What Makes a Reader Pick Up a Book By a Debut Author?

By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund

If you're like me, you probably have a handful of tried-and-true authors that you adore. We only have to see their name and we rush out to buy their book. We don't have to look at the back cover blurb or even know what the book is about. We trust that author will deliver.

And if occasionally one of their books starts slow or doesn't necessarily appeal to us, we keep reading those authors anyway. They've proven themselves to us. And with busy lives and limited time, why not stick to authors we already trust and love?

That kind of loyalty is awesome. And I for one appreciate that my readers come back to my books time and again. On one of my readers said this in her review: "I always preorder her books and will continue to do so based on the strength of her name on the cover alone." (Emphasis mine)

Established and experienced authors can attract new readers based on strong reviews, the numbers of books written, and loyalty of current fans. But it's tough for debut writers to get noticed.

Not only are debut authors competing in an increasingly crowded marketplace, but they're also trying to gain the attention of readers who may have their night tables stacked high with authors they love or authors who have already made a name for themselves.

Of course some new authors DO get noticed. Some debut authors DO gain readers. I was once a debut author, and I've gained many readers over time. As the saying above implies, people who love to read, are always looking for new books to devour! 

But what are the factors that make a reader willing to take a chance on a debut author? Why does a reader pick up the book of one new author and not another?

Here are just a few of the things that influence whether I pick up a book by a new author (in order from most important influences to least):

1. Word of mouth praise. THIS is the NUMBER ONE factor for me. If I hear numerous people talking about a book and how good it was, I'm likely to go over to an online bookstore and check it out. I'll read the reviews, and if they're largely positive, I'm likely to buy the book at some point.

2. The number of reviews on Amazon or Goodreads. If a book only has 15 reviews and has been released for five months, I'll probably wonder what's wrong with the book that more readers haven't left reviews. It's not too difficult for a debut author to generate the help of friends and family members for those initial reviews. But it's much harder to get reviews beyond that.

So if the book is lacking in reviews, I'll assume that those first reviews are mostly by friends and family. And I won't trust them as much. Whereas if a book has a hundred reviews or more, I'll believe what people are saying and consider buying the book.

3. Traditionally versus self-published. I hate to admit this, but it's true. For debut books, I almost always check if they've gone through a traditional publisher. If a new author has passed through the various "tests" and persevered to make it through the "hoops" of traditional publication, and if agents and editors believe in the story, then I'll be more willing to put out my hard-earned cash on a debut book.

Because let's face it, anyone can throw anything out there nowadays and call it a book. If I know a book has faced the rigors and screening of the traditional publisher route, I'm more likely to give the new author a try (fair or not). (When experienced authors self-publish, that's a completely different story.)

4. A pleasing cover. I know we're not suppose to judge a book by its cover, but if a book cover looks cheesy or cheap, I may assume the quality inside will follow suit. But if a debut book has a stellar cover, if it catches my attention, I might give the book a try.

5. If the book is written by a friend. Yes, I'm more likely to buy a debut book from a friend than a stranger. My problem is that I've made connections with so many wonderful writers, that I'm no longer able to keep up with all the books friends are publishing, and so before purchasing I often have to resort to the above tests even for friends. But I would still say that overall I'm more willing to buy a debut book from a friend¬especially a closer friend.

Now, YOUR turn! What factors influence you the most when deciding to buy the book of a debut author?


  1. For me it's usually word of mouth from other bloggers who I trust (this is usually how I find out a lot about books in the first place), traditional publisher mainly by looking through the publishers catalogs (if afterward they go self published then I'll follow them but not likely the other way around for a first timer), and then the cover. And it has to be in a genre I like. When I was reading books for the YA Debut challenge a few years ago and could pick whatever books I wanted to meet the challenge requirements, all the books I chose I used those criteria. I feel bad for missing out on those that go the self pub route first, but it's just my personal preference to go with the traditional pub first.

  2. The way I've discovered debut authors that I've fallen in love with is relatively simple. For years I worked in Christian bookstores, so I'd get to browse/read books that came in. But what really did it was that my favorite authors (Robin Jones Gunn, Lori Wick, Dee Henderson to name a few) weren't putting new books out. Other favorite authors were putting out books that were big disappointments. And I was starving for things to read. So as part of the various reviewing programs, if the synopsis of the book looked good, I'd request it. That's how I'd discovered Joanne Bischof, Katie Ganshert, Dani Pettrey, RJ Larson, and even you. Of course I'd found Preacher's Bride at the library and was able to read it, but I still learned about your books via the blogging programs.

  3. Ah, this is the million-dollar question. I agree with lots of your points, except I don't think whether a book is traditionally published or self-published has any bearing on whether a reader picks it up. I think because you are an author and are familiar with publishing it influences you -- and many other authors -- but the general reader is just looking for a good story. Most websites/people agree that the general influencers are (not in this order) title, blurb, price, cover, reviews. But, most of all, it really is word of mouth that is VITAL to the success of a debut author's book.

    1. I completely agree. I have seen so many crumby traditionally published books lately that it doesn't seem to matter any more. There are some publishing houses that I trust more than others, but they have all let me down at some point or another.

      I believe you saw my post last year, Jody, when I read 4 or 5 traditionally published books and yours was the only one with out a MAJOR plot error, typo, or something that totally stuck out like a soar thumb and made the reader do a double take to try to figure out exactly what was going on in the story.

      I mentioned below that Karen Baney was an author that gave me a free review copy of her book and I LOVED it. She's self-published but has won multiple awards for her book and even beat out traditionally published authors for those awards.

      Also, not too long ago, the #1 best-selling book on Amazon for the Christian Romance category was by a self-published author. Not all self-published authors produce junk. They weight their options and choose self-publishing without even trying to traditionally publish a book for whatever reason. And of course, we all know the stories of some of these authors being picked up by traditional publishers later on. But we don't always hear about the ones who turn down those offers.

    2. Great list; sharing it with my newsletter readers.

      But about #3: I'm with Dina and Heather. Authors might look at the publisher. Precious few other readers will look, or care, if they do.

      Word of mouth is #1 all right. Can't be beat.

  4. Your points are right on, Jody. I worked for a Christian book distributor and was able to read a lot of books that way, and that is how I found new "favourite" authors. The owner is a close friend, and our tastes are the same, so that helps. I will try a new author that is self published if I can read it for free ( library, review copy). Friends blogs I can trust. That is my opinion.


  5. Hi Jody,
    I've probably read and loved a hundred of your posts to date and this is the first time I've been upset with you. Don't worry. I'll probably get over it quickly, but here's what I need to say:

    I've been crafting stories for 17 years and my debut novel, The Secret Sense of Wildflower, received a starred review by Kirkus Reviews and was voted one of their Best Books of 2012. The reviews on Goodreads and Amazon are numerous and more positive than I ever dreamed.

    So here's the thing: it's a self-published book. My agent, who retired a couple of years ago out of sheer frustration with the traditional publishing industry, suggested I go this route. I have jumped through years worth of "tests" and "hoops" only to face this level of bias, even from really good and sincere people. I doubt you can imagine how frustrating this is.

    Perhaps you need to read my book and see if your opinion changes.

    Susan Gabriel
    author of The Secret Sense of Wildflower

    1. Hi Susan! Sorry to rile you up today! :-)

      I hope you know that I wasn't saying that self-publishing is a bad thing. I'm VERY excited about self-publishing and the possibilities it has opened for authors.

      But . . . it IS one more strike against debut authors in the many they already have going against them as far as discover-ability.

      And I know this isn't just MY opinion, although it is just that--an opinion. This past weekend I had two speaking engagements with readers, and the issue of self-publishing came up as it usually does. Readers complain about the ability to sort through ALL the books out there and to know what self-published books are good enough to buy.

      All that to say, readers are already picky about debut authors, and self-publishing can make it harder. Perhaps when self-publishing was new, it wasn't quite as difficult to get noticed. But the market is flooded now and readers have gotten burned on poor quality. They're becoming more choosey.

      I think debut writers considering self-publishing need to know that up front. They need to know it will be an uphill battle to get discovered. Obviously it's not impossible for debut self-published authors to gain readers . . . I've seen many who've been very successful. But the readers I've talked to are growing more careful about what self-published books they purchase, especially from new and unknown authors.

    2. The reality of the self publishing world today is that bad perception that applies to the majority of indie authors but was created by the minority. Well, we all know bad word of mouth travels faster and farther. As the market shifts, I think we are going to see more self pub and less traditional and we need to understand how we can change that perception and actively contribute to doing so. Readers absolutely should expect writers to go through the full, professional process so that they have some security in the purchase, confidence that it is worth their time and money. It will be important for us to contribute to educating the readers and the writers that self pub authors can and do go through the same "hoops" and "tests" as traditionally published authors do, and by choice, not by requirement. If they know how to recognize that in the preview and/or listing of the books, just like they know how to recognize the publishing method, and authors fill in all that information, we can make a difference here. For example, instead of looking at the publisher, look to see if an editor is credited and if so, are they reputable. Authors taking the extra time to credit the professionals they work with in their books has more value than just giving credit.... I also have been keeping an eye on - a non-profit site that is working to get self pub authors a recognized form of validation, seal of approval, and get these books into libraries...has anyone here had experience with them or thoughts about that as a positive contribution to our environment?
      Overall, it's my humble opinion that while, yes, they are growing more and more weary of self pub books, we should be trying to change that, not shying from self publishing because of it. Debra L Hartmann here. It's nice to meet you and thanks for this great article and a forum for sharing opinions and comments.

  6. As much as I don't want to admit this, a nice cover helped. Ebooks aside, print books are aesthetics to some legit extent, but it really comes to liking the book or not, and even if I don't, demonizing people only makes you look more jerky than the author's not-so-great book.

    Contrary to what some reality shows lead you to believe, you can not like something without being inhumane to the person or people involved, that's a legit stance, too.

    That said, I don't make a final judgement on ANY book, until I've read some pages, I don't have a set page limit, and while blurbs matter to lots of readers, I let reading some of the ACTUAL book influence whether I finish or enjoy a book or not.

    I judge whatever I do decide to read on the actual story, something that's HARDER to find on the writer side of the equation.

    Sometimes I pick books because I want to support those authors whose debut novel is a book in a genre that's HARD to break into, or decrepit something I've experienced personally in a more nuanced, non-stereotypical way.

    A recent example is "Albert of Adelaide" by Howard L. Anderson. I have read the buy and early pages and know I'll buy this book. This is one of the few books that's in my primary genre (Animal Fantasy) for adults, that doesn't go the pervy/subversive route(This isn't Ted, folks!)

    That said, had I not liked what I read, I wouldn't finish reading it, but I support ANY writer doing what I'm trying to do and getting it out there in a quality way.

    As long as I like the actual book(s) in question, I support my contemporaries all the way.

    Writers in hard to publish genres need to stick together.

  7. First thing is the book blurb. Then, the cover. If those two grab me, I generally look up the author to see what their web presence is and to find out more. (If no presence, that won't stop me but I like to know a little about the writers.)

    That's about it. Word of mouth buzz helps because it's made me go back and take a second look at stories I've already passed on or introduces me to stories I otherwise haven't heard about. But the blurb and the cover sell me.

    The only other thing that comes into play is whether I've had a chance to interact positively with the author prior to their debut, through an email loop, blog or writing group. If so, I'm always inclined to read that writer's debut.

  8. Hey everyone! THIS is a GREAT discussion! Obviously we're all going to have different reasons for deciding whether to read a debut book. But I think from what I'm seeing from your various comments is that recommendations play a HUGE roll in whether you're willing to take a chance on a debut book.

  9. Honestly, I'm more likely to pick up a book by an unknown author if I can score a free copy. Whether that's a free review copy or a free day on Amazon. I read your first book because I won it in a giveaway - then I ordered the other one you had out at the time as soon as I finished it.

    Another author, Karen Baney, sent me a free review copy of her book, she included a sample chapter in the back for the second book in the series and I was hooked. I ordered it right away, and then ordered the rest of the series as I finished each book.

    Other authors I have picked up at the library. When doing that, the cover graphic and back cover copy does have a HUGE effect.

    It's mainly a cost factor to me. I'd rather not spend money on something I don't know if I will like or not. I know readers like different things, so reviews honestly don't help me very much for fiction books. For non fiction books they are crazy helpful, but not for fiction books.

    1. Ha, we replied at just about the same time. Glad to know I'm no the only one who considers cost!

  10. These are great, and many of my reasons are the same. I've read some really great debut authors because they were featured on a friend's blog or recommended by an author whose books I love and trust.

    For me, though, it always comes down to the story. If the plot summary or back cover copy doesn't make me think: "Now, that's a story I want to read" then there's little that would make me want to pick it up.

    Another factor, which probably will make me sound cheap, is price and/or availability. If it's a debut novel that I can get for free in exchange for a review, then I'll probably take a chance on it, but only if the story sounds good. If it's at the library and I can check it out, then not a lot lost. I'm pretty much only going to spend money on the books I'm guaranteed to like (or have a good chance of liking.) Worst news ever for someone wanting to make money off of books, right? :)

  11. A really nice cover gets me to pick the book up and read the excerpt on the back. I also look at the publisher. If it is published by a publisher that publishes other others I enjoy reader (such as Bethany House or Tyndale)then I'll assume the book will probably be good. Now that I have a Nook I browse to find free books or ones on sale. I have found a number of authors I like because I was willing to pay $1.99 on someone I didn't know instead of $14.99. Then once I realize I like them I have to go out and read all the other books they have written.

  12. Honestly, as much as I love fiction, I would not pay for a fiction book (especially by a debut writer) unless I have already read it (from the library) and it was so life-changing that I can't imagine being without it. But I am very quick to put interesting-sounding books on hold at the library, and I often fill out the "suggest a purchase" form when I hear of a new book I want to read that is not in the system yet.

    With that being said, if I actually had the time and money to browse at a brick-and-mortar bookstore, I would flip through the first half of the book (wouldn't want to spoil the ending!) and take time to read several passages. The most attractive things to me would be: witty dialogue; well-crafted descriptive passages; and a main character who is compassionate and well-grounded.

  13. I'll automatically buy and read the debut novels of my friends. In fact, I'm already committed to several copies of my very best friend's, and college roommate's debut novel, coming out this fall (everybody who reads anything, ever, is getting one for Christmas ;-) And sometimes my friends' friends (I have a copy of Jessica Keller's recent debut on my TBR shelf just because she's a dear friend of a dear friend, even though I've never met her, cyber or otherwise.)Also I give them a shot if they're endorsed by a favorite author or a friend I trust. I picked up my first Jodi Hedlund book because the aforementioned bestest friend said she couldn't put it down, and carried it with her everywhere just in case she could squeeze in a minute of reading.

    I have those tried and true, I always buy them, authors. My "system" for books by new authors--debut or just new to me--is simple. I'll pick it up if the cover catches my eye, and I'll buy it if the cover copy tickles my fancy. I often don't know I'm reading a debut author until I look for the list of "Other Books by ______" and don't find it.

  14. Great topic for discussion today, Jody! If I'm looking for a new book, I often stick to known authors, but recommendations from trusted friends will influence my choice, too. Since tastes often differ, however, I still check out the blurbs and first page for myself. When it comes to a debut author's book I will buy it if I've built a relationship with that person and want to support her/him, however the book has been published. Whether or not I buy the next book by that author will depend on what I thought of the first one.

    While I know there are traditionally published books that don't measure up, I'm more likely to risk choosing a debut author's book if I know it's been thoroughly vetted by the various departments of a respected publisher.

    As an aside, one thing I've noticed over the past couple years of reading blogs and comments, is that the biggest defenders of self-published books are self-published authors. Others are more inclined to judge books on the quality of writing regardless of how they are published. The average reader who selects a book from the shelf probably doesn't even know (or care) how it's published. If the cover is appealing, the blurb interesting, and the first few pages seem well written, it meets the criteria. If the story doesn't measure up, it will get the usual negative feedback in reviews and forums... although it's at this point that self-published books might get hit a little harder by those who recognize their origins.

  15. Jody, I tend to follow the same standards you use in making an informed choice regarding which books I'm willing to pay for with my limited resources. Being a reviewer/blogger I have been approached by numerous "new" authors who need reviews for their books, and some of these authors have been remarkable. Reviewing has opened up a whole new influence for my wish list of books to purchase. Some established authors I endorse and review for send all of their releases to me for review. I always share my blog reviews so that others can get a good idea what I have enjoyed reading, so I hope that as reviewers we can assist in getting the word out regarding those authors who have nothing previous to back them up. We all have to start somewhere. Thanks for the opportunity to share our views regarding how we choose our reading choices.

  16. Great topic, Jody. For me it's 3 things:

    1. Book premise or hook: if the story doesn't make me curious then no matter how many people recommend it, I won't read it.

    2. Book cover/title: I'm with you on this one. The cover has to be appealing for me to pick it up from the shelf. Having said this, I have read several books with bad covers based on recommendations or the premise.

    3. Recommendations: I'm cautious about this one because I don't always like the same things my friends do, but at least I give a book consideration if it's getting some attention.

    I used to be a very loyal reader but my tastes have become so eclectic that now the premise is what sells me a book.

  17. I have tired some new debut authors, you were one of them!! And I'm glad, because your books are awesome!! I usually go on the publishers web-site to see what books are coming soon, and if a cover looks good on new authors, I will read what the books is about, if it sounds good, I will buy it. Some of I have liked and some I haven't. If I like them, I will keep them as an author that I must read. :)Cheryl

  18. Words of mouth is very important indeed.

    My second would be the cover and the blurb.

    And I'll have to agree that sometimes I hesitate when I find out that the book is self-published. But there are surely some good ones out there.

    Interesting post, Jody,

  19. One thing that helps me decide is when I read an excerpt of the book and I want to keep reading. I'm able to do that at brick-and-mortar bookstores, of course, but it's also nice when I can read excerpts of the books online. Then I can decide for myself whether I like a book or not. I do read reviews, and sometimes I buy books partly based on what others are saying. But my tastes are not always aligned with other people's tastes, because I often end up liking stories that other people don't like, and vice versa.

  20. Definitely word of mouth! Whether debut or not, I totally rely on what other people say about a book. For instance, I normally would never read a book like Hunger Games. But everyone kept saying how amazing it was, and I devoured the series.

  21. For me, Amazon's Kindle program has been an amazing way to discover new authors. I'm subscribed to a feed that alerts me when a new book is offered free. They're not all of new authors of course, but many are. And yes, many are self published and sometimes it shows. But then again (as someone else stated as well): I've also read some pretty disappointing traditionally published books, so that's all part of the game. Once I like an author, I usually look for more books he or she has written. Another thing that works for me (in addition to what you wrote and what others commented on) is Amazon's recommendations. They're not always spot on of course, but I've found some interesting new books and authors that way!

  22. Great topic. Word of Mouth is number one, but the book cover comes in close behind. I hate to say it, but although the inside can't be judged by the outside, the book cover is something which can definitely draw me to a new author. The back blurb and first few pages also need to past the test before a purchase is made. :)

  23. As a reader, I love discovering new, fresh voices. While I rely on word-of-mouth, good covers, and back cover blurbs, I also like to read sample chapters, especially when trying an author I've never read.

    As I'm sure you can imagine, Jody, I 100% disagree with your point on only choosing debut authors who have been fortunate enough to have garnered the support of an agent and been gobbled up by a big publisher. I believe there are some amazing writers out there who chose different routes.

    That's why I read sample chapters of both self- and traditionally-publsihed novels. As a reader, I don't really care any more who published the novel as long as the story is great and the writing is well-crafted and well-edited. There are some amazing stories being told these days. It's an exciting time!

    1. Hi Heather,

      Yes, I'm sure I've stirred up some disagreement! :-) But hey, that makes blogging fun from time to time! :-)

      Anyway, as I mentioned above, at a couple of recent speaking engagements, readers mentioned to me THEIR frustration with having to wade through self-published books to find the good from the bad (and I have to admit it mirrors mine). And yes, of course, there are traditionally published books that don't rise up to the standards. But let's be honest, there are many, many more writers self-publishing who aren't doing their homework (like you have). So it is growing more confusing for readers to wade through the sheer number of self-published books out there. They don't have the time to read blurbs and samples of everything. And so, debut self-published writers need to be aware of the uphill battle ahead. Not that it can't work out! But it's simply one more obstacles to overcome as a debut self-published author.

      I found it interesting in the comments above, that many readers are more willing to try debut authors (self-published and traditional) if they can read the book for free (either a free download or library copy or influencer copy). Perhaps once a self-published author has a second book out there, giving the first for free for a limited time could be a really good strategy?

    2. This is an interesting conversation for me since I'm working on my first novel off and on and wondering how to publish it. My first choice method would actually be a hybrid method: traditional publisher to do all the print books, and self-publishing for e-books.

      I do know that you're not the only one with the bias against self-published authors. And I don't blame people for this bias personally - it's easy enough now days to publish a book that you can write a book about "My little pony" and probably actually self-publish it on Amazon's Kindle platform. (Which isn't to say that it's impossible to a decent book with that title, just that I'd be surprised.)

      As far as giving away the first book, the one caution that authors have to take into consideration with this is something Scott Adams found out the hard way. When he gave away a PDF version of one of his books, he found out that people started expecting him to give away his future books as well. In other words, he reduced the expected price for his books to $0. So while authors can give away books, by all means, do so if you think it helps, but be careful on how you do it.

  24. I am drawn to book covers. I love scanning bookstore shelves and coming across that one image that just makes me want to buy it: mostly subdued colors and a pleasing font. Thanks for another great post!

  25. As a self-published author, I might be a little biased, but except for a few series I've been reading, I've almost exclusively been buying self-published novels for over a year now. More and more, what was coming out of the traditional publishing houses in my preferred genre (fantasy) was divided between "the same" and "more of the same," and most of it was in sub-genres that don't interest me. I'm finding the really fresh new voices and interesting stories coming out of self-publishing.

    So, for taking a chance on a debut author? For me, it's all about the book description. Grab me with a really interesting story description that sounds like the book I've been waiting all my life to read. Based on that, I'll download the sample, but I almost always end up buying the book. I can forgive some shaky writing and editing if the story and characters grab me and won't let me go.

    A good cover will catch my eye, but it's secondary to the blurb and the sample.

    Also, price. I'll gladly take a chance on an unknown for .99 to $5 or so. (In fact, at .99 I'll just go ahead and buy the book without sampling first, if it sounds interesting enough.) For $10 or more, for me to take a chance on an unknown, mmm, no. Not unless it's something that really grabs me and that I will die if I don't read it.

    I don't go by word-of-mouth because I don't really know anyone who shares my taste.

  26. Very informative post. I am a debut author and getting my name out there has been one of my priorities. Because my publisher doesn't get the books out until 2-3 months after the book goes on pre-order. I've sent copies to reviewers myself.

    I tweeted.

  27. One point on which I disagree is judging a book by the number of reviews on Amazon. I have a "traditional" POD publisher, so I share some of the same handicaps as self-published authors in getting advance copies out to reviewers. (Maybe more, because I have to actually wait until the book is edited!) In the past I've had great reviews from a number of sites, but for my latest it seemed much harder for me to rise above the onslaught of books they are receiving, probably many of them from self-published authors. The one review I did get so far was stellar (by a total stranger, not a friend). Maybe that's my problem--I aim for objective reviewers and not just my friends and family? Meanwhile, I read one book from a small house that got perhaps 30 reviews on Amazon, many of them raves, and I felt the book had real problems. So that standard can be misleading...

  28. I can empathize with EF Watkins. I have a debut novel which was the HF winner in the 2011 Harper Collins first novel competition and was subsequently mainstream published in late November last year. I was advised to tell my family etc NOT to write reviews, but to wait for 'proper' ones. Net result 17 reviews in 6 months. All good and some very lengthy and thoughtful - not 'luvvies' - Rather dispiriting that by Jody's reckoning there must be something wrong with the book. I realise that numbers of reviews undoubtedly help - but how, without wheeling in all my family, do I get genuine ones? And how to i get 'found' - it seems to be a bit of a cyclical argument - need reviews to get readers, need readers to get reviews. Second problem for me in terms of being 'found' is that I suspect that my book would appeal to the US market (it's set in 16th c Scotland amidst warring clans), but how on earth do i raise it's profile there? I think I have 5 reviews on to date - not a lot!

    Any suggestions would be gratefully received, as I know that the longer it's out there without making an impact the less chance it has. I don't want to endlessly spam folk as I see others doing online - though it has to be said that appears sometimes to work.

    (And just in case anyone is wondering who on earth is rabbiting on here - my name is Margaret Skea and my book Turn of the Tide.)

    I really would like to know what folk might suggest as I'm at my wits end with this publicity bit.

    1. Hi Margaret,

      17 reviews may not mean something is wrong with the book, but unfortunately, it will speak a message to readers about the "worth" of picking the book up compared to other books that may have 170 reviews. Your book could in fact be better written, better story, better everything than the book with 170, but readers won't think that. They'll see the low numbers and assume it's not up to par, otherwise why haven't more readers left reviews. Or perhaps they'll think the low reviews signal that not enough people have read the book and how can I trust the reviews that are already there? After all, most authors can usually get 17 people friends or otherwise to leave reviews. But 170? That's tougher and thus more reliable.

      All that to say, whether we like it or not, we need to get as many reviews as we can. It also helps raise our books in Amazon rankings and visibility. Big publishers know this, and so have review programs. For example, my publisher sends out a limited number of review copies in exchange for an honest review. That helps immensely and I get lots of reviews on my books that way. For someone self-publishing (or going with a small press), I suggest using the same strategy--offering a limited number of free copies in exchange for an honest review.

      Hope that helps!

  29. Don't judge a book by its cover! However, I always do. It's the first thing that catches my attention, then the blurb. It's why I bought my first Christine Feehan book in her Dark Series. The cover caught my eye, but because it was a vampire book, (I didn't read vampires at the time, plus I didn't know the author's work) I put it back on the shelf. None of my favorite authors had anything new to offer at the time and I kept going back to the Feehan book and eyeing the cover. I thought what the heck, buy it. It might be good and it was great. Since, I've read almost the entire Dark Series and there are a lot of books in it. I don't care if a book is traditionally published or self pubbed as long as it's a good story that captivates me from page one to the end.

  30. Great discussion. I'm a little confused, though, by references in some of the comments to "the book blurb". Do you mean the description of the book on the back cover? I've always understood "blurbs" to be the recommendations from other authors or excerpts from reviews, so there would normally be more than one.

    I've stopped reading the back covers or reviews because too often they give important plot points away. I don't really trust blurbs (i.e., recommendations) either most of the time since I know how they can be traded. I go for word of mouth, cover & reading the first couple of pages.

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