You’re at your local bookstore, browsing the shelves, when something catches your eye. Whether it’s an interesting cover or an intriguing blurb or a fantastic review, it’s an unexpected “something” that impels you to buy that particular book. Being an impulsive shopper, it happens to me all the time and I’ve ended up discovering some wonderful authors this way. I picked up the first book of Joe Abercrombie’s First Law series (The Blade Itself (The First Law: Book One) because I thought it had a great cover. I’ve since read all five of Joe’s books (and his short story in the Lou Anders/Jonathan Strahan Swords & Dark Magic compilation: Swords & Dark Magic: The New Sword and Sorcery) and am anxiously awaiting the release of his sixth: Red Country. I bought The Empire of Ice Cream (The Empire of Ice Cream), Jeffrey Ford’s brilliant collection of fantastic fiction, because I liked the title. I’ve since read nine of his books (still on the hunt for his first, Vanitas), and am eagerly awaiting the release of his upcoming collection of short fiction (Crackpot Palace: Stories). John Scalzi, George R. R. Martin, Iain M. Banks, Alastair Reynolds and many more – all discovered as a result of some spontaneous response to (let’s face it) a brilliant bit of marketing.
Of course, it’s a double-edged sword. A selling point that may convince one person to pick up a title could well convince another to give it a pass. I was thinking about this today while perusing the New Arrivals section of my favorite book shop on the way to coming up with my list of the Top 10 things most likely to turn me off a book purchase. Not always, but more often than not. In no particular order:
1. Unicorns, women in 80’s hairdos wearing flowing low-cut robes, muscular shirtless men, garish colours. In short – a cheesy cover.
2. “An Oprah’s Book Club Selection”
3. Authors with a single name (the literary world equivalent of a Cher or Bono).
4. “From the mind of…”
5. Any staff recommendation.
6. “First book in the – – – trilogy!”
7. The appearance of the word “inspirational” on either the front cover, back cover, or anywhere within the inside jacket.
8. “Now A Major Motion Picture”
9. “Based on the Popular…”
10. “International Bestseller/National Bestseller/New York Times Best Selling Author”