June 16, 2011

What Makes You Decide to Buy a Book?

Paint chip samples

My to-be-read pile is scary.  Seriously scary.  Like I-might-need-to-check-into-a-program-soon scary.

In the past year, I’ve accumulated over 100 print books.  And just since Christmas, when I received my Kindle, I’ve downloaded about 20…er, maybe 30…hmm, possibly more…Kindle books.

Honestly, most of those books I got for free, either from giveaways or contests.  I’m a book slut that way.  But a sizable number of those books I did buy.

Yet even with all that, there are still more books I want to get.  There are as many options for books as there are color shades in a paint store.  So how do I decide which ones I’ll buy?

Step One: Get Me to Consider Buying a Book

There are three main ways to get me to click on a link and check out a book:

  • I know the author in some way and want to support them.
  • The story sounds interesting.
  • The price is right—free or 99 cents.

Step Two: Get Me to Click “Buy”

Those same three methods that get me to consider buying a book apply here, but it’s the combination of two or more of them working together that will get me to commit.  For example, if I clicked on the link because I know the author, and the story sounds interesting, I’ll buy it if the price isn’t too much.

On the other hand, if the story doesn’t sound interesting, I won’t download it even if it’s free.  I don’t have time to read things I’m not interested in, as I have too many books to choose from already.  Scary TBR pile, remember?

And that “the price is right” bullet point in Step One isn’t to say that I don’t buy books for more than 99 cents.  Heh.  My wallet wishes.  A cheap price is one way to get me to check out a book’s link, but that’s not the only way to get my attention.  Note the other two bullet points.

The question is whether the other two bullet points are strong enough to pay the price, no matter what that price is.  That’s why committing to purchasing a book takes two or more reasons working together.

Why Is This Important?

Last week, we talked about how we choose blog topics in response to a post by Kristen Lamb.  My comment section turned into a great conversation about some of the different topics we discuss on our blogs.

Then on Monday, Roni Loren posted an article wondering if the successful author blog was a myth.  She did a quick survey of some of her followers and discovered that most people’s favorite authors blogged only about their tour schedule and new releases.  So she asked an intelligent question:

Are we all stressing ourselves out over something that nobody else is doing well either?

I think it’s too early to tell.  Many of the best blogs out there are written by debut or relatively new authors.  Just because they haven’t been around long enough to fall into the multi-published, successful-author category yet doesn’t mean they won’t be there five years from now.

So to answer the “what should we blog about” question, I think it comes back to those three bullet points above.  Yes, our blogs can let readers know about our stories and announce pricing and release information, but that could just as easily be shared on a static website.  The real power of blogs is with that first bullet point: letting others get to know us.

Q. What should we blog about?

A. Whatever will allow us to create relationships with others.

Period.  That’s it.  There’s no secret blogging formula for success.  We succeed every time we connect with others.

If we allow others to feel that they know us, we’re tapping into that first bullet point.  Any form of social media—blogging, Twitter, Facebook, etc.—can meet this goal.  And just as every friendship is different because the two parties form a unique connection, every writer will have to find their own path to creating those relationships.

As writers, if we can make a two-headed snorglepus from planet XYZ-157 relatable to readers, then we definitely should be able to make our love of chocolate or TV shows or RPG games relatable to our readers.  So no matter what topic we choose, it all comes down to this: If we make it relatable to others, we can use it to connect with others.

What do you think of my theory?  Do you agree or disagree?  Do you have other reasons for buying a book?  How does your TBR pile compare to mine?  *smile*

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Jacquelyn Smith

Oy, I did a massive book purge about a month ago… My husband and I have both worked for a major book retailer for years, so the pile had gotten way out of control with all the book expos. I just got a Kindle, so now I’m excited to have books that won’t take up physical space!

I totally agree with your last point about relationship-building blog topics. I don’t want to read a writer blog that’s all news about their books and nothing else. It’s engaging content that will make me a loyal follower.

Miranda Hardy
Miranda Hardy

I have a similar pile, and it kills me to not be able to read them all right away.

I often worry about blogging…what is interesting…what is not, but I like your philosophy. I plan to continue to blog what I’m comfortable with, trying not to bore others in the process. Lol

Roni Loren

Love this. (And not just because you said I asked an intelligent question. *preens*) 😉

I use the same criteria as you do. And you’re right, if I’m not interested in the story, even if I like the author, I’m not going to buy it. (Though, I have bought something I wasn’t interested that was written by an author I met online as a gift. So her platform clearly worked on me. 🙂 )

And yes, a lot of the “not many authors are doing it well” yet could just be the fact that blogging is still a pretty new thing in the writer world.

Tamara LeBlanc
Tamara LeBlanc

I’m totally with you on this on Jami. I agree that if we can make readers fall in love with our characters, their passions, lives and the worlds they inhabit, we should be able to make them enjoy reading about our passions, lives and worlds.
On the topic of books, I buy like you, friends I want to support, an intersting premise, and a decent price.
Great blog and food for thought!
Have a productive day,

Charissa Weaks

Ooohhh…..I am E.A.S.Y. when it comes to buying books. I haven’t turned to Kindle or Nook yet, just good ‘ole tangible books. And I’m addicted. Used book stores are like crack for me. If I can get a book for $5 or less I am thrilled, but if you put a pretty leather or linen cover on a classic, keep it in good condition and age it for about thirty years- there’s no telling how much I’d be willing to spend. But…it does have to be something I’m interested in.

Kristin Nador
Kristin Nador

I agree your theory is spot-on, Jami, and particularly that we are going to have to have some time pass before any real data is available to measure whether social media platforms are the make-it-or-break-it marketing to get a reader to sit down with an author’s book, as it’s being touted now. In the meantime, we should all stop stressing, meet folks and enjoy our blogs. Of course, that’s easier said than done, because I think most writer types tend to fret over writer-type activities no matter what. 🙂

On the subject of TBR pile, if someone mentions a book in a blog post or tweet, I usually go look it up on Amazon to see if it warrants inclusion in my Lifetime Reading Program otherwise known as I’m a Kindle Addict and I love to click the ‘Buy Now With One Click’ button. LOL I have 273 books TBR, about 25% free classics, the rest purchased, to Hubby’s chagrin. I’ve read 27 books so far this year, though, so I guess it’s progress…as long as I stop buying more, which I won’t. 😉

Stephanie Haefner

Great post!! I buy a book usually because others I know and trust have said they enjoyed it. I add to my Goodreads TBR list often…whenever a blogging friend writes a rave review about a book that is in a genre I like. I support fellow authors who I have come to know in the blogosphere. I support my fellow Lyrical Press authors and also the author sin my local RWA chapter.


Hmm… about blogging? As you know, I do whatever comes to mind. As Roni pointed out – during the great Alpha male spanking debate – I’m the queen of randomness. And you know? I kind of like it that way. 😉

As for what makes me buy books? I go with an author I like or a story that interests me – or maybe, by a recommendation from someone I trust. Lately, I’ve been reading like a mad woman. The stockpile I have is shrinking, but not by much. *Yikes* What a way to go – buried in a pile of books. <- Meh, I can think of worse ways to go.


Ava Jae

I absolutely agree with your theory. The best part about Twitter, Facebook, blogging (etc.) is the connection you make with other people. After all, if you don’t reach out and make new relationships, what’s the point? You can tweet and post all you like but if you aren’t connecting with anyone, it all falls very flat.

I think another thing (besides price and connections) that gets me to buy a book or add it to my TBR pile is the cover. Yes, I know, don’t judge a book by it’s cover and all that but–and I suspect I’m not alone here–if the cover doesn’t grab my attention, I’m probably going to walk (or scroll) right by it.

Keep up the great posts!

Deri Ross
Deri Ross

Hi Jami, Great post! I have a modest TBR pile, but my wish-list is a mile long. I’ve put off buying a lot of the books I want to read because my life has been so busy with college, and also because I know for a fact that I will be moving at least two more times in the next couple of years (yikes!). I do not relish the thought of lugging huge boxes of books with me as my life settles down. I have been slow to embrace e-books, being a lover of traditional books, but I finally broke down and bought my first one a week ago (downloaded Kindle reader for my PC). I bought Amanda Hocking’s first Trylle book, Switched. I bought it for several reasons: 1) curiosity about all the hype surrounding Amanda and her success, 2) I loved the premise of the book after I read up on it, and 3) the Kindle price of $.99 made it easy to risk it — if I didn’t like it, no harm done. While it isn’t the best book I’ve ever read, turns out I love it and will most likely buy and download the next two books in the trilogy when I’m done. So the combination of her established “presence” in the writing world, having a solid book premise, and making it accessible for new readers of her work is sheer brilliance. Now, if someone had handed me the book and said “here, it’s about trolls,”…  — Read More »

Susan Sipal

I had to build an outside storage house for all my books (and paperwork)! And I still won’t more. I’m afraid of what I’d do if I got a Kindle.

And I definitely agree with you on blogging what we love, which is why I do mine on Harry Potter and writing. Like a Reeses, two great loves come together for a great taste! 🙂

Nicole Basaraba

I want to expand my to-be-read pile. I usually pick a book by going to the bookstore and looking at what is on display. This must be the most archaic way of choosing, but its fun. I also pick books by author’s I know and then I will choose other books based on what the story is about.

I might have to jump on the Kindle bandwagon to find more ways of increasing my to-be-read pile.

Laura Pauling

If someone can make me laugh on their blog and they write a book that is my style and what I like to read – I’ll buy it. But usually I check out a book based on buzz but I read the first chapter before buying. If i Like the first chapter and the premise of the book, I’ll buy.

Your tbr pile is way bigger than mine!

Roxanne Skelly
Roxanne Skelly

I’m building a scary TBR pile myself. Fortunately, I had a house remodel recently and extra supporting framing was put in place below our bookcases. I choose as follows: 1) If I’m invested in a series, I’ll buy those. Generally via Amazon. 2) I’m on a ‘read local authors’ kick. Fortunately, there are a ton in the Pacific Northwest, especially Seattle. Yay for dreary dark cloudy rainy weather in a town with a dubious history. Except for sparkly vampires. I just don’t buy that. 3) If a book is on the ‘also bought’ list, I’ll consider it if it has a good review. 4) If one of my favorite authors or bloggers mentions the book in their blog or elsewhere, I’ll check it out. 5) Used book stores are great. If the book has an interesting title, a genre appropriate and quality cover, is maybe part of a series, and looks like an interesting story, i’ll check it out at the used bookstore price (and if it’s good, see 1 above…I wanna give the author my money) I’m guessing a number of readers buy books for the same reasons, so my take away as far as marketing via social media…convince popular authors to read and blog about my work. Having a writing blog may not be such a bad idea if I’m trying to meet other writers. Attending conferences is also a good way to meet them. More important, you get something even more valuable than a blog entry. You…  — Read More »

Todd Moody

Hi Jami!
I just bought another book this week and found 2 more I want to buy. I doubt I’ll ever catch up on my book pile, but at least we have choices when that free time finally comes. =)

I am trying to support my new writer friends that are self-publishing, the next step of course is doing a nice critique for them, but it takes time to read their book and write a critique, which I’m just not very good at. But its the rating that matters to the new author.

Great ideas are the thing that catches my imagination. I hope that the prose match, and it happens occasionally.

Great post as always!

Andrew Mocete

Presentation is key. My friends get more latitude, (thankfully this has never been an issue) but if the book doesn’t look pro, I’m not interested in what it’s about. Same as if you were having an interview. You put on your best face.

After that, the usual criteria applies. (Premise and price)

Gene Lempp

I’m a sucker for book sales, libraries, churches, etc., at least in my area, tend to have them annually or bi-annually. Buy a grocery bag for $5 and fill it from a selection of thousands. So to answer the TBR pile, I have 3 grocery bags of books and that is not counting the 50 or so that I have bought other ways, a Kindle selection and stack of about a dozen craft books I haven’t been able to get to yet. Maybe if I learn to read two books at a time, one with each eye, I’ll be done in a few years.

I agree with your theory. I think making personal connections and having excellent content in our writing, whether it is our blog, our book or our stories is the “magic” combination.

Kerry Meacham
Kerry Meacham

I would add “recommendations from others” to the list. Yes, I buy because I know the author, it sounds interesting, and it’s inexpensive too. However, if an expert recommends a book I am likely to buy it. Early on in some tweets you recommended certain books on grammar to me, and I bought them. I bought “The Help” because Larry Brooks recommended it. I’ve bought several craft books because Kristen Lamb recommended them. I’ll stop there. BTW, does anyone not have a to-be-read pile that isn’t huge?

Michele Shaw

As far as blogging, I agree, blog about what interests you. If you’re bored, it shows. I’ve read a lot of blogs and thought the writer wrote something because they felt they had to get a post out there. Yeah, didn’t entice me to return. If I have a week with nothing to say, I simply don’t post. I think that’s best for all concerned! ha ! As for picking books, I have to like the premise, and I will give the first few pages a read. The first pages ARE very important!

Lynn Kelley

Those same three reasons you listed also apply to me, but I also stick to certain genres that are my favorites. I, too, have so many books waiting to be read. There’s just never enough time. Have a great weekend.

Tahlia Newland

If I don’t like the cover, I won’t pick it up, unless I’ve already had a recommendation. I can’t help it, I’m a very visual person. Other than that, same things as you, but price will only sway me if I’m not sure. If I really want a book, I’ll pay the price. Over $10 though and I probably won’t unless all the Goodreads reviews convince me I should part with the dough.

M.E. Anders
M.E. Anders

I would add one more thing to your “consider buying” list, Jami. I ALWAYS check to see if I can get the book for free at my local public library…I’m definitely a library junkie.

As a result of your post about “what to blog about,” I have restructured my blog to fit my personality…loving it! Thanks SO much! 🙂


[…] Gold shares her thoughts on What We Should Blog About and gets there by looking at What Makes You Decide to Buy a […]

Melissa Sugar

I stumbled on this older post of yours . I guess that’s the idea, huh, when you have the other interesting blog topics widget at the bottom of a post? Well, it works! I don’t know if you read comments from this far back, but I thought I’d take a shot. My TBR pile sounds exactly like yours and it continues growing, daily. I wish I had time to read every book and even though I know it’s an impossible goal, it never deters me from buying. Here is what makes me purchase a book: 1. I always and I do mean always try to purchase a book if I recognize the author’s name as a blogger friend. I do this even when it’s not a genre that I normally read. I’ve read some genres that I never would’ve considered reading before I began blogging and I’m happy to say that I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how much I’ve enjoyed some of them. Of course there are some that I don’t finish, but not everyone can love every book. I even purchase some books that I’m pretty sure I may never get around to reading (I can’t believe I just admitted that). I do it as a way of showing my support for fellow author/bloggers and I hope that one day (fingers crossed) when I’m a published author, some of those authors may remember that I purchased or helped promote their work. 2. Word of mouth. I rely on the…  — Read More »

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