What influences you to buy a book? #amreading #poll

Forgive me cheating a bit with a poll today. I’m deep into a major rewrite of Sex, Lies & Wedding Bells, and haven’t had time to be online much. I will be back this weekend, with news, excerpts and maybe a sneak peek or two.


What influences you to buy a book?

This is the magic question for authors and publishers. We try so many different ways to tell readers about our books, but which ones really work? That’s what I’m trying to figure out. Whether you are a reader or an author, please let me know what influences you. I will compile the results into a later post with some discussion.

I would love to see a lot of reader comments on the topic. What’s the best way for us to give you the information you need to make a decision? Or would you rather get information from friends, peers and “neutral” sources?

Leave a comment about any of these issues for a chance to win an e-book from my backlist.

For the most important factor, I’m trying to go beyond cover, blurb, and except, since we know those are important. Which of these social and external factors most affect your decision?

[BTW, “other” in the following poll stems from people combining several items into one, so it doesn’t reflect a true most important factor. I’ve disabled the option to add your own answer, but if there is one specific thing I haven’t mentioned here, please leave a comment.]


What keeps you from buying a book?

There are plenty of books we don’t want to buy, for a variety of reasons. Why might you decide not to buy a book, besides the obvious that you aren’t interested in the subject matter? Please add your own answer if it’s not listed and feel free to add comments, rants, raves, etc. I’m even more interested in this topic!


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34 Responses to “What influences you to buy a book? #amreading #poll”

  1. Joy Walker Hall says:

    This wasn’t listed any place, but probably the biggest reason I have not to buy a book is if it’s badly edited….bad grammar, errors etc..
    This never applies to any of yours.

    • EM Lynley says:

      Thanks Joy. That’s probably part of the blurb or except decision process. I believe many of us judge the writing style/quality by those. I should probably have put that as a separate item before I got a lot of responses. Thanks for letting me know my books pass the test!

    • Estelle says:

      I will say that if the cover don’t grab my attention then I read the sample..errors will definitely turn me off

  2. JenCW says:

    I know that you were trying to get away from the excerpt or blurb in the second poll, but that’s really what brings me in on most books. If I’m iffy about a book, I will look at the reviews. But really, any book that has all 5 star reviews (unless it’s a book series and like the 3rd or 4th book), I really worry. Good and bad reviews only help me decide. I’ve read some bad reviews that made me want to buy a book, which is funny. ๐Ÿ™‚

    If a book is really expensive for the length, I get antsy unless it’s an author that I really like. But even then, $5 for 50 or less pages is a bit much.

    • EM Lynley says:

      Thanks Jen!
      I know the excerpt is key, but I don’t think anyone here has said it isn’t. So it’s a given. Outside of that, what makes you notice a book or make the decision? There are some things we authors can affect, like price, or promo, but others we can’t, like reviews (or we shouldn’t be able to!) or friend recs. If a book has good review site reviews and none on Amazon, which matters more? That’s kind of what I’m trying to get at. I’ll be asking some other questions in a follow-up to this topic.

  3. Em, I’m really interested in this. Thanks!

  4. I’m kind of surprised how much price factors in, given that the price spread won’t be more than a few bucks in either direction. For me, I’m such a slow reader, that my main investment in a book is not money but time. And I’d rather pay a few bucks more and feel that I’ve invested my time well (and maybe find something I’d even like to read more than once, how’s that for a bargain?) An absurd price would probably deter me, but not if the subject matter, blurb and writing sample told me it was something I really wanted to read.

    Thanks for doing this poll, I can’t wait to see how all the results fall out.

    • EM Lynley says:

      Hi Jordan!
      I see your point about the price differentials, but I also know some readers go through 1-2 books a day. I did a survey on how many hours people spend reading per day and some were over 6, others as many as 12. So a volume reader will rely on price much more. I’ve also seen 20 page books for $2.99 on Amazon, because the author wanted the higher royalty. I wouldn’t pay that unless it contained something that would really get me rich quick! But a book that takes 10 minutes to read (or less, when you count the front and end bits) isn’t worth the money. A 90-page book for $5 is also similar. Even though the price might not seem high, as I reader I want to know I’m getting value. For a new-to-me author, the price has to be reasonable or cheap. It seems many others feel the same.

      • I think I’m in a minority, probably because I really am a painfully slow reader so a novel being $5 or $7 or $9, really, not a big difference since it will take me so long to read it.

        Conversely, I’d probably think a $2 full length novel was probably unedited, so not something I would be likely to enjoy.

        Shorter books are really hard to price. Even at 99ยข most readers seem to dislike them. Heck, even at free. I dunno, again, I’m different. I really like shorts and novelettes. Probably because I READ SO SLOW! (I see a pattern emerging here. It probably means I’m nobody’s target audience.)

        Readers are replying a bunch on FB as well where I linked to your poll: https://www.facebook.com/jordancastilloprice/posts/10201271008857339

        • EM Lynley says:

          Novellas and shorts are so difficult to price and to please readers. I did a post/poll about whether people pay attention to length and most didn’t when buying. So when reading, they often get upset if everything isn’t a novel. If you have the ebook start on a blurb or page that screams NOVELLA xK words/pages, we may be able to improve readers’ experiences. Many people think everything published is a novel. Authors call everything a “book” with no felp for readers to understand that some ‘books” are 20 pages and others are 350 pages. I try to use words like novel, novella, short story so people know what toe xpect. But then there is the disconnect between buying and reading, and when they flip through the kindle they can’t remember what anything’s about.

          Authors/publishers have a way to go to help readers know what they are getting.

          Totally agree on the $2 novel! I’m with you that I do like a longer book that will keep my interest between reading sessions, but many don’t so I’ve started looking for quality novellas.

          Thanks for the link, I’ll check it out.

  5. Allison says:

    If I don’t know the author/book/series then a character interview is the most likely thing to get me to buy a book. I have bought entire series based on one character interview.

    • EM Lynley says:

      Hi Allison,
      This is interesting for me. I don’t do character interviews, but maybe I should start. I guess what I’m trying to find out is how you notice a book in the first place via social media, or whether reviews have much effect. Thanks for stopping by today.

      • I use my feed on Goodreads to see what others are reading and talking about. I guess buzz works on me. Followed by reviews and ratings. As an author, I think your greatest asset is galleys to key reviewers. Hopefully, they like it and create a buzz before release.

  6. Laurie says:

    What I wanted to say, but it wasn’t an option: I use websites like BooksGoSocial and BookBub. Then I look at the example/excerpt. So far, I have found Goodreads too difficult to navigate.

    • EM Lynley says:

      Hi Laurie,
      I’m not familiar with those sites, but I’m pretty sure BookBub is a paid marketing site, so it’s actually an ad that’s getting the book in your face. But that’s not enough for you without the sample. Good to know. Thanks!

  7. I voted “direct recommendation from a friend” for the 2nd one, but the blurb/excerpt trumps that. If the book is about something I’m not interested or don’t read (BDSM for example), I’m not going to read it no matter how highly recommended it comes. Likewise if the blurb is poorly written or if there are tons of grammar issues or typos.

    • EM Lynley says:

      Yup, I also won’t buy without a sample, but I’m trying to gauge what value readers place on ratings/reviews/promo/etc, assuming it meets your other requirements.

      I’ve also definitely decided NOT to read a book with a grammar issue in the blurb. I recently saw a book I wanted to buy that had “Book’s” as a plural as the very first word in the blurb! No thanks!

  8. NL Gassert says:

    I didn’t answer the second poll – what’s MOST important – because I just can’t get past my need for a sample or an excerpt. Unless I know the writer very well, I won’t buy sight unseen. Also, I don’t enjoy 1st person POV, so I need a sample/excerpt to check on that. Unless I can have a look inside and see the writing, I won’t buy the book. I’ve passed up quite a few books that way, sorry to say.

    • EM Lynley says:

      Thanks for stopping by to discuss what you need to choose a book. It’s clear to all authors and publishers that excepts and samples are very importnat. I was hoping to see which of the factors listed most influenced you, assuming the book met all your other requirements.

  9. songsungblue says:

    I don’t do social media much and will often see the books for the first time on sites like Dreamspinner press or Smashwords.
    The blurb there is probably the first ‘culling’ factor – if it’s boring, I’m much less likely to read on to the excerpt. Blurbs are quite variable: I think the most successful ones are those that emotionally engage you, rather than trying to summarise the plot! I’m a sucker for angst.
    Also I will routinely buy from authors if I have read and enjoyed their books before. However I do tend to seek out longer books and consider purchasing these before shorter ones – not just for ‘word count’ value, but because in general, longer books tend to have more character development, more intricate plots etc…they are more engaging to read. it’s about quality and not just hours spent reading.
    Sometimes this strategy works but sometimes I am sadly disappointed.
    I have also found some good authors by reading a free read: if I enjoy it I will then go and seek out the rest of their work.

    • emlynley says:

      Thanks for stopping and commenting.

      These are all good points and it’s interesting to see what’s most important to you. I agree about the blurbs. I try to write ones that set up the conflict, rather than say what happens. If the plot doesn’t interest a reader, they won’t buy. But if you get them engaged by the conflict, then it’s more alluring.

  10. clarelondon says:

    I’m thrilled by the ability to read an excerpt first, especially found in ebooksellers. That really makes the grade for me – I can usually tell straight away if the style is going to engage me.

    As for NOT buying, I added the condition “poor/offensive author behaviour online”. I know it’s a subjective parameter, but in extreme cases it HAS stopped me buying an author’s books. That’s probably the corresponding downside of ebookselling and marketing ๐Ÿ™‚

    • emlynley says:

      I’ve definitely decided not to buy an interesting-sounding book due to a poorly written excerpt. I’d love to see your list of authors you won’t buy from ๐Ÿ˜‰ Thanks for stopping by to comment!

  11. Sarah Smith says:

    One thing that always makes me sad is when I fall out of love with an author. It usually takes 2 or more books to do it but it does suck

    • emlynley says:

      I’ve definitely had that happen. It’s worse when you love the characters and really want more of them. I will look for books at the library rather than buy them when I’m “done” with the author or series. I’m lucky that my library has tons of ebooks from authors I like (and have given up on). It’s a no-risk way to read a book I might not like.

  12. donna says:

    Reviews are definitely the most important thing to me whether on a blog or on GR (not so much on Amazon for some unknown reason). I’ll check out a few high rating reviews but then I look for the lower rating ones because they tend to tell me what I want to know. If they say there’s cheating, well thank god I found out and I won’t buy it. Or they could say it was too insta-lovey and sweet and I’m instantly sold if that’s what I’m in the mood for. They think the BDSM was too nasty? Then I’m all over that book too.
    I’m fairly certain 1&2 star reviews on GR have sold me more books than anything else.

    • emlynley says:

      Hi Donna, this is very interesting. I’m actually glad to see readers are being discerning about what the reviews are saying and not just ignoring books with some low ratings. I’ve panicked when I see those 1- and 2- star nasty reviews on my books, thinking no one will buy it.

      Of course, not all reviews are informative, but I love the readers who are specific about what they liked and didn’t likes, rather than just rehash the plot.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  13. sula22 says:

    Some of the best books I have purchased have been by what I consider independent authors, who charged a nominal price for their work and the story was long, very under valued in price and well written. I know some people have mentioned bad grammar or errors, but I have found those in well known authors books as well as independent authors. Before I started using facebook, I was pretty shy about contacting authors, so the books I chose depended on if I fell in love with a book and the author and then they were on auto buy mode, I have friended a lot of authors in the last few months, some whose work I had not known about before so I have in fact added more authors to my auto buy list then before. My wish list is 100% longer than before!! I am not so much influenced by reviews, but I can be turned off their review sites if they are to negative towards an author. I did recently fall out of love with an author when their characters from a series did something that I thought they would not do, commit adultery, and it made me really upset as I had fallen in love with the characters and well I could not read any more of that series. I will go back one day, as I think the issue gets resolved but it just hit a bit close to home so had to take a break and I sort of wish there had been a warning about it. Sorry I have gone on a bit. I love book covers and the ones that tell a mini story, they don’t have to be flash they just have to catch my interest. Finally I really want to read a nice long book and I get a bit confused with the lengths of ebooks & sometimes the books length can put me off if I can get a book the same price and it has a few hundred more pages. I have more long books than short. Hope this has been of some help, if not confusing LOL ๐Ÿ™‚

    • emlynley says:

      Hi Sula! Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I love meeting people on FB. It’s such a great way to get to know someone. A lot of people have voted that the online relationship is a big factor. As Clare London said, it can also tell you who not to buy a book from. And thanks for not using review sites that are snark-fests to authors. *hugs*

  14. jeanreads2 says:

    I am not sure if it is an influence to make a final decision to buy, but I can say that I get attracted enough to look at a book to considered buying it based on the cover and/or a catchy title. (You had bad cover as a turn off, but nothing about great covers). I read stories of various lengths, but I am wary of word count / length. Since Amazon does not post word count (although some authors do in the blurbs), I sometimes check allromance for the word count, because they always post it. I read reviews with an open mind, and trust reviews that explain themselves more than 1 line reviews that say “Love this! Best book ever!” or “DNF. Used a bad word. I am offended!” I like Amazon reviews more than Goodreads, and put less stock in negative Goodreads reviews, especially if they have no comments. Some of the reviewers on Goodreads seem to take delight in ripping books apart on trivial details. I will say that the comments in reviews that make me hesitate to buy a book are those that mention bad editing, plot inconsistencies, and poor/stilted dialogue, as those are all things that annoy me.

    • emlynley says:

      Hi Jean, thanks for commenting.
      Everyone knows a great cover sells books. As authors we don’t have a lot of control over the cover. it’s more important to know how much damage a bad cover does. I’ve tried to keep the positive factors to items external to the book itself, about how the book is presented and marketed and the social activity around a book (reviews, recs, FB interactions). There are LOTS of really great books that don’t sell. Books with good reviews from readers and review sites. Why don’t these books sell? These are some of the questions I’m trying to answer, so I’ve limited the choices to those factors.

  15. Lesley Butterworth says:

    I can buy a book purely because I like the cover, also the title can grab me or put me off too. In general its the blurb that I rely on most. Authors I have enjoyed previously can be an automatic buy. Too much promo by an author can sometimes be a turn off. Books appearing in my newsfeed on FB can make me buy. Bought 4 this morning! The price is irrelevant if I want the book. Nearly all my buying now is kindle with just very special ones in book form. These can be ones I have got on kindle but love them so much I have to have the real thing.

  16. Sadonna says:

    If it’s an author I’m unfamiliar with, then I’m more interested in the excerpt. If it’s an author I know already and have liked in the past, the excerpt isn’t as important. Also the blurb is important, but again, less so if I’m already familiar with the author. I will say however, that if the blurb is poorly edited (misspellings, bad grammar, etc.) I’m FAR less likely to buy it because that really drives me crazy and I HATE being thrown out of a story because of poor editing.

    The price thing. I do check the price and page count and I think some publishers have better pricing than others. I will wait to get the more expensive books as my buy 10/get one free at ARe if that’s the case. I read between 350 and 650 books a year depending on the year and how busy I am at work, so I spend a TON of money on books. That being said, I have thousands of books in my calibre library waiting to be read, so I obviously have very little self-control when it comes to buying more books ๐Ÿ™‚ Fictionwise was my doom and I would buy 25 books at a crack on their sales. I had hundreds of books in my library there before they shut down ๐Ÿ™ Books have long been my downfall though. I have over a thousand physical books too ๐Ÿ˜€

  17. Debra E says:

    I go first by the blurb/subject matter, then by reviews of GR friends or reviewers I trust, unless it’s an author or series that I consider an “auto buy”. I’ve learned to try to ignore a bad cover, but a good one that catches my eye will get me to read the blurb.

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