Authors, especially indie (independent) ones, need some comprehension of how readers select a book. Publicity and marketing for all authors, no matter how published, is a challenge, especially in these days when hundreds of thousands of books are being independently published. Consequently, any information that may help target readers is invaluable.
Before continuing there is one very important discovery indie authors really need to take on board: The majority of readers still prefer physical books. Most indie authors have difficulty getting an agent or traditional publisher and therefore, by default, have to primarily rely on the internet for the publishing, publicising and marketing of their books This can become an all absorbing task and it is easy to forget there still remains a very large proportion of readers who are not digitally inclined. I know several people who have absolutely no on-line activity. May be hard to believe in these days of digital everything: tablets, smartphones, PCs etc. but it is a fact.
Please Note: The majority of the following information is based upon the investigation of American readers’ habits. Nevertheless, the principles probably apply generally across the globe.
Only 73% of people read.
Only 40% read print books.
Only 6% read digitally. (This statistic is one indie authors really need to take note of.)
Statistics from a different source
In the last year; 2015-2016:
65% have read print books.
28% have read e-books.
14% have listened to audiobooks.
What may we glean from this information? = Print remains favourite!
Authors should not allow this to discourage them too much but do need to be aware their on-line target audiences, most of whom probably primarily read digitally, form but a small part of the overall available readership. That does not mean they should give up.
To facilitate those who have a preference for physical books, indie authors should avail themselves of the POD (Print-On-Demand) facility some self-publishing platforms provide e.g. Createspace. However, they should bear in mind many such readers still appear to prefer purchasing books from bricks and mortar book shops. But it never hurts to have a book available in as many formats as possible, especially when most of it may be achieved for free. And of course, as some will point out, there is a steady decline in the availability of bricks and mortar book shops forcing many to purchase on-line. This includes physical books.
Top fiction genres: (1) Romance; (2) Erotica; (3) Young Adult and Teen; (4) Fantasy; (5) Mystery and Detective (In view of the popularity of television detective shows, surprising ‘Detective’ is not higher up.); (6) Gay and Lesbian; (7) Science Fiction; (8) Historical; (9) Thriller and Suspense (Another surprise); (10) Adventure.
Top non-fiction genres: (1) Biography; (2) Health, Wellbeing and Medicine; (3) Business and Economics; (4) Self-Improvement; (5) Religion and Spirituality; (6) Relationship and Family; (7) Sports and Outdoor Recreation; (8) Education and Study Guides; (9) New Age; (10) Computer and Internet (In these days of increasing internet activity, surprising ‘Internet’ falls in this last category. Perhaps, most now consider themselves sufficiently knowledgeable not to need to read up further.).
In the last year or so there has been an increasing amount published about the ‘pre-order’ facility most on-line retailers now offer. Those who have availed themselves of this option appear to find it very successful for the marketing of their books. The statistics are certainly impressive. Apparently 2/3rds of the top 200 selling books were launched as pre-orders. There is also indication these authors earn approximately three and a half times more than those who have not utilised the option. Evidently this is a facility/option indie authors need to seriously consider.
In the early days of self-publishing giving ‘free’ books proved an effective means for gaining new readers; they were probably reluctant to pay for books by new unknown authors. Subsequently however, the ‘free’ option seems to be having considerably less impact. The debate regarding whether authors should or should not follow this path has raged across all social media for some time. Last year (2015), there were, apparently, 39 more downloads of free books compared to those for priced ones. This is markedly down from previous years: 91 in 2013; 100 in 2012. The primary area where free books still seem to have some success is with the ‘series’ collections, where the first is often given free as an encouragement to purchase the rest. These apparently gained 66% more downloads compared to those for one-off, standalone, books. As said the concept of giving free books is constantly under debate with some authors stating they continue to find the ‘free’ option works well for them. One even suggested they gained approximately ten sells for every free book. In the end it has to be the individual author’s decision whether to offer their books for free.
Apparently longer books sell better than shorter ones. However, this probably needs to be balanced by taking into account the increasing popularity of tablets and smartphones for reading. Commuters, of which there are an increasing amount, particularly favour these methods. Shorter books are more suited to these devices, especially smartphones. Nevertheless, the statistic indicates many readers remain interested in good quality, full length tales. Caveat: The comparison of sells between longer books and shorter ones may have been distorted by multiple-author boxsets.
Again this is a topic that has been and is constantly under discussion.
$3.99 – appears to be the most successful price for full length fiction.
$0.99 – it is suggested this is similar to the ‘free’ option; designed to attract new readers.
$1.99 – common advice is to AVOID this price tag. No one is sure why reader’s do not like it but the facts support the notion they do not. If your book is priced at $1.99 you are strongly advised to change to the more successful $2.99 or $3.99 or, if your primary aim is to gain new readers, $0.99.
All authors need to be able to communicate with their readers in a meaningful way and not just ‘push’ their books. In past years contact with readers was not such an issue however, today more and more of them like to know about the author as a person as well as about their books. Naturally, a side effect of ‘chatting’ with people generally is, hopefully, they will become interested in the authors writing.
- Remember, overall, a high percentage of readers still prefer print books.
- If your genre is one of the less popular you need to think of how to draw greater attention. This may be in any number of different ways e.g.; engaging social media posts; enhanced, appealing synopsis and blurbs; participating in relevant or at least related, forum discussions; highlighting aspects that would be of particular interest to the targeted audience; etc.
- Price your book, if you have decided not to give it free, at one of the optimum price ranges.
- Seriously consider the pre-order option.
- Ensure you have an adequate social media presence.
2015 survey by Smashwords.*
Recent PRC survey.
Individual comments and observations in LinkedIn discussions.
*Note: Smashwords distributes to a number of retailers however, Amazon, though included, forms a very small part of the sales that show up in their statistics. This means books in the KDP Select programme are not included in the figures. Most, but not all, Smashwords statistical sells are made through iBooks and Barnes and Noble. Though Amazon is the world’s largest on-line retailer and consequently, statistics from them need to be seriously considered, it is worthwhile gaining insight from other sources and points of view, thereby providing a more balanced perspective.