When I see a book, a good cover can be what really draws me in originally. If I know the author or have heard of him or her in a positive way, I'll want to investigate further. In a print paperback, I want to look at the blurb on the back of the book -- I'm not so much of a fan of having just the picture of the author there, as that does nothing to help me figure out if I've already read the book. If the book's one in a lengthy series, I deeply appreciate a listing of the order the books should be read in, right in the first couple of pages. Little genealogial charts help there, too, if it's a sprawling family. Immediately accessible blurbs and excerpts help me to make decisions on an e-book, whether it sounds like my kind of thing.
Certain time-worn lines of book description always pique my interest. I'm such a sucker for "Beauty and the Beast" type stories, as long as the beauty doesn't whine and has a compassionate heart. And the gentle Beasts, the ones who go to considerable lengths so as not to frighten the beauty right away, I just love them. These themes seem to be somewhat related to the stories in which a battle-weary veteran of brutal wars just wants to settle down somewhere new, with a spirited but hard-working significant other. If the hero (or, occasionally, heroine) has a disability, I like for him (or her) to be working through it and compensating as best they can -- keeping it relatively low on the angst level. And I truly dislike the stories in which the disability is miraculously cured at the end of the book. What a cop-out, to make a mockery of all the hero and heroine's hard work.
Some of the stories I've been reading lately -- well, I don't think I could write original plot, but the other aspects of the stories? I could write good character descriptions, decent dialogue once the characters are past the meet-and-greet, and fix all of a story's comma splices, dangling participles, and wrongly-used homonyms. I could make sure the characters in sex scenes didn't twist into configurations that are anatomically impossible. No, original writing isn't my thing, but, boy, could I do some serious rewrites and improve the stories considerably. I go into critique mode pretty easily anymore, and get dragged out of stories with thoughts of how I would've phrased it better, or made sure the plot stuck to its internal logic, or asked why the characters were vampires or werewolves at all if it involved was just them saying they were and that's how they found their soul mate. No exploration of the character, no action showing how they conduct their lives or unlives -- what's there to draw the reader in? I just read a story in which the one knight was described as "rough," but was always perfectly polite to the girl, and the other knight was described as smooth and cultured, but always acted rude to the girl. There was absolutely no showing of how the knights had gotten their previous social reputations, and not enough justification of why they were abandoning them now, if they were so important.
I should set up somehow to do rewrites -- I know there are stories I could make considerable improvements in. In what I have in mind, the story would come in in all its tattered glory, and I would do surgery on it -- do my best to keep the author's original intentions, but take the writing style to a new level. Does that sound grandiose? I think I could do it.