she puts into print and have since been buying her books on a twice annual basis… Then I’d say we BOTH won. 🙂

    4. BE PASSIONATE. Overall, I like books because they are written by PEOPLE. Making friends out of writers means you’re never bored, and you’ll never be short on ways to hide a body. If I friend a writer, even if I have NO money in my book fund, and i’m really NOT certain I’m into your book’s concept, if you as a writer are SO DAMN THRILLED with the book, I can’t help but get curious. You’re not selling a ‘brand’ and you aren’t selling some bland sterile factory produced canned beer with no soul, you’re selling your word baby. SHOW ME that you care so I’ll care about it too.

  49. I used to be a major reader and many things caused me to read a book. Since starting graduate school, thus becoming short on free time and money, I’ve become much more brutal. I can think of exactly four things that have led to me reading a book in the past few years.

    1. I know the author from previous books, so I give their new book a try. This gets an author exactly one try though, if I’m disappointed I give up on the rest of the work. If they start a new series/genre I might give them one more shot.

    2. People who know my reading tastes recommend a book. To be honest, usually that means borrowing their copy. However, if the person says something along the lines of “This was the best book ever!!!” then I’ll buy it for myself.

    3. Someone gives me the book as a gift AND they highly recommend it, a la point #2. I have a stack of unread gifts just because my time is so limited.

    4. I read Scalzi’s Whatever blog daily. If I read a Big Idea post with an idea that really interests me, I have about a 50% chance of buying the book. The reviews on Amazon tend to determine which side I come down on.

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