Why Do People Buy Certain Books?

Yes, I bought more books
Image by tachyondecay via Flickr

There are many factors that will prompt a person to buy a book. We don’t really care about those reasons. What we care about is what makes a person buy a particular book? And what can we do to make that particular book be yours?

The general “buying decision” process goes something like this:

  1. Person becomes aware of a particular book’s existence.
  2. Person desires to own book.
  3. Person has money to purchase book and does so.


This one is our first hurdle. A reader can’t buy a book if he doesn’t even know it exists.

First, you have to get your book in front of as many people as possible. Standing on a busy street corner holding up a copy of your book will work, but probably won’t be very efficient. You’ll probably get attention, but not the kind you want.

Enter the Internet – the world’s busiest street corner. Or multi-level highway interchange with a bazillion exits, if you prefer.

While a street corner isn’t efficient, using the Internet can be. On a street corner, you can’t target the specific individuals who a) buy books and b) buy the kind of books you write.

A better option would be to stand outside a bookstore. But the entire world doesn’t shop at the bookstore in your town, so again, you aren’t reaching enough people. (And the manager will probably shoo you away as a loiterer.)

On the Internet, you can target those folks by hanging out where they hang out – at book review blogs, at booktagging sites, at forums for book lovers.

Once there, you subtly introduce your book’s existence. (We’ll talk about tactics down below.)

Much better than standing on a street corner. (And your reputation will still be intact.)


Next hurdle is getting a reader to want to buy YOUR particular book. Now you need to get the reader interested in the story you wrote.

Great cover art helps with this. So does compelling teaser copy on the back cover.

However, with Big Publishing in the picture, you may have absolutely no say over either of these items. (Witness a veteran author who had her hero turned into a pink albino. Youch.)

So, what can you do?

Back to those sites where readers hang out. You want to get your compelling teaser copy out into the world. You want to share some of the plot synopsis. (Not the whole thing, of course, because then there’s no reason to read the book.)

You want to get your book reviewed wherever possible. (‘Cause even bad publicity can be good for book sales.) You want to get people talking about your book in real life and all over the Internet. You want people recommending it to their friends.

You really want friend recommendations. We’re social animals. We crave social approval. If my friend reads a book and tells me it’s the greatest thing since street corners were invented, I’m already disposed to liking it. I trust this friend to advise me on my wardrobe; of course I’m going to trust her with my reading habits.

And now that she’s recommended it, I’m halfway to reading it, because I don’t want to be missing out on something fantastic.

If two of my friends are talking about the same book, you can bet I’m on my way to the bookstore that afternoon. I don’t want to miss my ride on the Fantastic Book Bus. “Move aside, people. I have exact change and I’m getting on this bus.”

If you’ve written an exciting story (and of course you have), then people are going to talk about your book. The more people talking about your book, the more people reading it.


Okay, this one you can’t do much about. Unless you plan to send a free copy of your book to everyone who wants to read it. But that kind of works against the idea of book SALES.

But you can try to point people to alternate sources for your books, if they can’t afford to buy them. Like the library. (And tell them, if the library doesn’t have a copy, to request it.) Or point them to the ebook version that just happens to be half the cover price of the physical book. Or your website where you’re giving away three copies. Or the book review site that gave your book a glowing recommendation and always gives away the review copies they’ve received.


  • Hang out at sites where readers hang out – book review blogs, booktagging sites like LibraryThing, Goodreads, Shelfari, Booktagger.
  • Create an account and start reviewing and commenting on books you love.
  • Set up your profile on those sites to mention your book along with a short story teaser.
  • Get your friends to leave a review of your book on sites like Amazon, B&N, Borders, and the booktagging sites.
  • Submit your book for a review to blogs that review your genre.
  • Give away copies of your book and announce the giveaway on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook.
  • Get your friends to promote your giveaway on their own social media accounts and blogs.
  • Allow the entrants to “earn” more chances at the book by posting a review (if they’ve already read your book), or an announcement about the giveaway on other social media sites.
  • Put the first chapter of the book on your website to hook people in. (Clear this with your publisher first.)

There are a lot of books published in the world and you won’t get your book in front of every reader out there. But by focusing on activities that can increase awareness of your book and interest in the story, you stand a better chance of increasing your sales.