And the Survey Says: Part 1

It began as a discussion with creative peers in a virtual workspace we shared this past summer.  “No, I’m not sure what my readers would say about that,” I said.  My next thought was why not do a survey?  Because I want to know what YOU think.

And thank you, you DID respond – about 5% of you as a matter of fact, and a large enough research group that I feel confident we can draw broad conclusions from the answers.  But first, I thought you might want to know why I asked the questions I did.

Some of you might not know that there is a doctorate in my credentials and a Dr. in front of my real name.  As a result, I had to do research.  When I was a university professor, I oversaw the research projects of my students.  As a management consultant, I used research to support analysis and recommendations.

Plus, I’m a nerd.

When I designed the questions, I needed a reason to ask each one.  After all, if you tell me about something but I have no control over it, what’s the point?  Yes, it’s fun to know, but I want to know things I can use.  Here are the reasons in a nutshell.

  1. Why do you read fiction?  I want to know what to emphasize in my book descriptions, promotions, and advertising.
  2. Where do you find your next book? Where should I find you?  When I have a new release, how can I let you know about it, without being a spammy marketer?
  3. Do you read and rely on reviews before you buy books? Some authors monitor their reviews closely and others don’t even read them.  Should I be begging for reviews, or let them grow organically?
  4. When do you write reviews? Are reviews important to YOU when you’re looking for a new book?
  5. How frequently do you like to hear from your favorite authors via email? Maybe I should only email you once a month – or maybe 1-3 times a week.  Yikes!
  6. For writers and other creatives, what sources do you use to develop your craft? I have a series of books on tips for creatives, but should I be doing more workshops at conferences, or online courses, or ???
  7. What other comments would you like to share with me about why you read books? While I had a “I have more to say” open text box on most questions, I wanted to make sure you had a chance to tell me whatever else was on your mind.

I closed by offering to get in touch personally with anyone willing to leave their email address, and a third of you took me up on that offer.  This sparked some truly moving and inspirational exchanges I’m still reflecting on – more on those next week.

I’ll give you the results on the first two questions today, and wrap up with the rest next week.

Over half of you read for escapism and getting lost in the story.  I guess this shouldn’t be surprising.  I too use reading as an escape, a distraction, and a healthy dose of sanity-management.  As I shared with some of you via email, Robyn Carr saved my mental health one summer, when the day job was painful beyond belief and I cried myself through more evenings than I care to remember.  The pleasure I found in her Virgin River world inspired me to write about the girl tribe of Flynn’s Crossing.  I guess you could say she did more than help me escape – she helped me find the next step in my life’s journey.

About a third love happy endings and/or romance resulting in love.  (Guess that was a ‘duh’.)  A third of you love suspense.  Another third like humor and wit in their books.  Consider that noted!

I included several options about characters.  I LOVE characters – and the more conflicted, the better!  Perhaps the thing surprising me the most is how few people marked off characters, their challenges, and connection to them as being important.  But this is why a survey of you, dear readers, is so vital.  I can make assumptions based on me, but that won’t necessarily reflect YOU.

Over two-thirds of you find your next book from free book lists or sale or low-price lists.  Your comments offered a slight spin on this, though.  Some of you reported having downloaded so many free books or 99-cent sale books, your ereaders were full!  I download those too, but if you’re anything like me, you can’t read them fast enough.  I’m embarrassed to say some of the ones in my Kindle might be a couple of years old!  (Yes, I need more reading time – but that’s another story.)

A gratifying two-thirds of you find your next read through author newsletters.  I’m passing that on to all my author friends who lose heart when sending theirs out, thinking no one is reading them!  A third rely on recommendations from friends, which was a little surprising.  Word on the street (though not the right street, I guess) was that readers rely most heavily on friends’ recs.  Something else for me to share with other writers!

There’s a nugget in these responses about book reviews, which I’ll share next week because I’ve babbled on long enough.  It was another one of those things that surprised me.  But then, you’re all the boss, and I’m here to make sure you’re reading what you want – at least from me!

Happy reading!  And stay tuned for Part 2!

Did any of my reasons for asking the questions surprise YOU?  Are there things you’d like to hear more about in detail?  I don’t want to overload you, but I’m happy to answer any questions you have.  Please post them in the comments!

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