How Readers Discover Books

This is going to be one long post! I tried to organize the answers to my survey, “How Do You Discover Books” in a way that will be most useful, but, wow! I was overwhelmed, not by the number of people who responded to the survey—that was a respectable 213—but by organizing and reading the over 110 comments. The devil really is in these details.

First: This was an unscientific venture. I sent it to a mailing list of book clubs, writers and friends. I wrote a post with a link to the survey (that was open to the world) and asked friends to share that post, which I and others put on FB and Twitter—so most certainly this swayed the answers. But those who answered were, like me, readers to the core.

With those caveats:

Illustration 1: This chart shows how many times people responded to a category, as raw data.

Illustration 2: This chart shows which category was chosen as “most important.” Thus, “Newspaper reviews,” though not chosen as often as others (as seen above), when chosen, was most often picked as the “most important.”

Illustration 3: This is the same information as above, presented in a more colorful way. (I warn you, I am no statistician, so this data is probably more than just more colorful.)

Based on the above, and from the comments below, the take away for readers is: Wow, you (like me) search for books. We take it seriously, we use all methods available, and we work our love of books. My favorite idea came from a woman who wrote, “I follow authors, book blogs, magazines, and local bookstores for recommendations. Also, I check my library website and ask friends what they are reading. I also try and read the 1st and 69th page to see if the story catches me.”

I may never leave a bookstore or library again—now that I plan to try that idea.

The take away for authors? There’s lots of competition out there. They see the reviews (both in mainstream media and online), weigh them, and discuss books with their friends. They are very active on Goodreads and Facebook. The top “book contact” places mentioned in comments were: “author at 47;reviews at 20; “Facebook” at 17; “Goodreads” & “Amazon” at 14 each. Next were “bookstores” and “book groups” at 10 mentions each.

Bookstores and libraries are important, but authors can’t ignore Amazon. Both authors and bookstores could benefit from a sincere presence on Facebook, and Goodreads, and connections with book clubs.

I present the reader comments below, as written, and grouped as well as I could!

 Authors as Sources (and more)

“Hearing authors speak on NPR, podcasts, and on TV. If I’m intrigued by the story they’re describing, I’ll often get the book.”

 “I have several authors I follow and read everything they publish. I also find books through friends and family suggestions and if my favorite author suggests a book I will check it out and if I agree it sounds interesting I will buy it to read.”

“I usually select books because I have already read the author .... like you. I love your writing, so I look you up on the book web sites to see when you will be publishing. 🙂  Take care and I look very much forward to your newest book.”

“Of course, I have favorite authors whose new books I look forward to. Others that have been recommended to me by friends. Sometimes when I’m in a bookstore I will pick up a book whose cover I find compelling and it’s as easy as that. I always keep my ears and eyes open for an interesting read!”

Etsy PoetTrees

M.J. Rose posts recommendations on her Facebook page, and I end up buying and reading a good portion of what she recommends. (only specific author getting a mention by name)”

“Many times, the books I choose are based upon my favorite author’s recommendations. My book club is a source, and reviews on NPR also help me. I read about 4 books a week, so I read a few stinkers, and it always leaves me grumpy that I wasted my time! You are one of the authors I rely upon for good recommendations!”

“I often will read a book I have heard about when an author is being interviewed on the radio. Through work we often pass books around. Library Thing is my choice for book recommendations.”

“I follow authors who I have enjoyed. Often times favorite authors will mention a book that I saw in an email. This will lead me to look into the book further. I don’t rely on Goodreads or Amazon reviews because they can be all over the place. Several people may give five stars then others give two stars, then there are the people who give a star rating before reading the book.”

“I mostly discover the books I want to read by following authors whose books I enjoy. I also get recommendations from friends whose opinions I value especially for the book selection committee that I am part of for our Platina Book Club.”

“If I have read a book by an author and enjoyed, I try to see if they have other books and/or new books coming out.”

Amazon, Goodreads, Facebook (and more!)

“I practically live on Amazon and I also get book suggestions on Instagram. (Instagram got one mention).”

“Goodreads is my number one source for all things reading/books.”

“I prefer to read e books and rarely read the old-fashioned kind.”

“Facebook groups and Goodreads are the two most likely places for me to pick up suggested reads.”

“Once I hear about a book, I check it out on Amazon for reviews.”

Book Sculpture from Etsy

“I get book suggestions from Amazon and Instagram. I just adore reading. It’s that special something I do for myself to relax and recharge.”

“I belong to several Facebook book sites and get much of my information about new books from those sites. The most helpful sites for me are Great Thoughts, Great Readers and Readers Coffeehouse. These groups are made up of authors and readers and bloggers who love books and love talking about books.”

“I like to see what authors themselves are reading like on Goodreads or Great Thoughts Great Readers on FB. Many times, that has tipped a book onto my “to buy” list. If I like the same authors/prior books, I tend to trust an author more and try their book for the first time. And I like the recommendations. Once I have read a book I like by an author, I make sure I look for other books as they come out from that author on my own.”

“I also often find books not from Amazon reviews, but from recommendations it makes based on my buying and browsing.”

“Some of the above influences work in conjunction with one another. For example, if a friend recommends a book to me, I will typically look it up on Amazon to see what other readers thought of it. Also, another influence not listed above is if the book has received an award or recognition.”

“I am a member of the Pulpwood Queens Book Club, as well as Facebook reading groups – this is where I learn of most books, as well as Net Galley. I am an avid reader who reads many books from Net Galley & I love posting reviews on Goodreads and Amazon!”

“Just want to clarify for me that I don’t shop on Amazon but still do compare them as a medium when book shopping online. Also, since I’ve never been to a B&N, it’s Indigo Books where I read those reviews, and Kobo. Goodreads I find is more honest in their reviews though.”

 Reviews, reviews, reviews! (and more)

The BEST way that I discover books is by listening to radio interviews with authors and book reviewers. The interviews with authors give me a feel for the creator of a fiction or the personality/goals of the non-fiction author. Professional book reviewers have insights to authors, backgrounds, literary techniques, etc., that I love. CBC Radio’s Shelagh Rogers has a book talk show “The Next Chapter” that fills “the blood in my veins”. And she is a talented interviewer. “

“I read the Globe and NYT book reviews and they usually steer me in the right direction. And of course, if I like an author I’ll follow them to their next book!!”

“I discovered you (your books) through an article in a Danish magazine. Found your books in English and have read them all and am now happily waiting for your next book release.”

Oblong Books Rhinebeck with Linda Gutterman

“I usually browse through the library including the e-books on line.”

“Writing class, Pen New England, Mass Book Awards, Grub Street, the Sunday book section and of course my women’s group are my best sources! Good luck!”

“People magazine and my friends.”

“I use Goodreads and Librarything to catalog and review my books I read. I usually get book recommendations from Kirkus and Publishers weekly. And Shelf Awareness for my daily fix on new books! I love Lithub and The Millions also—they are an excellent point of reference.” 

Judging a Book by the Cover (and more!)

“Sometimes, especially at book sales, I do judge a book by its cover. Something floral, soft colors, a stack of books, or other images that catch my eye. Your Widow of Wall Street has me interested.”

“I like a book with an appealing cover!  I may read the cover to see if book sounds interesting.”

“I like to browse and read the back covers or book jackets to see if the story will hook me. The title is also a big draw.”

Mystical methods & love at first sight! (and more!)

“I see/touch a book at the bookstore. I walk around with it to see if it fits! I listen to friends and book club buddies who have earned my respect. But most of the time it is like love at first sight.

PS I am beginning to realize I am an addict for books – scary!”

“Book blogs give a lot of info and recommendations also. Often I just find a book that calls out to me, something about the cover or title intrigues me, most often lately it is other author’s recommendations.”

 Online Groups, Pinterest & Goodreads (and more)

“I love Goodreads but it has really made my to read list way too big! I just can’t read fast enough!”

“Facebook groups and Goodreads are the two most likely places for me to pick up suggested reads.”

“I watch for book lists on Pinterest. When you pin one or two, other book suggestions start popping up and I end up getting a lot of titles that way. I also have a lot of friends who are readers and we share titles of books we’ve recently read and enjoyed. A cool website I use occasionally is You type in the title of the book you’re reading and it gives suggestions of similar titles.”           |

Book Emails (and more)

“I receive a lot of different book emails. Often when a book is mentioned on one it is mentioned on others.”

“I get emails from abroad book sellers and various library publication e mails. Then I get the NYTimes daily and on Sunday and get book info there.”

“Shelf Awareness. Signature. Indie next list.”

Bookstores & Libraries (and more)

“I love to go to a bookstore and browse, I have always loved to read!!! Every summer my Mother made sure we visited the library, book mobiles and Scholastic ordering forms, she believed that education started with reading and she knew a good book could provide hours of entertainment!!!”

“I’m hands-on. I don’t like eBooks, either.”

“When I read a book I like, I search library resources to find more by the same author. But I love to have notices from the author when a new title is published. I know which of my friends and acquaintances are most apt to recommend a book I will love. Our book club always searches for new books. Many of our members look for magazine recommendations. I don’t use e-readers or audio books. I prefer to read REAL books.”

“Favored method: browse a good bookstore while my wife is shopping (which gives me a solid couple of hours) and make 3 lists: buy hardcopy, buy e-book, and borrow from library.”

“I browse library “new fiction” shelves at different libraries in my neighboring towns. Every library has a slightly different selection of authors. Also, use I used to shop Barnes & Noble and Borders, but all the shops near me closed.  Goodreads is a source too. I follow a lot of book reviewers.”

“I really like to see and flip through physical books before I buy them. (However, one author shared a segment of his writing in a Facebook medieval history group and I liked it so much I signed up for a free short story he offered on his website. After reading that, I was hooked and ordered his self-published book on Amazon.)”

Friends, Word of Mouth, Book Clubs (and oh those giveaways and more!)

First book party, with Diane Butkus & Susan Knight

“Word of Mouth and Book groups and Oprah Book Club are where I get most of my read suggestions.”

“I belong to a book club and get most recommendations from the group and friends in person or on line.”

“I prefer personal recommendations as you get true honesty.”

“I have found that books that get negative reviews or thumbs down......I LIKE. And some of those that are wildly popular are simply mediocre for me. Weird perhaps but true. I trust friends who know me and my taste.”

“My best source of info on good books comes from Book Movement, amazon, friends and relative’s recommendations as well as our book club members’ latest reads.”

“Word of mouth is the best. Also, I listen to a lot of books, so look to Audible and Overdrive. May be worth handing out free copies as the cost of PR. Facebook helps because it shows up a lot but I tend to ignore the same message over time. “

“I find a lot of books off lists various people have compiled. That might be considered word of mouth?      “

So Many Ways . . .

“I buy most of my books second hand because I write on them — I know, it is horrible, but I can’t live otherwise. Most often than not, I go out in an enormous motorized wheelchair, which makes it difficult to enjoy going around, looking randomly for books. I still brave certain bookstores, and go to some readings. Mostly, Rodney (central square), and the Harvard Bookstore.

I also dare look at the books monsters dare throw away. But mostly go on line.”

“Huge library patron and member of several Facebook reading groups who share book titles. Limited income prohibits the buying of new books. Love finding “treasures in garage sales and library used book sales.”

“I read everything. I prefer to check out my book friends and groups recommendations first and I also follow certain writers, such as yourself, where I know I will enjoy the book. I normally will check out the Strand for my Sherlock Holmes fix first then browse the bookstore or library shelves for whatever has my caught my interest on PBS. I am now reading about Queen Victoria. Her life fits my love of all things A.C. Doyle. Last year I read all the Miss Fisher mysteries. Attended BCon2016.”

“I look for new releases on my library website and also via Goodreads and Shelf Awareness. I also subscribe to most of the major publishing company newsletters so I keep abreast of all the new releases.”

“Book conferences and festivals have a huge influence on me (like BEA and BBF).”

“Publishers and author web sites very enjoyable & helpful! I love monthly publications like BookPage which I pick up @ our local library (give me suggestions that allow me to put books on hold in advance of others. fun to be the first reader!)”

“I’m hands-on. I don’t like eBooks, either.”

“One thing that I believe is true for many people (and definitely for me) is that many times it’s a combination of places. The more I see a book in various places the more likely I am to think it’s a book worth reading. If I see a book in magazines, then it pops up often in my Goodreads feed, then a friend raves about it, it’s usually the latter that seals the deal. And don’t include me in the drawing because I’m going to buy it.” **

** Gotta love that one, huh?

And the winner of the book giveaway for THE WIDOW OF WALL STREET has been notified.



This entry was posted in Book Clubs, Book Tour, Books, Writing and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  1. Posted March 18, 2017 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    Read and enjoyed your “Accidents of Marriage” while I was on my final edit of “Not Exactly Love,” a memoir of my marriage in the ’70s with domestic violence. I’d love to send you a book if you’d be interested. No strings attached!

  2. Posted March 21, 2017 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    Fascinating to see the high score weights of amazon/goodreads reviews verses newspaper reviews in book discovery, even though the newspaper reviews are considered “more important.”

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>