I’m pretty picky when it comes to buying new books. First, it comes down to the fact that I’m pretty picky in what I like to read, so I don’t really want to spend money on a novel I’ll just lose interest in after chapter three. Additionally, I don’t have a whole lot of time to read as it is, so I want to make sure the time I do spend reading is time well spent instead of, you guessed it, losing interest after chapter three.
I like to be challenged by the books I read–I want books that make me consider writing and storytelling in a new way. I like books like motivate and inspire me, so I work really hard to find those books.
When it comes right down to it, there are five things I take into consideration when I decide to buy a book:
First and foremost, referrals are everything. I have a few friends who like to read the same kind of material I do, and their recommendations are everything. I’m about 90% more likely to buy a book if one of my friends has referred it to me than I am to buy a book straight off the shelf without having ever heard of it before. Of course, there is always the dilemma of what to do if you read a book a friend recommended and hate it, but that’s a conversation for another day. By and large, recommendations are the most sure-fire way to get me to buy a book.
When in doubt, and when wandering a bookstore without any referrals to hunt down, there are a few other things I look at instead. As unfair as this may be, the first thing that grabs my eye is the book cover. Seriously, I know that whole “don’t judge a book by its cover” thing, but if a book doesn’t jump out at me from the shelves, I’m not gonna give it a chance. Minimalist designs usually do the trick.
Much like the cover art, the title of the book itself can make or break the deal. This mostly comes down to the fact that you can get a bit of an idea on the kind of story from the title. For example, a book called “Love Bites” is probably a paranormal romance I have absolutely no interest in. The best titles are the ones that make me wonder what the hell they could be about.
Back Cover Copy
If the cover and the title draw me in, the first thing I do is read the back of the book. Obviously, this gives an idea to what kind of story it is. This is another great way to determine if this is a book I’d actually have any interest in. It’s really easy to tell when a book is paranormal romance or urban fantasy based on the back cover (usually), since paranormal romance typically highlights the primary male and female characters involved. This is also a great way to figure out if the book has elements I like–or don’t like.
First Page Review
If the book has passed the art, title, and cover copy tests, I crack open the book and read the first few pages. I’ve mentioned before how the first 250 words are crucial to getting picked up by an agent, but they can also be crucial to getting picked up in a bookstore. If I’m not immediately gripped by what’s going on, or if the writing isn’t to the standard I prefer to read, I’m probably not going to buy it.
Central Book Passage
And, finally, if I enjoy the first few pages, I open the book to a random page in the center. One of the reasons I do this is because I want to make sure the book is consistently good, from cover to cover, and by randomly opening it up to see what’s going on, how the writing feels, and whether or not the story still sounds interesting, I get a feel for that. Obviously, I don’t open to the end of the book, because I don’t want to ruin the finale, but a central passage can tell you a lot about the quality of a work.
If a book passes all my tests (or if it was referred by a friend), chances are, it’ll end up on my shelves.