What Makes Readers Give an Unknown Author a Chance? #3chicksandsomebooks
It’s natural to gravitate to the familiar, and it’s proven that readers tend to buy books by authors whose prior novels they’ve enjoyed. We expect to like the author’s newest book. And we will, unless our expectation is disproven.
It’s the other way around for an unknown author with no “upfront credit.” For a familiar author, positive regard is already there, although it can be lost; for an unfamiliar author, positive regard has yet to be earned.
There’s a psychological term for this. It’s called priming. In the same way that priming a wall allows the paint to adhere, psychological priming sets us up to embrace and endorse whatever we’re predisposed to like. First articulated by Israeli psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tverksy in the 1970s, priming has been widely studied in areas of human behavior from shopping to voting.
In my own experience as a university professor, I remember that the highest predictor of how students rated an instructor was whether he or she was an instructor whose course they wanted to take in the first place. In other words, if they expected to like this instructor, they did. Human beings just love to be right.
Exposure also plays a role in shaping our selections. Seeing something “everywhere” brings a sense of familiarity, trust, and inevitability. It can be hard to resist feeling that “everyone” is reading a certain book right now, so it must be good.