How Long Does It Take You To Decide? by James L. Rubart

You’re in a bookstore. A cover reaches out its hands and grabs you. (Yes, of course metaphorically, we’re not doing a Stephen King thing here.)

How long before you decide to buy it or put it down and keep looking? Before reading further, think about it. Got it?

Last week I was at the ACFW conference (American Christian Fiction Writers) and I bumped into my friend, literary agent Steve Laube. I commented on a long ago talk I heard him give where he demonstrated how long the typical shopper takes before deciding if a book is right for them or not. He said stats hadn’t changed.

The length of time frame surprised then (before I was published) and depresses me now.

Twenty. Not minutes. Seconds. That’s it. The average shopper looks at the front cover, turns it over and reads the back cover, then opens the book and read a few lines. That’s it.

Books we authors have taken sometimes years to write are given twenty seconds of consideration by the typical potential customer. That’s why the cover and back cover copy are so critical—cause people do judge a book by its cover.

How ‘bout you? How long do you take? And do you take longer when shopping on line?


About James L. Rubart

Husband, Dad, Author, Speaker
This entry was posted in Honored Alumni, James L. Rubart, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to How Long Does It Take You To Decide? by James L. Rubart

  1. Maureen Lang says:

    I’d say 20 seconds is about right! But when I’m in a book store, I’m already in the section that has narrowed down my possibilities (Inspirational or what some places call “Religious” for example). That helps. Most books have only their spine showing, so title is really important. Some say shorter titles are best, which makes sense, but if it’s written in a clear, easy to read font, is engaging or intriguing, I’ll probably pick it up. Some spines with a snapshot of the cover model work for me, since I like reading romance novels and that’s a good indicator for that kind of book.
    After that, the cover is probably the biggest draw or repel – if it’s dark and I’m not in a dark mood, I won’t even pick it up. For online shopping, if the cover looks amateurish, I’ll probably pass that over, too. Covers matter, even when I’m looking at a thumbnail size.
    Sometimes I don’t read the entire back cover copy, I just look for the gist of the story, mainly because I’m afraid it’ll give too much away. I like to pretend I’m an editor receiving a manuscript for the first time, with an entirely clean slate. Will this author “sell” me on the merits of their story? But I always, always, read the first few paragraphs on the first page to see if I like the writing. That’s the clincher for me!


  2. Vicki Hinze says:

    I meander. Tend to do my shopping online and I read the description, might read what others have to say.


    • Maureen Lang says:

      Vicki, you reminded me that when I’m shopping online, I do read the reviews – I expect a mix for a book that’s selling well (can’t please everybody!) but if the majority of reviews are pretty good, I feel confident that I’ll probably like it.


  3. Beth Goddard says:

    I’ve learned to read some of the bad reviews to see why they are giving the book low scores, then read the good reviews too. That gives me a better sense of whether or not I’d enjoy the book. Let’s face it, reviewers’ scores can be all over the place for reason that I don’t agree with. LOL

    But it’s definitely a little discouraging to think of how much time, blood, sweat and tears we put into writing books and then to be given such little attention! LOL But that is the way of it.



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