Trends in Book Discovery


What is publishing all about these days?

  • Writing?
  • Editing?
  • Packaging?
  • Posting an ebook?

Nope. None of the above.


The loss of retail, magazines, religion sections in newspapers… the discoverability factor has greatly decreased. Which is why publishers are so dependent on authors to find readers (through author tribes) and on their ability to social network their way to a best seller. Which, in case you haven’t already experienced, happens about .01% of the time.

So when I saw some data about my favorite topic—FINDING READERS—I thought you ought to see it.

The following is based on data compiled by the Penguin Random House consumer insights team, which polled more than 40,000 readers about their reading and buying choices.

  • When asked what is most influential to readers when deciding what book to read next, 81% said recommendations from friends and family. Word of mouth, whether about movies, agents, or book sales, is always the key deal.
  • How do readers discover books? 70% said they use Goodreads; 49% said newspaper/magazine reviews; 46% said Facebook; 38% said author interviews/appearances; 37% said blog reviews; 23% said print ads; 15% said Twitter; and 14% said another form of social media. I’m wondering if the 40,000 readers they polled were from Goodreads. Still, this was more eye-opening than I would have guessed.
  • The survey found that as readers age, blogs and social media become less relevant as a way to discover books. Among survey participants under the age of 40, more than 80% use Goodreads and more than 60% read blog or web reviews. This steadily decreases with age; for readers in their 50s, 75% use Goodreads and 40% read blog and web reviews; for those in their 70s, the numbers drop to under 60% for Goodreads and only 20% for blog and web reviews. I guess we realize with age that there isn’t much time to read all of those books we bought but haven’t read, so we don’t need anyone else telling us what to read.
  • Conversely, print reviews and advertisements become more relevant with age. For readers under 40, 40% read newspaper and magazine reviews; for those in their 50s, the number is closer to 60%, and for those over 70, the number who read newspaper and magazine reviews is 70%. Print advertising follows a similar trajectory, with 20% of those under 40 relying on print ads to discover books, as opposed to 30% of those in their 50s and nearly 50% of those in their 70s. It must be the fact that there are pictures and not very many words. Easier on the eyes.
  • When it comes to gender, women are more likely than men to trust recommendations from friends and family (79% of women trust the recommendations, while only 66% of men do). The same is true of recommendations from Goodreads, 70% of which women trust, compared to only 57% of men. Men don’t gravitate toward asking for directions when driving, and evidently on book buying. What’s wrong with us?
  • Men are, however, more likely to read newspaper and magazine reviews; 54% of men trust such reviews, as compared to 49% of women. When it comes to print advertising, 26% of men trust it compared to 23% of women.
  • When asked what most influences them to pick up a book if they are not familiar with the author or series, readers said that they are likely to do so if they like the subject (88%), read a good book review (87%), or get a friend’s recommendation (86%). Slightly less influential are reading an excerpt (76%) or an online review (76%). Least influential are the recommendations of a salesperson (38%); the publisher’s reputation (34%); seeing an ad (30%), recommendation by media/personality (26%); and needing a book for school or work (25%).

As Mark Twain once lamented, “There are lies, damn lies, and statistics.” While I applaud Penguin Random House for spending the money on this survey, some of which was eye-opening, I’m not sure what it all means for authors except they will be even more encouraged to do their own marketing than ever.

Here is the one truth that everyone agrees with when it comes to author marketing: email addresses.

If you have them, you’re golden. How many? 5,000 is nice, 10,000 is better. Time to check out MailChimp, time to offer free stuff, time to really focus your brand and what felt need you’re meeting, and time to become an expert in direct mail to your audience.

A Valentine For Our Readers

rosesRoses are red, violets are blue,

I love you, my readers, for all that you do:

To your families and friends, you talk up my books;

You buy the hard copies, Kindles and Nooks;

You come to book signings in out-of-way places.

I’m always so happy to see my fans’ faces!

You sign up for my newsletter and say lots of nice things

On Goodreads, in book clubs – you make my heart sing!

You share kind reviews, both oral and text,

You give me ideas for what to write next.

You twitter my Tweets, like my Facebook page, too.

I’m so very grateful for readers like you who

Help me find new folks that I want to reach

And invite to the fun of being my peeps!

For YOU, my dear fans, are the reason I write

All through the day and into the night,

Wrestle with words and struggle with plots

(which sometimes are great, but sometimes are not!).

When all’s said and done, I have to confess

There’s only one way I measure success:

If I’ve made you laugh, touched your heart in some way,

My work is done, and YOU’VE made my day!

Happy Valentine’s Day to all our readers

xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo……..the WordServe Literary Agency authors

How to Find an Audience for Your Novel


Chances are, you’ve heard it before: if you want to sell, know your market. For some, that’s a no-brainer. Those who write romances, for example, can usually name an audience. But what if you haven’t yet settled into a niche or write across genres? If finding your target audience is a sticking point for you, believe me, I understand.

My debut novel, DawnSinger, first in the Tales of Faeraven series (releasing in 2012 from Harbourlight Books) is considered epic fantasy. Although with strong elements of romance, suspense, history and adventure, it really combines genres. Some people will tell you to avoid breaking into publishing with an unusual project like mine. Listen carefully when they speak. Not that I’d have done things any differently. You see, this story breathed into my soul years ago and wouldn’t let me go, even when I quit writing. Ah, but that’s another tale. Unless you can cite a similar one, you’re better off writing something more conventional.

I confess: at first I wrote DawnSinger for its story without giving much thought to its readers. This showed in my inability to articulate who they might be. In my biased opinion, my novel’s target audience incorporated everyone. I soon discovered editors’ opinions of such a grandiose claim, especially from an emerging author. It’s not really true anyway. No book in existence appeals to all readers. I asked myself some hard questions and, in the editing process, adapted DawnSinger for a readership I identified. Most of my life I’ve done things backwards, and developing my story for its audience was no exception.

My experience begs a question. Should you write for others or yourself? Is it better to plan with an audience in mind or oppose this mindset? If you write “from the heart” won’t readers find you anyway? In other words, should you pursue readers or draw them?

Neither. And both. I’ll explain.

If you only focus on ensnaring an audience without regard for your calling as a literary artist you risk writing soulless drivel. Readers know instinctively whether you have a deep feeling for your subject or not. Don’t even try to pretend with them. For this reason, It’s best not to write to trends for which you have no passion. When you consider the opportunity cost, it’s not worth it. What is an opportunity cost? The price you pay in lost time because you’re not writing something that suits you better. If you’re anything like me, you can come up with more ideas than you’ll ever write in a lifetime. When deciding whether to chase a trend, bear that in mind.

That’s not to say you should let your inner artist run amok with total disregard for marketability (assuming you want a readership). Don’t let the proverbial pendulum swing too far the other direction. Why not? Because writing to publish isn’t just about art. It’s also about business. You want to identify your target audience for the same reason an acquisition editor searches for certain types of manuscripts. Each publishing house caters to the tastes of a specific readership, and so should you.

To avoid frustration as a communicator, you should have both a.) something to say and b.) someone willing to hear it. Identifying A will help you find B. Name the fire that burns within you and you’ll identify those whose lives will ignite from a spark you light. Reach deep to tap your passions. That’s where you’ll find your readers.

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