A NOVEL APPROACH
Have you ever watched a customer browsing the novel section in a bookstore? It's interesting, to say the least. I do it all the time because the author in me wants to know what makes a person want to a particular book?
As for me, I have two approaches. The first is the easiest and has to do with the author's name. There are a handful of authors whose books are automatically put on my must buy list simply because they have proven themselves to me. I've read two or three of their books and they have convinced me that every book they write is worth my time. But my favorite authors don't write fast enough to keep me busy, so then I resort to the selection method.
I enter the novel section and browse the books that are face-out. Rarely do I look at the spine-out books and each time I pray my own books aren't tucked into the shelves, hidden from other novel browsers like me. (If I happen run across a friend's book who is spine out, I turn it face-out--hey, what are friends for?)
Next, I scan the covers for my favorite genre: women's fiction with a thread of romance. When I find one that fits the bill, I read the title and look at the author's name to see if she has disappointed me in the past. If not, I pick it up and read the back cover copy looking for something intriguing and unique. And romance. It must have romance.
If the book still has my interest, I open the book, not necessarily to page one--I know the effort authors make on page one. I'm more interested if they can make page 127 good. One of the primary things I look for inside the book is short paragraphs and white space (dialogue). I HATE long chunky paragraphs of introspection and description. Even if the book has all the other elements going for it (cover, title, author, cover copy), I'll put it down quicker than a golf club on a stormy day if there's no white space. If, on the other hand, the book has passed each of these tests, I very happily take it to the counter to purchase it.
So, that's my method. What's yours? What's most important to you when you're selecting a novel? The author's name? The genre? The cover copy? Inquiring authors want to know.