Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Reader Survey, Part 2

Writers--unless they're like J. D. Salinger who in his latter days was only interested in the process--seek readers. Traditional wisdom says the best way to do that is to give readers what they want.
So, how do we discover what readers want?
In my opinion, the best way is to listen to what they say. One source of information is surveys such as one conducted by M. K. Tod, an author and blogger at https://awriterofhistory.com/ She's been conducting these surveys since 2012 and they provide a wealth of insight into the minds of readers from around the globe.
Last  week I commented on the 2018 survey findings on issues of interest to readers. Naturally much of that should have been of interest to writers, too. We learned 75 percent of the participants still prefer print books over electronic format. They told us they mostly read fiction for entertainment and their most popular genres are mystery/thrillers, romance and historical fiction.
Granted, this was not a huge survey. But more than half the 2,418 respondents said they read more than 30 books a year. That's a significant number.
This week I'm focusing on matters of more concern to writers, specifically how to give readers what they want.
One topic I found most interesting was how readers determine what to read next. The most important factor, they related, is subject matter and genre. The least important--the publisher or imprint. Though we've been told time and again covers are an extremely important factor in sales, that wasn't borne out in this survey. Cover was somewhat a factor (slightly more important to women than to men), but not an overriding concern for most. Identity of the author varied with age groups. Fifty-four percent for those over 70 but only 29 percent for those under 30.
We've also had the importance of reviews drummed into us constantly. Yet (and I wasn't totally surprised) reviews weren't the top factor in this survey. These readers (and I believe most) rely predominately on the recommendation of friends. That's not to say reviews aren't important. Favorite review sites were second in preference, closely followed by sites such as Goodreads and simply browsing in a bookstore. Except for Amazon, advertising/promotion seldom rose above 20 percent for the respondents.
Another factor writers should keep in mind, women read more than men. Sixty percent of the women responding to this survey said they read more than 30 books a year. You're free to write whatever you like. But, if your books don't appeal to women, you're missing a large part of the market. And, they love fiction. Eighty-eight percent of the women expressed a preference for fiction in their book reading.
Some of the factors women cited as important in their reading were authenticity, characters who are both heroic and human, a fast-paced plot, and feeling immersed in the novel's world.
Giveaways have long been a big marketing ploy. Yet only 30 percent of the respondents (male and female) found those of interest. They were more interested in reading a magazine or newspaper article about a book (60 percent), following an author on Facebook or Twitter, reading an author's blog or newsletter, or meeting an author in person.
As to how they purchase or acquire their books, 70 percent of the respondents said they buy on line. Libraries also remain a strong source, particularly for women.
For a more in depth look at the survey, use the link above to M. K. Tod's site.

Monday, October 1, 2018

A Survey of Readers

This summer I was one of more than 2,000 persons who again participated in a survey of readers conducted by M. K. Tod, an author and blogger at https://awriterofhistory.com/ She's been conducting these surveys since 2012.
The results provide a few surprises which may be of interest to other writers/readers.
First, I should note, participants came from around the globe, were of varying ages and more than half read more than 30 books in a year. Not surprisingly, a majority of the participants were female. Women do tend to read more than men.
It pleased me to learn 75 percent of the participants prefer print books, frequently or exclusively using that format. I have nothing against electronic formats. I do find them convenient, especially for travel, and do utilize my Kindle on a fairly regular basis. But, despite all the hype, I don't believe they are monopolizing the reading world. At least, not yet.
Entertainment was cited as the primary reason for reading fiction, and readers like to feel immersed in the story. Seventy-one percent of men vs. 88 percent of women read fiction more than 50 percent of the time. As to genre, the favored categories in order were: mystery/thrillers, romance, historical fiction, women's fiction, and literary. Yay, mysteries!
Again, not surprisingly, genre interest varies with age. For mystery, interest increases with age, while interest in fantasy, science fiction and horror seems to decrease with age. Here are two other factors I found fascinating: interest in the romance genre peaks between the ages of 30 and 50. Literary fiction is less popular in the U.S. than in other parts of the world.
Since some of my stories are classed as historical fiction, I was pleased to see the 19th century as the second most favored period.
As to non-fiction, the most popular genres were history, biography and memoirs.
The majority of those surveyed (78 percent) said they read whenever opportunity permits. Bedtime reading, followed by vacation-time, were other high percentages. More men than women read on the way to or from work. Most people read solo, though the more books a person reads in a year, the more likely they are to join a book club.
(I'll be doing a follow up on this blog, focusing more on topics of specific interest to writers).