How Do Readers Choose Books?

how do readers choose books

When it comes time to market your book, it’s important to understand how readers choose books so you can deliver the right message to the right readers.

Not long ago, I posted a question to 5,000 Facebook followers that asked: “What is your primary criteria when choosing reading material: author, genre, or reputation of the review source?”

I received more than 200 responses, here are the results:

  • Genre = 60%
  • Author = 25%
  • Review = 2%
  • Equally all three = 2%
  • Other = 11%

“Other” indicates responders didn’t choose by author, genre, or review, but chose by cover design, whim of the moment, length of the book, large print availability, writing style, the first three pages, the last page, setting, or some other factor.

As for myself, it’s definitely genre first, then author. I read reviews once I’m pondering the choice.

This simple survey shows how important it is to understand your product and market it appropriately. You cannot market your book just anywhere, to just anyone, and expect results. You need to focus on places and channels where readers who enjoy your genre will collect, review, recommend, and share.

I’m frequently approached by authors asking to advertise their books in my newsletters. I refuse – unless the book is directed at writers. Why? Because my readers are writers by trade. My readers are not seeking science-fiction, romance, or young adult novels from my newsletters. They want nonfiction about how to write better, how to market better, and how to navigate the publishing industry. is one of the places where these writers congregate.

There’s truth in the mantra “know your market.” It’s how Apple, Zappos, and Whole Foods do so well. It’s why BookBub and Amazon are so darn efficient. They know how you think and put products before your eyes that they’ve researched and know you will love.

You know all those ads you see on Facebook (and everywhere online)? Do you ever marvel when you open a website and the ads are all from the sites where you last shopped or for the products you browsed? That’s marketing to the consumer by companies attempting to understand how you shop and what motivates you to buy. That’s how you need to think.

When you finish writing your book and it comes time to market it for sale, stop and identify where your potential readers are.

Then, with Facebook, BookBub, blogs, and any advertising you do… lead with genre. Stick to genre. Make your ad look and feel like your genre. Make your website and blog embody your genre. You’ve worked hard and aspired to be this type of writer: now is the time to own it.


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    • I suspect the reason reviews are emphasized is because they result in actual sales. By the time I read the reviews, I’m ready to buy.

  1. I think a lot of folks who still shop in person read the first page or pages to see how the story moves in their choice of genre.


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