What Makes a Reader Buy a Book?

It wasn’t my intention today to buy Kate Mosse’s new book and certainly not in hardback. I went into the shop to buy a print cartridge and the TLS (my subscription ran out) and came out with the TLS and Citadel but no print cartridge as they were too expensive (I bought one in the shop next door).

I wasn’t marched to the till and there weren’t huge piles at the door – no one pressed it into my hand saying YOU MUST BUY THIS BOOK. When I went into the shop I found that I was looking for it and then I convinced myself that, as it was half price, it was a very good deal.

Why do we choose to buy a book? Why do we select one title over the many thousands in print? Publicists and booksellers expend hours scanning book data trying to work out the right combination that will compel readers to buy books. Cover, author exposure, media coverage – are they wasting their time? Does it make a difference?

Here’s my [highly] unscientific bookrambler formula:

mi+na+hpo = 🙂

[converted into English] media interest [I caught Kate Mosse’s ten minute interview on the BBC news ‘Meet the Author’ slot on Sunday morning via a tweet from someone who was watching it + noted author [I’ve read and enjoyed both of her previous books] + half price offer [£10 instead of £20 RRP = 1 happy book buyer

What’s your magic formula?

3 thoughts on “What Makes a Reader Buy a Book?

  1. My formula would definitely not have resulted in the above purchase.
    It is: LI + SI (1+BP) = p(purchase)
    Which means “Looks Interesting” (via Title & Cover) plus “Sounds Interesting” (via blurb, exerpt, contents page, reviews, word of mouth) times (1+Bargain Price) equals probability of purchase.
    In the case of Citadel, that would be, for me, 0+0 x (1+5) = 0 .

  2. Ha ha! That is brilliant! For me it’s a combination of the title, the synopsis and the first few lines on the first page. If I like the voice, I will buy.


  3. I think you are probably spot-on there. Perhaps the following could be interchangeable too:-
    tfoo/tfto (two for one offer/three for two offer) asc (author signed copy) hbtts/hsvts (have book token to spend/have shop voucher to spend)

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