How many times do you hear about a book before reading or buying it?


These days, many of us are bombarded with multiple conflicting messages. Buy this product! Try this treatment! Save your money! Go on vacation! The more this happens, the more I find myself retreating into my bubble, but even that space can be overloaded with calls to action. Of New York Times From bestsellers to on-screen book adaptations, the number of books rented each year can be overwhelming. We can be overloaded with information about a book and have trouble discovering lesser-known titles. This is even more true for those who are not in the world of books or who do not read books very often. Anyway, with the amount of marketing that goes out for each of these books, I question their effectiveness. That is… are we more likely to buy a book that we are more aware of?

In general, many of us could say yes. After all, we can’t read a book or buy it if we’ve never heard of it. BUT is there a special marketing recipe to make a book more attractive? Is there a certain number of times a person hears about a book that would lead them to read it? Is there a magic number? This brings me to today’s question. How many times do you hear about a book before reading or buying it?

Read vs Buy

There are many reasons to read or buy a book. On first thought, it might seem that reading and buying books might be interchangeable. However, my reasons for reading a book and buying it are different. For many like me, we love owning books we already love. It’s rare that we buy a new book because we don’t know yet if we like it. In the same way, there are different things we think about before deciding to read a book. Will it have the same tropes that I love? Will the plot interest me? There are many motivations for reading a book, but is there one major factor that determines the likelihood of reading a book and buying it? Are our reading and buying habits affected by how often we read a particular book? That’s what I want to explore!

Reasons to buy books: 2017 survey

My preliminary research on the subject did not yield many results. There have been studies on the factors that make us more likely to choose a particular book, but they don’t really include the frequency of exposure to a book. In 2017, writer and traveler Gigi Griffis created a survey to explore the motivations behind readers’ book buying habits. Based on her results, she found that 82% of the 355 readers in her survey buy a book because it’s by an author they already like, while nearly 77% buy books because a friend suggested it. Additionally, before purchasing, around 82% said they read the back cover while 56% spent time reading the reviews. With that in mind, she also thought about why readers would buy a book instead of borrowing it from the library. Nearly 47% of readers said they want to support an author they like while around 45% buy a book because they want to read it again. About 35% will buy the book because the library doesn’t have it.

These results provide information about reading and buying habits, but none of these questions specifically address how the number of times we hear about a book may affect our reading or buying habits. . For this reason, I took a look at Reddit to better understand how familiarity with a book can affect the likelihood of reading it.

Prior knowledge of the book before reading: Reddit

The most relevant Reddit thread I found was this one asking what people knew about a book before reading it. Some responses listed Goodreads as a go-to source of information, along with lists of trusted books. Other respondents noted that they only read the blurb of the book. At the same time, depending on the genre, some readers wanted a bit of background information before diving into historical fiction. A good number of people said they wanted to know as little as possible. For this reason, they focus on getting familiar with the plot, finding the author, or recommending a friend. Others wanted to know the tone and type of entertainment it would provide. A few others turned to reviews or the book cover to inform their decision. With that in mind, I was curious if readers could figure out how many times they would need to hear about a book to make a decision to read it. That brings me to Book Rioter Contributors!

What are our Book Riot contributors saying?

In an informal poll, I asked my fellow Book Riot contributors for their thoughts. Because of our previous discussion about the difference between reading and buying a book, I asked them two questions. The first was “How many times do you hear about a book before you read it?” The second was “How often do you hear about a book before you buy it?” For both questions, I provided the same set of answers to choose from. These were: 1 time, 2 times, 3 times, 4 times, 5 times or more, and “it’s not about how many times I hear it/it’s something else”. For the last option, I asked for an explanation in the comments!

For the first question (How often do you hear about a book before reading it?), the majority of readers chose the last option. Instead of focusing on what they heard about a book, they are more concerned with what they hear about the book. They need to know the plot, characters, and alignment with their current reading to get them interested in a book. Interestingly, some noted that it wasn’t the number of times they heard about a book, but rather whether there was a particular item that piqued their interest. This can happen right away or over time. With that in mind, the second most popular answer was “1 time”. This surprised me until I got a little more information about this decision. For some of these readers, hearing about a book once from a trusted source is enough to entice them to read it. At the same time, these readers must hear about a book several times before reading it if it comes from a less reliable source.

One of Book Riot’s contributors, Susie Dumond, explained her take:

“It doesn’t take much to get me to read a book by an author I’ve read and loved before. Assuming it’s a book by an author I haven’t read before, it always depends on who I hear it… If it’s a few hikes on Goodreads or bookstagram, it’ll probably take 5+ . If two Book Riot contributors say it’s awesome, I’m in. It takes at least a dozen mentions by friends who don’t really read much for me to be intrigued.

Going to the second question brings similar results. When asked how many times someone needs to hear about a book before buying it, the majority said it’s not about the number. Although they chose the same answer, their explanation was a little different. A few wrote that they were buying to support certain presses, bookstores and authors. Others buy primarily because they like owning a book they already like or want more books from my favorite author. Some of the other reasons coincide with the first question in which readers depend more on who they hear about the book and what they hear about it than how many times.

Annika Barranti Klein, another Book Riot contributor, explained her motivations:

“Most of the time, I only buy a book if I know the author personally, like all of his other books a lot, or if I’ve read that particular book before and liked it.”

Reading the habits of other readers, I found myself in many of their answers. I’m usually drawn to a book because the book matches my current tastes or is recommended by someone with the same tastes as me. I often buy a beloved book to display on my shelf. My other motivation is to support an author or for convenience. There are plenty of books that I’ve heard of countless times and been recommended to me, but I’ll probably never read them. Why? None of these sources suit my tastes. Celebrity book club and booktok recommenders might sing a book’s praises, but that doesn’t mean I would read it. It would only get me to check it out, but whether I read it depends on my impression of the book.

Where does that leave us?

From my preliminary research to conversations with other readers, it’s clear that this prima facie question doesn’t necessarily take into account readers’ motivations for reading and buying a book. Rather than focusing on the number of times someone hears about a book, it would be more beneficial to consider what is said and who says it. The more a book is discussed, the more the interest increases, but the incentive to read it depends on what is presented about the book and how that interacts with the interests of the reader. Instead of asking how many times we need to hear about a book to read it, it might be more fruitful to explore what factors contribute to the decision to read a book. For example, are readers more concerned with the author of a book? What about the plot or the characters? Better yet, what is the major factor that determines whether someone reads a book or not?

There is so much more to learn about the motivations for reading a book and buying it. We are just flipping through the first few pages.

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