I asked 750k People What Would Convince them to Buy an Unknown Author’s Book

A couple of months ago, I posted a single question in several Facebook groups for writers and authors with a total membership of over 780,000. My question was this: “What would convince you to buy a book from an author you’ve never heard of?”

The response was overwhelming.

I received over a thousand written responses from book lovers around the world. After spending many hours reading and compiling these answers, I decided to share the results of what I found. So here we go, the ten most popular answers to my one-question survey, starting with the most popular answer of all.

1. The Blurb

More than a quarter of the responders said that the blurb was the determining factor in deciding whether or not they would buy a book from an unknown author. Whether it’s on the dust jacket, on the back cover, or at the top of the webpage, a catchy synopsis of the plot seems to be the most effective means of selling your book to new readers.

2. The Cover

This was a close second. Most folks said that the cover would be the first thing to draw them to a book, even if the final decision to buy was influenced by additional factors. It was also kind of funny to see how many people felt guilty about judging books by their covers, though I’m pretty sure that this old saying is better suited to the people that you meet rather than your book purchasing decisions.

3. An Excerpt

With so much literature out there to choose from, many customers appreciate the opportunity to sample the writing style a bit before making a purchase. Interestingly, while most people specified the first page, paragraph, or even sentence as their preferred excerpt, many responders said that they like to turn to a random page to get an idea of what a book is like. A few people even admitted to skipping to the end before deciding whether to buy!

4. Recommendation from a Friend

This one is actually kind of nice to see. Despite all the algorithms and purchasing histories and targeted ads out there, it’s heartwarming to know that not only do people value the opinions of their trusted friends over automated recommendations, but that people are still sharing books with each other.

5. The Title

This one was so obvious that I didn’t even think about it at first. It’s amazing how something as fundamental as the title can be overlooked as an essential marketing tool if we’re not careful. Good lesson, there.

6. Good Reviews

If you are like me, you probably thought that this one would be a lot higher on the list. Of course, it’s still on the list, but maybe seeing it after things like the plot summary and an excerpt will help writers not to obsess about reviews quite so much. We can only hope.

7. The Topic

I got the sense that this one may have applied more to nonfiction readers, and in hindsight maybe I should have specified whether I was talking about fiction or nonfiction in my original question. But it did seem like at least some of the people who gave this answer were thinking of fiction stories that had interesting topics within their plots.

8. Genre

This is another one that I thought would have rated higher on people’s lists. I guess that things like friend recommendations, good covers, and quality writing mean more than a favorite genre for most folks.

9. Critic or Author Recommendation

This one divided a lot of responders. While I didn’t take negative statements into account, the most common negative response I saw involved people hating on books that put an emphasis on endorsements over blurbs. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you can’t share an endorsement if you get one, as long as you also include a good blurb and maybe an excerpt to go with it.

10. Discount/Price

Kind of an obvious one to finish out the list. While price wasn’t the deciding factor for most people when trying out a new author, I also didn’t see anyone complain about getting a good deal on a new book.

How would you have answered this question? Leave a comment below with your response. And while I have your attention, take a look at my most popular title to see how it stacks up to the ten most popular answers to my one-question survey.

5. TitleThe Beast Hunter

2. Cover

1. Blurb

A small-town hero. A numberless horde. No turning back.

Beast hunter and local hero Keltin Moore joins a desperate campaign to save faraway Krendaria, a nation on the verge of revolution. A swarm of beasts threatens to destroy the country’s desperately needed crops, and an unprecedented team of hunters is assembled to cleanse the infested farmlands.

But the grand adventure quickly becomes a desperate fight for survival as the horde of beasts seems endless and distrust among the hunters eats away at the campaign from within.

In desperation, Keltin and his new friends embark on a dangerous mission into the heart of the deadly swarm, prepared to make a final stand against the oncoming beasts to try and save all of Krendaria from starvation.

The Beast Hunter marks the beginning of the award-winning Adventures of Keltin Moore, a series of steampunk-flavored fantasy novels. If you love compelling characters, fantastic creatures, and intense action then you will love these stories!

3. Excerpt – first paragraph

Keltin Moore deftly stepped over a twig, stirring the smoky mist with the toe of his boot. The full moon filled the night with a pale glow between the black trunks of the trees, bathing the forest in ethereal light. Keltin moved slowly through the gray haze, sometimes taking a minute between footfalls. He needed no speed, only stealth. His quarry would not be moving after it had eaten. He knew it would be sleeping.

6. Good Reviews – excerpts taken from Amazon

“Keltin Moore is an awesome hero, slightly flawed, and intriguing.”

“The plot is well paced and interesting through every page.”

“This was an excellent fantasy adventure and I’ve already picked up the sequel.”

7. Topics

Monster hunting, fantasy worlds, leadership, firearms, overcoming prejudice

8. Genre

Steampunk-flavored fantasy adventure

9. Critic or Author Recommendation – links to reviews

Review on Reading Reality

Review on Happy Chance Books

Review on It Started with the Hugos

10. Discount/Price

During June 4-11, the ebook is just 99 cents (regular price is $4.99)

4. Friend Recommendation

This one is up to you!

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