What influences your reading?  How do you decide which books to buy and which to borrow from the library?  What makes you want to buy or borrow a book?  Does advertising matter?  Reviews?  Where do you find reviews?  What makes you want to run out and buy a copy? 

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Yes, it's always good to have this information. Alas, I'm not a typical reader. Most of the books I read (well, I actually leave at least 50 % unread after starting) come from the library. My choices fall on familiar authors. Familiarity in this case means that I've read books by this person before, or the name has cropped up as having received an awards nomination or having received praise from a reader on a mystery web site.
New (to me) authors I tend to pick for subject matter (foreign police procedurals) and the review blurbs.
Reviews are not all of the same caliber. I prefer professional reviewers.

Advertising matters hugely for sales, though I'm absolutely hype-proof myself.
So if you're hype-proof, what sort of advertising matters for sales? Can you tell I have a new book out? :-)
National advertisement in major papers, TV, radio. Anything with a large audience. However, this is not something an author has control over. Specific targeted advertisement. Book Club editions. All of this is in the hands of your publisher -- unless you're a celebrity.

About the only thing I've found helpful is good reviews.
I tend to stick with authors I'm familiar with unless I get a recommendation, or, quite honestly, just happen to stumble onto a writer I enjoy, particularly for fiction. I'm a little more open with non-fiction. I rarely get a book from the library because I like to have my own copies. Positive reviews from major reviewers like Booklist, the Library Journal, and newspapers help––they certainly have for my police procedurals. I've done radio and television and that can really help as well. Good writing is important, but I think choice has an awful lot to do with a reader's taste. I think many of us have read a book by a very successful author who we wouldn't classify as an excellent writer.
If I don't know the author, I open to the first page and read a few paragraphs. It's discouraging how often there's some kind of clunker that makes me close the book immediately.
But what I'm wondering Dan, is how you find the kinds of books you like and already read. Do you rely on what's available on the shelf of your local bookstore? Do you go out of your way to find books by new authors if they sound intriguing? Assuming it's in your favorite genre? And yes, to a certain extent, I am doing market research. I have a new book out, my first, and I need to figure out the best way to sell it. :-) I hand-sold ten books at a conference last weekend, but that didn't pay for the cost of the conference. :-) That wasn't really why I was there anyway. But I digress. Unfortunately, IJ, my publisher is not doing any promotion for my book. Small press.

I have an opportunity to share an ad in a program for a big conference, but I'm thinking it probably wouldn't pay off. I won't be there to hand sell, so the people who see the ad would have to go order the book off Amazon.

Thanks for the replies!

J.E., I'm also with a small publisher at the moment. I say "at the moment" because I tend to change publishers. As you say, the small publishers do not promote. I don't think they even send out ARCs. On the other hand, the two big houses I have published with didn't promote either, though they sent ARCs. I've gained readers through reviews, and perhaps also through library sales, though it's the rare library patron who won't wait for the next book and buys it instead. Yes, my books go on a "hold" list when they first appear, but what I need are sales.

I discovered many years ago that hand-selling (at least via book signing trips) will do nothing for you except cost you money, time, and self-respect. I don't do that any longer. Publishers do benefit from it, but the numbers are too small for them to reward you with new contracts.

Sorry, but an author's life isn't much fun these days.
Never buy an ad thinking it will sell enough books to pay for the ad. It won't. Ever.

Advertising is a program -- you target a group of people and hit them with ad images and copy many many times before it begins to work. Seven, eight, nine images. And don't bother with ANY advertising anywhere anytime if your books are not in Barnes & Noble. That ninth ad image -- the one that sells the target, pushes him over the line -- has to be at the point of sale.
That's interesting and sounds right. But take note, the author may buy the ads (a very expensive proposition -- I've tried it), but only the publisher's marketing team can get B&N to do the final store promotion.
I'm sure you're right. I have a romance-writing friend whose series really took off (90,000 first print runs) when her publisher decided to pop for those end-of-aisle displays. We saw them in every B&N we were in, but not sure of it was the whole chain. The only fiction writer I know personally who makes a good living at it. :-)
Ah, romance! I don't know anyone who makes any kind of living at fiction.
For me, it varies. I tend to look for known authors I enjoy. I am much more willing to try an unkown author at the library. The jacket copy and the first couple of pages of the book have a greater impact on my than anything else. I don't read reviews, but will go on the recommendations of people I know and trust.

Non fiction is a little different. I probably get my recommendations for non-fiction books from references/articles in trade publications if it is trade related, or frankly, from seeing the authors on BookTV.

I may be atypical, but I've never purchased a book by randomly looking around Amazon. I go to Amazon already looking for a specific book or author, usually one I can't find in my library or local bookstore.

If you are searching for answers to promotional questions, you may need to be more specific than "what influences your reading?"

I have a firm belief that since publishing is changing, so too must book marketing. I believe the author's approach to marketing will vary depending on whether or not they are traditionally published vs self published, the level of publisher promotional support, whether it is an e-book or traditional book, non-fiction or fiction, the topic of the book if non-fiction, etc.


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