How We Hear About Books

Lately, we at WordServe have been trying to analyze some of our clients’ book sales in comparison with the amount of online marketing the author and publisher put into it. It’s not scientific, of course, but we’ve been trying to determine whether there’s any correlation between the number of Google hits for an author, and the author’s sales figures. So far the results have been mixed, which is not surprising. I think everyone knows (although they try to keep it a secret) that book marketing is kind of a crap-shoot. While most industries that pay big bucks for marketing and PR actually measure effectiveness and make decisions accordingly, this happens on a smaller scale in publishing companies.

Anecdotal evidence is certainly collected. If you watch your Amazon rankings and chart them regularly (more than once a day), you’ll be able to detect spikes where the rate of sales picked up, and it usually corresponds with some kind of a marketing hit: a prominent website featured you, there was a review in a major newspaper, you spoke at a large event, you were on Oprah, whatever. Also, bookstores have data about when each book was purchased, so there are ways to track the timing of sales and see if they correspond with any particular marketing or advertising. But the data is rarely definitive, and it varies so much from book to book that it’s difficult to apply the results from one book to the marketing of another.

Since it’s all so hard to measure anyway, let’s do another wildly non-scientific study to try and determine how readers find out about books.

Tell us: How do YOU typically find out about the books you end up reading?

You can vote in the poll (top of the sidebar) and leave further information in the comments. I’d also be interested to hear approximately how many times you heard about a book or saw it featured somewhere before you purchased it.

Have a good weekend!

P.S. Photo is from the bookstore Le Bal des Ardents in Lyon, France. Photography by punkinmom_{caroline} and Visit The Most Interesting Bookstores in the World if you want to be blown away!


Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


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  3. ParisBreakfasts on January 18, 2010 at 5:36 PM

    >I search out books I hear about on the BBC, especially Books At Bedtime. As an Amazon Associate, I often discover new books via what my blog readers are buying.
    And interesting topic
    Thanks Rachelle

  4. sallyhanan on January 17, 2010 at 4:57 PM

    >I've seen books recommended on Twitter a lot, so now I want to get Playing with Fire and The Book Thief.

  5. Meghan Ward on January 17, 2010 at 1:17 AM

    >Because I have a lot of writer friends, the last couple of books I've read have been by friends – and I heard about them through Facebook. The book I'm reading now was displayed prominently at the cash register of a bookstore. Another I read recently was recommended by a friend and THEN after seeing it on a table in a bookstore I bought it.

  6. Pen on January 16, 2010 at 10:57 PM

    >I buy/read books that have been recommended by word of mouth or on blogs I have read, or ones I happen to pick up that look interesting.
    Admittedly, being on a small budget, I usually only buy books I'm in love with and *must own*.

  7. sarah on January 16, 2010 at 10:38 PM

    >Sometimess I buy a book to support a writer I know or I'll buy a book based on reviews on someomone's blog, browsing bookstores or a few people recommending a book.

  8. Lucy on January 16, 2010 at 9:30 PM

    >I don't usually buy a novel unless I'm in a bookstore, or have read it in a library, but the last two non-fiction books I picked up came with detailed, helpful online reviews, and the authors had the credentials to back them up.

    Also, I happened to be browsing for that type of book.

  9. Book Minstrel on January 16, 2010 at 7:55 PM

    >Blogs. That is how I hear about books. It starts with an authors blog. Then I tapped into book review blogs. I also recently joined a writers group – and have been taking suggestions their.

    I do an internet round up of what I might be interested in. I generally check out an authors site to get a feel for them, and look up other reviews and what others have said about the book.

    I rarely go the library browsing the shelfs method any longer. Not that I don't want to – just that I have so much I already want to read, that I have a hard time getting through what is already on my list.

  10. Sarah N Fisk on January 16, 2010 at 5:31 PM

    >I buy probably 1/3 of my books based on recommendations by other writers, friends and (mainly) my sister. Our sorority has a national group on Good Reads, so some of the recs come from that too.

    I really enjoy going to book stores and walking around for an hour or more, so a lot of the time I get drawn in by a title or cover. In this case, I guess the dollars that go to put the books up front pay off. I will say that I have NEVER bought a book after seeing a television or print ad about it.

    My other main source of "recommendations" is – don't laugh – Cracker Barrel. I do a lot of road trips and they have a great rent program for audio books. The selection is limited, especially for sci-fi/fantasy (my favorite genre), but I've found some of my favorite books by picking up an audio book, shrugging, thinking "I guess this will work."

  11. Mary Aalgaard on January 16, 2010 at 5:09 PM

    >1. Recommended by a fried.
    2. The Amazon suggestions
    3. Looking around the bookstore – the old-fashioned way.
    4. Authors I've met online or at conferences.
    5. Favorite authors' new book
    6. Book club picks

    I heard about Three Cups of Tea while listening to a sermon. The pastor really liked it and referred to the story and it's impact throughout her sermon.

  12. Anonymous on January 16, 2010 at 4:46 PM

    >Myimaginaryblog – you just gave Jerome more press. When will people learn…

  13. Eric J. Krause on January 16, 2010 at 1:07 PM

    >If I've never read the author before, I'll read it if the blurb on the back is intriguing (and to a lesser extent if the cover is interesting). If I've read the author before, and I enjoyed the work, I'll usually give the book a read as long as it sounds somewhat interesting. Books by my favorite authors are automatic reads.

  14. Lorelei Armstrong on January 16, 2010 at 12:53 PM

    >1. New York Times book review.
    2. Literary award winners and finalists.

  15. Claire King on January 16, 2010 at 11:20 AM

    >Usually Amazon – I would love to be able to browse bookshops, that's much more satisfying, but all the bookshops here are French and I prefer to read in English so…

  16. Heather Marsten on January 16, 2010 at 7:06 AM

    >Hi Rachelle. I prefer browsing in a book store where I can thumb through a book and make sure it has content that is useful for whatever topic I am studying. If that isn't possible I will go to Amazon and pray that they have a "See inside this book" icon so that I can check out the table of contents and read a few pages. Lately most of my reading has been Christian nonfiction books and I like to see that they will be helpful to what I am learning. Sometimes I will hear a great speaker or teacher and then seek out books by that person so that I can get more of what they are teaching. Have a blessed day!

  17. Timothy Fish on January 16, 2010 at 6:37 AM

    >This in no way tells us why people decide to buy a book, but on a related topic, I got an e-mail yesterday from someone living in Sweden who has decided to read Searching For Mom to fulfill one of the requirements for an English class she is taking. I’ve never spent a dime to promote it in Sweden, but somehow it made its way all the way to the other side of the world.

  18. Nadine on January 16, 2010 at 4:29 AM

    >The last two books I read because I had been engaged with the author via his blog and FaceBook.

    I'm not sure how viable that sort of thing is as a widespread marketing scheme, however; in order to reach a target selling audience, a given author would have to do literally nothing but talk to people on the internet, which is ultimately bad for both the writing and the health. ;D

    Word of mouth, however, is my general method of finding new books. A friend will mention one she's read and tell me why she thinks I'd like it, and I'll try to pick it up when funds allow.

    I buy in paperback, if it's an author with whom I'm unfamiliar, or if I'm /really/ dubious, I'll check a book out of the library.

    If the author impresses me enough to wish to read more, I'll purchase. An author with whom I'm truly engaged as a reader… I'll buy hardcover, then, and avidly watch for new releases. Terry Pratchett; Tad Williams; Neil Gaiman and Jeff VanderMeer- they're really the only guys on that particular list at the moment.

  19. Joanna Penn on January 16, 2010 at 2:59 AM

    >I bought James Rollins because I always buy his books, so that was Other. I also buy books on the Top 100 list on the Kindle, often published top paperbacks but sometimes indie as well. I also buy Kindle books based on online recommendations primarily – on blogs mainly.

  20. Steve on January 16, 2010 at 2:49 AM

    >I'm not voting in the poll, because the categories are misleading in my case. The last two books I read were rereads of books I've owbed for many years, which is the bulk of my fiction reading. Aside from that, I rely on the shelves at B & N, the book review column in Analog, and an occasional review in USA today (actually, only one – but that led to me discovering Michael Connelly, which led to me discovering Stephen Cannell who is near him on the shelf and writes similar stories).


  21. myimaginaryblog on January 16, 2010 at 2:08 AM

    >Anonymous at 8:24, thanks–I was assuming that the country singer had written a book. 🙂

    Gordon Jerome, as far as BLOG reading habits go, if I'm reading someone's blog, it's usually because I've decided I like that person, so if someone comes along in the comments and tries to lure me away to go read something that sounds antagonistic, I'm very unlikely to follow that link.

    As far as book-reading habits go, I'm very influenced by word-of-mouth of a few readers I trust (immediate family and a few close friends) but I'm starting to get recommendations from blogs and strangers. I actually picked up some pretty good book-hunting ideas from reading this thread, so thank you to all of you who commented.

  22. Africakid on January 16, 2010 at 1:36 AM

    >I often listen to interviews on NPR, and if the author sound interesting, I'll buy their book (after flipping through pages at a bookstore to make sure the book really looks as good as it sounded)…

    Other reasons I buy books: Friend recommendations, Oregonian newspaper reviews, blog mentions, prolonged exposure to airport bookstores when my flight's delayed.

  23. Anonymous on January 15, 2010 at 10:24 PM

    >G. Jackson: Last I heard Garth BROOKS was a country singer, not an author. LOL

  24. Barbara's Spot on the Blog on January 15, 2010 at 10:07 PM

    >I buy a lot of book on Amazon and I rely heavily on other readers' reviews as well as the list mania lists where readers create topic lists for other readers. I also review the books I read. I haven't been in a bookstore for a long time so about 90% of my purchases are on-line.

    I only need to hear a recommendation from a friend once before buying a book. The second time I hear serves as a reminder that I want to read it. I also enjoy giving my books to the library so others can enjoy them too.

  25. Tamara on January 15, 2010 at 10:00 PM

    >I find most of the books I purchase by reading bibliographies and resource lists of the books I'm currently reading. Some I find when I make a selection on-line then Amazon shows me suggested books read by others who purchased that same book.

  26. patriciazell on January 15, 2010 at 9:17 PM

    >Actually, the last two books I've read were for classes I was taking. Even though I devoured books when I younger, I rarely read them anymore unless they focus on healthy living. Now, I devour newspapers, magazines, online news sites, and blogs.

  27. Angela on January 15, 2010 at 8:35 PM

    >Almost all books I read because of word-of-mouth. A friend (in-person or online) will say, "hey, you like this book, so you'll love this other one." Occasionally I'll ask for a recommendation at a bookstore based on other books I like.

  28. elaine @ peace for the journey on January 15, 2010 at 8:33 PM

    >Recommendations from others… almost always. And then I always check to see what my absolute favorite authors are reading… a good indication of what I might like as well.

    As of late, everything Margaret Feinberg. A friend sent me "the sacred echo".

    I rarely peruse a bookstore for a new read.



  29. L. on January 15, 2010 at 8:13 PM

    >It used to be that most of my purchases were impulse buys after an afternoon of trolling the aisles of a bookstore.

    Due to the economic times, I avoid the bookstores until I have a purchase already in mind. And now I rely heavily on book blogs and personal recommendations.

  30. Rachel Randolph on January 15, 2010 at 7:33 PM

    >This is an interesting topic to me, since I help authors market their books. Personally, I buy business books based off of blogs I follow (just bought Trust Agents because I enjoy Chris Brogan's blog) or by searching on Amazon and reading reviews. The rest, I tend to buy or check out at the library based on word of mouth (most often I hear friends or family mention books through Facebook or Twitter). I also take recommendations from bloggers I enjoy and trust. I'm reading The Middle Place right now and I think it was off of your recommendation actually.

  31. Diane J. on January 15, 2010 at 7:10 PM

    >I find nonfiction books by just wondering the bookstore shelves and the library. I know a general area of interest and then I just start looking at all the titles in the area. I would be so happy if I could just live in a bookstore.

    For fiction I find them from word of mouth, magazine reviews, the Express section in my library, the new release table in the bookstore, and finally if it's an author I like, I just keep tabs on when their new book will be out.

  32. Gordon Jerome on January 15, 2010 at 7:08 PM

    >Tomorrow's Post: Rachelle Gardner Fights to Stay Relevant!

    Check it out at:

    It's my reaction to her post about why authors need agents.

    Fair warning: my posts contain some adult language. Especially when I'm pissed!


  33. Heather Diane Tipton on January 15, 2010 at 7:07 PM

    >I'm a self-proclaimed literary snob. I won't just buy a book because I read a review somewhere. In fact it's really rare for me to read a review.

    I'm usually a loyal reader, and once an author has sold me on their style of writing, I'll come back time and time again, every time they have a new book out.

    I do go on friend's recommendations but only if I know that friend has similar tastes as me.

    Will also read a book if five or more people tell me "You have to read this book". and only then because I'm curious.

  34. Nordicblogger on January 15, 2010 at 7:05 PM

    >I mostly try to find things online. I'm more likely to order a book online if I can read the first few pages and find that I like what I'm reading.

  35. Michelle V on January 15, 2010 at 7:05 PM

    >Either from authors that I already love, or from other book bloggers that I know well and know we have similar tastes in what we read.

  36. Sandra Wickham on January 15, 2010 at 6:51 PM

    >Recently I've been getting my books at conventions and conferences. I meet the authors at panels and workshops, hear about their books and/or get to know them and then have to buy their books! So if you want to sell a book to me, just go to a convention, sit on a panel and be intriguing! 😉

  37. WordVixen on January 15, 2010 at 6:48 PM

    >I would so frame that picture!

    I tend to buy books by authors I already like. If I buy something from someone new, it's usually because one of my blogging buddies recommended it AND it seems to suit my taste. However, it does depend on which of my blogging friends recommends it. I am an aspiring author, and usually the recommendations that carry the most weight are also from aspiring authors (for some reason, published authors do not have the same affect on me). Because of their knowledge of how to write and the publishing industry, I tend to feel that they know what they're talking about more than my non-writing blog friends. That probably sounds elitist, but since I started learning how to write well, my taste in books has definitely changed, so I still stand by it.

    Aside from that, I get books free as a reviewer for a prominent Christian review site, and I've discovered a lot of wonderful author's that way. If someone else makes a claim on that author's future books, or if I like them enough to want to read their older books, I pay out of pocket for those. That could probably be considered like borrowing books for the sake of the survey.

  38. Molly Bredehoft on January 15, 2010 at 6:40 PM

    >I'll stop dead in my tracks and look at a book which is being displayed at the book store or the library, and even at the grocery store. If the cover is eye catching, I'm sure to go weak in the knees and turn the book over and read the description. If the description is good and seems to be a story I would be interested in, I'll want to buy the book.

    Rarely do I read something someone suggests to me. I like to find my own good reads.

  39. Ainsley on January 15, 2010 at 5:48 PM

    >The frightening thing about this poll is the idea that we trust strangers on-line when we don't trust our neighbors.

    Or maybe it's me, not trusting my neighbors…

  40. Horserider on January 15, 2010 at 5:40 PM

    >There are only three ways I find the books I read:

    1. Randomly browsing the bookstore or library
    2. Word of mouth
    3. Checking the Borders and Amazon listings for new YA releases once or twice a month

  41. Lena Nelson Dooley on January 15, 2010 at 5:17 PM

    >Lots of readers come to my blog to find out about books. I get lots of feedback thanking me for introducing them to authors that are new to them.

  42. Lyberty Belle on January 15, 2010 at 4:46 PM

    >If I find an author that I like then I will look at their other books and read them. I just finished reading Atlas Shrugged which I selected after reading The Fountainhead. My brother and another friend also read Atlas Shrugged.

  43. Colette on January 15, 2010 at 3:21 PM

    >Rachelle, I did vote for Amazon, but I want to clarify — usually I'm not just searching or browsing — Amazon recommendations is awesome and quite on target!

  44. Carol Benedict on January 15, 2010 at 2:43 PM

    >Other: The clerk at the video store was sitting at the counter reading a book I'd heard about repeatedly on blogs but hadn't bothered looking at. Since she chose to read it over watching free movies, I asked her opinon of it and bought it based on her recommendation.

    Other: My doctor recommended a nonfiction book that I bought and love.

    Those are the last 2 I bought for myself and read, but since then I've read several that I got free in exchange for reviews on my blog.

  45. Guy Pursey on January 15, 2010 at 2:21 PM

    >Rex Warner's The Aerodrome I read based on an online review and Nevil Shute's The Chequer Board I read as a result of my Dad lending it to me.

    Ever since the Infinite Summer project I've realised the potential of the web for readers of fiction.

    Good luck with your research!


  46. D.J. Morel on January 15, 2010 at 1:31 PM

    >My favorite place to find new authors is in the "staff recommends" section of my local indie bookstore. I've found some real gems there.

    I also browse top seller lists on Amazon, digging deep into the types of books I like and then reading a sample through the "look inside the book" feature, and the customer reviews. I look for a lot of reviews, with a variety of opinion though mostly positive.

    Lately I've been buying books by authors whose blogs I follow. Though I only follow blogs that provide real content, with an occasional plug for the book.

  47. PatriciaW on January 15, 2010 at 1:16 PM

    >A good deal of the books I read come to me for review purposes. About half of those are selected by me based on book blurbs or blogging buzz. The other half come blind.

    I get a lot of book info from a wide variety of blogs. I keep a list of titles that I'm interested in, although not where I first heard or saw of them. A title might hit me right away while others get added to the list only after hearing about them multiple times or, if it's an author new to me, reading an author interview or excerpt that piques my interest.

    I rarely browse bookstores anymore, although I still love to do so. It's a function of time for me. Same with the library. So even when I go to the library now, it's often to pick up books that I've pre-selected online using my books-to-read list.

  48. wonderer on January 15, 2010 at 1:05 PM

    >I didn't vote because both of my latest two reads fell under "other" (one was a gift, the other a castoff from my brother). However, my to-read shelf is backlogged by about a year. Most of my recent *purchases* were made because of online recommendations – guest blog posts, reviews on blogs, online friends raving about them. I've also bought books because they were written by someone I know or because they won an award in my preferred genre (SF/F).

    I still buy all my books in bookstores, but I no longer browse fiction, and very rarely browse non-fiction. My pre-screening (reading the back cover and first few pages) happens on Amazon.

  49. Erica Vetsch on January 15, 2010 at 1:02 PM

    >I'm a series collector, so I'm always anxiously awaiting the next book in the MANY series I'm reading, or the next book by a favorite author.

    To purchase a book by an unknown-to-me author usually takes a recommendation by a friend, and several other 'touches' whether online, at a bookstore, at a library.

  50. Melanie Avila on January 15, 2010 at 12:27 PM

    >I haven't read all the comments so this may have already been mentioned, but I'm currently reading a book written by a friend!

  51. Lynnda - Passionate for the Glory of God on January 15, 2010 at 12:21 PM

    >Good morning, Rachelle;

    The way I choose books is in transition, these days, like everything else. Ten years ago, I relied almost entirely on the library and brick-and-mortar book sellers. I now depend on the internet. With Christian Book Distributors, Amazon, Alibris, and it's easy to read a book review on a blog or get an email message from a book seller, then read reviews and/or excerpts and order the book if it looks interesting.

    Have a great week-end.


  52. MePlusFour on January 15, 2010 at 12:19 PM

    >That pic is amazing. It would be my dream to own a little coffee/bookstore. Just a small one in the corner somewhere, just tucked away. I like to read various authors for different reasons. I definitely have my favorites like Ted Dekker but everyone in awhile I like to browse and I see a new author (new to me) and I like to check them out. I found out about Thicker Than Blood by CJ Darlington on twitter. The book was amazing and I look forward to reading more of her future books. I also love to hear what other people are saying about certain books but to be really honest, I love the $5 dollar table at our local Christian bookstore. I have discovered many authors there and love them all!

  53. Mike Dellosso on January 15, 2010 at 12:15 PM

    >I'm doing my own sort of poll. Whenever someone subscribes to my newsletter I respond, thank them, and ask them how they heard about me/my books. I haven't tallied any numbers yet but the vast majority of people said they found my books when browsing in the bookstore (mostly Borders or B & N). Of course, it helps that my name (Dellosso) is right next to Dekker on the shelves. But of the those that found my latest by browsing they say the title (Scream) caught their attention and the cover and back cover copy secured the deal.

    Hmmm, are titles important? Are covers important? Is back cover copy important? It seems so.

    Is it important to have your book stocked in bookstores? Yes.

  54. A Fine Frenzy of Books on January 15, 2010 at 11:59 AM

    >I have a couple of favorite authors I like to read. I almost always check the cover for the review to read what it says and to see who reviewed it. If it's another author that reviewed the book, I will go look them up. I have found that if an author reviews the book then they generally write in a similar style or something related to the subject in the book. Most of the time the author that made the review turns out to become another one of my favorites. I hope this helps.

  55. Anonymous on January 15, 2010 at 11:43 AM

    >When I am writing I don’t read much (too much chance of picking up the author’s voice and changing mine). When I am in reading mode the first thing I do is read the books written by friends and acquaintances (people I have met through conferences or other writer networking including the on-line sort). Then I read books that have won awards (e.g. just finished “Wolf Hall”) or books that came well reviewed in sources I trust (NY Times, Washington Post, Historical Novel Society “Historical Novel Reviews” Magazine, certain blogs). After that, books recommended by friends or books I browse on the shelves of a brick and mortar store. I only use Amazon to purchase books that I already know I am going to buy. Never to browse.

  56. T. Anne on January 15, 2010 at 11:40 AM

    >New goal in life; create book arch.
    I rip through novels and I'm embarrassed to say how many books I've already read since the New Year alone. Right now they're Kindle purchases as well as books from my church library. Love the church library. I walk in after services and collect all I want, while husband is gathering the children or at the donut cart. Life is good.

  57. abouttothunder on January 15, 2010 at 11:40 AM

    >I have many ways to choose books.

    1. Twitter – I just read TOTAL OBLIVION MORE OR LESS. I follow Colleen Lindsay, and she repped it. I've preordered Tara Kelly's HARMONIC FEEDBACK and Lauren Oliver's BEFORE I FALL because of talk and links on Twitter. Repeated exposure is necessary.

    2. Recommendations of friends.

    3. Blogs – If a blog asks about a favorite book, and the same one occurs frequently, then I might buy it.

    4. Browsing in the bookstore.

    5. Favorite author – If I like an author, I will investigate his or her other works. Blake Morrison would be an example. It doesn't happen often. Premise and story usually take precedence.

  58. Nicole on January 15, 2010 at 11:32 AM

    >First, I totally agree with your assessment of marketing. Who really knows what works with individual books?
    Second, I now receive a lot of novels for review, so the way I select them is from limited (by me) back cover copy. The less the better. I'll know by a couple of sentences, and some back cover copy reveals way too much.
    I'm a genre specific reader, so recommendations have to jive with my likes.
    I will read authors who've truly impressed me. Over and over again. Finding them is a varying process, very occasionally from online recommendations but mostly from blurbs. Those can come from either the publishers who send out books for review or from their outlets (i.e. CFBA).
    I will search a particular bookstore to look for something I might've missed in my searches.

  59. dogboi on January 15, 2010 at 11:31 AM

    >Almost forgot: A lot of times, I use either Literature Map( or to find something new.

    Both help you find linkages between things you like and things you haven't read yet. Highly recommended for literature fans.

  60. Heather on January 15, 2010 at 11:29 AM

    >I belong to an online bookclub, and most of my recommendations come from them. Over time I've learned whose tastes are most like mine. I also follow several blogs, and if the same book is mentioned over and over again, I'll pick it up. I keep a list on, so I'll hear about new releases there, too. I almost never buy a book just because it looked interesting, but I will borrow it from the library if it looks good and I haven't heard anything about it. (I just don't want to spend money on something that might be awful.)

  61. stacy on January 15, 2010 at 11:21 AM

    >Most of my recommendations come from my friends online.

  62. Cece Writer on January 15, 2010 at 11:18 AM

    >While I realize those of us who spend as much time online as we do (writers, agents etc) are probably the exception instead of the rule, I'd say 99% of what I hear about, I hear about online!!!! Or they're authors I recognize from being online.


  63. dogboi on January 15, 2010 at 11:13 AM

    >I never buy a book without reading reviews. I usually try to read "professional" reviews, along with the real reader reviews on Amazon to get the big picture.

  64. Beth on January 15, 2010 at 11:08 AM

    >There's some food for thought. I think I usually hear about them from others in my writing group, by word of mouth, or through the emails I've signed up to receive from publishers so I know what they're selling.

    But other than that, I go to the library weekly and browse, just picking up any volume that catches my eye so I can take it home that week. If I find something good, I tell everyone I know about it.

  65. Polly Calicoat on January 15, 2010 at 11:05 AM

    >I always go to the store and check out my favorite genre for new books from my favorite authors first. Then I drift into other parts of the store and browse. If a clerk approaches I'll ask for recommendations but the book has to appeal to me regardless of whether someone suggests it.

  66. Liana Brooks on January 15, 2010 at 11:00 AM

    >1. Friends
    Most the books I read are suggested by friends.

    2. Browsing online book sellers
    I'll go to buy a book and see a list of recommended titles. If one catches my eyes, I'll look it up and consider buying.

    3. Blogs or Book Order Forms from School
    Several books over the years were bought because I liked the author's blog or because I won Book 1 of a series in a blog contest and had to read the rest. School order forms bring in some sales for children's books.

    4. Brick-and-Mortar browsing
    The nearest B-n-M bookstore is over 40 miles away. When I go, it's rarely to browse. I usually order a book I can't find anywhere and pick it up there. Or pay extra to have it shipped to me.

  67. Anonymous on January 15, 2010 at 10:59 AM

    >I go by genre pared with a favorite author. Then I google something like 'authors like Terry Pratchett' and peruse around that list until I find something that has good reviews. Then I filter based on if they have an Audio Book version available because that's the only way I get my literary fix anymore.

  68. Dara on January 15, 2010 at 10:56 AM

    >Most of the books I end up reading and buying come from reading book review blogs. I also find a lot by browsing on Goodreads and Amazon (especially the related items on Amazon).

    Sometimes it comes from an endcap in a bookstore, especially if it's eye-catching. But it's mostly word of mouth from people I've not met in person 😛

  69. LilySea on January 15, 2010 at 10:54 AM

    >When it comes to pleasure reading, I look for writers I already love. An excellent indie bookstore in my neighborhood (Women and Children First, Chicago) is teeming with employees with good taste who can give recommendations such as, "if you love X, you'll like Y."

    When it comes to reading for work (academic, freelancing, conference papers, fiction writing), I tend to browse shelves in regular bookstore stacks and read the index/about the writer section of a book that looks promising.

  70. Cheryl Barker on January 15, 2010 at 10:49 AM

    >Most of the books I read are recommendations from folks online — blogs, writers groups, etc. I also sneak in some classics I've never read before.

  71. Kristen Torres-Toro on January 15, 2010 at 10:45 AM

    >I typically buy books of authors I've heard of before. Before I started blogging, I just went to the bookstore and looked through all the titles. If a fave author didn't have a new book out, I'd check out a "new" author. Now I'm a little more aware of authors I've never seen in the stores and have searched them out in other ways.

  72. Taymalin on January 15, 2010 at 10:44 AM

    >There have been a couple of books I've looked for after hearing about them on an agent's website. Jim Butcher's Dresden files, for example, I started reading after hearing about the series on Jennifer Jackson's website.

    But generally I look for books in the area of the bookstore where I bought the ones I already read and liked.

    I found Jackie Kessler's website during the Harlequin Horizons debacle, and intend to buy a copy of her book "Hell's Belles" as soon as I can find it at a local bookstore.

    But my book buying habits are probably atypical.

  73. Rachel H. Evans on January 15, 2010 at 10:40 AM

    >Great question, Rachelle!

    Because I spend a good deal of time online, the most common reason I purchase a book is because it's getting some buzz around my favorite corners of the blogosphere. I like to feel like I'm "in the know."

    The next most common reason is probably a personal recommendation from a friend whose opinion I trust.

    Third – I'm often tempted by the "customers who bought this book also bought…" thing on Amazon! They make it so darn easy to run up your bill! 🙂

  74. Dominique on January 15, 2010 at 10:31 AM

    >Well, I know that in a lot of cases, people tend to take anecdotal evidence over other forms.

    When I browse in a store, I look for a good title or cover. But, just yesterday I got sold on a book I planned to pass on, because a friend told me it was awesome. It seems to me a friend recommendation is as good selling tool as everything thinks it is.

  75. Sarah Forgrave on January 15, 2010 at 10:31 AM

    >Like many others have said, I choose books differently now that I'm writing. But prior to my writing days, I often chose them based on past history with that author or based on recommendations from friends. I became so loyal to certain authors that even if they had bad reviews for one of their books on Amazon, I bought it anyway (and often regretted it later). Now that I'm a writer, I'm not so forgiving.

  76. Roxane B. Salonen on January 15, 2010 at 10:30 AM

    >Rachelle, almost always because someone I trust and admire has recommended a certain book. Word of mouth. Sometimes through Internet recommendations (like your blog). Yesterday I was at the library looking for a book on tape that I could bring on a little road trip. I didn't want to waste those precious hours with something I wouldn't like. I settled on a big name author, Mitch Albom, figuring it wouldn't be a waste of time. Then I realized, the name of the author and whether he/she is already well-known really does make a difference. I'd better get moving on becoming famous if I'm going to sell my books, or…write an earth-shattering work that will make me famous.

  77. Cindy Swanson on January 15, 2010 at 10:30 AM

    >My situation is a little different, because I'm a Christian radio personality who interviews authors. Christian books are often pitched to me by publicists.

    As far as secular books go, I have my favorite authors, such as Dean Koontz, Sue Grafton, Jude Devereaux and others, and I make it a point to keep up to date on when their new books are releasing.

    Until recently, my daughter worked at Borders, and she was a great resource for turning me on to new books. I discovered Deanna Raybourne when my daughter brought home a comp copy of "Silent in the Sanctuary," and I'm now looking forward to the next one in Raybourne's "silent" series.

    I also read "Dear John" because of my daughter.

  78. Linda Banche on January 15, 2010 at 10:22 AM

    >I look up the upcoming books in Barnes and Noble for new authors in the genres I like (historical, mainly Regency). Then I take out the library copy. If I like the book, I buy my own copy, and the author's backlist. If I don't like the book, back it goes to the library.

    I refuse to waste money on books I don't like.

    As a general observation, a few years ago, I liked a lot of the new authors–great writing, great stories. But over the past year, the new authors' books have gone downhill. I remember one book that was very poorly written. Several others were just plain boring, and one was too violent for my tastes.

    Maybe I've gotten too picky. These books got published, but I won't spend my money on them.

  79. Kristi on January 15, 2010 at 10:13 AM

    >Most of the books I have purchased recently have been ones that I found on fellow blogging sites either from full book reviews or just recommendations!

    GREAT topic!

  80. Ed Eubanks on January 15, 2010 at 10:12 AM

    >Four ways I find new books:
    ~They are referred to in other works. If I find a book cited in another book or article I'm reading– particularly if the cited book speaks to the subject in a compelling way, which is typical for citations– it's likely to make it onto my Amazon Wishlist, which has become my clearinghouse for book recs.
    ~Word of Mouth which includes, these days, books I read about on blogs, hear about on podcasts and radio interviews, etc. Of course, there's always WoM from friends and colleagues, too.
    ~Authors I know or know of and learning that they have released a new book. I think most people find authors they appreciate and keep returning to them; I certainly do.
    ~Amazon recommendations. Because I use Amazon's wishlist system to corral all of my book recommendations, I also regularly get presented with titles that Amazon believes are related in some way. Sometimes these are duds, sometimes they are clear winners; most of the time, I'll check one or two of the titles out, starting with a click-through to the Amazon listing, then further research if I'm really interested.

  81. Noel on January 15, 2010 at 10:02 AM

    >I voted Other.

    I found my last 2 purchases when they were mentioned in a book I was reading on a topic I was interested in. That's very common for me.

  82. Lori Benton on January 15, 2010 at 9:59 AM

    >The majority of books I read that aren't research for my own writing I come across on blogs like yours, Rachelle (agent and writer blogs), particularly threads where readers are invited to list their favorite books, or what they're currently reading. Others come from a few review sites I follow.

  83. Cynthia Schuerr on January 15, 2010 at 9:57 AM

    >Hi Rachelle,

    What a great pic!

    I really enjoy perusing book stores and usually make my choices, by the title and cover. If it draws me to it, I'm all over it.

    I also, have my favorite authors. So when they are promoting a new read, of course, I will buy it.

  84. Southpaw on January 15, 2010 at 9:30 AM

    >For new authors, I go to my favorite section in the bookstore, browse, and read at least the first chapter. (I’ve been burned before by only looking at a couple of pages.) I also will read books recommended by or written bloggers whose blogs have won me over. Sometimes I will use the Amazon feature or recommendation for leads by I follow through on my own.

  85. Joanne on January 15, 2010 at 9:30 AM

    >Definitely the right book covers will get me to pick up a book while browsing a bookstore. Also reviews in our local paper, and often BookPage. But rarely does the internet have this same effect!

  86. That Married Couple on January 15, 2010 at 9:28 AM

    >I actually have a hard time remembering how I found out about books. Usually the instant I hear about one, I go to Amazon and check it out. If it looks interesting and the reviews are good (not meaning that all the reviewers loved it – sometimes the ones that pique my interest are the ones that most people loved and a few hated), I'll add it to my Amazon wishlist, and rate it. This wishlist has gotten quite large! If I hear about a book again, I'll usually remember that it's on my wishlist. Once in a while I'll go through and review if there's anything on it that I've thought about reading since then. If I still feel a strong pull towards reading it, I'll go ahead and buy it. Also, depending on the price, I will sometimes allow myself to buy two to get the free shipping.

    Note that most of these are non-fiction books. I guess I initially heard about most of them through Catholic media outlets, blogs, or the recommendations on Amazon.

  87. Matt Mikalatos on January 15, 2010 at 9:23 AM

    >This has already been said at least once, but in the interest of SCIENCE! I'll list what my "other" stood for: author brand loyalty.

    Both of my most recent novels have been books by authors whose earlier work I've enjoyed. Since they followed through on their end of the bargain when I bought their last books, I bought the most recent ones.

    Right now I'm reading "Last Call" by Tim Powers, which is amazing… and also won the World Fantasy Award, so I thought I'd give it a try. But I've read other books by Powers before…

  88. Rachel on January 15, 2010 at 9:16 AM

    >I read about eight novels a month, so I am always compiling a list of what to read next. I rely primarily on word-of-mouth recommendations. For instance, I follow a couple reading blogs for hardcore readers (who read and review books in genres that I like). I might get these books from the library, buy them on Amazon, or pick them up at my local bookstore. I spend lots of money on books, though I'm a little on the poor side.

    I also tend to read everything that an individual writer wrote if I like one or two of their books.

    I used to not read novels that were the center of lots of media "hype," but turns out, that was a big mistake, because these books are usually celebrated for a reason. Think Kite Runner, The Memory Keeper's Daughter, Secret Life of Bees, The Guernsey Literary and Potatoe Peel Pie Society, etc. All fantastic, heartwrending books. Actually, some of my favorites, (like everybody else).

    My recent favorite way to shake the bushes for books is to find out which books other authors that I like are reading, and follow the reading trail. I just wrapped up a serious Alice Munro kick after finding out that she is Elizabeth Berg's fave (from Elizabeth's blog). Berg is one of my faves. And now Munro is one of my other faves. 🙂

    I love books so much. I can hardly make myself stop typing right now. But I will. Done.

  89. Matilda McCloud on January 15, 2010 at 9:13 AM

    >I've noticed that lately I've been buying books recommended on blogs. I'm about the buy JANE AUSTEN RUINED MY LIFE, which I read about here. I read COLUMBINE, too, because it was recommended on blogs. Writers' blogs often mention good books (HOW I BECAME A FAMOUS NOVELIST–funny). I find a lot of books by browsing in the bookstore. Sometimes (ie with e-reader) I'll buy books on spec, but I haven't enjoyed a few of them because I wasn't able to flip through them first. I found out after I bought the e-book that it was wasn't the kind of book I like. My husband gets PW so I read that for reviews and I like O magazine for book reviews…For me, it's many different sources, but repetition is good. I finally read THE ROAD because it was on so many lists.

  90. Kristen Joy Wilks on January 15, 2010 at 9:10 AM

    >I get most of the books I read from the library, I go online and look at "best of" lists and get books that are recomended on websites and blogs. Also I get books recomended by friends and friends that actually buy books pass them on to me. I read about a book a week, but rarely buy them. My husband bought "The Shack" because he saw it at Costco, but that was a year ago and neither of us has read it completely yet. He's read half and I havn't read any.

  91. Marla Taviano on January 15, 2010 at 9:03 AM

    >Word of mouth. Or books written by an author I already like.

    The most effective way I've found to sell my own books is by doing speaking events.

    It's always fun to hear, "Do you write like you speak? Because if you do, I want to buy your books."

  92. Anonymous on January 15, 2010 at 8:51 AM

    >As I post this there is still a 0% by the paid advertisement choice. That makes me curious how much money is usually put into that type of promotion?

    If the book is non-fiction, it is almost always from someone I know recommending it. I don't read a lot of non-fiction, but more than I used to.

    If the book is fiction, I typically latch on to an author I love and read everything by them. My mom and a couple of my good friends have the same taste in books, so I always want to hear what they have recently read and loved. I love the library too, so sometimes I see what titles intrigue me enough to read the back and have found a lot of books that way.

  93. CKHB on January 15, 2010 at 8:46 AM

    >Coooool photo.

    I used to get more of my books from browsing in bookstores, but then some of our favorite indie stores closed, and I find that I HATE the co-op at the non-indie stores. Malcolm Gladwell and Dan Brown? Wow, I WOULD NEVER HAVE KNOWN THEY EXISTED if you didn't put them on the front table, B&N. /sarcasm.

    And, local college-affiliated bookstore, Lolita does not need to be on the center table where it has been for the LAST THREE YEARS. Yes, it's a classic and a great book. MOVE ON. Put something new there, please, oh please. Something I haven't read and haven't heard of before, I'm begging you.

    So, except for my last remaining favorite indie bookstores, I get my recommendations from my local librarian, and the internet.

  94. Eliza T on January 15, 2010 at 8:34 AM

    >Most of the books I read come from authors I already trust. When I hear their next book is out, I'm there.

    For debut authors, I either get a recommendation from my teenage daughter (who has an uncanny ability to peg my likes and dislikes) or I get a recommendation from a librarian.

    Internet info figures in less than 10% of my new book purchases.

  95. Timothy Fish on January 15, 2010 at 8:33 AM

    >The last book I bought I bought because I had read the author’s other two books and I knew this one was coming out, so I went to and looked it up to see if it was out yet. The book before that I bought because a friend wanted me to play a particular song at church and it was the only book I found with it in it.

    I haven’t found reviews or the fact that a book has won some award or another particularly helpful, though I am aware that these things raise my awareness of the book. Aside from the Newbery Medal winning books, most of the award winning books I have purchased have turned out to be disappointments. But I’ve never bought a Newbery Medal book because it won the medal, only because I wanted to read the book for some other reason.

    I purchase non-fiction because they tell me how to do something I want to do. The primary reason I purchase novels—story. I see so many reviews these days that I mostly ignore them. Negative reviews can be interesting, since they probably have more conflict that the books they are reviewing, but every once in a while I’ll be reading the product description for a book that I figure is just another whatever and something about the story will pull me kicking and screaming out of that attitude and I’ll find myself clicking the buy button on because I really want to read the story.

    I also purchase books written by friends and acquaintances I meet online. If I’m aware they have a book, I often purchase books written by people who follow my blog, even if the product description is poorly written, the cover is terrible and I have to pay $20 to buy it from a non-traditional publisher like Publish America.

  96. WendyCinNYC on January 15, 2010 at 8:15 AM

    >I just blogged about this! Book covers are usually the first thing to draw me in. I'm a sucker for packaging. This is why I like-but-don't-love my new Kindle. Teeny tiny black and white book covers aren't appealing at all.

    This is followed closely by the recommendations of a handful of trusted friends with similar tastes.

  97. GalaktioNova on January 15, 2010 at 8:09 AM

    >With me, it's usually other readers' recommendation or hearing something in the news, followed by reading Amazon's reviews to find out more about the book. I never read "proper" reviews. I trust my luck.

    Talking about luck, I seriously believe there's a connection between a person and a book he or she is meant to read. Sorry if it sounds weird, but I think it's rather the question of a book finding its reader than the reader's conscious choice. All really important books in my life came to me at the exact moment when I needed them most, usually in quite unexpected ways.

  98. G. Jackson on January 15, 2010 at 8:03 AM


    I should also add that I try to read anything that's won the big awards – Man Booker, National Book Award, Pulitzer, etc.

  99. G. Jackson on January 15, 2010 at 8:01 AM

    >Hi Rachelle, great post – thanks for opening the conversation!

    There are a few authors and anthologies I actively follow – Lorrie Moore, Alice Munro, Best American Short Stories, etc. – to keep abreast of any new developments.

    I use traditional media and their blogs/podcasts – PaperCuts, New York Times, Guardian Books, Poets and Writers, etc. – which I scan daily for headlines and news, as well as online outlets like PopMatters and blogs.

    Word of mouth, of course, is a very important tool. It's how I found books such as Muriel Barbery's The Elegance of the Hedgehog, which I loved, and Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love.

    I often read books made into movies either retroactively, or just before the film is released – only if I like the premise of the movie and the author is well reviewed.

    I use Swaptree – an online venue for trading books and media – and find new titles recommended there.

    And finally, I love just carving out time to wander around the bookstore – I am always surprised by what I find. (This is how I "stumbled upon" Garth Brook's The Art of Racing in the Rain).

    Thanks for the post!

    -G. Jackson

  100. Josin L. McQuein on January 15, 2010 at 7:57 AM

    >I've never put much stock in reviews. I'm more of a browser. If I like the cover, I'll pick up the book and read the blurb or the first few pages. My taste doesn't run like many of the people I know, so I can't really rely on other people's opinions to find things I'll like.

    The last books I actually bought were Twilight, and I was probably one of the few people who'd never heard of them before the movie came out.

  101. Mike Duran on January 15, 2010 at 7:57 AM

    >I've become pretty skeptical of amateur review sites and, unless I know and/or trust the taste of the reviewer, tend to dismiss their recommendations. This is the result of having been burned too many times. Upside: It's really changed the way I buy books.

    I will purchase books by authors that I have read and know I can trust. When it comes to newer authors, I like to read a writing sample before I buy it. Rarely will blurbs by established authors convince me to buy a first novel, although it helps. For me, a good website really helps sell a book. If an author is committed to quality it will show in their online presentation. A cheesy website will always discourage me from purchasing a book. Unless a plot line is absolutely compelling, word of mouth from trusted writer friends is my primary source of recommendation. Thanks, Rachelle!

  102. Shelby on January 15, 2010 at 7:53 AM

    >1. The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold. Saw the movie trailer a while back and wanted to read the book–had never heard of it before the movie trailer. I searched it out. Bought one at the bookstore and ordered another from ebay, so now I have two copies. I will be sharing one of them.

    2. Mud on the Stars, by William Bradford Huie. Never had heard of the book .. but in my research for my own book, I came across the author from my own home town (I had vaguely remembered he was our neighbor). I then researched more.. fell in love with him and his writing.. found all his books.. and ordered this one (his first, autobiographical novel. Hooked. Utterly hooked.

  103. Josette on January 15, 2010 at 7:46 AM

    >I go to the bookstore and look at the books on the shelf.
    Now that I'm a member of ACFW, I look for their books.

  104. Bonita on January 15, 2010 at 7:44 AM

    >I'm a hard sell. I have to hear about a book over and over or else it really has to strike a nerve with me before I will buy it. These days I learn about most books via blogs and by word of mouth.

  105. lynnrush on January 15, 2010 at 7:33 AM

    >Word of mouth for sure. A close second, though is seeing a review on another person's blog. If it sounds intriguing, I'll jot it down and check it out at the bookstore. .. then maybe buy it. 🙂

    Happy Friday. Have a great weekend.

  106. Krista Phillips on January 15, 2010 at 7:00 AM

    >This has totally changed for me in the last few years. Since I began "writing" and participating in the online community of writers, the way I select books is hugely different. I read now, books by authors I know personally, or have bumped into online and was impressed by. I also read books I see "twittered" about or blogged about a lot, that whole repitition thing.

    But I don't think that's normal for most "readers" who aren't writers.

    When I was a READER, I read books a.) that I was already familiar with the author, liked their types of books, so bought them as soon as a new one came out b.) I'd peruse the bookstore for new authors with cool covers (I read mostly Inspir. Romance, so I'd also flip it over and glance at the back cover to make sure it was really a romance and not a "married already" book… LOL) c.) Whatever I found at the library that was Christian Fiction (I found a lot of new authors that way!)

    When it comes down to it, I was really a bookstore/cover person when it came to selecting books from authors I wasn't already familiar with.

  107. Cecelia Dowdy on January 15, 2010 at 6:51 AM

    >I purchase most of my books from Usually, I've heard about the book online somewhere. When I go to Amazon to purchase the book, I want to buy $25.00 worth of books to get free shipping. I look to see what books are recommended based upon the book I'm buying. I choose enough recommendations to fill my $25.00+ order to get free shipping.

  108. Holly Bodger on January 15, 2010 at 6:48 AM

    >Definitely word of mouth for a new author, but most of the books I read are from authors I already like.

  109. James Castellano on January 15, 2010 at 6:36 AM

    >Most of my book shopping is online. And I usually add one from the "What others read" or whatever they call that along the bottom.

  110. Amanda Acton on January 15, 2010 at 6:27 AM

    >Mostly I pick books myself via browsing through the shelves of the library or bookstore. Every now and then, its a recommendation from a friend. I don't read reviews and such, because I find the critics are rather mean. I don't know if that's just me, but whenever I read a review, it sounds like the person who wrote it has a chip on their shoulder and doesn't really want anyone to succeed.

  111. Jeff on January 15, 2010 at 6:17 AM

    >Word of mouth or recommendations from the local indie-bookstore

  112. Gwen Stewart on January 15, 2010 at 6:02 AM

    >Hi Rachelle,

    Hands-down, I read books mostly based on what I bump into online. If it's an author I know, I only have to hear about it once to purchase it. If it's an unknown author and I bump into the title three or four times, I'll usually buy.

    I tend NOT to read what "everyone" is reading if the premise doesn't intrigue me. I like lesser-known books as opposed to blockbusters in the same way I like off-the-beaten-path vacations rather than cruises or such.

    Have a wonderful Friday!

  113. Katie Ganshert on January 15, 2010 at 6:01 AM

    >100% word of mouth, and that word of mouth is more and more from the internet. I ask around. "What's your favorite book?" or "What's teh best book you've read recently?" In fact, I just sent an email to the ACFW Loop asking for book recs. The books I buy are the ones I keep hearing about. Usually from blogging friends. For instance, in a matter of one week, I read three blogs (yours included) that praised The Help. Guess what's on my book shelf right now?

    When Donald Maass says the best marketing comes in between the covers of your book, I agree with him 110%. All the marketing in the world isn't going to sell a mediocre story. Write an amazing story and start spreading the word. That's what makes me fork out the cash.

  114. Jessica on January 15, 2010 at 5:52 AM

    >Before I was a writer (because now my book buying is different due to stuff) I never, ever looked at reviews or online for books. Just browsed the shelves. If somone recommended a book to me, I usually just got it from the library.
    I took the poll and it's fascinating to me how many people DO buy books because of online presence.
    Now, when I buy books, because I have little kids, it's all online shopping.

  115. elizaw on January 15, 2010 at 4:56 AM

    >I've gotten very picky about books lately. Perhaps it's part of being introverted– I'm very suspect of the quality of a book's character.

    The best way I find great new authors is by recommendation– not from people I know, but from random people I spot carrying my favorite authors with them. Then once I find an author I really like, I will hunt them down and procure the rest of the material.

  116. Andrew on January 15, 2010 at 3:46 AM

    >I've started to make use of Amazon's 'horizontal scroll' of books – "Customers who bought this book also bought…"

  117. Anne Lang Bundy on January 15, 2010 at 2:06 AM

    >LOVE that photo, Rachelle!

    And I usually buy books because someone I know recommended them. My favorite fiction book of 2009 was The Forgotten Garden. I read it at your recommendation.