It’s more important to know who will buy a book (and why) than who the book is by …

I read recently that the five main things that lead people to buy books, in order of degree of influence, are:

1 Cover
2 Blurb
3 Sample
4 Reviews
5 Genre

I don’t know if this is based on research or opinion, but doesn’t it mirror what we do when we’re browsing in a bookstore?

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Three editions of the same book. If you were browsing in a bookstore, which would grab your attention? (Yeah, I know – none. But just supposing …)

We pick up a book, usually because the cover catches our attention. We turn to the back and read the blurb telling us what the book is about. We open it – at the first page, or at random, and sample a paragraph or two. We look for reviews on the back or on the opening pages. The genre (which I suspect may come higher in the order of importance) may have guided our browsing in the first place, or may be confirmed as soon as we read the back cover blurb.

A similar process applies to browsing on line.

What is interesting in this is who is responsible for what most attracts readers to a book. An artist designs the cover. Reviewers write the reviews (duh). Someone in production usually writes the blurb. What’s left? Aha! At last! Something the author is responsible for – the sample and the genre.

But it’s a relatively minor part in attracting readers, and serves as a kind of healthy means of keeping writers in their place.

(I should also mention, among key influencers, booksellers who steer readers towards books they think – or know – will appeal.)

So thanks to all the people who help to sell books.


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