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Reader's Advisory Training: Appeal Factors


Appeal factors help communicate exactly what a person liked (or disliked) about a particular book. Not every reader will use the same terms, but having an overall view of appeal helps us understand what the patron is looking for & translate it into other book suggestions. These are 8 commonly used appeal factors that describe different elements of a book that may affect a reader's enjoyment of a particular book.  All content is adapted from NoveList's RA Training Unit on Appeal Factors

Appeal Guide

Appeal Factors


  • The speed at which the book moves through the story and how the reader experiences that movement.
    • Both what it feels like to read the book and the rate at which the story unfolds.
  • Certain authors and genres are known for quick pacing
    • Thrillers, romance, adventure, etc.
  • Other writers and genres are known for a more leisurely pace
    • Fantasy, historical fiction, biographies
  • Faster paced books typically have
    • Lots of dialogue
    • Short chapters/paragraphs
    • Multiple points of view
    • Changing scenes
  • Leisurely paced books typically have
    • Longer chapters/paragraphs
    • More fact-based writing
    • Prolonged scenes


  • The types, numbers of characters, and how the reader interacts with them
  • Characters may be defined quickly & change little, others may grow & develop over course of story
  • Does the reader want to know exactly who's good & who's bad, or are they okay with ambiguity & uncertainty?
  • Do they want a book with a large cast of characters, or only a few?
  • What type of character is the reader in the mood for?.
  • Does the reader have to LIKE the character in order to enjoy the book?


  • Type of book, themes, subject, genre, story focus, & the way the story is created
  • Does NOT refer to plot, which are the specific events that take place within a book
    • EXAMPLE: Fans of the Da Vinci Code enjoy the book's blueprint -- the action adventure genre, the art history, religion, and mythic subjects, the cinematic feel, and the escape/quest theme. It is not simply the plot of a murder in the Louvre and an iconographer as hero that matters. Other books, such as Labyrinth by Kate Mosse and Relic by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child have similar blueprints but very different plots and still make for good appeal-based matches.


  • The style & craft of a particular author - can be difficult to define
  • Readers who read for language often can't read a book that they consider to be "poorly written" even if the story is engaging
  • Language & craft isn't always a factor for authors - some authors write as though they were "invisible" so that the reader focuses primarily on the story.



  • Some authors use setting as a "third" character and their work is so strongly set and associated within a location that it is integral to their writing.
  • Other authors do not use setting as a distinct element in their stories


  • Details in the backdrop of the reading experience (think Harry Potter or historical fiction with lots of accurate period details)
  • Nonfiction may include maps, photos, illustrations, bibliographies, recipes, lists, etc.
  • Details can make or break a book for a reader so it is important to note them when present and share them with your readers who enjoy this extra dimension to their reading.


  • How the book feels when it is read (eg. grim, scary, suspenseful, dark, funny, light, comforting, bleak, etc.)
  • More than any other appeal element, tone is highly affected by the mood and sensibility of the reader.
    • Readers are least willing to work around this - many readers can overcome a slow paced book if it has a storyline with which they are fascinated but if a reader is in the mood for a dark scary mystery, then offering them a cozy romance is not going to work


  • The extent to which a reader is motivated to learn or understand another perspective and how well the author meets that expectation.
  • Fiction readers also want to learn from their reading and broaden their experiences. (Eg. readers who want novels set in the places they plan to vacation)