Wednesday, January 31, 2018

On Attracting Readers

What makes a reader pick up a book?
For writers, this is always an intriguing question. I've been monitoring a survey on the subject, and it resulted in a few surprises.
With the millions of books published every day, writers have to resort to every element available in order to stand out and be discovered by readers. We're told we've got to become a 'brand' so those coveted readers will recognize us and seek out our work from among all those available. Branding means getting your name out in the marketplace. You've got to promote yourself as well as your books. This endless drive to promote can become overwhelming, distract from your real job (writing), and become downright annoying to potential customers if you don't do it right.
Many of the writers I know are obsessed with a desire to acquire reviews because they've been told this is the key to discovery. Amazon, for example, gives marketing assistance to books with 50 or more reviews. Some marketing programs won't accept a book unless it has a designated number of reviews.
Surprisingly, reviews were not specified as a particular attraction for readers responding to this survey.
What a majority did emphasize as elements inspiring them to pick up and buy a book were: An attention-grabbing title; an intriguing blurb, and an eye-catching cover.
Another big concern was price. They seemed to agree $2.99-3.99 for electronic and $15-20 for print were fair prices.
I was a bit surprised they put title first, since most often the advice from "experts" emphasizes cover art. Personally, I do think cover design is among the most important considerations. Yet, there is the admonition not to judge a book by its cover, and I am drawn to the mystery of titles. Think of all the great novels you would know by their titles rather than the covers adorning their pages.
In regard to blurbs, a majority said they should be just long enough to give a hint of what the story's about (but not give away everything), should not include reviews and definitely should not compare the book or writer to another.
A number of the persons responding to the survey said they also like to read a few pages of the book to test the quality of the writing before making a decision to buy. The "look inside" feature for electronic versions got a big thumbs up. Reflecting the trend to shorter attention spans, a number of the responders said they would select a shorter book over a longer one every time--provided it had the desired other attributes.
Getting back to the subject of reviews, some discounted them as merely one person's opinion while others said they have been put off by manipulation of the system and inaccurate or misleading comments.
True, this was not a huge survey. But I think it provides some interesting food for thought.