Hell no I don’t read, but if I did…

There will be a part 2 for this series in a day or so with the same questions asked to a lifelong reader, just for comparison.
 
I have seen a lot of blogs poll readers or feature readers and ask them what they look for in a book. What do they want to see on the cover? What do they want to see in a title? Is there something that influences their buying decision one way or the other more so than other things?
 
I’m not here to do that.
 
Well, not exactly.
 
I, being the great (short) pioneer that I am…am going to ask pretty much the same exact questions, but to someone who doesn’t read, or at least not very often, anyway. I think getting an opinion from someone who doesn’t read much is an organic approach to this non-scientific method of questioning. I’d like to know what would make someone who doesn’t usually read much, be encouraged to buy a book and maybe even pick it up and open the cover. So here we go.
 
 
My guest today does a lot of different stuff and he is a good guy, so you all can’t give him too much guff for not reading. Well, you can, but I will not be held responsible. I have to give him credit for patience. He always listens to me ramble on about books, even when he doesn’t care what I’m talking about. I do the same to him when the 49ers play. blah blah something about a funny looking little ball that has nothing to do with a foot.
 
I am going to protect his identity from the hoards of angry people who think everyone should read.
 
Rather than his actual name, we are going to call him Jeremiah “that guy.”
 
So with out further ado, here is “That guy” and I having a bookish conversation.
 

Ionia: So, “that guy,” why don’t you read all that much? I know you have to read for work and you have to read for daily life, but why don’t you read more for pleasure?

TG: I don’t find books very often that pique my interest enough to read them, or at least not all the way through. I find something that might interest me occasionally, but then I tend to lose interest rather quickly. Sometimes the plot goes to sleep and so do I.

Ionia: When you do find a book you think you’d like to read, what is it that first captures your attention? What makes you pick that book rather than another?

TG: The first thing I look at is the title. It isn’t as much the cover as it is the title. The title has to be really interesting and make me want to pick it up. If the title seems boring, I won’t even bother. Secondly, I look at the size of the book. I might be feeling ambitious, but I know my concentration has limits, so if the book is enormous…uhm…Tom Clancy…if I can watch it in the movie a lot faster there is no hope for the book. Sorry readers. I do look at the cover, but it isn’t as important to me as the blurb and the one liner that tells what others thought. I might not buy a book solely on what those say, but I’d rather read a book with a boring white cover that has people saying good things than one with an awesome cover art that has no one saying anything.

Ionia: The title thing is interesting. There have actually been studies done on what happens if a poorly selling book gets a more exciting title. The results were kind of amazing. Some books that had been out for ages started selling to the top of the charts within a few days of the change. How important are what other customers say about the book in reviews? Do you pay attention to star ratings and customer reviews?

TG: If I’m buying online I do somewhat take into account the customer reviews. A lot of it depends on whether or not it is fiction or non fiction. Fiction is subjective. People may love one writing style and not another or they may be influenced by which POV the book was set in. With non fiction, especially if you are using the book to learn a new skill or for education purposes, I would pay more attention to the reviews. If, for instance I got a book about algebra and the other customers said it was confusing and unhelpful, I may look at another one instead. But with fiction, I pay little attention to the opinions of others. Sometimes it is the one star reviews that make me interested in a book though.

Ionia: I have to agree about the one star reviews. Plus, sometimes they point out things that the four and five star reviews don’t, such as which characters could have been improved, or plot holes. I hate those. Do you do most of your reading in paper format or digital and why?

TG: I have both, but I am somewhat old fashioned. I like paper books. I don’t ever have to worry about my battery dying in the middle of a hardcover. I do have to say though, reading a paper book in the dark is not very easy. It is easier to collect more books with a reader than with normal books and it takes a lot less effort to move them.

Ionia: I’m really amazed at your bravery for facing down this rabid audience of readers and writers. I appreciate the honesty here. Don’t look behind you. Charles, put down the mallet. John, it isn’t nice to make faces. Susan…never mind. Susan you can continue whatever it is you’re doing over there. What turns you off in a book, right away? Say you have gotten past the title, and the cover, and the blurb. You’ve decided to read this book. What makes you say..never mind. Not for me.

TG: If the author can captivate me and hold my attention (for fiction anyway) within the first 3-10 pages I will continue. I can handle a small boring spot, but if it is more than a few pages I lose focus and put the book down. If I like the direction and approach the author takes to writing and I can visualise the content, I am more likely to keep reading.

Ionia: Does it matter to you if the book was put out by a big publisher or an indie author or indie press? Does the name of the publisher have any influence on if you will take the risk and buy the book?

TG: It doesn’t matter. It is more about the content than who it came from or where. If you don’t write things that I find interesting, then I won’t pick up the book.

Ionia: Do you have any favourite categories that you do enjoy reading when you find a book that you enjoy?

TG: I like to read fantasy. As I am a highly visual reader, I love the descriptions and worlds in fantasy, but I will read other stuff if it is interesting.

Ionia: Does price influence your buying decisions? Are you more likely to buy a less expensive book than a more expensive on or is it really about the content?

TG: Price really doesn’t affect my decision. If I’m liking the above named things about the book, I’ll spend the money.

Ionia: Will you buy a book just because it is part of a series? The hole in the shelf syndrome, if you will? Even if you don’t intend to read the books, will you buy based on having a partial series?

TG: No. If the book doesn’t interest me and I have books 1, 2, 3, and 5, I won’t buy 4 just because I don’t have it.

Ionia: I think our wallets all envy your reserve.  Does sales rank have anything to do with purchasing decisions?

TG: Not at all. I can find a great book at a thrift shop or one that has a million plus sales ranking. It makes no difference to me as far as buying the book.

Ionia: One final question: Where do you see the most advertising for books and have you ever bought based on an ad from that place?

TG: I see the most advertising from Kindle, but I don’t necessarily buy based on those ads. They might encourage me to look at a book, or download a sample. It really is about the content and the overall impression I get of the book. A pretty cover doesn’t mean that it will be a great fit for me.

Ionia: Thank you so much for your time and for answering all these questions. Put down your torches and pitchforks people. He is doing all of us authors a service.

 

So what do you all think about what our guest had to say today? Do you agree or disagree? Authors, here’s your chance to give your hard earned two cents.

 
 

 

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24 thoughts on “Hell no I don’t read, but if I did…

  1. He’s a witch! Burn him! :p It’s interesting that book size and movie option plays a role. I know a lot of people who refuse to read anything that is over 200 pages or has a movie. So would you say that the age of large tomes is coming to an end and movie versions can actually hurt a book in some way?

    What about books that are suggested by friends, but the titles aren’t catchy?

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  2. I like that guy. He is among those I’m trying to reach since I think once I do it, he will be a walking testimonial. I believe there are more like him out there (will read if interested) and worth the effort. This was interesting since it confirms the “person. . . Er . . . reader on the street” view, Thanks for this.

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  3. I really enjoyed being able to get the perspective of someone that doesn’t read much for enjoyment. I had a friend that indicated similar views when I discussed this with him. It seems that the title and blurb are very important, but also keeping up continued interest. He also favoured fantasy as a genre, and held similar views about reviews as ‘that guy’.

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  4. One star reviews are the most important in buying anything. Usually I decide to buy when I see the one star reviews and think either “Wow! That’s all that’s wrong with it?!” or “Okay, that person is just an idiot / wanted something else entirely”.

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  5. Always late to the party, but always here with an opinion. I like “that guy’s” candidness! I have been making myself read some stuff I really did not want to read. On the one hand, I am learning about other types of writing, on the other, I sometimes feel like I am wasting my time. The title and the blurb are so critical. I would want a guy like him to read my book, then write my blurb 😉

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      • At this point, anyone who says anything besides, “This is a piece of crap, save your money,” is a winner.

        Tim Baker took it a step further and had bloggers write a fan fiction or alternate ending for his book. It was great. Someone picked up on a plot hole. A dead body left in a house that the characters never dealt with. It was a hilarious piece the winner wrote. They also picked on him about his punctuation.

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