Thursday, January 20, 2011

To Buy (Or Not to Buy) a Book -- That's a Loaded Question

I've blogged, tweeted and Facebooked about a great web site called Authors (published and not) load page 99 of their book onto the site and readers comment on whether they'd turn the page and if they'd be inclined to buy the book.

I'm excited that page 99 from This Side of Crazy earned a "Page Turner" designation! Seventy-three percent would turn the page (the average in the general fiction genre is 48 percent).

This is all well and good -- except that opinions are subjective. One commenter compared the writing to To Kill a Mockingbird while another called it a bit overdramatic. I still think it's useful for authors to get this type of feedback, so I encourage you to bounce around the site and read a few page 99s. They're anonymous, sorted by genre.

Since the basic premise of the web site is that reading page 99 of a book can convince someone to buy (or not buy) a book, I wonder what compels you to make a book purchase?
  • Interesting title?
  • Cover design?
  • First couple of pages?
  • Inside flap or back cover description?
  • Recommendation from a friend?
  • Book review in newspaper or magazine?
  • Something else?

Would love to hear your thoughts!


  1. As many books as I've read, I've very rarely wandered aimlessly into a bookstore, checked out the jacket design/blurb and decided to buy it.

    A lot of recommendations come from friends, but I'll also pick up books that receive interesting reviews online or which are nominated for the top awards. I'll also occasionally browse Amazon's Listmania lists -- if someone lists a lot of books I already like, it will compel me to check out some of the works I haven't.

    The two exceptions are The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. I was admittedly attracted to those covers first...but even then, I went home and researched them on the internet first instead of just buying directly.

    Also, I think the way we shop impacts our book decisions. I'd say I buy 75% or more of my books online from Amazon, despite living two blocks from a brick and mortar bookstore (B&N).

  2. Recommendations from friends. If I borrow a book and LOVE LoVE LOvE LOVE it, I'll go back and dive into the author's other work. If I really enjoy the author's other stuff (Murakami, for example), I may even start going crazy "collecting" his stuff... and maybe look for 'rare' covers, etc. But I don't end up being a SERIOUS collector, because I don't have the time nor the money for that foolishness. Too many songs to write and record. I just buy the paperbacks, chew 'em up, and then arrange them "just so" on my book case.
    Then I give 'em all away and start over.

  3. First is having already read and liked books by the same author. Second would be recommendations by friends. Third: An interesting title or cover will draw me to read the inside flap/back cover. I almost never bother to read the first couple of pages before deciding to buy or not. I find reviews to be useless and I am always disappointed by books I have selected based on them.

  4. A lot of books I read come as recommendations from friends, and also I gravitate to books from authors who have a proven track record with me. But I also pick up titles when browsing in bookstores or the library. I am attracted by interesting covers- recently picked up "Let the Great World Spin" based on the cover and bought it after reading the back cover description. I do get the NYT weekly book reviews and occasionally a title interests me but it's more based on the description than on the reviewer's take.

  5. Thank you for the compliment over on Nathan's blog. Made my day! That was very nice of you to do that.

  6. When I'm just looking for something new, I'm completely likely to read back cover copy, and if I like the description, the first few pages. And if I like that, I'll buy that sucker.

    I've discovered lots of writers this way that I wouldn't have found otherwise. The first draw is always the title. I do my damnedest to ignore the way the cover looks because covers are all so awful these days, aren't they? Some fetching 19-year-old gazing misty-eyed at the moon. What is THAT about?? Even the cover of The Passage, which I just read, is crap, IMHO. Art and subtlety are clearly dead in the publishing industry.

    Sorry - I digress. Title, back cover copy, first few pages. That's what gets me.