Friday, September 1, 2017

It's Not You, It's Me: Five Reasons We Choose to Date That Book

Shopping for a book is a little like Tinder, isn't it? Before we swipe right invest our hard-earned money and all those hours, the book has to look good and the profile needs to promise worthy entertainment. Authors spend years, sometimes decades, writing, editing, and revising a book. But it only takes a few seconds for a reader to say yeah or nay. 

Someone recently posed a question in a readers' group about what influences members to choose a book. The answers varied from reader to reader, but came down to five considerations that moved folks from simply looking at a cover, to shelling out hard-earned dollars. Most noticeably, although a factor in the buying decision, price didn't make the the top five. 

1. COVER.  I can't describe exactly why a cover beckons because it varies tremendously. All I know is that something hits me in a sweet spot, urges me to look closer. It might be as simple as a gorgeous font or as complex as the hidden message behind intriguing images in the cover art. But it always starts with the cover.  Which is why I am over-the-moon THRILLED with the striking cover that Kensington came up with for my debut novel, THIS I KNOW. Yeah, it's my baby and all mothers think their babies are beautiful, but come on, just look at it. Sigh

2. TITLE. If I'm intrigued by a book cover, I study the title, roll it around on my tongue. Is it clunky? Is it mysterious? Does it hint at my favorite themes? A bad title can ruin a good book. Conversely, a good title can sometimes trick me. Whoa. This sounds really good! Only to find out twenty bucks later that the title was the best line in the book. I happen to be fond of three-word titles. The Last Suppers. Bird by Bird. Out of Africa. Running With Scissors. Over The Plain Houses. Okay that last one is four words but it's a damn fine title and the writing is simply stunning. 

3. DESCRIPTION. I'm drawn to stories about community--the places we live, the families we're born into, and the tribes we gravitate toward. I prefer hometown settings peopled with recognizable characters from the grocery store, a neighborhood cafe or noisy schoolyard; books that explore the bigger questions of one's purpose, and the overlapping consequences of our choices, good and bad. If the description hints at a balance of humor, even better. It probably makes sense that these are also the kinds of stories I like to write.

4. BLURBS/REVIEWS. I don't buy a book because I think I'll agree with the reviewers who've written them, but I can often tell if a blurb is authentic. You can't fake genuine, organic enthusiasm. There's nothing more satisfying than seeing how geeked an author is for another author's work. 

5. THE FIRST PAGE. I always save reading the first page for last. Those first few words are ultimately the deciding factor  when it comes to whether or not I will read a book. More important than the cover, the title, the description, and the blurbs combined. Because for me, it always comes down to voice. From that very first sentence I know if I'm going to keep reading the next and the next and the next. Even if I'm hooked by the characters and story, I need to be convinced that this particular author is the only one to tell it.

You might imagine how scary it is to think about potential readers of my debut novel moving past the title, the cover, the description and the blurbs of my book and opening to that very first page. So I'm going to take a deep breath and give you a sneak-peek, right here, right now. What follows is the first two sentences from my eleven-year-old protagonist, Grace Marie Carter, in THIS I KNOW.

I make people nervous, even Daddy. Especially Daddy...

If those sentences sound like something you'd definitely keep reading, answer one or both questions below in the comments here or on my FaceBook page to be entered into a giveaway for an ARC (Advance Review Copy) of THIS I KNOW when it becomes available next month.

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