Being a lover of a good fantasy novel, I look for an escape from this world. But if it were that simple I wouldn't have such a hard time finding something to read. I visited my local Barnes & Noble store to look for a new book to read. I perused the shelves of fantasy thoroughly, then went back and did it again. Empty handed and desperate, I was left wondering what exactly I was looking for in a book. It occured to me that if I could answer this question I'd have an insight into what other readers of my genre are looking for.
I must admit, the cover is the first thing to draw me in. Yes, I'm ashamed of that, but alas, it's true. I'll pick up a book with a great cover almost every time. It doesn't even bother me if it's second in the series. The cover got me to pick it up so I'll put in the time to go back and look for the first book. Unfortunately out of the three second or third in a series books that I picked up, I couldn't find the first one in any of the series in the store! Being a budding author myself, I love debut authors and I'll pick up their book every time if it indicates that on the cover. I kind of doubt those who don't write do this though.
Beyond debut authors and great covers, what was I looking for? Well, I knew what I wasn't looking for that was for sure. War epics, stories of Gods, or anything steeped too much in court intrigue are immediate turn offs for me. Not to say that I wouldn't or haven't read these kinds of books, I have, and some of them are on my shelf of favorites (Starman, Dune, Shogun). But, they're not what I'm into right now. I found myself picking up a lot of covers with chicks with swords on them. There is little more I love than a strong female protagonist. Go girl power! But, and it's a BIG but, I'm sick of demon hunters, half vampires, or other Buffy knockoffs. Again, don't get me wrong, I'm a Joss Whedon worshiper and was crushed when Buffy was finally canceled, but I wanted something different! Alas, I reverted to the classics and walked out of the bookstore with an anthology of Edgar Allen Poe's work.
Did I discover anything about what readers want? Well, I'm a reader and I know I wanted something different than what I found on the shelves. Something with adventure, swords & sorcery, strong female protagonists, but please don't spare the testosterone (I love a man with a sword!), and free of the drama that plagues my everyday life. That I didn't find it doesn't discourage me. Perhaps that means the next great thing is just around the corner, perhaps it will emerge from my own keyboard, perhaps yours. Who knows. . .
So what do you look for in a book?