This post was written as a response to Candy Korman’s What Inspires You to Buy a Book? If any of my readers decide to write their own responses, I’ll edit this to include a link to your post.
Raise your hand if you sometimes have no idea what to read next! I know I have this problem from time to time, and it’s not because my to-be-read list needs to be padded out. My TBR is as long as it ever was.
So many books are being published these days that it can be hard to know where to begin even if you’ve narrowed your search down to a particular genre. (Sometimes I have trouble even getting that far!)
I’m going to be honest here and say that I don’t buy a ton of reading material these days. My local library does an incredible job of bringing new titles into circulation soon after they’re released, and I already have dozens of Kindle ebooks that I need to finish before I can justify buying more of them. When I do eventually buy new stuff to read, though, these are the criteria that matter most to me.
This list is written in order from the most to least influential things that will encourage me to buy a book.
Already Loving the Author’s Work
I’ll immediately go out and buy the newest book from particular authors as soon as it becomes available because of how much I’ve adored everything else they’ve ever written. The number of people who have made it to this list is small, but once they’re added to it they will almost certainly be on it for as long as they continue writing.
For example, Sarah Waters is one of the folks on this list for me. She has a way of reimagining what the past might have really been like, especially for non-heterosexual women, that will always hold a special place in my heart.
She also only publishes new material every few years, so I have plenty of time to wait for her next story before finishing the last one.
Confession: I’m a little hesitant to take book recommendations from folks who don’t know me well. My tastes are so specific that I’ve found it’s more effective to get to know someone well first before I start asking them what I should be reading next. They’re welcome to give recommendations, but I’ll be more interested in checking out their ideas once they know more about what I really love in a story.
For example, one of the things that can irk me about the science fiction and fantasy genres is how women are treated in certain parts of it. I love those genres in general, but I have little patience for storytellers who haven’t figured out to how include female characters without shoving them into the sidekick or love interest boxes. This also applies to stories where members of minority groups are given the same treatment.
Give me great storytelling by all means, but also make it intersectional and relevant to the lives of many different types of people.
Yes, I apply this rule to the way I interact with others, too. It’s fairly rare for me to give out recommendations to folks I haven’t gotten to know well. It takes time to get to know what their preferences are. I’d rather say nothing than tell them about something that they have no interest in or that potentially stirs up painful memories for them.
A Great Blurb
I won’t go into specific details about the types of stuff I look for in a blurb since this is such a subjective topic. What I consider to be a must-read plot might bore you to tears and vice versa!
There are a few things that I think every blurb should take note of, however.
One, it should tell the readers what the storyline is about. Has anyone else run across vague or misleading blurbs? I see them every so often, and I get irritated every time I realize that I’m reading something that was not anything close to what was mentioned in the blurb at all.
Two, it should not give away the entire plot. I’ve been seeing quite a few blurbs lately that basically summarize the entire story for the audience. Not cool.
Three, it should encourage the reader to ask questions. Will the lonely young woman find true love? Will the detective find out who is killing her neighbours before she becomes his newest victim? Even if I know what the answer will be ahead of time, I still want to approach the plot with a sense of wonder instead of knowing everything (or nothing) about what is going to happen in it.
While it is possible to write something that universally appealing, I place more trust in reviews and reviewers who mention the stuff they didn’t like about a particular novel or other form of entertainment as well as everything they thought was wonderful about it.
To me, a great review is one that reminds you of sitting down casually with friends and discussing what you’ve all recently read, watched, or listened to.
That is, I always want to know if a reviewer thought the pacing was a little off in the middle or if a certain character could have been fleshed out a bit more.
Small details like these actually make it more likely that I’ll buy a book because they show the reviewers were probably paying close attention and thinking critically about what they read, especially if there are multiple conflicting opinions on the same topic.
If the storyline includes something that is commonly triggering, I also want to know about this well before I even start thinking about reading the first paragraph. The list of things I absolutely refuse to read about is vanishingly small, but it exists and I hate being surprised by those topics.
Yes, compliments are important, too. A review full of nothing but compliments is definitely a pleasure to read, but it strikes me as eerie when every single reviewer agrees that something is perfect the way it is. Diversity of opinion is critical when I’m deciding what to purchase and read next regardless of how much I might or might not end up agreeing with any particular reviewer.
What encourages you to buy a book?
6 Responses to 4 Things That Inspire Me to Buy a Book
For me, the first two you listed. Word of mouth got me to reading Diana Gabaldon’s “Outlander”, and adding “Burial Rites” by Hannah Kent and “Jem, a Girl of London” by Delaney Green to my TBR e-pile. Reading the hilarious Facebook posts by Gill Sims (Peter and Jane page) made me buy both her books.
I don’t care about reviews much. I remember seeing a 1-star review for “Hyperbole and a Half” by Allie Brosh. The reviewer was shocked by how many f-bombs Allie was dropping and by the drawings that looked as if they were done in MS Paint. That was the whole point. It’s like complaining that Harry Potter books have too many wizards in them. Blurb… half-half. I’ve read great books with a blurb that could have been accurately summarised with “zzzzzzzz”. I’ve read awful ones that I bought solely on the strength of the blurb. And everything in between. I check the blurb to see whether the book has any chance of grabbing my interest – zombie vampires killing children during World War II will NOT make their way to my e-reader. But that’s really it.
Cover art is important to me. If I see a blurb promising the moon and Comic Sans on the cover, I’m not buying. Sorry. It’s superficial of me, of course, but unless ten people I trust tell me to ignore the cover and give the book a try, it’s a no from me. Whether it’s a trad or self-published book, a scantily clad woman used as decoration for a “fast-paced thriller with a strong female character” will put me off. Etc.
Also, I know that some people would kill to get their book endorsed by a famous writer, but I don’t think I have ever bought a book because of an endorsement by a writer I love. No, I’m lying. I did it once. The book was awful.
Your criteria makes a lot of sense to me.
I wonder if famous authors are paid for endorsements like that? I can’t imagine endorsing something I didn’t actually like/wasn’t actually good.
I’ve been misled by book blurbs and, having worked years ago in Advertising, I can deduce where those “false” descriptions come from. The last time it happened, I could almost see the publisher’s promotion person saying, “use these buzz words” in the summary, regardless of the actual story. The blurb should be honest, intriguing, and not give away all the secrets in the book!
Wow, I didn’t know that was happening on purpose. Somehow it makes it even worse.
I find that a blurb is of great importance to me when it comes to book selection. It might sound shallow, but the cover is a major component in it, too.
That makes sense to me.