How Readers Buy Books

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

With millions upon millions of books to choose from, how do readers decide which books to buy? Research reveals four ways that help most readers determine which book to choose, and ultimately what encourages readers to buy books.

1. The Reader Knows the Author 

We know people on many different levels. Some people we know personally, others we know from following them on social media, still others are influencers or famous personalities we are familiar with. The same is true with authors. The number one reason that readers buy books is because they know the author. This does not always mean that the reader is a personal friend of the author. The reader may know the author because:

  • They have heard the author speak.
  • They have read other books by the author.
  • They have heard the author interviewed on a radio show or podcast.
  • They have seen the author interviewed on television.
  • They have read an interview or article by the author on a blog or other publication.
  • The author is an influencer they listen to, watch, or follow.

2. The Book is Recommended by Someone the Reader Trusts

The second biggest factor driving book purchasing decisions is recommendations. When a friend or family member recommends a book, people take note. However, books can be recommended by trusted resources in a number of ways:

  • From an influencer the reader follows (blogger, thought leader, pastor, etc.).
  • By a trusted publication such as a book review publication or website.
  • Through other consumers via online reviews.

3. Browsing in a Store

People discover books through browsing. Research has shown that people discover and purchase books from simply looking at books in both physical and online stores. Having good book metadata is especially helpful with the online browsing because the keywords you enter for your book's metadata will help display your book as a result for users searching for particular subject matter.

4. Reading a Free Excerpt

When it comes to purchasing something, people fear what they might lose more than what they will gain. In purchasing a book, people fear they will lose money if they don’t like the book. Allowing readers to read a portion of a book helps them see what they will gain and helps convince them that the book is worth their investment. People often decide to buy a book once they know they'll like what's inside, either from reading just a portion (or the first in a series) for free.

5. What You Can Do to Influence the Purchase

Knowing what drives readers’ book purchasing decisions helps you market your book more effectively. Following are three takeaway marketing ideas you can put into practice with your understanding of how readers buy books.

Make Yourself Known

If the number one reason people choose a book is because they know the author, don’t be shy. Help people get to know you. Take advantage of radio and television interviews, blog and podcast interviews, and social media. Show people that you are likeable and that they can trust you. When people feel a positive connection to you, book sales follow.

Obtain Book Reviews

Research by BrightLocal reveals that 88% of consumers say they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Ask your readers to write a review of your book. Put a request in the back pages of your book. The more positive reviews you garner, the more readers will trust your book and make a purchase.

Offer a Sneak Peek

Allowing readers to experience your story without the fear of losing something is powerful. Give readers a chance to read part of your book (or the first in a series) for free. Doing so can help drive sales. You can provide readers access to one or more chapters of your book on your author website.

Better understanding what motivates readers to buy is a valuable step in building your author platform. To learn more, check out our free online self-publishing course on the subject!


How to Build an Author Platform

Sarah Bolme

Sarah Bolme is the Director of Christian Small Publishers Association. Through this organization Sarah provides assistance to small publishers and independently published authors marketing books to the Christian marketplace. Sarah is also the author of the award-winning book Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace, now in its third edition.