Aug 12, 2013

To Buy or Not to Buy...How do Romance Readers Decide What to Read Next?

by Jennifer St George

I recently finished reading fellow LoveCat Amy Andrew's Taming a Tycoon (yes, I'm quite behind on my TBR pile!). Obviously the first thing I wanted to do was buy another one of Amy's books...which I could do instantly with my trusty iPad. It got me thinking about how romance readers make the decision of what to buy or read next.

According to research commissioned last year by Romance Writers of America, the top overall decision factors when deciding on a romance are:
  • the story
  • the author
  • it's part of a series
  • back cover copy
It was interesting to note the book covers are not a factor listed in the top four. I know I worry incessantly about my covers.  Are they sexy enough? Enticing enough? Is my hero hot enough? Looks like I should be more concerned about nailing those short paragraphs on the back cover.

I also found fascinating (I know it's sad, but I love statistics) the numbers on where romance buyers find information about what they read. The bookstore was still the number one information source. Now, this research was commissioned last year, so things could well have changed...a lot.

My key influences are other romance writers, friends and romance blogs.

Being predominately published in e-format, the top "online" factors in influencing purchase decisions were of particular significance. These were:
  • Online bookseller websites (Amazon, etc)
  • Reading about it/seeing it online
  • Seeing it on a best-seller list
  • Author website.
The saying goes 'lies, damned lies, and statistics' so I'd love to hear how other people make their romance buying decisions.

Jennifer is the author of three romance novels from Destiny Romance. To find out more visit -  website, twitter, facebook or goodreads. Her latest release, The Love Deception is available at Amazon, Apple, Kobo and Destiny Romance.


  1. Jenn, it's hard not to fret about covers we don't like, isn't it? I tell myself that's only one factor in what readers buy, though I suspect it helps new-to-us readers take note and maybe pick up a book to check it out.

    I tend to go on author name - if I've read and enjoyed their stories before I'll give it a go and definitely the type of story (especially with an author I haven't tried) hence the fact that I love back cover blurbs for that quick intro. Above all, I take note of recommendations from friends who know my tastes or who perhaps challenge me to try something new. There is so much to read, isn't there?

  2. Jen, I'm like Annie -- I buy my books by author first and foremost, and then from recommendations from friends who have the same tastes that I do. Once in a blue moon a review will intrigue me enough to explore further, and if I then still like the sound of the book I'll grab it.

    Mind you, my TBR pile is so big I'm trying to curb my book-buying habits (without much success mind you). ;-)

  3. Hi Jen - great article :)

    I'm with Annie and Michelle - I often buy based on the authors I like.

    If I have time (!!!!) I'll browse around Amazon and look at popular romances. But with limited reading time, I usually read book club books and anything else that grabs my attention :)

    PS - I still think a good cover helps sell the book :)

  4. I have so much trouble keeping up with my TBR pile, Annie. So many books and not enough time and I know I'll have lots of new titles after the conference!

  5. I do wonder how important reviews are to the popularity of a book, Michelle. I really enjoy reading reviews but even if they are fabulous it doesn't mean I will necessarily buy the book (especially as I probably have enough books sitting next to my bed to last the next two years!)

  6. Lovely to see you here, CP legend. I love browsing through the beautiful covers at my local book store, Joanne.

    I had a really groovy chart about where readers seek information in my blog, but it isn't showing up on my screen which is disappointing!!

  7. Hi Jen, I have some must-buy authors whose books I adore and will always buy. After that I tend to go with recommendations, or people who I've read about/heard about or are similar to my fave authors. I'm also a member of a non-romance book club so I read heaps from there which is ALL about recommendations. I have been known to buy a book because of a cover or a review too.

  8. My bookclub is a non-romance book club too, Louisa and ours too is all about recommendations and reviews. I too have authors I buy no matter what! Have lots of fabulous books sitting waiting for me.

  9. Jen, I buy based on author and after that it's usually from personal recommendation.

    I'm really interested that covers didn't get a mention, but I wonder if that's because they work at a more sub-conscious level? I'll skim over covers till I find that that attracts me, then I'll read the blurb etc. It's not that I'm looking for a "good" cover, but one that gives me all the subtle cues that I'll like the book. Eg., I don't read anything scary, so if there's a hint of something sinister on the cover, I just skim on past it to the next cover.

  10. I don't like being scared either, Rachel, but I still read romantic suspense and crime novels - why do I do that to myself?!?!?

  11. Jen, authors I've read before are a big one for me and recommendations from friends and other authors. I've recently got into social media too and have got some recommendations from friends there as well as finding some good blogs. For me, covers will sometimes interest me in buying a book, but it's more likely the blurb that will sell me on it than the cover. I've bought some books I loved based on blurb that had really sucky covers.

  12. Thanks for sharing, Leisl. It's really interesting learning how different people pick books. I've certainly read some great books with terrible covers!

  13. Ooh, I thought my ears were burning today :-) thank Jen for the lovely plug!
    I buy usually on author as well - too little time for browsing :-( But I do love a great cover too!

  14. Some fascinating stats there, Jen. Must admit I usually buy on author name and then blurb. Makes me a little worried for new authors if people are going on name and past experience with books, though. How to build a name when you're new :)

  15. Well, you know I'm a big fan, Amy. Yes, wouldn't it be nice to have time for some good-old-fashioned browsing!!

  16. That's an excellent question, Barbara. Being a new author, this occupies my mind a lot and it's so hard to know what marketing actually achieves cut through.

  17. Great post, Jen. My TBR and eTBR piles are teetering - the great thing about an eTBR is that it's not going to fall over in my studdy and bonk me on the head!

    I tend to buy on author name too but I also browse through the back cover blurbs as well and pick out stories that appeal. An eye-catching cover will entice but if the back cover blurb doesn't appeal then there's probably very little chance I'd buy it. So I'd put cover low on my reason for buying a book. Though having said that I do appreciate a nice cover and yours for The Love Deception is very very nice indeed!

  18. Hi Jen, great post. I tend to buy by author name, but I shy away from books whose covers are mimicking a successful book or series. I understand that it's a form of saying "If you liked X, you'll like this', but it just makes me question the originality of the story if it's unapologetically emulating another text. This might not be fair, especially considering how little most authors contribute to their covers, but I can't help it.
    I do buy according to title - if it's clever or witty, or even an unusual way of representing something common, that's enough for me to check if the blurb further catches my attention.

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