Friday, March 1, 2013

Survey Says... What Makes Us Buy a Book?

By Niki Turner

Yep, it's me again. Two days in a ROW. How scary is that?

I'm revealing my age with this picture of Richard Dawson in a really bad suit. Welcome to my childhood memories. From what I understand, Family Feud is still on. Somewhere. But I would have to figure out how to use the search guide function on my remote in order to find it. For those of you who are too young to remember, Richard Dawson's most famous statement was "survey says..."

Anyway, I digress. 

A week or so ago we offered a survey about book buying here at Inkwell Inspirations, and it's time to share the results! (For the original post, click the link.)

And so, without further ado, here are our results...

Apparently, readers (at least the ones who responded to this survey) like to stick with the tried and true. Authors we know, genres we like, and personal recommendations play the biggest role among the factors that influence us to buy a book.

What influences us the least? The publisher, professional reviews, availability as an e-book, and customer (or consumer) reviews are at the bottom. And those "don't judge a book by its cover" factors (cover art, title, back cover blurb) fall in the middle.

How can we, as writers, interpret and apply these results? Here are my thoughts:

  • Platform-building (i.e. social media, networking, blogging, etc.) is important.
  • Whatever genre you choose, be the best you can be in that genre. 
  • Write stories I would tell my friends to read if it wasn't my story!
  • When it's time to put together that back-cover blurb, make it sing.

Any other thoughts? Opinions? Chime in, because inquiring minds want to know.

 Niki Turner is a writer, former pastor's wife, mother of four, and grandmother of two. She is a self-confessed failure at coming up with catchy taglines for her writing, her purpose in life, or what she hopes to achieve in the future. Suggestions are welcome.


  1. Great idea from the start, Niki!
    thanks for doing this. I think it supports what I felt.

    I'm definitely impressed with the covers these days (Some are better than the books, though...)

    Personal recommendations are very important, but then we all have different tastes, so that has to be taken with such consideration. (Still much more reliable than online reviews, imo)

    1. I confess to being drawn to a great-looking cover more than once. You're right, there are some amazing ones out these days.

  2. ah, inquiring minds wanted to know. this is great to see. i appreciate your assessment too.

    everyone has personal tastes, but it's nice to see a general trend so i've something to aim for.


    1. Glad you found this helpful! It confirmed some things for me, too.

  3. Cool, Niki. I find it interesting about the publisher ranking. Most readers don't care about the publisher, which means they don't care if the book is from a small press. That goes against what I've been hearing for years, and I like it. Yay!

    So write the best book you can and learn how to narket the daylights out of it.

  4. I learned through experience that people are much more likely to try a new author at $.99 than even at $3.99.

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  7. I might be in the minority who is influenced by reviews to a certain extent- though maybe I am just perverse as sometimes I will read the critical first, or only them.
    Genre and blurb might be influencing factors too

    Got quite a few new (to me) authors on my To Read list, but possibly liking a book by an author new to use leads to wanting to read more by them too....

  8. Again I may be perverse, but sometimes seeing only glowing 5 star reviews is something I'm not always keen on- I suppose perhaps I just want to see the other side of the coin.
    Then again maybe some books are so great nearly everyone likes them....

  9. Sorry about the Spam, everybody. It sure seems like the Inkwell has been hit hard lately.

    Thanks for posting the results, Niki! I was curious. Very interesting about the publisher.

    I have bought books sorta based on the cover--they wore dresses from a particular era. Turned out it wasn't the right era. But the book was ok anyway.

  10. The timing on this is perfect because mainstream Regency author, Mary Balogh, was mentioning at our last coffee mtg the uproar she was having over book covers. This is actually a good lesson for writers because it shows you that being a NYT best selling author with over 80 books doesn't squat when the publisher decides on a cover.

    The story is that Mary's publisher is trying to reach new, younger readers, and so has devised new covers for the paperback issue of her books. The one she showed on Facebook about 10 days ago, was the new cover for The Proposal. It shows a man with an open shirt, air-brushed muscles, and 'vacuous' look on his face (Mary's word).

    She's phoned her agent to complain that she's going backward in time where her covers are concerned. Mary supplied links to her yahoo group and Facebook page where her readers are threatening to stop reading because they don't want to have covers like that around.

    The publisher said those are Mary's regular readers, and they want to reach new ones. They have compromised, but their new cover still shows an air-brushed chest, etc. However, Mary says it's better than their original choice.

    As writers, we think (at least I did) that authors of Mary's stature pretty well call the shots. Apparently, I was wrong.


  11. forgot to add. i LOVED Richard Dawson. Family Feud isn't quite the same without him.

  12. I don't really like reading the blurb on the back of the book. Often, it tells too much of the story to suit me! I might read the first couple of lines but then usually stop.

  13. Suzie, I was pleasantly surprised by the publishing house response, too. The only time in my life I ever paid attention to the publisher was when I first started reading Christian fiction, didn't know any names, and bought most of my books from the second-hand store.

  14. Dina, I think you're right about that. There are SO MANY books out there now in so many different formats I think it makes competitive pricing a bigger issue than it used to be.
    Good to know, too, for the future!

  15. @Medieval Girl,
    I think lots of people read reviews, but apparently they don't play as big a role in a book's success as we may have been led to believe recently!

  16. Thanks, Susie, for unspamming us. :)

    The only time I remember being drawn to a book strictly because the cover appealed to me was Kristen Heitzmann's "Secrets." I bought it because the cover model had short hair, and that struck me as SO unusual. I've since read everything she's written at least twice and don't even look at the covers, or the blurbs anymore. You just never know what's going to trip a reader's trigger, I suppose! :)

  17. @DebH - Yeah, Family Feud is just not the same without him. I found him sort of charming, like the "black sheep of the family" uncle who comes for Thanksgiving and teaches the kids to hang spoons off their noses and so forth. My mother despised him and turned off the TV whenever he was on. :)

  18. @Anita - Interesting. I guess the best we can do is hope and pray our publishers get it right!
    With all the re-releases out nowadays I've picked up books I've already read just because they had a new cover and I recognized the author's name, only to realize it wasn't a new story after all. I find THAT frustrating.

  19. @Elaine K - I think you're the first person I've ever heard say that about the blurbs. Hmm. Makes me wonder if we're giving too much away?

  20. OK Anita, I just reread your comment and made the connection between "Regency" and "open shirt." I must say, that leaves me confused, even for a mainstream Regency. No wonder Mary is upset!

  21. I think maybe being available in Kindle at a reasonable price might be a deciding factor for me. Kindle really cab make some titles more accessible if the paperback is expensive in the UK or not easily available.

  22. Medieval Girl - Me, too. I've discovered any number of new authors through the "free on Kindle" promotions. I've downloaded a lot of free gobbledy-gook, too, but since it was free, I didn't care!

  23. @DebH - I totally agree with you and Niki about The Feud. He was the show. We have it on TV Tropolis (?), but I rarely watch it more than a minute or two. It's disheartening when I do because it's the same-old but not the same.

    @ElaineK - Nelson is the same way. He won't look at the back or the inner blurb. And the other day, he paid for it too. LOL. He dived into the new Harlequin shipment which contained 10 books: 8 Love Inspired Suspense, 1 LIH (Inky CJ's The Reluctant Earl), and 1 Heartsong (Inky Lisa's The Magistrate's Folly). He snatched up an LISuspense because that's his favourite genre, and started reading. Within a couple pages, he said, "Oh, oh."

    I watched him stride back to the box, take out all the LIS's and line then up. He picked out 2 with the same serial title, then FINALLY flipped them over and read the back. And then he read the inside to see which book in the series came first.

    I'd like to point out here that I would have looked at the numbers on the side of the book because they're in order, and then I'd check the series list inside the cover, but ... meh (as DebH would say) Nels isn't me. LOL

    And then as he sat back down to read, he said, "Darn, now I know he dies in the end."


    But it's okay, Elaine, I won't tell him you share a habit because that will only go to his head. Haha.

  24. Niki, just in case someone got the wrong idea,I'd like to point out that these books I'm talking about are Mary Balogh's NEW series. She's just completing #3 in the series now.

    However, the hard cover copies are on a different publishing deadline - possibly even a different publisher - and that's why Book 1 was released last year. Mary gave us each one of her author copies last May but I believe she received them ahead of the actual issue.

    I've also bought books that have been repackaged by new publishers, but generally, the author has been embarrassed when they realize what's happened.

  25. Free Kindle can be good, though I lot of the books I got free were ones I already knew about and was interested it- and in one case one that I was not sure if I would be keen on. Self publishing and cheap Kindle can of course include some rubbish too though.

    Book covers can be very attractive but I tend to avoid books with that type of cover (like the one mentioned above which the author complained about), for me it just gives a certain impression- cheap and racy.

  26. Anita, wow. That would be even more difficult to deal with. Poor Mary.

  27. Medieval Girl - "Rubbish," that was the word I was looking for!

  28. Should I have said 'trash'? Rubbish is the word I am more used to, sometimes I am not always good at modifying my words, or being mindful what Americans might not understand some of the terms I use.

    Still you said that was the word you were looking for, so that might be alright.


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