Writing and publishing a book takes effort, inspiration and persistence. And, since this is undoubtedly the truth, it goes without saying that once the book is published and you become an author, you want to make sure that your book will sell when it is marketed and offered to your prospective readers. So, in this blog, we will explore what factors make readers buy or not buy YOUR book!
First, it has to be said that many people buy books based on appearance. Yes, we are all a little shallow! People say, “Don’t judge a book by its cover” but unfortunately, we all do. People are hard-wired to be drawn to and, I believe, more likely to purchase things that look, well… pretty. I know that I am drawn to books based on looks first. I will spot the spine or cover of a book from several metres away in a book store and follow up by making my way over to pick it up and hopefully, for the author’s sake, buy it.
Now, there is certainly an art to a great book cover and it’s true that not one single book cover will appeal to ALL potential readers based our individual preferences. But, of course, like in life, it’s not your job to please everyone: only the people who are, with certainty, going to be interested in and benefit from your book. Your task is to ensure that you pay as much attention to your cover as you do to the inside content. I am sure, that like me, you have neglected to buy books because the cover didn’t ‘grab’ you due to being the wrong colours (yes, it happens), cheap or tacky in appearance, disturbing, offensive, or out of context for what the book is about. The sad thing is that the contents of the actual book may be brilliant, but because of the cover, you (or the reader) never gets to experience it. You don’t want this to happen to your book!
2. Title and Subtitle
The second way I’ve seen people buy books is through the title and/or subtitle of the book. This is self-explanatory, as it is common knowledge that the way a book is named can either draw you in or put you off. I have certainly picked up books off the shelf to buy them based on their title. An example of this is a book I bought in 2013 by Rasheed Ogunlaru which was titled Soul Trader: Putting the Heart Back into Your Business. The title was a very clever play on words and it suit the content of the book beautifully. There was a great consistency between the title and what Ogunlaru was teaching in the book, and I have respect for that. As it would happen, the book is much more than a neat title and is also filled with extensively useful information.
3. Table of Contents
Other people will (and this might sound strange if you’ve never done it) purchase books based on the third way, the Table of Contents (sometimes noted as the TOC). I had a contact of mine pick up my fourth published book, The Inspirational Messenger: The 5 Pillars to Becoming Inspirational In Everything You Do, and the first thing she did was open up to the good old TOC. Sitting beside me, she read all of the chapter titles out-loud, murmuring, “Yes, uh huh, yes, good.” Was I a tiny bit nervous? Yes! It was like open-heart surgery! But, thankfully for me, she was impressed, and bought the book. Not surprisingly, this also reminded me how important chapter titles themselves are in terms of catching interest and being clear to the reader.
4. The Content
The fourth way that I’ve watched people buy books is through the content itself. In other words, they do the “flick-through”. They open to the inside of the book and read a few paragraphs or in some cases, several pages, to see if the book is the one for them. In the simplest terms, they’re looking to see if that book can help them get closer to, or more of, what they would love in their life. They want to know if it’s worth their time reading. They want to know if your knowledge is going to provide a great return on investment for the thirty-odd dollars they will potentially spend on your combination of mind-and-tree (think about it!). It’s standard, people do it every day, and they will do it to your book.
Now, some people, like myself (cough), do the “quick-flick”. I squirm to say it and writing this catches me red-handed, but I am on the ruthless side when it comes to checking over what content is in a book. I quickly flick to five or six different ‘random’ pages in the book and make a quick evaluation over how ‘good’ the content is – in other words, how engaging it is, how well it’s written, and whether it’s of interest to me. It goes without saying that I am interested in what different authors and publishers have done in bringing books to life as there is always something to learn. However, when I’m shopping for myself, I am cut-throat. This is possibly because I spend so much time in and around books that I have less patience and I simply want to get to the point! Be aware, that there are many others like me out there!
5. The Blurb
The fifth way that I’ve watched people buy books is through the blurb – essentially, the words on the back cover. Now, this has to be said and I say it for you as food for thought, but I would suggest actually including a blurb on the back cover explaining what the book is about. You might be sitting there thinking, “Don’t all books have blurbs?” Well, you know it’s interesting because until the last few years, I would have thought so too. But, what surprises me often when I browse through a book store is that a high portion of books don’t use a straightforward blurb on the back cover – instead, they opt to pack it with testimonials and reviews about the book.
This personally frustrates me. Unless it’s Donald Trump, Bill Gates or Oprah Winfrey writing a personal comment about the book on the back cover, I’m generally not that persuaded nor am I interested in what Joe Smith has to say about the book. In fact, if I’m honest, I actually don’t care. And it’s possible that neither do you. I am more than capable of making up my own mind about whether I’m interested in the book, and I’d prefer to hear about what the book will do for me than hear someone else I don’t know ramble on about it (which is predictable).
I would prefer to flip over to the blurb, read it and feel that the author was speaking directly to me as it creates personal connection. A blurb is informative and direct, and testimonials edify the author to the reader. It’s up to you which one you would prefer; however I personally look for information if I’m buying a book – as it helps me to reach my decision quicker!
Now, this isn’t to say that testimonials aren’t useful in helping your reader make a positive buying choice – because of course, they are. But I would be more inclined to utilize them in the online marketing or printed materials about the book or in the front of the book as opposed to on the precious, prime real estate of the back cover which is as important, if not more than, the front cover. Having said this, as a general rule, one testimonial is usually fine, BUT a) make it a potent one that isn’t too long, and b) don’t sacrifice the opportunity to tell new unconvinced potential readers about the book for a bunch of words from someone else yapping on about the book. Play it to your advantage.
I know that you will take the information in this article and apply it to YOUR book to make sure that all components of your published work are extraordinary.
You deserve great success as an author!