Last week on Twitter there was a very interesting discussion on #yalitchat about what draws a teen to pick up a book from a shelf. There was general consensus that the biggest influencer on teen reading was word of mouth. Of course teens listen and watch what their friends are reading - just like adults do. Reviews don't seem to be as big an influencer (whereas that enters into adult book choices much more. Not saying they don't help make a decision but I'm talking more about impulse buys.
My personal belief is that Covers and Titles are the biggest influencers for teens. As I have my very own little test group at home (i.e. a teen daughter) I thought I'd find out straight from the horse's mouth what influences her to get a book (forgive me for comparing my DD to a horse - she looks nothing like a horse. She's quite lovely actually. Not that horses aren't lovely too. And where did that weird saying come from anyway? Must research and do a blog post about weird sayings another time. Sorry. I digress.)So the next time Daughter Two and I were in a bookstore and she was picking up a couple of books for her collection I asked her why she chose those particular books.
One book, The Clearing by Heather Davis, she said she picked up first for the pretty colour of the green on the cover (she's into colour choices now since she has to pick one for her room walls) and that it drew her eye. The title was interesting (what happened in The Clearing?) and then the back cover blurb intrigued her because it was a bit of a time travel love story. So all three of these things drew her in but the most prominent was the cover.
The second book she got was Looking for Alaska by John Green. This was strictly a choice based on a friend of hers having read it and recommending it.
The third book was Whip It by Shauna Cross. Again the image on the cover drew her in but then she remembered that a movie was made of it and she heard the movie was good so she wanted to see what the book was like.
I also remember when I brought home Across the Universe by Beth Revis (which I purchased because of all the positive reviews I'd been reading) and Daughter Two's reaction was "Oh, I wanted to check that one out because the cover was so pretty."
Totally unscientific but it supported my belief that Covers are probably one of the biggest influencers for a teen who doesn't have a preconceived notion of what she/he wants to read when she walks into a book store. That cover may hook them but the back cover blurb might keep them hooked. Then they might check out the first page or two (at least that's what I've always counselled my kids to do if they're about to spend some hard earned cash on a book). I don't always check out the first page if a book has received fantabulous reviews but if I know nothing of the book besides what's written on the back or inside flap then I will check out the writing.
But what about the title, you ask? I always thought it was one of the things that hooked a potential teen reader more than anything. I still believe that though I have no scientific proof (or unscientific because Daughter Two only peripherally acknowledged that a title helped her in selecting her books). I know ILLEGALLY BLONDE was a title that got attention from agents and editors but have no idea if it hooks a teen reader. I do think the cover draws the eye and am hopeful that a teen will pick it up because of that and read the back cover blurb etc.
I know publishers spend a lot of time and money on getting the right cover so there must be more scientific data that confirms all the expense that goes into either getting the right stock photography, or hiring an artist or photographer to create original artwork. I wonder also, with the proliferation of e-books whether the same sensibilities will happen when browsing through e-books? My brother, not a teen mind you, but an avid iPad book user says his main determinant for buying an ebook now is the free chapter download and not cover or blurb. So the first chapter will become even more important than it already is I guess. But will teens buy e-books in the same way? Or will they browse through the covers and download the most evocative covers for them?
What do you think? Covers, title, blurb or all three?