Please remember this is me analysing my instinctive reactions when glancing down a list of books, so it might not make complete sense.
I actually surprised myself, the first thing I look at is not the cover; it's the title. I thought it would be the art work that would grab my attention first, but turns out it's not. I'm not going to lie, I am a picky reader; I have very specific likes and dislikes and if something in the title puts me off I rarely even glance at the cover.
Titles are complex beasties, but here is what I gathered from making myself stop and think:
- Titles that say "Part 1" rather than "Book 1 of..." or "Volume 1 of..." make me less likely to click. "Part 1" makes me think the story will be incomplete, which, in most cases, is probably not true, but it's the conclusion I came to when analysing how my peculiar brain works.
- If the title is too long, it puts me off. I honestly can't figure out why, but for some reason a long title makes my eye slip on to the next book. However, if the title gives me nothing, i.e. it doesn't tell me something of what the book's about, I am less likely to click, so short can also be a problem. Of course a one word title can tell me a whole lot e.g. I'm much more likely to click on a book called "Cursed" than I am a book called "Kisses". The first screams paranormal at me and the second tells me nothing except there might be lip action.
If the title has my attention I turn to the cover. The book definitely gets bonus points if I can read the title from the small cover, but I realised this isn't a skip point for me. It helps, but it does not sell me the book.
Everyone I've ever talked to about books has always said the cover is incredibly important. It's the advertising for the book and I am clearly a typical customer, because, when I think about it, the cover can pique my curiosity or make me skip on. If the cover looks amateurish or does not fit the genre I am looking for I skip over it. It may be shallow, but it's what I do and I suspect it's what a lot of other people do whether they are aware of it or not.
If the cover gives me a hint about the subject matter of the book it also helps. A vampire with fangs on the front may be cliché, but I'm much more likely to look if my favourite genre is advertised right there in front of me.
Those are the two things that make me click the link.
The rating only comes into it if the book has an average rating of less than 3 stars, but it still doesn't stop me clicking on the link.
Next is the description, the equivalent of the book blurb on a paperback. I cannot stress how important this is. I may love the cover, I may think the title is brilliant, but if the blurb is badly put together, badly spelled or just not very informative I hit the back button. There was one book I looked at, the cover caught my eye, the title was fine, but the blurb consisted of six words that told me nothing. Click, back I went to find a title where the author could be bothered to tell me something about the book.
If it's a free book, I like the cover and I like the title, the book blurb isn't terrible and the rating is 3 stars or above, I'll download it. Simple as that. The best covers and the catchiest titles will get me first and I'll keep looking until I have enough to be going on with.
However, a 3 star rating is not a must. If the cover and the title look good (and they probably have to be a bit more special than high rated or unrated books) I will go check out a book with a lower rating, but what I do then, as well as reading the blurb, I go and see what the reviews had to say. Sometimes a book is trolled and people give it bad reviews for the hell of it and it's usually easy to tell when this has happened. This is why the rating is definitely not the first thing I look at, that and the fact that I have been disagreeing with reviewers for years and am unlikely to stop any time soon. When you're a fan of the vampire genre you take every review with a pinch of salt.
If I'm still not sure I take a look inside the book before I will click the buy link. The most annoying thing I have seen so far which put the author on the "never click again" list was a preview that consisted of the front cover and a paragraph with a web address. That is not a preview, that is what I can see on the main web page.
So, that is basically my decision process laid out. I am sure some people have other processes, but I suspect a great many do it the same way I do. Until I actually sat down and thought about it I honestly had no idea what my thought processes were, it was just like magic magnetism. I suspect my thought process for buying a book over a certain value will be different, but I haven't analysed that, so I'll let you know when I do.
I would be most interested to hear how other people go through the process.