When I reach a page on Amazon, I check for a digital version. I don’t have room for physical books anymore.
From there, here’s my approximate order of importance:
1. Is the cover good?
If an author doesn’t have a good book cover, it seems careless. And if you’re careless with the outside of your book, what does that say about the inside? A cover is the thing that grabs customers first, because humans are visual and emotional in nature. A great cover means more than a fancy title. Although to be fair, if your title is laughable or nonsensical, I won’t want to read it either. A title like “The Princely Unicorn Known As Mister Glitter Investigates A Crime” does not work for a horror novella. It has to make sense. Likewise, the cover has to make sense and speak to its genre(s).
2. What are the genres?
Basically I look to see that the book isn’t romance or erotica. A book cover doesn’t always mirror the content so I scroll down. Some of you are a lot more picky with genre. I tend to get behind hard science fiction, gothic horror, and high/low fantasy.
3. What does the sample tell us?
The sample needs to show good writing with adequate description. Nothing too flowery, nothing too bland. At the least, there needs to be professional-looking editing and formatting. It doesn’t have to actually be put together by a team of professionals. Just something that isn’t typd leik thiz. Samples are important. If you have errors and typos, I’ll go elsewhere without a second thought. I’ll only stomach them if I know the author.
4. What do the reviews say?
Good reviews are important, sure. But average/bad reviews can still show that the story holds promise. Some interesting stories don’t get great reviews, and resonate with a small group of fans. Some terrible stories get incredible reviews and have raving fans. Reviews are also subjective as all hell and need to be taken with grains of salt. Still, they often have common threads and compare the book to similar books. Skimming reviews can give you a decent idea of what to expect. Even then, I’ll take a chance on a book if I like the sample enough.
5. Is the price reasonable?
I’m looking at you, major publishers. Penguin and Random House, there is no reason whatsoever to price your ebook at $13-15 when the paperback is under $10. This is one reason why the self-publishing market is booming. Authors can price their work under $5 and people see that as a great deal. And it is. Do you want a 300-page novel for $15, or three 500-page novels that are $5 each?
6. Is the book description silly?
We’re not all looking for a book that’s original or the next big hit. We want a story that’s going to keep our interest and entertain us. Book descriptions are a shorter version of what we should see in the sample. I don’t want another copy-and-paste YA plot outline as a book description (or even something worse). Not unless I know the author, or can expect some twists.
#6 on this list is the most subjective: some people would swap it with #3 (what the sample says). A lot of people see the cover, read the description, check the reviews, then make a decision on whether or not to buy. I look at the cover, double-check the genre, skim the sample, then look at the reviews and price. The biggest common element is the cover. Your book cover has to be good. If not good, then at least passable.