Thursday, March 17, 2011

How I Buy Books

A lot of you know that I spent the month of February on a book buying ban. I succeeded, which is good for both my discipline and my wallet. These days, however, I’m back to my usual antics.

I’ll be honest: I buy a lot of books. Based on the sheer amount of books that I get, it may not look like a put a lot of thought in my choices. I actually spend a fair amount of time agonizing what I get when and what other books I’ll get at the same time.

So what is it? What is that hooks me into saying “I need a copy of this book for my personal library”? What factors play a role in my decision to purchase a book? A lot of different factors affect my decision. Sometimes, my interest is piqued right away, whereas other times it takes a bit of persuasion.

If I know that I want a book, it’s usually one of four factors.

1.) Coverlust
I think everyone in the blogosphere is familiar with the adage, “Don’t judge a book by its cover!” And I think the vast majority of us tend to ignore that phrase. There are some covers that I see and know instantly that I want to have in my library. Take the cover of Brightly Woven, for example. I first saw that cover in December of 2009, and the book itself wasn’t due out until March of 2009. Regardless, it was so beautiful that I instantly knew that I would have to pre-order that book. I just recently finished, and it was worth every penny I spent on it, especially as I will more than likely re-read it. I’ve also had similar experiences with Sea by Heidi R. Kling and Nightshade by Andrea Cremer, to name a few others.

There are times when a small element of a cover will play a role in dragging me in. For example, the covers for Graceling by Kristin Cashore and Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta both have swords in them, and when I see a sword, my mind goes to epic fantasy, which is a genre I enjoy. Then I have to see the summary and if it sounds like something I’ll enjoy, I’ll probably put it on my wishlist. While neither cover is in my top ten, it’s nice to have an indicator that a book falls into a genre I favor.

2.) A lot of great reviews

When I see a lot of great reviews of a book, it will either go one of two ways. One is that the lust sets in right away. Take Divergent by Veronica Roth. It’s not even out yet, and people are already giving it reviews saying that it’s possibly better than The Hunger Games. I loved The Hunger Games and have been really enjoying the trend of dystopian in YA literature, so I already have that one pre-ordered.

Sometimes it takes a little longer. Throughout 2009 and 2010 I kept seeing five star reviews of Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater. Now, I was also reading the Twilight saga at the time and by the end of Eclipse, I really disliked Jacob. So when I heard that Shiver starred a werewolf, namely Sam, as the love interest, I immediately thought, “I don’t want another Jacob” and turned my nose up. It pains me so much to admit to that, and I feel horribly guilty now that I was so judgmental. However, a spark of interest still remained, and I saw a review that highlighted Sam as a little emo and sweet. My interest was piqued and next time I was at the bookstore I couldn’t stay away. Sam is one of my favorite love interests in YA literature and Shiver is now one of my all time favorite books because Stiefvater’s writing is heartbreakingly gorgeous.

3.) A summary that is too good to pass up

There are times when a synopsis comes along that is so original and unique that it seriously will not let go. I recently heard about a YA book about a girl who is possessed called Possess by Gretchen McNeil, due out in August of 2011. Here’s the summary.
Fifteen-year-old Bridget Liu just wants to be left alone: by her overprotective mom, by the hunky son of the police officer who got her father killed, and by the eerie voices which she can suddenly and inexplicably hear. Turns out the voices are demons--the Biblical kind, not the Buffy kind--and Bridget possesses the rare ability to banish them.

San Francisco's senior exorcist and his newly assigned partner from the Vatican enlist Bridget's help with increasingly bizarre and dangerous cases of demonic possession. But when one of Bridget's oldest friends turns up dead in a ritualistic sacrifice that mirrors her father's murder, Bridget realizes she can't trust anyone. An interview with her father's murderer reveals a link between Bridget and the Emim: a race of part-demons intent on raising their forefathers to the earth in human form. Now Bridget must unlock the secret to the Emim's plan before someone else close to her winds up dead, or worse--the human vessel for a Demon King.
I don’t know of any other YA books about exorcism, so I can't wait to read this one.

Or Sarah Beth Durst's Eat Slay Love. The summary is only a few sentences long, but one word has me scratching my head going, “Whaaa?”
What happens when a vampire is stabbed through the heart by a were-unicorn? She suddenly develops a very inconvenient conscience. Oops.
If you guessed were-unicorn, you are correct!

I will more than likely be purchasing both of those. Plus, they have great covers!

4.) Author videos and book trailers

Obviously, these are marketing tools that are made to sell books. When done well and targeted appropriately, I think they work really well. One of the best author videos out there is the one that Ruta Sepetys made for her debut novel, Between Shades of Gray. Check it out here.

A really amazing book trailer will also pique my interest, and it’s not as though any one style does it for me. The first one for Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl does a wonderful job of conveying the haunting feel and creating intrigue.

The next trailer is for Hold Still by Nina LaCour, which I haven’t read. However, the prose is beautiful and I love the backdrop of the song.

And there you have it. These are some of the things that sway me when I’m in the mood for book buying. Of course, many other things can factor in, but I’d say these four tend to have the biggest impact.

So now I’d like to know: what makes you decide to purchase a book? What makes you go “waaaant” and has you pining for books?


  1. I'm loving this post, Liz. I totally agree with the first three factors. Coverlust is HUGE. It doesn't matter if the reviews were a mixed bag or even mostly negative. I am a marketer's dream. I'll still buy it, or at least wait until it's at Half Price books :P

    Honestly, I've never really watched many book trailers, but perhaps I'll try if they sell you so well :)

  2. Very nice post. I think we're all guilty of what you described, some more than others. I do love covers, but I'm also swayed by the synopsis...and then of course there is the reviews that others give. I do try to limit my library though.

  3. I buy a lot of books too. And for a lot of the same reasons as you say here. I'll also buy almost any book on certain topics, such as farms, midwest, weather, and so on. Luckily I don't run across a lot of these which helps. I'm on a book buying ban right now as well and I'm already planning on what I want to buy when it's over.

  4. LOL! Wow. Eat Slay Love has the best summary ever! I'm not usually into vampire books but I might just pick that one up. Sounds very funny.

  5. I agree with everything you said! Cover lust is definitely one reason. Also if I see a book around the blogosphere a few times then it's usually on my list. But if I've seen it around, heard good things and it has an AMAZING cover, well, that's one book I can't resist!
    I like getting more and more books. I love looking at them and having lots of books. I don't think it's such a bad addiction to have, BUT I can't afford it! We need to finish remodeling our house and we need to get health insurance (slightly more important?) and well, there's lots more. But really, I need to get a handle on my spending because it's just not good for my pocket book. Since I get so many books on loan and some from publishers my husband luckily thinks they all are free. If he knew how many I actually buy he'd probably have heart attack.

  6. All four are reasons why I buy a book! A great book cover, review, description, or book trailer will have me adding that book to my list.

    Another reason would be if I love an author's online persona, that makes me want to buy their book. Like Maureen Johnson and Jackson Pearce.

  7. All sorts of things make me want to buy books. Covers, synopsis, bloggers book reviews... It's like an addiction!

  8. P.S. - I keep meaning to buy Shiver and Linger as I've heard great things about them!

  9. I admit I do exactlywhat you describe. I try to do the library thing, where I read a book before I buy it first, but it's getting harder. (Too many pretty covers. I think the publishing industry is catching on to our little weakness :)



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