Welcome all dreamers, fantasists, bibliophiles, and romantics. Join me Mondays and Fridays for speculation about other worlds, exploration of the human heart and soul in fiction and fact, sojourns in history and science, advice and tidbits in the realms of story, and thoughts on everything in between...

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Why We Pick Up a Book

What makes you decide to pick a book up off a store shelf or click on it on an online seller’s page? And what makes you ultimately buy or pass on it?

Obviously, a large chunk of money and effort goes into creating eye-catching covers. The blurb on the back is written with great care, and the placement on the shelf is negotiated with the bookstore. But how much does any of that affect your choice in buying a book?

For me, the book jacket makes little difference. Part of this is because of my visual impairment, but part is also due to the fact that I’ve learned the picture on the front can have very little to do with the story itself.

Back cover blurbs catch my husband’s interest often enough, but they rarely inspire my curiosity. Most of the time, they are plot focused and full of key nouns that might trigger a reader’s collection of interests: Viking, vampires, 1920s, World War II, etc. Rarely do back covers hint at any deep character development, emotional threat, or interesting relationship dynamics, all of which I read for. If they include these elements, usually it comes out in a general, cursory way that fails to represent a deeper internal character journeys because of limited space. Those books that manage, though, those are the ones that I start flipping the pages in.

Once a book captures my interest enough to open it, I read the first paragraph. If it inspires my curiosity, I read the first page. If I still want to know what happens, I consider buying, but it’s not a sure sale because I’ve bought too many books that lost me on page three or ten.

The author plays some part in my choice. If I know them and have liked their work so far, I’m much more likely to buy. If I’ve heard good things about them from others or they’ve made a personal impression on me online, my willingness to buy increases notably.

But the single biggest decider of whether or not I’ll purchase a book is what my friends have said about it. Well, what certain friends have said. I have some who enjoy almost everything that I like, so I will weigh their judgment heavily in favor or against a book. But I also have friends that, for all I love them, have very different tastes in books. If they love a book, I know it’s unlikely to be my thing. If they hate a book for some reason other than poor writing, disjointed plotting, or flat characterization, I’m still likely to give it a chance.

How about you? What makes you decide to pick up a book and give it a chance?

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