by Hank Phillippi Ryan

It’s all part of being a career author: selling your book to readers. Yes, I said it.  Selling.  You worry, and write, and fret and write some more. You edit edit edit, and edit again, and polish, and hurray, you finish. And bigger hurray, your book is going to be published! And then begins the rest of the journey.

Why would a reader choose to buy your book?

Here’s a secret. I promise you this is true. There is no “thing” that the “insiders” know that if only you knew, you would be a success, too. Every single author is going one step at a time, one day at a time, understanding that luck and timing and preparation and most of all having the best book you can possibly write all come into play.

But there’s your book in the bookstore or on line. And there’s your prospective reader, deciding. How can you clinch the deal?

Now I know, and you know, the answer. Word of mouth. Absolutely. But it is the answer that instantly raises another question: how do you get word of mouth?

If you get a blurb from an author in the stratosphere? Does that matter? If the trades, Publishers Weekly and Kirkus,  love you, does that matter? Can your cover make or break your book?

It’s a most mystical question, so I asked a very wise Facebook group. (And very important to remember that as you read–it was asked in a Facebook group, so that shows you the voting pool. Next time I’ll ask on Instagram and Twitter!)

My VOX POP question: What makes you interested in a book?

I know that the number one answer is “My best pal told me she/he loved it.” But other than that, here are some choices.

Which would be most compelling to you?

1.  The highly-anticipated trade reviews like Publishers Weekly
2.  Kind words from an author I love–blurbs
3.  People on Facebook and Insta seem to like it
4.  The cover
5. Something else, Hank, And it is:

And here are the answers, word for word. They are edited only to organize.

The cover

The cover! Oh and synopsis on the back cover. I’ll admit I’m a cover judger. Lol.

if I see a book in person and the cover grabs me, I will pick it up! Love a good cover!

The cover and the tag line. That’s where I usually look first.

The tag line and cover is what attracts me.

If I am in the library or a bookstore, the cover and book summary as well as the genre will draw me in.

A cover can definitely sway me.

Years ago, when I would be in a book store – where I often spent evenings – it was the book cover that would draw me in to look at the back cover. If I was in a B&N, often I would pick up 4 or 5 different books, go get a coffee and read some of each book.

When I see a book cover and I read what it is about and I like it, I will definitely add it to my TBR list.


For me, word of mouth from friends who usually have same taste in books, reading the book synopsis on books and from Facebook groups with similar interests.

Facebook groups. These groups have opened up my interest in diverse genres of books.

I belong to a number of Facebook book groups and those (and my in person book club) have become my primary sources for book recommendations.

The author takeovers in FB groups and learning the background to the book.

I belong to a lot of Facebook reading groups and follow a lot of book people on Instagram- and if I see a lot of chatter about a book I will add it to my list!

I also love to hear about it on First Chapter Fun, I love it when a chapter is read from a book, now that’s when I really get hooked, the first chapter in the book gets me.

I’d say 2 or 3 of my friends are taking about a book, I’m likely to check it out.

If I see something on FB or in a newsletter I’ll click through to Goodreads and see if that description sounds intriguing, and if anyone I know has added it to their TBR.


I don’t get magazines /print media the way I used to so I am not looking at NY Review of Books or other book reviews.

I’m a librarian, so exposed to a lot of pre-pub reviews!

I do not read book reviews because I have read some that spoil the story. One even revealed who the surprise killer was.

I feel like I get the most honest reviews from places like PW.

I’m a librarian, and Booklist and Library Journal reviews get more traction than PW.

Different ways – Washington Post reviews, Top books of the year, friend recommends – often on Goodreads.

The Authors

If I know the writer is a good, caring person, especially since the pandemic hit. I’m reading/listening to four books now, and two are books I wouldn’t have chosen because they aren’t in my area of interest if I hadn’t heard the authors in conversation.

Author programs like The Back Room and Friends and Fiction and author posts

If I have read and loved books from an author previously, then I am interested in future ones.

What makes me interested in a book is I have read the author before.

Authors whose books I like to read.


Kind words from an author I love…it makes me think they wouldn’t endorse them if it wasn’t up to their quality.

The words of a very kind and thoughtful author.

I also read the blurbs.

If an author I like recommends a book, I go for it.

My favorite, since it cannot be matched or duplicated, and only proves that you never know:

“The first time I bought one of your books, I saw your picture on the back and didn’t read it, just grabbed it. I thought that it was about Stevie Nicks. The resemblance in uncanny! I was disappointed that it wasn’t about Stevie Nicks but got over it when I read the incredible book! I can’t remember which one it was but I have added several since then and can’t wait for this one, too.”

(Got to love it. Thank you! I must admit I was taken by, taken by surprise at this!)

So, I was hoping, I really was, for the slam dunk out of the ballpark clincher answer.
And, clearly, there isn’t one. Or there are many.  Is that the good news, or the bad news? But it’s truly fascinating to see what these wise readers had to say.

What do you think of this VOX POP?  What do you take from it? And, career authors, what are you going to do–if anything–about it? Let’s talk about it on the Career Authors Facebook page. And then, get writing!