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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Market Your Christian Novel Like a Pro

According to Publishers Weekly, sales of Christian fiction books is healthy. The number of indie authors publishing fiction books appears to be growing. In 2016, 17% of overall books purchased were indie published—but 30% of fiction books purchased were indie published. That number has since grown. This year, one-third of the books nominated for the 2018 Christian Indie Awards were fiction books.

One of the trends in fiction books is that a higher percentage of these books are being purchased as ebooks rather than print books. According to Author Earnings, fiction books make up the lion’s share of ebook purchases with 70% of all fiction sales occurring as ebooks and 90% of all romance book purchased as ebooks.

If you write and publish Christian fiction, you know that marketing a fiction book is difficult. If your fiction book sales are slow, then you might want to take a lesson from traditional Christian book publishers and imitate their marketing strategies for novels by new authors. Following are a number of marketing strategies traditional Christian publishing houses use to promote novels by authors who do not already have a built-in fan base.

  1. Mailings to bookstore managers about the new novel.
  2. Mailings to libraries.
  3. Mailings to book clubs.
  4. Placement in distributor’s catalogs (Ingram/Spring Arbor and Anchor catalogs).
  5. Strategic ad placement for print and online media.
  6. Eblasts to readers, retailers, and media.
  7. Advance copies to publications that review books.
  8. Advance copies to influencers.
  9. Placement of ARC on NetGalley for reviews.
  10. Securing media interviews.
  11. Host author events and book signings.
  12. Cross-promotion with other authors with similar titles.
  13. Special promotions with coupons and discounts to drive sales.
  14. Free novella ebook prequel that includes the first few chapters to the full-length novel.

I believe all these strategies are valuable. They work together to create synergy and exposure that drive the most sales. However, I am also aware that many indie authors do not have the resources to engage in all 14 of these activities. Therefore, if you have to choose just one of these activities, I suggest that you practice number 14. Provide a free novella ebook prequel to your novel.

Offer your novella for free on all the ebook platforms (Amazon, Barnes&Noble, Apple Book Store, Kobo, Smashwords, etc.) and on your website (in exchange for an email to help build your email list). Traditional publishers report that this strategy has led to stronger ebook sales for their authors who do this over authors who do not use this technique. Smashwords, the largest self-publishing ebook platform, reports that authors that offer the first ebook free for a fiction series earn 55% more on average than series that don’t offer the first ebook free.

Maybe you are a fiction author who wants to do a number of the above strategies but are unsure of how to go about these marketing activities. Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) can help you with that. We offer our members access to eblasts for Christian readers, retailers, and media, we provide information each month on podcasts and radio shows seeking guests in our newsletter, we offer cooperative print and digital advertising, and many other resources for spreading the word on your books.

Related Posts:
Is Christian Fiction Growing or Dying?
Best Practices for Selling eBooks
What Christian Fiction Readers Want

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