How do readers connect with a book (by a new author)?

 

My guess is that the greatest service we can do a book is to talk about it - on our blogs, to our friends, when we are on panels and to bookstore staff. Let people know the book is out there and it's good!

George Ivanoff did a post about  book trailers for ROR recently.  Nigel commented that his reading forum were discussing this and:

1) Most people didn’t even know book trailers existed

2) Those that did know they existed did not seek them out

3) Some book trailers were obviously more interesting to watch than others, but no one believed that this was likely to influence what books they ended up purchasing

 

I chimed in with the point that people under 20 reacted well to book trailers. Nigel agreed, but argued this didn’t mean that they went out and bought the book, as they were looking on the trailer more as a short movie.

So how do readers connect with a book (by a new author) before they make the decision to buy it?

The following is in no way scientific, but a guess:

  • 75% recommendations from friends (In this I include blog sites where readers follow a certain reviewer as that reviewer becomes the equivalent of a trusted friend – at least where books are concerned).
  • 10% from book staff. (Those little tags on shelves and Indy stores where they know the staff)
  • 5% from reading a blog post when the author does a guest post somewhere that arouses their interest, or reading their tweets and thinking they sound intriguing.
  • 5% from reviews (the old fashioned kind in newspapers)
  • 5% from picking up the book because the cover is interesting, reading the blub/front page and taking a chance on a new author

(It does add up to 100%, I checked. Some years ago I embarassed myself on a panel doing a quick breakdown of my reading genre habits but the total didn’t reach 100% and of course, someone in the audience pointed this out).

You’ll notice I haven’t included book trailers in this. That’s because the reader would have to seek them out on You Tube, which means they have to know about the book to find the trailer. The other way they would come across the book trailer is on a blog review site, or the writer’s own web site. So the reader is already engaging with the book/author at this point.

If a reader comes across the book trailer at this stage and, like the review or the author’s tweets, it appears in intriguing then the trailer would contribute towards the reader’s decision to buy that book.

As I said, this is all guesswork. What I’d like from you ‘gentle reader’ is your input on what influences you to take a punt on a new author’s book. Have I given too much credence to traditional reviews in newspapers? I must admit, I’ve bought only two books in my life, based on newspaper reviews and both were nonfiction.

Over to you…

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55 Responses to How do readers connect with a book (by a new author)?

  1. I make audio trailers for books. Professional voice overs (male or female, full range of accents, voice types etc), music, and sfx. The author provides the copy and I make it into an audio file.
    Perfect for putting with video for a Youtube clip or podcasting as is.

    This service is completely free. Email paul@brokensea.com

    http://www.brokensea.com

  2. sally says:

    Hi Rowena. You forgot about radio and TV – some of us watch/listen to book programs! And the good old library! The library is how I do most of my sampling of new (to me) authors.

  3. Meeting the author at conventions, panels, signings etc can trigger a sale. (I started reading Kylie Chan’s books after a round table at Logan North Library.)

    Then there is trying for a free copy of the book with a give away which is usually in conjunction with an author interview, letting the reader get a handle on if the author is someone they may want to give a chance.

    You also have the people that see it on the shelves and will seek it out at the library because they may not want to kill $20+ on an author they don’t know. Then they go back and buy it if the book resonated with them.

    Once the book has created a connection, I’d imagine people would see if the author is on the social networking bandwagon. The blogs etc open the gateway for people to link back, talk about and promote the new author with things such as trailers and other added fun stuff, like give aways, author interviews and reviews.

    I have never put stock into newspaper book reviews because I don’t know the reviewer. Our tastes may be completely polar opposite.
    I would rather trust someone I KNOW to have similar tastes in reading as I do. Then I’ll listen.

    I’m a big cover judge. If it stirs something in me I will pick it up and read the first page. At that point if it’s meh, I put it back. If it hooks me I buy it. I also take notice of the front cover review, if an author I like has a glowing review on the front cover it’s another tick in the ‘to buy’ column.

    And round and round and round it goes.

    • Hi Belinda,

      Yes, seeing an author speak gives you an idea whether their books will resonate with you. I love the way you use that word!

      And, I agree, a free copy won via a book promo on a blog, does introduce you to that author and, hopefully, the reader will like the book and buy the rest in the series.

      They say each book is read by 5 different people on average. So, for every book an author sells to a reader, it gets passed on to 4 other people.

      I have read a book fromt he library, then gone out and bought the book so that I have a copy of my own.

      I must admit covers can do it for me. I come from a graphic art background and I will buy a book just for the cover!

  4. SImon Haynes says:

    Agreed – word of mouth is king, which means writing the best book you can and hoping it eventually generates enough noise to break out.

    Better to do more passes of the latest draft, tweaking and polishing all the while, than settling for ‘good enough’ and figuring you’ll promote the thing by tweeting & blogging the hell out of it later.

  5. Rowena, I don’t have a lot to add to this but I thought I’d mention that your guess as to how people find books is nothing like the way I find them. This would be my own breakdown:

    30% by browsing Amazon (the Kindle Store but also forthcoming titles which I request for review),
    20% by browsing 2nd hand book shops.
    20% by browsing remaindered book shops (there isn’t an indie bookshop within 250 km of my house).
    20% by browsing my own book shelves for books to re-read.
    5% by reading books my online friends have written.
    4% gifts from family and friends.
    1% by noticing books that have created a buzz online (although I tend to buy them years later from remaindered or 2nd hand book shops – and they’re usually very disappointing).

    If you were to restrict the list to just new books (published within the last couple of years, say) that I pay the retail price for, then the Kindle books become the biggest category by far, followed by books by friends.

    An outlier, as data points go, I suppose.

    • Ah, Graham, you are one of those people who are already living in the electronic age. So, when you browse on kidle, what guides your purchases?

      You say reviews, but how do you know if the reviewer has your tastes?

      • When I’m looking at the Kindle Store, it’s always within the category Science Fiction, or it’s for a specific work (like the complete Wilkie Collins – which I bought from there a while ago and re-read from beginning to end). It’s not a big category (once Fantasy is removed) so just browsing is fine. Sometimes I search for a specific author – as I did with Vonnegut the other day. To find a book that looks interesting within my search results, I read the publisher’s blurb and, sometimes, glance at the reviews – but I don’t trust Amazon reviews much since people “game” Amazon a lot. I almost never read any other reviews – although I’m always glad to get them for my own stuff! As you seem to be implying, I find books that other people rave about so frequently disappointing that I have almost given up on the recommendations of strangers.

        When I said I request books for review, I meant that, as a reviewer for the New York Journal of Books, I can ask the guys there to have the publisher send me a copy. So I look at forthcoming sci-fi and popular science (the two areas I review for them) on Amazon and see what looks good that is due for release in the next 90 days (one of their standard filters) then put in a request through NYJB.

        (And by all means delete my blether below.)

      • Nigel says:

        Hi Graham. I’ve recently had my interest in early Gothic novels rekindled, and I’ve gone through all the usual suspects. I’ve been eyeing off Wilkie Collins’s The Woman in White. Do you recommend it?

      • Definitely, Nigel. The Woman in White is a book I re-read every few years. So is The Moonstone. I pretty much like everything he’s done, in fact.

    • Ah, being a reviewer means you get sent the books to review. That’s great. When I read for different awards, I read a lot of new authors, for free! Some I have followed up. Some I was so impressed by, I went to their blogs and commented to let them know.

      Yes, the reviews on Amazon are rather random. I’ve been following Rob Will Review blog, as he seems to have similar tastes to me in books and TV shows.

      • Nigel says:

        Yes, I miss the free books. Mind you, some of them ended up being a bit of a grind to read, and impossible to review without making the author cry (which I always refused to do).

  6. (By the way, i have no idea how your login system gave me the name Graywavem – it’s Graham, in fact – but I sort of like it. It makes me sound like a wizard from an awful sword and sorcery novel.)

  7. (Oh, and now I find that because Wizard Graywavem is awaiting moderation, my ‘by the way’ is standing there on its own! It’s the kind of confusion that ought to make a good plot device.)

  8. Hi Rowena, this is my first time answering a post on ROR; even though I lurk in the shadows when reading this beaut blog. I am a writer starting out and yes I would hope that one day someone would read my short stories that are out there and when my opus is completed that too is a big wish.

    Well, I think I sample new authors from the library because that is where I mostly invest my time to read any new authors. Of course, I follow the publishers websites, like Voyager, Tor, Allen and Unwin, just to name the few, so that I can read new authors and ask my library in a very polite manner for that new and exclusive author. I also do web searches for that new author particulars and follow on their websites/blogs. Blogs like ROR is very informative.

    There is always the bookshops that I usually go to see for new authors; the cover and blurb at the back usually make me buy the book and that is a big if because of my budget can be a little low at times. Those times when my budget is okay, I would buy not one book but five or six.

    I love reading new authors and always have my eyes open wide for a new author to put on my favourite author list for every genre.

    • Hi Rob, thanks for coming out of lurk-mode!

      I’d forgotten publishers’ web sites. Good tip. And if you ask a library to get the author’s book in then that’s a sale for the author!

      Plus the author gets PLR (Public Lending Rights). This is a great help to Australian authors.

      So, everyone go into their local library and request Australian author’s books (if the library doesn’t already have them).

  9. Thoraiya says:

    I’m not sure about print books, but I found this survey on ebooks really interesting:

    http://blog.smashwords.com/2011/09/how-ebook-buyers-discover-books.html

    I know my habits have changed over the years. When I was teenager, I’d ask my other nerdy friends what was a good author, borrow one, and then if I liked them, buy every single books by that author until I ran out. Then, if none of the ten or fifteen authors that I already worshipped had a new book out, I’d ask around for another author.

    Now, I’m more likely to be influenced by awards (World Fantasy, Hugo, Nebula, Aurealis), Galactic Suburbia (curse you all!) and gushing Goodreads Reviews by people I know (but this will be for individual books, I am much too distracted by the next shiny shiny to slowly and persistently collect an entire body of work any more).

    • GodReads. How could I forget GoodReads!

      Will take the time to look at the survey, Thoraiya. Right now I have to rush out.

    • Finally got a chance to look at that smashwords site. It’s interesting the break down by which people who prefer e-readers buy their books.

      29% recommendations from fellow readers on the web.

      18% favourite authors. That’s no help to us here as I was looking at how a new author could connect with readers.

      The other 53% were spead across 10 catergories.

      Graham, did you get a chance to look at this?

      • Yes, I saw it when it came out. It looks quite credible – meaning I would have guessed something like that for the average ebook reader ;-) Standout items for me were the tiny percentage who said that traditional media reviews are their first stop for discovering what to read next, and the large number of people who will simply browse, sample, and grab free books on spec.

  10. Peter Hannigan says:

    Hi Rowena
    Interesting question. I would add some things into the mix.

    - Reviews and ‘best of the year’ or like lists in informed publications like Locus.
    - Finalists for awards – Hugo, Nebula, Aurealis. I might not buy them, but if they are good enough to get that far they are worth giving a close look. Certainly find new authors this way.
    - Browsing in a book store – look at blurb but also recommendations from authors I already have read and liked commenting about the book. That is selective – some authors obviously write recommendations purely because the new author has the same publisher or they are friends. But if William Gibson, for example, has a statement on someone’s book saying this is good, I would seriously consider it.
    - Browsing on line – Amazon and others have that listing of ‘people who bought this book also bought …’ That can lead to some interesting different authors.
    - Encountering a new author in a short story collection and being impressed, and then checking out any novels they have published. Once you know a name it is easy to do an online search – it doesn’t require a local bookshop to carry them – and they can be bought online as well. I think this is a good mechanism for a new author who gets in an anthology that includes well known authors.

    The library is a good place for trying out new authors, but rarely a good place for finding them.

    Word of mouth only works where you have a good understanding of your friends tastes – and actually share them!

    To summarise it all I would say I look for information that says ‘this author/this book is above average/stands out from the rest’. There is so much mediocre crap out there that the aim is to cut through to what is regarded as good. It may not turn out to be to my taste, but the odds of it being worth reading are much higher than random sampling.

    • Hi Peter (How’s Karin?)

      I forgot the awards lists. Yes, I do go and buy books on the final lists. Often I’ll buy all five final listed books.

      Encoutnering an author in a short story collection. I feel ashamed that I haven’t done this recently. And yet, when I read for the Aurealis Awards I discovered authors by their short stories. Deb Biancotti for one.

  11. Peter Hannigan says:

    Looking at the smashwords site I was intrigued by the reference to ‘loyalty transfer’ as the hot new approach to selling. Here is an explanation of it I found online.

    http://claudenougat.blogspot.com/2011/08/how-to-promote-your-book-use-loyalty.html

    It seems a very manipulative approach to me. Yet in a way it is an extension of getting some celebrity/famous author to endorse your book. In this case though it is more like cyber stalking a celebrity! A bit like that Steve Martin movie with Eddie Murphy where they couldn’t afford to hire a movie star, so they surreptitiously filmed one without his knowledge or consent.

    • Wow, Peter.

      I found this very manipulative and really didn’t like it. It doesn’t feel honest. If I write a post about a TV show (Black Books, or Misfits). I do it because I really admire the show. I don’t deliberately go out and tweet about ti to people from some list who are shows of the fan. If someone else who happens to admire it responds on my blog that is completely by chance and part of the fun of sharing my appreciation for the show.

      I guess I’m just too honest ….

      • This reminds me of those Authors (mostly American) who use twitter as purely promotional eg They follow you and then as soon as you follow back you are hit with a DM that advertises their book. Building a fan base isn’t the same thing as building a twitter count.

    • Sean, if an author does that then I unfollow them. It’s just not cricket!

  12. Stacey says:

    Usually it’s by seeking out a genre section in a bookstore and reading the blurb and the first page. However last year I bought a bunch of books by authors unfamiliar to me (including you Rowena!) because I met them in person at a convention and was engaged by their passion when they spoke of their books. Now that I’m on social networking sites more I am starting to buy books by authors that seem to come highly recommended by peers in the writing world (even if I haven’t read anything of theirs before). Or if I read an anthology and come across a story I like I’ll seek out the author.

  13. arun says:

    Interesting question, reflected in the number of comments… many of which i agree with.

    For me book choice is based on several things:

    - recommendations by staff who seem cluey about such matters at a bookshop (i love finding ‘book nerds’ who work some place and squeezing them for info.)

    - quotes by authors i like on someone else’s book

    - i use amazon to research heaps (dont hate me… i dont buy from there). I choose a book i love, then go to see what lists its on and find related reads. I also find some of the reviews on amazon to be very insightful (though obviously many or not)

    - and like Sal, i use the library in a very hit or miss way. Im often in their with our young kids, so i literally grab things based on the cover and blurb to ‘try it out’.

    Ironically im someone who used to teach motion graphics, earns a living through web marketing and has done lots with social networking, is an aspiring writer… and yet ive only watched 3 book trailers in my life! I think all were linked to from this blog — they just dont influence me at all. That said i took George’s point—for a YA / children’s author presenting at schools it would be quite useful.

    • Arun, speaking in schools is quite a challenge. You need to engage with the kids and they are used to seeing the world through movies and comptuer games.

      When my 6 children were small I didn’t get out much to go to the library or browse a bookshop. Luckily, I had a quote a range of kid’s books, so I used to read to them. They loved Tom Sawyer, especially when he fed his cat the tonic and it went crazy. But that’s kids for you.

  14. Hi Rowena, I think if a book trailer can go viral and be shared purely because it’s cool, then a positive offshoot of this is that people will inevitably seek out more information about the book. I don’t know what the stats are eg what percentage of people who discover a book in this way actually buy the book, but it can’t hurt, right?

    I saw this with a trailer for the video game Dead Island. The game wasn’t even complete, the trailer didn’t really even feature game play, as far as I know (it was purely cinematic). But it got people talking about the game in the lead-up.

    Gary

    • Hi Gary,

      The Cool Factor! Anita Bell did really well with her Diamond Eyes trailer. She had my DH, Daryl put the trailer together using David Meshow’s music. David’s benefited with heaps of hits, awards for his music and now the song he wrote is being used in Canadian High Schools because it is an example of (insert musical term I can’t remember damn it).

      If you can get people talking about a book that’s a start.

    • Nigel says:

      The problem with comparing book trailers with game and move trailers is the difference in the medium. Game and movie trailers resemble the associated game or movie, in that they’re both visual mediums. Book trailers don’t resemble the medium, and will therefore (probably) never have the same impact on book sales. Mind you, that may just be an existing conservatism in the current reading population. As the population becomes more and more internet-savvy, the situation may change. Who knows?

      • Good point, Nigel. I don’t know many writers who don’t get excited about a book trailer for their books.

        We are such nerdy uncool creatures and book trailers make the visions in our head more accessible to others. Or at least, we hope the do.

  15. Chris L says:

    Through this blog I’ve received free copies of books from you Rowena, from Ben Peek and Stephanie Champisi, and from Nicole Murphy – all authors I might otherwise have never read.

    I’ve also followed up on and purchased books by you, by Trent (just got his latest) and by Tansy (even stood in the corner during one of her launches), and Richard, and Nicole. So it’s give and take but all in all I’ve had some pretty good reads.

    Otherwise I’ve been catching up on a lot of things I wanted to read years ago but didn’t have the time, like Vertigo’s Fables graphic novels, and I finally got a full set of the Lankhmar series. I don’t look at reviews and I don’t take much notice of billboard advertising. The last two books I bought: The Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovich, and Space Captain Smith by Toby Frost, I picked up on spec in an airport newsagency and they were both perfect for what I wanted – so it’s often the blurb that will sway me.

    • So glad you’ve found new authors throught he blog, Chris!

      I do a bit of ‘retro-reading’ too. Have hunted up old classics to read and old favourites, too. I’m a great fan of Friz Lieber’s work.

  16. Nigel says:

    Like most readers, I’m pretty conservative. I mostly buy books by authors I’ve read before. But I do occasionally try out a new authors.

    For the most part, if I try a new author it is because the book has been recommended to me by someone I respect (a friend, or a respected review site like Locus online).

    Occasionally, however, I just take a punt on something that looks interesting. There’s not much science to it. My choice would be based loosely on a combination of the look of the cover and the apparent subject (I’m hugely turned off by fantasy novels that turn around a prophecy, have maps at the beginning or glossaries at the end, include vampires, include certain fantasy tropes in fairly standard ways, etc). There’s not much more to it than that. I don’t agonise over it. I don’t read a chapter at the beginning. Something will just take my fancy, and I’ll buy it. Often it doesn’t work out, but sometimes it does.

    • Nigel says:

      I would like to echo the comments of some other posters that I’ve found Locus Online to be a particularly useful source for selecting new authors to read.

  17. Nigel, I don’t think you can go past friends’ recommendations, if you trust those friends’ judgement.

    And I sometimes just pick something because it looks interesting. I like books that push the genre.

  18. Julie Musil says:

    I’ll usually buy books based on a friend’s referral, or if the jacket copy sounds interesting.

    • Hi Julie,

      Friends’ recommendations are really important to me.

      I’m never sure about jacket copy as authors usually have very little control over this and publishers tend to try to make the book sound as sensational as possible. When you boil it right down to the core premise of a book it can sound generic – not another rivalry over the throne story! – it is how you write the characters and their conflict that makes the story unique.

  19. Ian Irvine says:

    Rowena, I asked this question on my Facebook fan page and 66 people replied. I’ve tabulated the data on my blog in Part 3 of an article Called Reaching your Readers. http://ianirvine.blogspot.com/2011/11/reaching-your-readers-part-3.html. Two-thirds of respondents said the book cover/title/blurb (and in some cases the first few pages) was a key way they found new authors.

    You might might also find this post useful, where I asked my FB fans how they found out about a favourite author’s new book. http://ianirvine.blogspot.com/2011/11/reaching-your-readers-part-2.html

  20. I love discovering new authors, so I actively seek them out, especially ebooks since so many of them are modestly priced by indie authors. You really aren’t risking much at 99 cents, the average rate these days. I have recently discovered new authors for which I’d be glad to pay more. I also enjoy sharing reviews on my blog in order to help plug the books I really enjoy reading.

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