How Readers Choose Books

If we could figure out the formula for how readers choose what book to read next, then almost any author could write and publish a bestseller. Sadly, no formula exists. After all, we are humans and formulas rarely describe human behavior.

So, how do readers choose books? —and if we have an answer to this question—how can it inform us to better market our books so that they are the ones readers choose?

A book reviewer recently conducted an informal poll on fiction reader behavior. She asked a group of Christian fiction readers how they decide what book to purchase next. Here is what the survey found were the top five criteria driving what book readers choose to read:

  • The book was written by a favorite author.
  • The book was classified in a favorite genre.
  • The book sported an attractive cover.
  • The back-cover copy was appealing.
  • The book was recommended by reviewers and bloggers.

Remember, this is not a formula, rather it is a loose guide of what draws readers in to choose a certain book. I believe there are a few marketing takeaways from the answers to this survey. None of these takeaways are new, but reminders are useful and help us keep our minds focused on what is important.

1. Fans are important.

Every author needs fans. Especially with fiction books, fans are necessary to sell more books. Many readers read authors they have read in the past and know they will deliver a good story. For fiction authors, cultivating a group of fans who love and promote your books is crucial. Find ways to reward your fans and keep them engaged between books.

2. A professional, engaging cover design is a must.

Your book cover is your number one marketing tool. Don’t skimp on your book’s cover. Use a professional designer to develop an engaging, eye-popping cover that fits your book’s genre. Test your cover design. Offer your friends and fans two designs of your upcoming book’s cover and have them vote on which one appeals the most to them. You can use a quiz generating service like Interact to run your poll.

3. Crafting a great description for your book is crucial.

People read fiction books for entertainment. They want to read a compelling, memorable story. Good fiction always has tension that comes from the challenges that the main characters face. These characters desire something deeply, but an obstacle stands in the way of allowing them to achieve their desire. In crafting a book description for fiction, show the readers these elements and promise them an intriguing story that they can relate to. Then, make a promise to readers about what they will find in the book. This promise should be intriguing so that the reader wants to read the book to find out more.

4. Reviews are essential.

Word-of-mouth remains the number one driver of book sales. Positive reviews by readers and bloggers are a form of word-of-mouth. They are social proof to readers that your book is worth their investment of time and money. Make obtaining reviews one of your top priorities in your book marketing plan.

Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) understands the important of reviews. This is why we offer our members the BookCrash program. This books for bloggers review program helps CSPA members get more reviews for their books. In addition, CSPA offers an on-demand seminar, Book Reviews: Tips for Getting More Reviews, free for our members. This seminar teaches easy to implement steps for obtaining more book reviews.

Related Posts:
Why Would Someone Buy Your Book?
Fresh Insight into Book Buying Behavior
How to Sell More Books

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How to Become a Best-Selling Author

I recently listened to the audiobook version of Rich Dad, Poor Dad by best-selling author Robert Kiyosaki. In the book, Robert tells the story of being interviewed by a newspaper reporter in Singapore. During the interview, the journalist told him that she wanted to become a best-selling author but that the few novels she had written had not garnered much attention.

Sale Quote 1

Wanting to be helpful, Robert advised her to take a class on selling. The journalist became offended. She told Robert that she had a Masters Degree in English Literature and did not need to become a salesperson. Robert gently told her that he was a best-selling author, not a best-written author. He told her that his books did not reach the best-seller lists because they were well written, but because he knew how to sell.

Maybe you are like many authors I meet. You have written a book and now you just want to find a publisher to produce and sell it. You don’t want to have to take on the task of promoting and selling your book yourself. Or, maybe you are like this journalist; you have a distaste for “sales people” and don’t want to become one. Thinking about sales people conjures up an image of a less-than-honest used car salesman.

I think Robert Kiyosaki is right. Barring a supernatural move of God, authors must engage in the process of promoting, marketing, and selling their books to reach any significant sales level. Engaging in commerce is not an “unChristian” or “unGodly” thing. After all, Paul was a tent maker. He had to sell the tents he made to someone. Jesus was a carpenter before starting his ministry. He, too, had to sell his furniture to people. You and your book are no different.

Remember, your book meets a need. Maybe not a physical need like a tent or a table, but it meets a spiritual need. You are not so much selling your book, as the help or solution your book contains. Selling does not have to be pushy, annoying, or lack integrity. In fact, good sales people ask questions first, then listen before offering a solution. After all, a good sales person is a good problem solver.

If you feel like a fish out of water when it comes to promoting and selling your book, I suggest you follow Richard Kiyosaki’s advice: educate yourself. There are many resources for you to educate yourself on how to promote, market, and sell your book.
If you are selling a Christian book, consider the following:

  1. Subscribe to this blog and read the posts.
  2. Read my book Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace.
  3. Listen to online seminars. Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) has recorded sessions of our Publishers’ Institute seminars you can listen to.
  4. Become a member of Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) and receive on-going monthly information on marketing and promoting Christian books.

Information is power. Get the power you need to sell more books!

Related Posts:
Are You Selling or Connecting?
Are Your Book Sales Discouraging?
Are You Using This Book Selling Technique?

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Do You Know Your Audience?

A couple weeks ago, I attended a hockey game. I am not a hockey fan, but I think watching sports is fun. So, when some friends invited me, I went.


In the arena where the hockey game was held, a number of local businesses had set up tables to promote their products and services. These tables were spread around the concourse outside the arena where the game was in session. One of these tables hosted a local author promoting her upcoming book.

This author had written the first book in a series of romance titles about hockey players. Each book in her series will feature a hockey player with a romantic interest. The author told me that in her first book, a Russian hockey player falls in love with his American interpreter.

This series of romance books are not self-published. This author has a contract with an imprint of Random House. However, knowing the importance of marketing to help with sales, this author was taking initiative in promoting her book.

Not only does this author know that she must take action to help create book sales, she also knows her target audience. Who would be the most interested in a hockey player romance? Hockey fans of course. This author was taking her message to her target audience through promoting her book at a hockey game.

Do you know your target audience? Who would be the most interested in reading your book? This is the most important question when developing a marketing plan. If you can answer this one question correctly, then you can hone your marketing efforts to the right audience and not waste effort on fruitless endeavors.

Take a lesson from this hockey player romance author. Figure out your target audience and show up where they hang out!

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Where’s the Money?

Who has money to spend? This is an important marketing question.

If you are selling a book for infants, you don’t market to the infants. They have no money to spend. Instead, you market to the parents and grandparents of infants, because they are the ones with the money to purchase your books.

I recently came across some interesting statistics that point to which population in the United States has money to spend.

In five years, 50% of the U.S. population will be over 50 years old. This consumer group spends about 50% of the money spent on consumer packaged goods (CPG). CPG is the types of goods that are consumed every day by the average customer. These boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) will be in control of 70% of the disposable income in the United States, and it is estimated that they will inherit around $15 trillion.

Some studies indicate that most marketing efforts are geared toward the 18- to 49-year-old age group and that less than five percent of advertising is pointed toward the older age group. Yet, between now and 2030, the 18 to 49 group will only grow by 14% while those in the 50+ group will grow by 34%.

Don’t forget the 50+ age group when you are planning your next book marketing campaign. Remember, many of these consumers have children and grandchildren, so even if your book may not interest them personally, they might think it is a good gift for one of their family members. After all, books still make great gifts.

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An Equation Every Publisher Should Know

Brian Jud recently wrote an article on “50 Tips for Promoting Your Book” over on Book Business Magazine. In his first 25 tips, I think three deserve highlighting. These are three that I have talked about time and time again, but since I keep running into publishers who don’t pay any attention to them, I guess I need to continue to use one of Brian’s other 25 tips, which is “say something old in a new way”. So here goes.

The three tips from Brian Jud’s article I think need highlighting are:

  1. People do not buy quickly. A one-time exposure will not make a person buy your book. Even hearing a recommendation from a friend once won’t necessarily get them to buy a book. A person needs to be exposed to a book anywhere from 7 to 12 times before they will make a purchase.
  2. Promote daily. If you are not selling many books, it is probably because you are not doing much promotion. Marketing your book to your target audience must be an on-going task. Do one to three things every day to promote your book (and not the same things every day, vary what you do).
  3. Use a variety of promotional tools. This is the varying part. There are many, many different ways to promote a book. Here are just a few: writing guest blog posts (check out to find bloggers who need posts in your subject area), send your book on a blog tour (if you are a CSPA member consider using the program), use Google Adwords to advertise your book, exhibit at a conference or tradeshow, use social media to promote your book, enter a book award, be an expert for the media (check out to find journalists needing stories), and be a guest on a radio show (head on over to to find hundreds of Internet shows looking for guests).

Self-publishers and small publishers wear many hats in their publishing business. Marketing is truly a time-consuming effort. It is easy to let it fall by the wayside. However, if you want to sell books, you can’t neglect marketing.

The equation is simple: Promotion = Book Sales. Remember, the inverse is also true: No Promotion = No Book Sales.

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