Wednesday, 28 November 2012

What Makes You Pick Up a Book?

I was browsing in my local library last week in quite a picky mood. I did end up borrowing three books but it got me wondering why I choose one book over another and whether it depends on how I'm feeling that particular day.

There are various factors that may persuade one to pick up a book. Perhaps it's a favourite author - in which case it doesn't really matter what the plot is, you know you are guaranteed a good read. Or, the opposite is true - you read the flysheet and are blown away by the plot summary and just have to give it a go - if you enjoy the book then you are likely to go looking for that author again.

Genre is important obviously. We all know whether we are in the mood for romance or crime or comedy. But within that, an attractive cover might be the hook to pick up a book or an intriguing title.

It's always said that as a writer, your first paragraph is vital to draw the reader in. I know I usually read the first page of a novel before deciding whether to buy/borrow it. A satisfying ending is needed too.

As writers we may have little influence over the colour, final title and illustrations of our published books but we can make very sure there's an enticing first paragraph, a riproaring plot and fantastic ending, ensuring that readers come back to find our next books on the shelf.

So, what is it about a book that makes you pick it up?


  1. When I'm shopping at the supermarket I'll often buy a couple of books on a whim. This is the order in which I choose:

    1. Cover picture
    2. Title
    3. Blurb (which will tell me genre)

    I've just realised I hardly ever open the book until I start reading it - so first line hook hasn't feaured at all in my choice!

  2. I think it's usually the author that makes me buy something. Sometimes, I buy collections of books from The Book People .. usually something new. If I'm not sure about buying a book, I may look at the first line or two.

  3. That's interesting - so the way you choose, Wendy, as a writer it would be difficult to influence, although I think the author gets some input into the 'look' of the book but not a lot. However the 'blurb' is written by the author so here's a chance to hook the reader immediately.

    The way Chrissie chooses is author loyalty, which I guess has to be built up over time - so as a writer that means producing quality work to the same high standards so as not to disapppoint or put readers off buying the next one.

    Oh well, no-one said it would be easy being a writer!!

    1. I always read the first page before buying or borrowing Carol, even if it's an author I know well; so your 'drawing in' tactic would work with me!

  4. I choose by author or sometimes I read reviews in various writers' mags. The blurb is a decider too and sometimes the picture on the front. Smiths usually have a 'read of the week' and if it's by a favourite author then I treat myself. I never look at the first line either.


  5. As an author, how would you go about getting your book reviewed in magazines? Is that something an Editor/Publisher would organise or can you put your own book forward?

  6. The first things that draw me in are title, cover pic, then I flip over to the blurb. But because books by their very nature are for reading, I would never buy one without first dipping into the first page. I like to see the author's style and use of words, and whether it's an easy flowing read or going to be a trial. If the latter, I put it down again. It usually means long difficult words, no dialogue, and pages of narrative perhaps heavy on the description and not getting straight into the story. I'm currently reading Fleur McDonald's RED DUST, a modern outback mystery, published by Allen & Unwin, with a really fast pace and satisfying story.
    I do also choose on authors I've previously read and loved. Learnt about Eva Ibbotson only last year on her death and have just finished reading her MAGIC FLUTES. Wonderful humour and mix of characters and brilliant writing. I have a pile more of hers to read and bought JOURNEY TO THE RIVER SEA for my granddaughter. I read it before handing it over. A delightful children's/YA read.