So this past week I got a question on my blog that had me so intrigued I decided to share it with all of you. The question came from Tiffany at tiffanywismer.wordpress.com, and she asked me the following question:
“Hi there! I’m an aspiring writer and I just have a question. You are obviously an avid reader, and a great reviewer. Your one-line book descriptions got me thinking about each book having a concise idea, or a hook. What is it that really “hooks” you when you see a book on the shelf? What makes you think “I just have to read that”? I’d love an answer to this question! Thanks!”
First of all, thank you Tiffany for posing the question (and for thinking I’m a great reviewer…I must now live up to your expectations!) I didn’t have an answer at first because my first reaction was “Ummm, I just pick it up?” But really, what DOES make me pick up a book?
I had to actually sit and think about this, because obviously this is not a conscious decision that I have made about what books I read. I’m not loyal to certain publishers or genres or styles. This is not a blog that is dedicated to reviewing only certain types of books (what is a book “type”? … O.o). In general, I will read just about anything that piques my interest. Yes, most books I read are YA novels, but that doesn’t mean I’m unwilling to try anything else, YA just sort of…happens.
There are the usual ways I hear about books. Friends, family, Goodreads notifications, book store emails. Sometimes, yes, this will lead me to picking up a certain book on purpose, because of the hype or conversations that I have heard about it. Sometimes I go into the library and think, I want to read a book by so-and-so, or I want to read a fantasy book, and so yes I will go in for a specific book.
But I also go to the library often (yay library!) and I will just pick any book and bring it home with me. So to get back to Tiffany’s question, what is it that makes me pick up these books? I’ve decided it really comes down to two crucial factors.
1. The Title.
More often than not, when I’m browsing books in the library, I’m looking at a row of spines on a shelf. You know what? There’s not a lot of information to go off of on a spine of a book. The absolute one thing that will make me pull that book out is the title. Sometimes I read a title that sounds intriguing, and I want to know what it means. Sometimes I can’t understand why a book would be named this, and so I slide it out to find out why. This leads me to factor 2.
2. The Description
After I’ve picked up the book, the factor that decides if the book will come home with me or not is the description. I like to know what it’s about, a little taste of the main character, and most importantly I want it to make me want more. I want it to pose a question, describe a unique setting or society, or hint at serious drama- something to make me curious about how that thing turns out. If the description is dull or doesn’t pose a meaningful question/setting/situation, I’m more likely to put it back on the shelf. My biggest pet peeve by far is books that don’t have a description, and just have quotations from important book people saying “This book is great!” If there’s no description, 99% of the time that book gets put back.
Other Meaningless Sometimes Factors
There are a couple of other details that might play into how I pick a book, like the cover. While I will never make a decision based solely on the cover, it can contribute. If a book with a bad description also has a cover I don’t like, I’m probably more likely to put it back. But if a so-so description has an amazing cover, I’m more likely to give it a chance.
Plus similar to the title if a bunch of book covers are facing me, the book that I actually pick up is the cover than intrigues me. It’s the picture that captures my eye, piques my curiosity, and makes me want to know more, leading me to the title and description.
Another factor is a mix of the content and my mood. For example, I’ve put back quite a few vampire books lately. Why? Not in the mood. I’ve read too many of them and I need to take a long break from them. That’s not the author’s fault, but I will put it back because of my mood towards the content. Yet I’m still unfailingly attracted to fantasy, and am probably more likely to pick a fantasy over another genre, just because hey, I like reading fantasy.
The size can also be a factor. I don’t like big books. I mean, I do, but if I’m walking home from the library, I don’t need to lug giant heavy tomes with me. While I’ll still consider these books, I’m more likely to wait for when I have a ride to pick it up.
So I guess that’s a kind of everything-mashed-together kind of answer, but if I can pick one factor out of everything, it’s the description. If a book has a really great intriguing description, I’m likely to bring that book home with me.
Thanks again Tiffany! :)