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Most writers and authors also buy a lot of books. I certainly do, and you probably do too. So what makes you buy a book?
I buy books primarily based on the following:
- Recommendations from others mostly found on blogs I read and twitter
- Browsing the Amazon Kindle store in the categories I read, as well as how Amazon uses suggestions on other books I have read. I download lots of samples and then buy the books that take my fancy.
- Browsing physical book stores, although now I note down titles and then go buy them on my Kindle as they are 1/4 of the price of the physical book
I definitely do not buy books based on the publisher. In fact, most of the time I wouldn't know who the publisher was anyway and in a brief survey of other book buyers they have a similar experience. This raises a couple of very important questions for authors and writers, and perhaps publishers as well.
- If book buyers don't care who the publisher is, why is there a stigma to being self-published? (it's changing but it is still there). If you have a professionally edited and interesting book, with an eye-catching cover, buyers will not know the difference anyway. I have the same Amazon shelf-space as any other books. What do you think?
- If book buyers don't care who the publisher is, why do authors care so much? Do we all want a 10 book deal with Harper Collins because it means more physical distribution to bookstores, potentially world rights and more publicity budget? and is that scenario very likely for most authors. I don't think so. The reason must be ego and I will freely admit to being one of those authors! I would love a 10 book deal with Harper Collins! But I know that I will still need to do my own publicity and marketing, and I may well make less money than digital publishing. It is important to identify the why behind what you want for your book and your career as an author. Why do you care who publishes you?
- If book buyers don't care who the publisher is, whose brand is associated with the book? In A brilliant audio to the indie publishing industry a few weeks ago, Seth Godin challenged the audience on brand. He basically said that publishers should be aligning with audiences and brands and become the “go-to” publisher for that audience e.g. be the publisher for civil war books, or for coeliac disease sufferers. I can think of a couple of publishers who have this right at the moment. O'Reilly Books is for tech books, and Harlequin is for romance, but do the readers go there to spend money? I find branding to be a fascinating topic for authors and the publishing industry and right now, you need to consider your branding in a very crowded marketplace.
[Update: This piece was written a week ago, but I just saw the interview with Mark Coker from Smashwords where he says the same thing:
“Readers typically don’t pay attention to the name of the publisher on the spine of the book. They pay attention to the author and the story.”
Do you buy books based on a publisher? and do you care who publishes your book?