The mystery of choice

So why do readers choose one book and not another? Unlocking that formula is a mystery that many authors – me included – would love to crack.

With a traditional ‘bricks & mortar’ bookshop there are many variables – cover, title, position in a display, shop lighting, staff recommendations… And that’s not even thinking about marketing.

So many cakes. Which one to choose?

So how does it work with e-publishing? As an author, I’ve not only got to create a story that is going to move, inspire or entertain my readers (hopefully all three), I’ve also got to persuade them to download my book.

On the face of it, the virtual ‘shop window’  would seem simpler. The title is obviously important, as is the cover image and the blurb that ‘sells’ my book. But what else? And how do I get it right?

I’ve previously used the option available through Amazon’s KDP to put my books on a free promotion every few months, getting anything between a few hundred and over a thousand copies downloaded.

Last month, though, I got a bit of a shock. I made my novel Thin Ice free for five days. About 250 copies were given away on However, my jaw fell when visitors to Amazon’s UK site downloaded nearly 6,500 copies.

For those few days, my novel was almost at the top of Amazon UK’s top 100 free books.

What I don’t understand is why? Obviously there’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation here. Once my book appears in the Top 100 more Kindle users are likely to see it (think it must be okay) and therefore download it. Also, the more copies you ‘sell’, the more your book features in the ‘people who bought this, also bought this’ panel on Amazon pages.

Last weekend, I put another novel – The Tale Of Findo Gaskon a free promotion… and had just under 500 copies downloaded. So what made readers choose one of my books and not the other? Is it the cover, the title, the blurb, the tags, the genre or what? Any answers gratefully received.


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