Turns out, it's a lot of things to many different people. (That's right, there's no single solution...much like the rest of life. Go figure.) For me, it's a combination of things. I'll read pretty much anything by my favorite authors. I'm usually willing to take a chance on new guys when the cover art or back cover copy really resonates with me. Sometimes that's good (Ernest Cline, I'm talking to you!), and sometimes, not so much. If I'm still reluctant to shell out the cash, I give my library card a workout. Thankfully the library system here in northern Virginia is pretty good.
In turn, I recommend books to my family, friends, and anyone else who might listen.
Either way, as a reader, or as a writer, sometimes, you just get lucky.
Like me. This weekend, I opened a message from Marc Ciccarone at Blood Bound Books with the cover art for Loveless. I was stunned. "What do you think of this?" he asked, and I couldn't answer for a moment--I was busy laughing and dancing through the house like a meth-fueled dervish in a low-gravity environment. The cover is amazing. Abso-fucking-lutely amazing.
So if you're a reader attracted by good writing, I think you'll be pleased. I had a fantastic editor (Thanks, Dave!) who kept me from writing myself into mediocrity. If it's cover art that attracts, well, I think we've got that pegged, too. Either way, when it comes out I hope you read it. I hope it keeps you reading into the darkest depths of night. I hope you LOVE it.
For a variety of visceral reasons, though, I think it'll never get the Oprah seal of approval. I'm SO okay with that.