How do you decide what to read?

This is the flipside of book marketing. If you understand why people read what they read, then you have a better handle on where and how to market.

For me, it looks somewhat like this:

I buy my first book by a particular author book because I have heard of the author, and I’ve heard that he/she writes what I enjoy, and I’ve heard that other people have enjoyed this author’s books. This ‘hearing’ of an author happens informally, usually in cyberspace. The author might be part of a forum, the author might write an interesting blog or I might have attended panels by the author at a con, or other such interactions.

I rarely (almost never) pay attention to reviews (don’t read them). I target the books I buy, regardless of the book’s ranking on Amazon or elsewhere.

What about you?

8 comments on “How do you decide what to read?

  1. That’s a tough one, really. I have different approaches for different genres and types of books.

    Small press: Definitely word of mouth/finger.

    Fantasy: If it’s written by an Australian/NZ and easily obtainable (ie in a shop, from a large publishing house), I’ll probably buy it and read it sooner rather than later, especially if the author is also female. I’m less fond of American-written fantasy, so there has to be a more compelling reason for me to want to read it. Such as an original and interesting premise, etc.

    SF: I’m trying to read my way through some “classic” SF, so most new authors I pick up are in fact old. I tend to be more picky about modern SF. There are subgenres (or subsubgenres) that I’ve discovered I don’t like, but outside of this it really depends on if the blurb sounds interesting or if someone has recommended it.

    YA: I mostly only pick up popular things. I don’t read much YA. In recent times it’s only been The Hunger Games trilogy, the Vampire Academy books (which weren’t /that/ popular, so I’ve forgotten exactly why I picked them up) and Twilight. There were another two books I picked up because they looked ok and were heavily discounted, but they turned out to be fairly rubbish.

    • I’ve really gone off Aussie fantasy lately. I think there is a degree of same-ness in all those big fat trilogies. I’ve enjoyed some of them, but I’m looking for something else. In fantasy, I have read a bit of steampunk and liked that.

      In SF, I have so much I still want to read, I don’t know where to start. There are people on my F-list, probably reading this blog, whose books I’d love to read, but are not usually available in Australia. Now that all four closest outlets of Borders are closing, I’ll just order all my SF directly from the Books Depository.

      YA: I don’t think much of vampires, and personally I don’t like it when the ‘must have strong female character’ matra is pushed too hard. I’ve read too many sword-wielding chicks when I read for the kids. Loved the Hunger Games, because the character is real.

  2. Back when I was a more avid reader (back in my teens) I picked books because they had a good description on the back of the book and I liked the cover art. As odd as it sounds, I actually didn’t end up with many books I didn’t like. Of maybe that’s just my childhood tastes speaking. 😉

    These days I’m more likely to pick up a book based on a friend’s recommendation or because I already like something that the author has written. (Or, more rarely, because the book is a sf/f classic and for some reason I haven’t read it.) I’m still suckered by the occasional pretty cover art and a good back of book description though. Good cover art makes me look at the book, and a good back of book description makes me open the book. (And this may be a personal thing, but I really do prefer art over photographs or photo-realistic images. It makes me sad to go into a bookstore and see all the urban fantasy with runway models on the cover.)

    I dislike picking up books just because informal contact. My tastes in movies, comics, TV shows, etc. often clash with friends and coworkers so I tend to very guarded about what other people like. When I do take a friend’s recommendation it’s more because they know what I like, rather than the fact they liked the book.

    • I do that, too. Not so much a recommendation, but I look at what friends are reading and, knowing their tastes, I make a reasonable judgement of whether or not I’ll enjoy the book.

  3. I’ve tried new authors based on blogs or panels at cons, but what works better for me is looking at what my friends are reading–their blogs, goodreads, etc. Whether they like the book or not I can usually get an impression if what I will think. Granted, I read slowly enough that I can wait for books to have been read by a lot of people.

    Reviews do work for me too, esp. in those areas where my friends are less likely to read. I mean reviews in SF magazines or sites, not on Amazon.

    • I agree that reviews work if they tell me what the book is about, but I attach very little importance to a judgement of quality.

      But for example, I’ve been scouting out hard SF authors I didn’t already know about. In that case, it helps to hear what my friends interested in the same subgenre are reading.

      I find blurbs useful, too.

  4. I usually pick up a book based on package, genre, and/or word of mouth. Then, if I like it, I go hunt up more by the author and things recommended by those who like that author. I also regularly just run through the alphabetical search of a genre I like pretty well, with or without a keyword, and download samples that look interesting.

    • Oh, and I also do look up reviews, specifically to see if there’s mention of any material I would find objectionable and to add to the book summary. I LIKE my books spoiled ’cause I don’t want to buy anything I won’t read over and over and over and over again.

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