Taking that a step further, you should also analyze what works ON you.
The last few days we've been talking about advertising. I don't believe print ads work. I'm in the minority here, considering advertising is a 200 billion dollar a year business.
I base my opinion on a simple fact: I've never bought a book based on a print ad. Or a radio or TV ad.
Then I decided to figure out why I do buy books. I read all of the mystery zines (and their ads) along with the NYTBR, among other publications. I also get a lot of books free.
I might not be the average consumer, because I spend a lot of time in bookstores, and because I'm in the business. But I am still a fan, and I still buy books, and something must influence by buying.
Here are the last ten books I've bought, how I heard of them, and what led me to buy them:
Hannibal Rising by Thomas Harris
How I heard about it: I read Red Dragon as a youngster, because my mother had a copy and said she liked it. I read Silence when it came out and I knew about it because it was reviewed in a magazine I read (a British zine called FEAR.) I knew about Hannibal because I'd been watching for it for 13 years. I knew about Hannibal Rising through Publisher's Lunch and PW Weekly, which I get in my email.
Why I bought it: I hated Hannibal, and hoped this one would be better.
Where I bought it: At Waldenbooks on the day it came out.
Mephisto Club by Tess Gerritsen
How I heard about it: After reading Silence of the Lambs, I picked up every book about serial killers that I saw. I found The Surgeon while browsing the mystery isle at my local bookstore. I was hook, and became a regular reader.
Why I bought it: Rizzoli and Isles haven't disappointed me yet, so I keep buying the books. Plus I owe Tess forever because she blurbed me. Plus I consider her a friend.
Where I bought it: At Waldenbooks the day it came out. I also bought a copy for my wife, since she didn't want to share my copy and read it second.
Dark Gold by David Angsten
How I heard about it: I moderated a panel at Midwest Lit Festival that David was on.
Why I bought it: I like underwater monster stories, and have since I read Jaws (which my mother recommended when I was young.) But the real reason I forked over the money was because David bought a copy of Rusty Nail first.
Where I bought it: At the Midwest Lit festival, at the after-party.
Marley & Me by John Grogan
How I heard about it: Seeing it on the new release table at a Borders I was signing at. Then I saw it mentioned in PW Weekly and PM.
Why I bought it: My wife is a professional pet sitter and loves dogs. Seemed like a good gift.
Where I bought it: The next bookstore I went to--I didn't make a special trip.
The 2007 Guinness Book of World Records
How I heard about it: I read these as a child. I found one in a thrift shop for a quarter. I saw the new edition at a bookstore on the front table.
Why I bought it: For my nine year old. I thought he'd like it as much as I did as a child.
Where I bought it: A Borders, during a drop in signing--an impulse buy.
Twelve Sharp by Janet Evanovich
How I heard about it: I knew Janet did a Plum book a year. I'd never read Evanovich before (even though people compared me to her) and I learned about the series through fans.
Why I bought it: I was invited to submit an essay to an upcoming book about Stephanie Plum, so I read the whole series, including this one.
Where I bought it: At Waldenbooks, the day it came out (the essay was due that week.)
Survivor by JF Gonzalez
How I heard about it: A bookseller told me about it.
Why I bought it: The same bookseller highly recommended it, saying he was more warped than I am.
Where I bought it: Directly from above mentioned bookseller.
Book of the Dead by Preston and Child
How I heard about it: I worked at Crown Books years ago, and we got an ARC of The Relic. I loved it, and handsold the hell out of that book. Have been a fan ever since. I knew about BOTD by keeping an eye on their website.
Why I bought it: Preston and Child have never disappointed.
Where I bought it: Barnes and Noble, the day it came out.
Paint Shop Pro 8 for Dummies
How I heard about it: Seeing it at Borders in the computer isle.
Why I bought it: I was specifically looking for a book about PSP8. I've been familiar with the Dummies books for years, having bought a few when I first got a computer. I like their layout. I compared several other books to this one before buying, but decided on this one after 20 minutes of browsing.
Where I bought it: I went to Borders for a PSP8 book, and left with one.
Rain Fall by Barry Eisler
How I heard about it: I met Barry at a convention years ago, and we became friends. I know his work well.
Why I bought it: I was out with a buddy, and I made him come into a bookstore with me so I could do a drop in signing. As I was leaving, I saw a Rain Fall hardcover in the bargain bin (sorry Barry!). I bought it and gave it to my friend, telling him it kicks ass.
Where I bought it: The store I signed at. It was an impulse gift.
Three of these purchases were series I already follow.
One was work-related.
Two were gifts of books I've read before.
One was a gift that related to my wife's job.
One was a bookseller recommendation.
One was because I met the author.
One was because I needed a PSP manual.
None were because I saw ads. And since I read Mystery Scene, Deadly Pleasures, EQMM, AHMM, Crimespree, PW, Library Journal, BookPage, Kirkus, and the NYTBR, I see PLENTY of ads. I also see them in conference booklets, and I went to many cons this year.
Now perhaps I'm an atypical book buyer. But as I've said many times before, I do what works for me and on me.
I've bought dozens of books because I've met the author, and dozens more because booksellers or friends recommended them. Many of the books I buy are books I buy intentionally--I go to the store for a specific title. I've bought books in the past by browsing, and I've bought books as gifts and as impulse purchases.
But I've never bought a book, or even been made aware of a book, from a print ad.
As I've mentioned in the threads: ads that announce a book to an already established readership do work, even though they aren't the most cost-effective form of announcing (hell, any fan of Evanovich or Preston and Child or Gerritsen knows to watch their websites and Amazon for release dates or go to the bookstore and ask "When's the next one coming out?")
I've also mentioned that simply being aware of an author's name doesn't mean much. I know hundreds of author's names. That doesn't mean I buy their books.
But that's me. How about you?
List the last few books you've bought, and how you heard of them. Tell me if print ads for books played a part.
What made you aware of a book, and then what made you buy it? Did you make a special trip to the store? Did you use Amazon? Was it an impulse purchase? A gift? A recommendation? Did you know of the author beforehand?
Spill. Show me why you buy.