Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Selling me a book: buying habits and issues

1. The money issue
This is the mental lie I tell myself as I do have a bit but I know I shouldn't spend it. So I do the rounding down and say I have none. There are times though, when I'll cheat and spend that little bit because some book is cheap but of quality, looks intriguing for someone else or snatches at my nerdy enthusiasm. This means that, whether your a new or old author, I'll be reading the blurb of any book that falls within the suitable price range and I will purchase the one/s that sound the most interesting and unique. This also means that certain topics do attract my attention and those within non-fiction usually fall within the realm of new discoveries, new interpretations, information on topics a child or teen would be enthusiastic about (knights, pirates, explosions etc). Other than that the choices are too personal to be of help so I'll leave this point here. Of note though, if I really can't afford anything I'll simply avoid a store.
When I have lots of money then I'll catch up on series, search for new authors and generally buy up the store one or more series at a time. This flush times are rare though as life expenses usually rise when available money rises.

2. The Known Author
The latest title of a known and loved author is of course a priority when it comes to purchasing. As is the works of one who has been referred to me by a friend. Of course, reputation goes a little way when it comes to reading catalogues and whatnot but a personal, enthusiastic reference wins. Either that or simply finding a complete or near complete series on a friend's shelf. Because of this I'd recommend that good old sales method or WOM (word of mouth) but also covers that match and look worthy enough to be a feature on a bookshelf. This may sound silly but when one is at home with their own collection, the favourites and more publicly respectable (visitors do inspect collections) books are shown while others are stacked behind.

3. Catalogues
I actually like a few catalogues that arrive at my door or I pick up but the ones I like best contain written summaries that have been created by those in store salespeople who are book enthusiasts at heart. I don't mind the short sales pitch of the publisher either though they do lack a personal touch. Catalogues that annoy me offer brilliant colour pictures on glossy paper but contain no choice, no long list of new titles from unknown authors and have minuscule discounts on overly sold books. Catalogues that focus simply on what's currently being touted as brilliant or a must read by the media irritate me as I don't like having my reading habits governed by someone else. This might seem a rare opinion, considering the sales figures of these mass media promoted books, but if you remember your reaction to reading material given to you for study you'll realise it is far from a unique viewpoint. So, if possible, get listed in a good catalogue and have your work read and reviewed by one of the floor staff of a store. Their views mean a lot as most put up with the highly political book store world purely for the love of books.

4. The Classics
These include both some of my most loved and most avoided books, depending on the author and the topic (often governed by the era it was written). For the most loved books I will sometimes go out of my way to buy illustrated hardback copies, these usually having some sort of meaning to me. There are particular authors that almost require such treatment because they have produced mainstays of entire genres: Lewis Carroll and H. P. Lovecraft, for example. These I will collect for myself and for others. The works of authors who produced classics that aren't so essential to genres (not in the reading, however) are bought for format as I like a little space between the lines and for price. A balance will be found between the two, with the ugliest of covers discarded as they can make picking up good books a chore (a residual reaction of those study days).

5. The Internet
Now, this is a tricky one. Buying from the Internet is almost like buying from a store with regards to my pre-decided purchases but my buying habits are otherwise remarkably altered. I find it much harder to browse online for several reasons. Searching online stores is tedious.  It can be exciting enough for the first five or ten minutes of flicking through pages but after that there are simply too many hidden choices with too little concept of just how many books I've left to search through. Unfortunately, most search mechanisms do not cater for new and not yet popular authors, or at least not in any meaningful way. One of the reasons a particular online store is my favourite is that it will allow me to quickly reach new release lists. Otherwise, money matters apply.

6. The Store
The store can be a boon and a bane to the book selling world. To me, bookstores that offer little room to stand and make two people squeeze to move past each other are impossible to stay in for too long. Stacking books in ways where I can't easily pick up a copy and hold it makes buying for content and the unknown near impossible. Bad lighting makes it hard to read and colours on the brighter, warmer end of the scale make it hard to stay in place for long (look into fast food restaurant colouring to understand the effects of colours on consumption). Also, while sales bins are a pull to the wanderer on the street, creating too many stacks where not all titles are visible at once is a bad idea. They require a lot of work to keep organised and they make potential readers who aren't overly enthusiastic frustrated before they find a book worth buying. 
Alternatively, stores that offer open caves that match genres or offer the option of staying and exploring at leisure encourage book purchasing. Books should be easy to reach, stacked neatly, arranged properly and arranged in a way to encourage readers of one genre to wander into the sections of related genres. Lighting should be good and seating offered. But best of all, a comprehensive collection expanding over several or all genres is required.

7. The Unknown Author
These authors could be well known to others or could be new authors. Unknown but otherwise popular authors tend to have a formula for getting readers already sorted out. So I'll mainly write what attracts me to new authors. What attracts me to a new author's work is an intriguing blurb, a new take on the topic or genre, a neat cut to the book (the printer's job), a well designed cover and a bit of personality that lends authenticity. Being found is usually a matter of being in a new release list, having a review written, hearing word of it from someone I know or a store I like. The book being bought immediately will depend on its cost and my available money. Cheaper isn't always better as cheapness combined with a dull blurb or cover is deadly to sales. A price that matches expectations rather than undercutting or exceeding it is just right. A sale on top of that is simply icing. The price may seem hard to decide upon but an honest judgement of the competition and their sales records may help.

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