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Adagio
12-28-2009, 12:17 AM
Is it the blurb, the hook, the first chapter you skim through, the style, the picture of the photogenic author on the back cover ... all of the above? I'm referring here to a new writer you know nothing, or almost nothing, about. You certainly know nothing about plot and character development in that book unless you read it in the bookstore before you part with your money.

For me, the blurb works (it tells me what the book is about), as well as the style. I don't buy many books written in the 1st pov -- not that I'm biased against it, but I'm not writing in this pov for the time being. Exception, Pat Conroy.

The hook doesn't work either. I'm sure that beyond the hook (or lack of) there's a story in those three hundreds or so pages. But the style, yes. Which brings me to another topic: style, prose, voice, and what it means to you. To me, it is important, decisive when buying the book.

Adagio

dgrintalis
12-28-2009, 12:23 AM
When I'm strolling through the bookstore, the title usually grabs me first. When I pull it off the shelf, I check out the cover, then read the back cover. If it sounds interesting, I usually open to the first chapter and read a bit, to see if the writing engages me. The story doesn't need to be wham-bam from the beginning, but the author's voice needs to grab me.

Sophia
12-28-2009, 12:34 AM
My eye is drawn first by the cover. I rarely read the blurb, partly because I've found in the past that many blurbs don't accurately reflect what happens in the book, but also as I don't want to read story spoilers, but want to be surprised by what happens. As I tend to look in particular genre aisles, I know that the book will generally be something I'm likely to be interested in.

I always read the first page to see if it hooks me, and then a paragraph from a random page or two from the middle of the book to see if the standard of writing is high -- that is, if the word choices and dialogue demonstrate that the author knows what they're doing with language. As I read from a writer's perspective as well, I also look for whether I can learn something from the book. An expertly-written book will always inspire me to push myself further in my own writing.

ishtar'sgate
12-28-2009, 12:45 AM
When I'm strolling through the bookstore, the title usually grabs me first. When I pull it off the shelf, I check out the cover, then read the back cover. If it sounds interesting, I usually open to the first chapter and read a bit, to see if the writing engages me. The story doesn't need to be wham-bam from the beginning, but the author's voice needs to grab me.
What dgrintalis said. Exactly how I make my choice.

sunandshadow
12-28-2009, 01:32 AM
I also look at basically the same things in the same order as dgrintalis. Only the last bit is different - I don't care about voice much, the content is what needs to grab my interest from the beginning. If the topic/focus of the first few pages of the book is boring or disagreeable that's a bad omen for the rest of the book.

fadeaccompli
12-28-2009, 01:40 AM
And another seconding of the title -> cover -> blurb -> first few pages process. It's about the only way to approach new books when I'm browsing in the library or on the bookshelf. (If I already know the author, I'm a lot more likely to either buy their book automatically ("Oh, look! Something new by Connie Willis/Elizabeth Bear/Terry Pratchett!") or go straight to the blurb on the back, to see if, say, it's the kind of Stephen King book I'm going to want to read or not.)

I've seen terrible covers on books of authors I like, so perhaps it's unfair to treat books this way... but covers do tell me about what kind of reader the marketers think will want to read this book. If the cover highlights a man who looks like Duke Nukem posing in mecha armor, it's probably not the same kind of story as the one where the cover has a woman in overalls banging a wrench against the insides of a spaceship, even if both back cover blurbs claims that it's a story of interstellar war and intrigue.

In the library, rather than the bookstore, there are a few other things I look for, especially in the YA aisles. If the library has six identical copies of a book on its shelf? It's probably because it gets checked out a lot, and I'll automatically go grab a copy to look at even if the title didn't pull me in. Big books with glossy covers and the title done in a fancy font? Probably something fantasy/supernatural, so I'll pick that up over one with a spine that implies it's another book about dealing with parental divorce. Several books with very similar font/color/size in a row? Now there's a series, and if it's a hardcover series, it's not a Babysitter's Club sort of thing; time to pull out the first one and see what convinced people to keep reading for seven books about these characters.

...all that being said, when I go into a bookstore or library, 90% of my purchases come from a list I brought in with me, and said list is composed by adding a new title to the Giant List Of Books I Want To Read every time I read a review of a book and go, "Huh, that's cool. Maybe I'll read that too." And by "review" I mean everything from a full professional review on the Tor blog to some friend of mine mentioning that they're really enjoying reading this quirky book on lobsters. I'll ignore a bad cover--and not read the blurb at all, being wary of spoilers--if I've heard someone refer to a book positively before.

Hip-Hop-a-potamus
12-28-2009, 01:43 AM
My eye is drawn first by the cover. I rarely read the blurb, partly because I've found in the past that many blurbs don't accurately reflect what happens in the book, but also as I don't want to read story spoilers, but want to be surprised by what happens. As I tend to look in particular genre aisles, I know that the book will generally be something I'm likely to be interested in.

I always read the first page to see if it hooks me, and then a paragraph from a random page or two from the middle of the book to see if the standard of writing is high -- that is, if the word choices and dialogue demonstrate that the author knows what they're doing with language. As I read from a writer's perspective as well, I also look for whether I can learn something from the book. An expertly-written book will always inspire me to push myself further in my own writing.

Yep, me too! I've found I tend to be drawn to fuzzy retouched photos, especially if they're sort of sepia-toned (think "The Alienist" or "Devil In the White City"). Those tend to be the interesting historical-themed items that I enjoy the most (and they're also what I write, so win-win, eh?).

Sevvy
12-28-2009, 02:44 AM
I was doing just this today, trying to spend a gift certificate at Barnes and Noble, which is swiftly becoming one of my least favorite bookstores (at least the local one is).

The book I grabbed off the shelf--amidst crap-tastic books about vampires or magic detectives--caught my attention because of the title first, then I quickly read the back blurb. When I didn't see the words "vampire," "was brought back to fight evil etc." or "hot and sexy", I decided to get it because I felt that I had to buy something with my x-mas present. I still have $35 dollars left on that gift card too, that's how few things were able to grab my attention and make me want to spend someone else's money. Seriously. I felt really sad when I left that store, because it used to be I could spend $100 in ten minutes. Now everything in the sci-fi/fantasy section looks the same.

TrickyFiction
12-28-2009, 03:13 AM
Usually, a number of recommendations from friends, the cover, an intriguing first few pages and interesting back-of-book blurb. Large pictures of the author on the back tend to turn me off. Oh... and shiny. I am always drawn to shiny.

Kathleen42
12-28-2009, 05:26 AM
Cover will make me pick it up. Blurb will make me crack it open. First paragraph plus random paragraphs on random pages will be what makes me buy.

Kalyke
12-28-2009, 06:55 AM
I've always been pretty poor. I rarely buy books that are not reference books. I read mainly borrowed library books. What I look at The genre. I do not read any Fantasy, YA, or SF. That is an automatic fail. I rarely read "genre" as well. I look for a solid general fiction, suspense or literature book involving some problem that sounds believeable. I'm sick of fantasy. I am pretty sure I am at that age.

I am attracted to books like "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil." and "The Cement Garden."

Type (genre), cover art, blurb, and then scan random pages for interesting writing and sex scenes. anything like "He held her firmly as the mud boiled benieth them," is an immediat check out.

PoppysInARow
12-28-2009, 07:27 AM
Cover makes me pick it up, and/or title. I mostly read fantasy, and so the cover can usually help me pick them out. Then I read the back. It needs a good hook. I love one liner hooks. Then after the blurb, I read the first page. If it makes it that far, I'll usually buy it.

kaitie
12-28-2009, 08:02 AM
Covers, titles, blurb. If I'm in a bookstore and see a cool cover, that might be enough for me to pick up the book. Generally, an awesome sounding title will do it, too. Otherwise, I go around reading blurbs on the backs of books (regardless of cover) and pick out the ones that sound interesting. I never read pages first.

Libbie
12-28-2009, 08:05 PM
1. Title
2. Cover art
3. Skimming through to look for quality prose

That's about it. Oh, and I almost never take a chance on an author who nobody has recommended to me unless it's a historical novel. I'll typically only read outside the historical-novel genre if a friend whose opinion I trust tells me to check out X author. The reason I'm more open to experimentation with historicals is because I just love the genre so much, I'll forgive most faux pas for the sake of spending some time in history.

But title and cover most definitely catch my eye first.

kuwisdelu
12-28-2009, 08:10 PM
1. Recommendation (friends or other authors I enjoy).
2. Style/voice/writing.
10. Blurb.

If the writing's good enough, I don't care much about the story.

Am I the only one that doesn't give a rat's ass about cover art or title?

Samantha's_Song
12-28-2009, 08:17 PM
After reading the blurb, or maybe someone telling me about the story, is what would make me buy the book. For instance, I watched the film, 'Atonement', the other week and I commented about it on my Facebook page. A Facebook friend, who happens to be another AWer, told me how the book was better than the film as we see it from the writer character's pov. That interested me, as I thought she was a bit of a cow in the end of the film for telling lies about the people she'd wronged, so I'll be buying the book in the new year.

profen4
12-28-2009, 08:29 PM
in order:
1) Cover (If the cover sucks I don't even pick it up)
2) Title
3) back copy blurb
4)first chapter or at least 10 pages (which I absolutely read in the store)

Ken
12-28-2009, 08:33 PM
... good reviews.

Richard White
12-28-2009, 11:11 PM
One thing I can say . . .

I've never bought a book on-line unless I already knew the author and liked their stuff.

If you're not getting the books in the store so I can (see the cover, read the first few pages, read the blurb, take your choice), I'm not going to buy it.

I don't "cruise" B&N.com looking for new books.

I just don't.

Libbie
12-28-2009, 11:14 PM
Am I the only one that doesn't give a rat's ass about cover art or title?

I'll still read a book with a bad cover or a bad title, but as far as what catches my eye when I'm browsing in a book store and trying out authors I don't know, yes, title and cover do play a large part of drawing me in. They are, after all, the packaging in which the product is displayed. Business people the world over will tell you that attention-grabbing packaging is very important in selling products.

Jamesaritchie
12-29-2009, 03:48 AM
The only reason I can see to buy a book is because you think it's going to be a great read. I don't buy books because I like cover art, though I may pick up a book because of it. Same with jacket copy.

I buy a book because it sounds like one I'll like, but only if I start reading page one and do not want to stop reading.

charlotte49ers
12-29-2009, 03:54 AM
If I'm browsing blindly, the cover gets my attention first, then an intriguing title, but I don't buy it unless the blurb on the book jacket looks good. Sometimes I'll scan the first couple of pages, too, to make sure I like the writing style.

I don't BUY a book because of the cover, but it gets my attention initially.

AryaT92
12-29-2009, 03:55 AM
Is it the blurb, the hook, the first chapter you skim through, the style, the picture of the photogenic author on the back cover ... all of the above? I'm referring here to a new writer you know nothing, or almost nothing, about. You certainly know nothing about plot and character development in that book unless you read it in the bookstore before you part with your money.

First thing that draws me in is the front cover / title. Then it's the blurb on the back to keep me going, then skimming first chapter. I don't care what the author looks like.

AnonymousWriter
12-29-2009, 03:55 AM
1. Reviews.
2. Blurb.
3. Good opening.
4. Good style/voice.

Cover art and title may attract me to pick some books up, but the other four still play a key role in deciding which books to buy. I don't care about the author's picture (whether there is one, where it is, what they look like). I just like a great story and fantastic writing.

CK Matthews
12-29-2009, 03:56 AM
1. Reviews
2. Cover
3. Author Bio

I always read reviews about anything I am thinking about purchasing. Amazon is great for this. Not all the reviews are helpful, but they are usually written by regular people. I also like a nice book cover. It's not necessary, but it does get me to initially look at the book. Lastly, I'm always curious as to the author's bio. I want to know where they are from and what other things they've published.

nevada
12-29-2009, 03:56 AM
I work for a book wholesaler now (yes, i get free books. every week :D) and what ive noticed lately are extremely misleading covers especially in urban fantasy novels. they're all pretty much a picture of a kick-ass woman in mild bondage leather outfits. Except that three in the past two months have not had a woman as a MC, two of them not even as a minor character. They've been about men. Kick-ass men. and yet for some reason, the publishers decided that they had to have the ubiquitous vampire-slayer buffy-for-leatherfreaks covers. So while i do still look at the cover when i choose my free! books, i also read the blurb because the cover can be a total lie. and then i read the first page. if it sucks, which i sometimes decide in the first paragraph, i put the book back.

Libbie
12-29-2009, 07:09 AM
The only reason I can see to buy a book is because you think it's going to be a great read. I don't buy books because I like cover art, though I may pick up a book because of it. Same with jacket copy.

Exactly.

But I'm not going to buy a book I don't pick up. If a book has a cover that doesn't attract my attention, I'm not going to pick it up.

Libbie
12-29-2009, 07:11 AM
I work for a book wholesaler now (yes, i get free books. every week :D) and what ive noticed lately are extremely misleading covers especially in urban fantasy novels. they're all pretty much a picture of a kick-ass woman in mild bondage leather outfits. Except that three in the past two months have not had a woman as a MC, two of them not even as a minor character. They've been about men. Kick-ass men. and yet for some reason, the publishers decided that they had to have the ubiquitous vampire-slayer buffy-for-leatherfreaks covers. So while i do still look at the cover when i choose my free! books, i also read the blurb because the cover can be a total lie. and then i read the first page. if it sucks, which i sometimes decide in the first paragraph, i put the book back.

Whose blog was it that discussed this very weird phenomenon not too long ago? Was it Smart Bitches? They also noted that it's hot right now to have crouching kick-ass women on covers, while a year or so ago it was women showing their tramp stamps.

Ha!! Cover trends. I love them.

Gregg
12-29-2009, 07:53 AM
Usually the first page. If I like the writing style, I'll keep reading. If the story catches me in that first page, I'm hooked.
Usually works for me.
I have a Kindle 2 and can download a sample - usually most of the first chapter. I'll usually read all of it.

This may come across as sexist, but I usually prefer mystery/thrillers written by men. But I loved the books by PJ Tracy (a mom-daughter team).

Fang100
12-30-2009, 02:21 AM
Personally I ignore any reviews about books (or films, music, and anything else for that matter), as I am well aware one person's opinon is not necessarily my opinion. Thus a book a critic raves about I may find complete rubbish for whatever reason.

What makes me buy a book? The style of the blurb (by that I mean font its written in, etc), as it can tell a lot about the story itself, cover art (sometimes), and tag line.

I tend to get most of my books from charity shops and go out of my way to buy something I wouldn't usually think about reading, just to give myself a break from my favourite subjects / authors. Fell in love with John Preston's stuff by doing that!

entropic island
12-30-2009, 03:15 AM
A new author, a vanity publisher and a title I have to special order. Wait...

Adagio
12-30-2009, 04:01 AM
First thing that draws me in is the front cover / title. Then it's the blurb on the back to keep me going, then skimming first chapter. I don't care what the author looks like.

The reason why I mentioned the author's photo in my post is that I read a while ago an article about the importance of how "cool" the writer looks in selling the book. Reading behind the lines is that looks matter -- which, I know, sounds silly and it should be dismissed, right? But then I read another article related to the death of the writer Olivia Goldsmith (remember The First Wives Club and The Bestseller which I recommend for it sheds some light over the publishing business). She died while having a minor cosmetic surgery -- apparently to improve her looks in the promotional photos (she was a pretty lady only a tad plump). RIP Olivia, you were one of my favorite authors and I learned a lot from you.

Adagio

Hip-Hop-a-potamus
12-30-2009, 06:42 AM
1. Recommendation (friends or other authors I enjoy).
2. Style/voice/writing.
10. Blurb.

If the writing's good enough, I don't care much about the story.

Am I the only one that doesn't give a rat's ass about cover art or title?

I've never been able to go on recommendation because opinions are so subjective. I've never found anyone who has similar tastes to mine, and anytime anyone has recommended something to me, I've been disappointed. The cover method has always worked for me. :)

David Wisehart
12-30-2009, 06:53 AM
Nowadays, I rarely buy books I haven't already researched online. The real grabbers for me are title, blurb (hook), genre, and the opening page or two. If I like those, I'll go online and see what readers are saying about it.

Brutal Mustang
12-30-2009, 08:10 AM
The art/design of the book's spine is what grabs me first.

dnic
12-30-2009, 08:18 AM
Covers -> Authors -> First pages -> Random middle pages -> Blurbs.

I don't put that much weight on the blurbs since I've found out that some of my favorite authors' tastes run contrary to mine.

I do pick up books based on reviews though, and that bypass the "covers," "authors," and "blurbs," but I do still read some of the pages for the voice and the feel of the book.

roseangel
12-30-2009, 08:19 AM
I'm regularly penniless, so I tend to only purchase books I adore enough to reread several times.
But when I am browsing the library I look for interesting titles, then I read the back, if the back is interesting enough, I check it out and give it a try.
I tend to check out bag fulls of books, so its all good.

Nightfly
12-30-2009, 10:31 AM
I like things that are shiny. If the jacket is shiny I'l probably buy it. Of course sometimes it's really just about the lighting at the bookstore or adult toy store or what have you. And if you can't recreate that at home well, that's - well buying books is a gamble.

Nightfly
12-30-2009, 10:39 AM
I also look for national book award winners, authors I know, and I get some good leads on NPR on occasion.

Tara Stone
12-31-2009, 05:47 PM
The cover and title grab my attention first. Then I read the plot description - that's the most important part for me. If it looks like something I might like, I read a short excerpt, and (if I'm browsing on Amazon or someplace similar, which I usually am) check out the reviews.

nitaworm
12-31-2009, 06:09 PM
1. The cover - usually is the only reason I'll pick it up or select it when browsing ebooks or the store
2. The blurb - Definately read that before purchase
3. The excerpt - I wish more books had these
4. The opening

I don't usually read the reviews unless I am purchasing an e-book or a book online. When I buy from the store - the above is what gets me.

love2win
12-31-2009, 11:04 PM
I've had cause to think about this a lot lately since my the historical romance I've written (well, except for ghosted books) is in the hands of publishers now, thanks to my hard-working agent.

So I've wondered what would make me choose my book off the bookshelves in a store when there are thousands of others. Let's say an avid reader goes down a genre aisle in a favorite bookstore, already focused on that genre. Paperbacks are often positioned so only the spine shows--that means the title has to be a grabber from the start to entice a potential buyer to look further. The cover art comes next, and in some genres (romance in particular), that too needs to intrigue the reader.

But here's the kicker: The writer has control over neither of these. A publisher may decide to change the writer's submitted title for a variety of reasons. There may be a similar (or identical title) already on the market, or the publisher may be planning to issue a book with such a title that had already been bought when this one was submitted. The title might turn out to be quite different from what the writer had planned.

Cover art is similar. There's a lot of stock art out there and I've noticed a suspicious likeness in the pose and the hero and heroine on many covers. Again, the cover is the publisher's choice.

Now we come to the importance of the writer's name or pen name, as the case may be. A known author is more likely to be read. So where does this place those of us who are trying to make a name? If you're choosing a pen name, you might want to consider one that alphabetically is in the the middle of a group of writers who are well known. At least your book will be spotted and it will be in good company. Using a pen name somewhere between Stephen King and Dean Koontz is sure to be seen.

The blurb on the back cover is often written by an editorial assistant or a freelancer--now there's a way to make a quick buck or two and get to read for a living! Sadly, the blurb often suggests the blurb writer gave only a cursory glance at the book instead of reading it. Often the only thing a cover blurb can do for the reader is point him/her toward a particular period if the book is a historical novel. But before I'm too hard on blurb writers, let me offer this: they are paid little and must cover much territory to make a little money.

You control what you can as a writer and do the best job of publicizing your book you can. Email your friends from coast to coast when the book will be released. Offer to sign copies at the local bookstore and volunteer to speak to writers' groups. Anything that will promote sales. Because even if you get a contract for the first book, whether you'll get a contract for a second depends on sales.

Brindle Chase
12-31-2009, 11:23 PM
In this order... pretty much always... :tongue


Recommendations from friends who know what I like to read
Cover
Blurb on back
Authors I recognize

Ms Hollands
01-01-2010, 09:08 PM
Book club makes me buy a book. I am totally lazy/indecisive when it comes to choosing books, and since everyone else in my book club is on the case, I let them decide what I will read both for book club and beyond. So far, they've only let me down once with a book I didn't enjoy.

Shadow_Ferret
01-01-2010, 09:25 PM
1) Recommendations. (All that does is get me to pick up the book. For me to buy it, the first page has to grab me.)
2) Reviews. (Ditto)
3) If I already enjoy the author.
4) But if I go in totally unprepared, then it is the title or cover, that's how I found "The Nymphos of Rocky Flats." C'mon! A book about nymphos? How could that NOT be good? :D

gothicangel
01-01-2010, 09:36 PM
I know I'm going to get kicked for this because it goes against agent/editor advice.

I want something different. I don't like copies of books I've already read. If I smell a whiff of a formula I'm not interested. Probably why I prefer psychological suspense over detective et al.

M.R.J. Le Blanc
01-03-2010, 05:16 AM
1.)The cover. A catchy cover always catches my eye
2.)Blurb. It has to be well written otherwise I can't bring myself to waste my time with the book

That's pretty much it for me. I don't go by reviews or recommendations for a few reasons. One, I hate hype. I'm not interested in following the latest fad book because EVERYONE is reading it. It gets me wondering if so many people are reading it because it's a genuinely good book, or if because 'everyone's reading it'. Two, while it's great to know other people enjoyed it doesn't mean I would find it a good book. So it doesn't hold much weight for me because many people may hate something I turn out to really like and vice versa. I let the book itself convince me.

Adagio
01-03-2010, 10:56 AM
I've had cause to think about this a lot lately since my the historical romance I've written (well, except for ghosted books) is in the hands of publishers now, thanks to my hard-working agent.

You control what you can as a writer and do the best job of publicizing your book you can. Email your friends from coast to coast when the book will be released. Offer to sign copies at the local bookstore and volunteer to speak to writers' groups. Anything that will promote sales. Because even if you get a contract for the first book, whether you'll get a contract for a second depends on sales.

Hum ... so true. Food for thought.

Adagio

geardrops
01-05-2010, 12:54 AM
If I'm feeling around for a new book and not relying on knowing an author, in order:

1/2) Cover/Title (whichever I see first is first, second is second)

3) Back description (I don't care who liked it, I want to know what it's about)

4) First few pages (in order of importance: voice/character, tension, setting, pacing)