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  • Writer's pictureG R Matthews

Why don’t you buy a book?

We always talk, at least to my perception of things, of the books we chose and loved. We wax lyrical to our friends, colleagues, that bloke on the street you bumped into.

What about those books we didn’t chose to read? The ones left on the shelf.

Are they less deserving?

Are they not as good?

How do we know? We didn’t read them.

What is it that turns us off and turns us away? Perhaps it is the cover. A good cover sells books.

Let’s be honest, we go on first impressions a lot. A bad cover and we avert our gaze and pass it by, never giving it a second thought. I cannot argue with that. However, I will say this. Reading the books for the #SPFBO, as part of the Fantasy-Faction team, I didn’t get to see the covers. There was no chance to turn away because of a home-made cover, or no cover at all. It was read and see what you thought. You know what, I didn’t miss the cover and, going out on a limb, I don’t think it would have made a difference to the thoughts I reported back. There were some crackingly (I may have made that word up – the red wiggly line of word-doom is demanding my attention, I choose to ignore it) good books in the selection I read.

But would I have picked them off the shelf in a bookshop or the Amazon page? Looking at the cover of some, I’ll sadly but confidently answer no, I would not have chosen them. Sorry, does that make me shallow? Don’t answer that!

Maybe it’s the blurb? Lord knows they are hard to write, harder than the book itself, at least in my very humble opinion. If the cover has hooked a reader, the blurb can lose one? I’m not one to speak out here, I struggle to write the blurb. Can you tell the reader enough to entice them into buying without giving away too much? If you can, contact me and I’ll let you write my blurbs! For Free! Can’t say fairer than that.

Don’t all email at once, though being honest, I think I am safe.

How many of us read a blurb? My initial thought, not many. But then I think, actually, you know what, I do read the blurbs of almost every book I buy. I’m not sure how much influence it has on my final decision. It must have some. There are some books that don’t have a blurb or just have a single sentence. Those are usually books by world famous authors, are long running series (Jack Reacher, for instance), or just incredibly brave.

So does the cover attract you and the blurb make you look away? If not, what else might?

Perhaps you pick up the book, even with its awful cover and its illiterate blurb, open it up to give it a quick read? You start at, and this is revolutionary, the beginning and, under the watchful gaze of the sales assistant whom you ignore, read. Is it the prose on the first page that makes you put it back? Give it another chance. Turn to the middle and read a bit there. Or just randomly flick through.

It’s the cover isn’t it… you still remember it.

Was it the setting? You went into the bookshop looking for a book just like the one you’d just read and really enjoyed. All these authors trying something new, you’re willing to read them. In fact, you think it’s damn cool that some authors are pushing the boundaries and experimenting. However, you really want a book just like the one you just read – the one with whatever the last book was about it in it.

For some folks it is the hype that turns them off and here, surely, we run into a Heller-esque Catch 22. All authors need hype, advertising, exposure (though too much of the wrong type and they’ll be arrested) to let everyone know that their book is out there and that readers really should be reading it.

I’d imagine a lot of authors work hard at it and, likely, it is not their favourite activity. Sure they like talking to their readers, they love getting good feedback, and they get excited by their reader’s reactions. But selling the book? <Buy my book – subliminal advertising>

Convincing people to part with cash is something the sales people do. Those door to door people. The ones who knock loudly (the bell is broken, must fix it soon) when you are in the bath or on the toilet reading a good book (gave too much away there, sorry, but with two kids running round the house it is the only time to get any peace and quiet). That’s their job, not the author’s, surely. Well we know different, don’t we?

So here we have a multitude of authors all vying for your attention and the one that does it best… well, some folks don’t like that and won’t read it. The author can’t win, but at least all the others will read it and the author will get paid for all their hard work.

To sum up my rambling. We don’t read books with;

A bad cover (or one that doesn’t appeal to us even though the cover is quite good)

A bad blurb (even if we only scan read it, we can’t get that cover out of our mind)

A bad beginning (being honest, we only read a page. That shop assistant wouldn’t stop staring. Probably worried we were bending the spine.)

A unfamiliar setting (that you’d quite like to try, but…)

A lot of hype (at least we’ve heard of the author and the book, but that cover!)

I’m not sure I have a made a point, whether I wanted to or not. I suppose, what I am asking is;

Why don’t you buy a book?

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