My last post was about adjectives that turn me off books in promotional material, so this week I thought I’d turn it around and look at some common book-selling adjectives that might make me more likely to read a novel. Of course, no one word alone is going to sell me something, but there are a few that would help pique my interest if other signs are good.
I’ve ruled out obvious genre-markers like “fantasy” and “science fiction” (from the title of this blog it’s already pretty obvious I like those kinds of books), and narrowed it down to five that are most likely to catch my eye or appeal to my personal tastes:
1. Original / Inventive
I read a lot of speculative fiction, which means I’m always on the hunt for books that’ll give me the features I love, but also surprise me with ideas or situations or characters I haven’t encountered before. So that’s probably why a label of “highly original” or similar words like “inventive“, “creative“, “imaginative“, “unique” and “unusual” are more likely to catch my eye.
No book is going to ever be totally unlike anything else, and there are tropes I love no matter how often I see them, but books that combine typical elements in uncommon ways, or simply tell a story from a unique angle, appeal to me.
I like stories that entertain me, but I like them even more if they also show me a new way of looking at the world, or plant ideas in my head that have me mulling them over long after I’ve turned the last page. That’s why an adjective like “fascinating” or “thought-provoking” or even “clever” will grab me when applied to novels.
While it would work for any genre, I find “fascinating” particularly effective for science fiction. I want sci-fi stories that intrigue me, blow my mind, or leave me pondering the meaning of life and the universe (a small ask, I know 🙂 )
I’ve chosen this adjective because it implies I won’t want to put down the book, but also because it doesn’t project some of the empty marketing vibes I get from similar words like “page-turner” and “un-put-downable”.
I’m even more likely to be enticed by this descriptor if the book has a strong romantic element (e.g. if it’s an adult or YA fantasy romance), because I appreciate love stories that are full of tension and keep me hooked throughout the series.
I love books that surprise me with epic plot twists, grand reveals, and things I didn’t see coming, so “unpredictable” is probably the best adjective I can think of that suggests that quality.
Although they aren’t adjectives, other terms like “a roller coaster” and “full of twists and turns” appeal for the same reason.
Perhaps this is cheating since “debut” is sometimes used as an adjective (e.g. debut novel) and sometimes as a noun (e.g. stunning debut)… but I’m including it anyway!
I like that feeling of newness and discovery that comes with reading a new author, especially if there’s a sense they’ve wowed everyone with their first work. The word “debut” also so perfectly evokes that idea of a making a grand entrance (in the way something like “first novel” doesn’t).
Even if I’m approaching a well-established author’s work, I’m often curious to read the first book they got published. I suppose I like that feeling of starting at the beginning and seeing what launched their career or made them famous (though I know for some authors their later works are more popular).
So those are my top picks, but there were runners-up (e.g. in the right context I’m also partial to suspenseful, fast-paced, haunting, satisfying and vivid), and in general I like words that do a specific and accurate job of describing the kind of story I can expect.
Will I automatically buy an addictive, fascinating, unpredictable and highly original debut? Well, it still depends on the blurb and other factors… but my interest would certainly be piqued!
Do you agree or disagree with me on any of these? Or are there other book-selling adjectives that would make your personal favourites list? Feel free to share them in the comments.