As part of learning how best to market my books, I’ve read many things that purport to tell how people choose books. The fact that none of these reports, blogs, etc. say the same thing makes all of them a bit suspect, to my mind. The one I remember clearest right now said that a person had to hear of a book a certain number of times before they’d but it; another that the important thing was to sell yourself not the book; some insisted covers were more important than content . . . you get the idea.
So I got to thinking about the last things I’ve read that weren’t assigned for a review group and why I read them:
- Three different M.C.A. Hogarth short stories: One was a reread, the other two were because I enjoyed that one so much. So, why did I read the first one in the first place? It was free, by a self-published author — we need to support each other, and the premise sounded interesting.
- The Name of the Wind: I saw Patrick Rothfuss on Tabletop and was amused so I found his blog and was amused and very impressed by his way with words, so I read the blurb and sample and then some reviews to make sure the book didn’t start out good but end up horrible and then bought the book.
- The newest InCryptid short story: I’ve been an InCryptid fan since I read the first book after the author described the main character as the daughter of Batman and Dazzler. I discovered the livejournal post where she said this when a friend commented on someone’s reblogging of it on Facebook. I don’t think Facebook shows me friends’ comments on other people’s posts any more, so this avenue of discovery is closed. What keeps me coming back? The characters are competent, amusing, and flawed — just like real people.
- The most recent issues of G.I. Joe A Real American Hero: I’ve covered before how very long ago I fell in love with Larry Hama‘s story-telling. So I guess the question here is what keeps me coming back every month. And that’s a question with an easy answer: characterization. Scarlett, Snake Eyes, Duke, Stalker, Storm Shadow . . . they feel more real than some people.
- Self-published novel I won’t name because I don’t recommend it: The blurb made it sound really good and it was free and self-published.
Reading over that list, it looks like for me the key to getting me to read your book in the first place is to make it sound interesting — and there’s no way I could make a list of what criteria do that as sometimes I’m not sure myself what makes one book’s blurb appeal to me while another’s doesn’t — and the key to making me come back is to give me competent, interesting characters; characters that might score high on Mary Sue tests, but who are flawed enough that you still can empathize with them.
Hmm, a list of how I choose to read a book would look like this:
- Blurb sounds like it’ll be an interesting book.
- Sample has interesting characters, good world-building is a plus, but I can overlook it a bit for characters.
- Sample doesn’t have many terrible grammar errors.
- There aren’t a lot of reviews saying things like “The first 50 pages are great, but then it’s like the editor quit.” I have, unfortunately, read far too many books, both self and trad published, that have read like this.
- Cover, number of reviews, who the author is, all that other stuff some people will tell you is so all-fired important
So, what about you? How do you choose what you’ll read? What keeps you buying an author’s work?