Books, Musings

What makes you buy a book?

Social networking sites have been abuzz with the news that some authors have been paying for reviews of their books. British crime writer RJ Ellory has admitted that he faked his own reviews and gave other authors low ratings. See the full article here. This has been labelled “sock puppeting” and has caused an outcry from writers and readers.

I’m sure that the number of authors paying for reviews or writing their own ones is small compared to the ones who rely on their talents and readers to promote and sell their book, it potentially damages the reputation of the industry. The minority tarnishing the majority. I actually don’t see the point in paying for reviews especially on Amazon. I’ve never brought a book or film or album based solely on a positive Amazon review. Most of them tell you nothing about the product but just give it a rating and you know nothing about the reviewer or their tastes to know if you can trust them. Now we’ve heard about the sock puppeteers, it makes it even harder to use such reviews to help you make purchasing decisions.

Another way authors promote themselves is selling their book in blog comments or Tweeting direct messages or sending a Facebook asking you to buy their book. Again, I can’t believe people actually make buying decisions receiving these. In fact, it does the opposite for me. It puts me off the writer. I’d rather get to know them. I want them to entertain me with interesting tweets and then I’d check out their book.

For me, I buy books because someone I know and trust the opinion of has recommended it e.g. book bloggers or friends, or I’ve read other books by the author and have liked them, or Amazon has suggested it based on other books I’ve brought and I’ve read the synopsis and opening pages and liked it, or occasionally an advert or someone reading it in public has led to me investigating it.

I’ve never read a book because an author I don’t know has told me to.

I totally understand how hard it is to make a splash in the market especially if you’re self-published but successful authors will tell you the best promotion is word of mouth, and not bugging people on social networking sites. And definitely not tarnishing your reputation by faking reviews and faking fans.

What do you guys think?




32 thoughts on “What makes you buy a book?”

  1. I mostly rely on blurbs when I’m looking for new reads. I’m not afraid to venture to new writers, but they just need a nice cover to catch my attention and a decent blurb to keep me hooked. I occasionally read reviews on Goodreads to see if I’ll find something interesting, but more often that not I’ll just go to the bookshop and pick whatever I like. =]

  2. I agree. I really don’t like the mass messages I get on Twitter about ‘buy my book now’. Big turn off.

    I tend to buy books based on word of mouth and back cover blurbs. Even then, it takes opening the page in the middle of the book and reading a page or two. If the story can hook me in the middle when I don’t know anything about the story, I consider that a good sign.

  3. Ohhh I totally agree! I can’t stand people tweeting non-stop about their books with lots of links to them, and I hate getting automated direct messages from people on twitter too, it pretty much equals an automatic unfollow from me. It’s so cold, and impersonal I just don’t see the point, and like you it puts me off rather than encourages me.
    I don’t really have a big problem with authors writing a few reviews, it’s difficult for authors to get started so if writing their own reviews helps then good for them!

    I tend to buy books based on the reviews of bloggers I trust, because I like the blurb or front cover, or because it’s been recommended to me by a friend. πŸ™‚

  4. I agree. I’m a soon-to-be self-published author and totally believe that the best form of promo is word-of-mouth.

    However, I also have to say that a good blurb is vital too. I’m just about to read “Lace” and the fact that it was set in the 80s sold it for me! πŸ™‚

  5. That’s like reading a great review from the manufacturer of a vacuum cleaner, then reading terrible reviews from customers who’ve actually used the vacuum cleaner. The author and the author’s friends/relatives will always have great things to say about a book; it’s the unbiased readers whose reviews mean the most.

    What hooks me in is the title, then I flip through the book and read a few paragraphs here and there. If it looks good, I’ll buy it (or, check it out of the library).

  6. It is not a small percentage. There are groups of people who all give each other great reviews to get on Amazon’s list. I have been asked twice to give a favorable review! I haven’t given any yet. The other thing I had heard was that readers don’t even read the book before “blurbing” it or reviewing it. Not good for the industry at all…..This is a major problem and it made our paper here a month ago.

    1. Wow, that’s not good! I’m often a bit suspicious when famous authors give a quote for a book’s cover – did they read it? did they really like it? Or do they just have the same agent / friends?

  7. Whenever I’m looking around in a library or bookstore I rely on the blurb, the cover and the first couple of pages of the book :] The cover draws me in, the blurb makes me want to read the first couple of pages and then the first couple of pages usually makes me want to read the rest of the book! Occasionally I do read a book because of a recommendation from a friend but that is a very, very rare occasion and the books always turn out to be amazing :’]

  8. I rely on word of mouth via reviews from reputable blogs and friends. I feel like if something is being shoved down my throat then it’s not something I’m interested in.

  9. I usually don’t read reviews until I finish a book because I want to form my own independent opinion of the work. Requests to buy books totally turn me off and make me not want to buy them. Word of mouth is the best method. I rely a lot on my crit partner for recommendations and also writing conferences where I get to meet authors, check out their books, and get them signed. πŸ™‚

  10. I definitely don’t go by a stranger’s review. I always pick up a book because someone whose tastes are similar to mine has recommended it. Unfortunately, I think half the reviews on Amazon are fake or written by friends of the author and mean absolutely nothing. It’s sad that some people in the profession have taken this turn.

  11. The moment I get a direct message on twitter asking me to buy something – I delete the message. And if I get multiple ones I’ll unfollow the twitter-er. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t force it to drink is the old saying that comes to mind. The minute you try to force people is usually when they start resisting.

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