There is much debate about what it takes to sell a book. As authors, the burden of marketing usually falls on us (unless you're James Patterson or Norah Roberts who have insane amounts of publicity money). So what does it take? Print advertising? Book signings? Many authors blog about the best ways to market a book, but since I've yet to publish a novel, I'm going to take it from the perspective of a book buyer. What makes me buy a book?
1) Plot. Ultimately, if a book doesn't sound interesting I'm not going to buy it. With the review books it's different; I give most books a chance even if they are different from my usual taste. But when I'm shelling out ten bucks, I want to make sure the book I'm buying sounds interesting. I always read the back cover and usually the first chapter. If it catches my interest, I'll put it in my cart.
2)Word of Mouth If someone I trust tells me that a book is amazing, I'll go looking for it. If I read a review or an article and the book sounds interesting, I'll usually pick it up. Again, it comes back to plot. It could be an excellent book, but if it's just not my thing, I may not invest.
3) Appearances This weekend I met Tom Schreck whose novel was just released with Midnight Ink. My first introduction was when he handed me a beer cozy with his book cover on it. Now, that beer cozy alone would not have made me buy the book. But we got to talking and he's a nice guy and his book, the story of a part time boxer part time social worker, sounded interesting. When I meet authors face to face and they talk to me about their work, it usually leads me to bookstores looking for their novels. Panels and book signings alone may not do it, but if we have a drink afterwards and make that face-to-face connection, it helps a lot more.
4) Scandal Now this may be harder to concoct, but if you're book is causing controversy, I'm going to read it. Maybe it's just me. When Ken Bruen told me that there was a push to ban his book, immediately I wanted to read it. When Oprah dissed James Frey and all the controversy arose, I wanted to be in the know, so I read Million Little Pieces. This point may not be as helpful to most authors, but I felt I had to include it. Scandal sells books, and if you're writing on a controversial subject, chances are, I'm going to pick it up.
Things like cover art and publisher may come into play a bit, but they're not deal breakers. Although word of mouth and author appearances play a large role in introducing me to the books that are available, ultimately it has to be an interesting story. Your first job is to write the best, most interesting book you can. Then, when it comes to marketing, get out there, meet and greet, cause a buzz and if you can, get your book banned!