Why Do We Buy the Books We Buy?

Last week the children’s author Anthony McGowan made a controversial statement when he tweeted that book blogging was a commercially pointless endeavour. He said that it doesn’t have a big impact on sales of books. Then a seminar at the London Bookfair agreed that with regards to book blogs it’s not about direct sales but about creating a buzz. I disagree, having consistent anecdotal evidence from my own experience and other bloggers that it does point to sales (although not huge…most children’s authors have never had huge sales). Of course it all depends on who is reading your blog. My blog is read mainly by parents, teachers, librarians and carers looking for book ideas.

But the controversy did make me question why I buy certain books and not others. And this is why

National Press Reviews: I avidly read several newspapers’ book sections each weekend. However, there are only certain reviewers with whom I tend to agree, so I take more notice of them. I also read reviews from national press online – when the links are tweeted into my timeline. Others may browse the bestseller lists for inspiration – this is not something I have ever done.

Book Displays in Bookshops: This is a lethal one. I’m often in independent and chain bookshops for work purposes and I find it tricky to leave empty-handed. Outward facing covers and display tables definitely pull me in, as do handwritten recommendations or personal recommendations from booksellers I know. Not everyone is lucky enough to have a good bookseller nearby though.

Author Loyalty: This is one of the strongest paths to purchase for me. If I liked a first book, even if not in a series, I will be far more likely to buy the next by the same author and so on. The more books I like, obviously, the more likely I am to buy another by the same author. Anecdotally, this seems to be key for many people. It doesn’t always follow – and sometimes you’ll come across a clanger, but generally this has worked for me.

Face-to-Face Recommendations: Certain friends of mine and family members share the same taste in books as myself – I will very often look up a book if they recommend it, and sometimes buy it too.

Bloggers/The twitterati: I follow a circle of bloggers/authors/booksellers on twitter and they do very often steer my reading purchases. In the same way as face-to-face recommendations, there are some whose taste I know I share. However, this community talks about a far bigger quantity and variety of books, and have great book knowledge. I think I’d be mad not to listen to them.

Price/Offers: I would never buy a book just because it’s on offer. Only very rarely will I ‘search’ for a third book if I’m already buying two and there’s a three for two offer. And yes, I ALSO use the library, but I have the book disease, whereby if I love a book I’d like to own it. Then I can recommend and loan it myself.

Search on a Topic: Very occasionally I’ll buy a book as a result of searching the topic online. For some of my writing I need to do quite extensive research, and then a search will bring back a book which I feel might be useful. Most people I know tend only to do this for their children’s non-fiction habits rather than for themselves.

Book Prizes: I do take note of which books win book prizes, especially The Booker and the Baileys Prize for adult purchases, and with children’s books, The Carnegie and the Kate Greenaway, The Guardian and Waterstones – as well as many other book prizes out there. However, more often than not I totally disagree with the winners!

Before I finish, a couple of points I must reiterate. Many of my readers have told me that they purchased a book as a result of reading about it here. In fact, more than one person has told me that I MAKE them spend money. Hey, it’s on children’s books – I’m not sorry about that! I must point out that I never recommend a book on my blog that I haven’t read myself, but do admit (and try and point out when) I have been given that book free from the publisher/publicist. I don’t only review books they send me, but often review my own purchased books. I never review/recommend something that I don’t like, even if the publisher has sent it to me for review.

To show you exactly, here are the last ten books I bought and why. This doesn’t include books I get for review, and I am not necessarily recommending these books as I haven’t yet read them all – they are my personal purchases:

  • Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill
    I bought this as a present for someone else as a result of my twitterati bloggers. It promises to be subversive, dark and different. Just right for the recipient!
  • A Placed Called Winter by Patrick Gale
    I bought this as a result of a combination of factors; national press reviews, huge twitter noise, having read previous Gale novels, a feeling of not wanting to miss out!
  • Hamish and the Worldstoppers by Danny Wallace
    Purchased at someone else’s book launch because a twitterati person told me it was hilarious, because I thought my children might like it, and because it has beautiful printing down the edges of the page! And because I thought my blog readers might like it.
  • History of a Suicide: My Sister’s Unfinished Life by Jill Bialosky
    Research for some writing I’m doing.
  • Family Life by Akhil Sharma solely because it won the Folio prize (and it sounded interesting)
  • The Oxford Companion to Children’s Literature, by Daniel Hahn.
    I think this is an obvious one – it’s my speciality – I’d look a bit daft if I ignored this.
  • Third Term at Tall Towers by Lou Kuenzler
    I’m not sure if this counts as it was bought with my daughter’s birthday money on her behalf, so because it doesn’t count
    7a) Where Bear? By Sophy Henn.
    Browsing in the bookshop. (Shh don’t tell anyone I was in one again!)
  • The Unluckiest Boy in the World by Andrew Norris
    Purchased on the back of a review by a fellow blogger. And I know the author to be a good one! I hope to review it for you.
  • The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro
    Author Loyalty.
  • Crow Road by Mary Lawson
    Author Loyalty

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