Sunday, August 30, 2015

How Readers Choose Books, by Jamie Hill

I've been published for ten years now, and while that may not be long in the grand scheme of things, it's been enough time to give me some insight into what works and what doesn't work as well. The advent of self-publishing has seen a glut of books online, many for free or very cheap. My own eReader is loaded with books I might not ever have time to read, but hey, a hundred eBooks don't take up any more space in my house than one does, so why not have them?

Like most people, I'm a discriminating reader, and I don't want to fill my Kindle with junk. So what do readers look for when choosing a book? I think there are three factors. 

1) Cover

An eye-catching cover is the first thing that grabs my attention. If the cover is cheesy there better be something else drawing me to that book because it's hard to get past a bad cover.

2) Price

I've never been one to pay big bucks for books. While I realize that an author's time is worth more than a 99 cent or even a 2.99 book might suggest, it's hard to spend lots on a book that might take me a few hours to read. I grew up in the library and have always read my big name authors books by borrowing them from there. Even now, I'll borrow ebooks if it's an author who's made that option available. The kind of authors I'm talking about are the ones who are doing all right. I'd hate to take money from a struggling author by borrowing his or her book, but I'm pretty sure the big names are getting by just fine. My publisher, Books We Love, has done lots of research on pricing. The current market sees free to 99 cent prices as good for sales, but not great for a regular price. (Indicates cheap quality- you get what you pay for.) $2.99-3.99 is the current sweet spot for ebook pricing. Affordable is key.

3) Blurb

A book's blurb is the paragraph or two description on the sales page. On print books it is called the 'back cover blurb'. A short description of the story, just enough to whet the reader's appetite and make them want to read more.

In my association with Books We Love, I've learned that the blurb is perhaps the most important piece of writing an author does. It must be grammatically correct--if the author can't spell in the blurb, what makes the reader think they can spell in the book?

The blurb should be catchy, not dry, and not give away too much of the story. I read a blurb recently which might as well have said, "Hero and Heroine meet, overcome obstacles, fall in love and live happily ever after." It told that much. I'm a sucker for a happy ending, but telling me that much in the blurb makes me wonder why I even need to read the book. Again, in most books, that's the formula I expect. But the blurb needs to hint at it, not give it all away.

One thing I think the blurb should tell is if the story is not a stand alone title. Many of the free and 99 cent books I've seen recently are merely the first part of a bigger story. If that's the case, I believe it's only fair to warn readers. I love series books and write them, too. But each book stands alone with a satisfactory conclusion, and in my world you don't have to read them all or in order to enjoy the books. 

That's my 2 cents on what a reader looks at when choosing a book. What do you think? Agree or disagree, I'd love to hear!


Juliet Waldron said...

It's a killer to sell your heart and soul for .99 cents, but that's the way it is today. I agree about the blurb, or, perhaps what used to be called "the elevator pitch." It's one of the hardest things an author has to write, as it MUST engage as well as strike a recognizable chord in the reader. Fiction Haiku, kind of...

Unknown said...

True Juliet! Fiction Haiku, I like that...

Cheryl Wright said...

I agree with you re telling readers about a book being part of a series.

I know very few authors do this, but I once read a book that I was not aware was part of a series. I loved the book, but when I got to the end it finished with the heroine standing on the deck of a boat, and the reader being told we needed to buy the next book in the series to know who she was looking at, and how it was going to affect her.

Until that point, I loved reading that author's books, and had purchased several of them. I'm afraid that one incident put me right off that author's books and I've never bought another one.

I know most authors don't do that, but this one did and lost a dedicated reader.

I've read some of your books, Jamie, and love the way they are all stand alone.

Unknown said...

Thanks Cheryl, right back athcha!

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