As you probably know by now, I love doing polls in my reader group. I learn tons about my readers and their preferences, but also about trends in the MM romance market and more. My last question to them was this: what makes you buy or download a book?
Note that we’re not talking about actually reading a book here, since the motivation to buy can be different from the motivation to decide to read something right now. But I was curious what makes readers decide to buy a book on Amazon (or download it through KU, which is the same process for me).
Reasons to Buy/Download
Here are the most important reasons readers stated for deciding to buy or download an MM romance (readers could choose multiple answers):
- Author I love (460 votes)
- Blurb looks interesting (367 votes)
- Price: discounted or free (274 votes)
- Recommendation from someone I trust (223 votes)
- Trope I really love (208 votes)
- Cover appeals to me (141 votes)
- Reviews (90 votes)
- Available on Kindle Unlimited (83 votes)
- Liked the sample (61 votes)
I think it’s clear that the most important reason for a buy/download is that it’s an author the reader knows and loves. This, of course, is somewhat discouraging for newer authors who don’t have that name appeal yet. But: the blurb is a good second, showing how important it is to get that right. Price can definitely help (see also a comment below), but word-of-mouth plays a crucial role as well.
This shows that for instance ARCs can help lesser known authors in getting the word out about their book, because if those advanced readers love the book, they’ll start recommending it to others. That’s how I got started as well, by handing out tons of ARCs and hoping for people to spread the love, which they did.
Readers also left some interesting and insightful comments on this poll, and I want to share a few because they highlight more key aspects for authors to keep in mind.
Someone wrote this about reviews, which can be encouraging for authors with some one and two star reviews: “I tend to look at the negative reviews on Amazon. I like my books explicit and exciting and it seems like someone is always giving a negative reviews for that. So unless it’s an author I already love. I look at the negative reviews for what I want in the book.”
This comment about whether price factors in was insightful as well: “So I feel like I should clarify that the price being discounted or free is really only a factor if it’s a new to me author. Cause let’s face it most of my authors are usually 5 dollars or less. And that’s fine. (…) The price isn’t a big deal to me if I know the author is worth it.”
And another comment I wanted to share was this one, because it shows how important a blurb is…but in relation to the cover: “The cover one is an interesting choice because it’s what will draw me at first (thanks to the wonders of marketing, haha). But, it is never enough. If the blurb is not appealing, i will never get the book. But on the contrary, if the cover doesn’t speak to me, I will not read the blurb and thus not buy the book. So both go hand in hand.”
I think the most important takeaway for authors is this: make sure your cover is appealing enough to draw readers in and then reel them in with a kick ass blurb. But: they need to fit the book. Any dissonance in the sample or reviews may cause readers not to buy after all.
And for newer authors: covers and blurbs first and foremost, but don’t underestimate the power of a good sale and of handing out ARCs to get word of mouth recommendations from readers (as well as enough reviews to help others make an informed decision).
And don’t worry too much about negative reviews. Yes, they suck, but mostly for your ego. A few will not hurt your sales, on the contrary. It will make the reviews look realistic and sometimes, what turns off some readers will cause others to buy your books.