How Do You Choose a Book?

In a bookstore, I hate to admit it but I judge a book by its cover. But let me qualify that. I only let that be my first criterion. Still, for writers out there, hoping to sell a book, that first impulse of the reader to pick up a book with an intriguing cover can add a lot to your sales, so make sure you get a great cover for your book.

Next, I like to read the flap on the jacket, or the back cover if it’s a paperback. I want to be drawn into the subject of the book and have a taste of the dilemma the characters find themselves in without having the ending spoiled for me. Just a teaser is all I want.

Then, if I think this subject might be something for me, I will read the opening sentence, and maybe as much as the first page or two. That will tell me most of what I need to know.

If I’m browsing for an e-book and I’m on a site like Amazon or Smashwords, I will click on the book cover where it says “Look Inside.”

This is where I make my decision.

Does the opening sentence hook me right away? Is it relevant to the plot of the story? Beware of the amateur opening sentences that begin the scene with:

  • the alarm clock going off
  • someone waking from a dream
  • someone driving by in a vehicle and describing the scenery
  • talking about the weather and telling you “It was a dark and stormy night.”

How does the author handle dialogue? Are there too many fancy, distracting words that  replace “said” and “asked”? If I see words like “inquired,” “responded,” “explained,” “answered,” “replied,” “questioned,” and “announced,” I will reluctantly leave that book for someone else to suffer through.  Even if the author uses the standard “said” and “asked” to move the story along more efficiently, if these words are followed by adverbs, I am also turned off. Once in a while, it is acceptable, but not as a general rule. It becomes tiresome to read:

  • “How did that happen?” she asked angrily.
  • “I have no idea,” he said, innocently.

The only thing that could make it worse is to have a gerund added into the mix:

  • “How did that happen?” she asked angrily, bunching up her fists on her hips.
  • “I have no idea,” he said, innocently, rolling his eyes.

These are clues you will find easily in the first few pages of a book. If you notice these examples of poor writing, you can still flip a few pages and check to see if the pattern continues. If it does, you will probably be glad if you give that book a pass and look for something else.

There are many other clues you might look for to see if you might like a book, but in this post I have tried to mention a few of the main ones that I look for.

How do you decide on your next book to read?  Do you have some ideas you’d like to share?





10 thoughts on “How Do You Choose a Book?

  1. Ah, the art and science of covers. Too few writers take advantage of browsing Amazon samples of openings and dialogue. You can also find elegant examples of similes and metaphors. Thanks, Anneli!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was guilty of putting on a not-terribly-exciting cover on my first edition of “Orion’s Gift.” In those days I thought it was the great story inside that would do the trick for me. When I had a new cover designed, it made all the difference to the image the book presented to potential readers. Thanks for your visit. I checked out your site too, and liked it. Is there a follow button? I couldn’t find it.


  2. I too judge a book by its cover, in particular when browsing in a bookstore. However, on Amazon I look at the books they recommend in terms of my past readings and then I read the summary of the novel. If I like the summary I will ask for a sample so that I can read it later on and decide if I want to purchase the book or not. For books which don’t have samples I’ll check out the read inside. And, like you, Anneli, I’ll read the first couple of pages and see if I want to continue reading. Many times, though, I tend to be drawn to a book because of reviews I’ve read about it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Carol. The reviews can be really helpful. Of course there are always the disgruntled ones who have illogical reasons for trashing a book. Example, I was abused so I didn’t like the book because there was domestic abuse in it.
      But we can sort out those reviews and go with the ones that sound more sensible.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Anneli, you’ve got all writers out there rushing back to their books and WIPs to double-check that there of none of the rookie weak writing, especially in the all-important first couple of pages.😀 Your bookshop choosing method mirrors my own very much, as for Amazon I will be more forgiving on covers. Reading first about the book, check out some reviews and if still interested take a peek inside. Only a few times where the writing is so poor or fails to grab even some of my attention, often I’ll read on!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha! Rushing back to check! That’s exactly what I did with mine when I first learned about these things some time ago now. I feel the same as you do about the book covers on e-books. It’s nice if they catch your eye, but since we end up just holding our e-readers, and not a real book with a beautiful cover, it doesn’t seem as important to have that great cover on an e-book. Thanks for your much appreciated insights, Annika.

      Liked by 1 person

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