Who’s Buying Books?

Bowker, the international ISBN organization and publisher of Books in Print, recently teamed with Great Britain’s BML to produce a side-by-side comparison of consumer buying habits in the two largest English-speaking countries.

I think the most interesting finding in the study was that, in both the United Kingdom and the United States, older buyers accounted for two-thirds of all book purchases.

Wow! Well over half of all books are purchased by adults over the age of 42!

This finding has a number of implications for authors and publishers producing and selling books. I wonder if it also holds a sad and scary prediction for the future of book sales as the Boomer generation ages and leaves this earth.

Why is it that two-thirds of all books are sold to people over 42 years of age? Is it because this age group is the wealthiest generation in history? Or is it because this group reads more books than younger generations? Or does it have to do with the fact that 24 percent of the population in the United States is over the age of 55?

Regardless of the answer to these questions, as an author or publisher, you need to know how to target this older age group to maximize your sales.

Steve Howard has written a book called Boomer Selling:  Helping the Wealthiest Generation in History Own Your Premium Products and Services. Howard asserts that traditional sales methods do not work with Boomers. Instead, he believes that successful selling to Boomers includes connecting with the buyer and speaking to their desires and fears.

Howard says that this type of selling is important because Boomers are emotional and relational. They have discretionary spending dollars that they spend on their children and grandchildren.

I suggest that, when you are designing your promotional campaigns, you keep in mind that the majority of your buyers will be Boomers. If your book is for younger people, most likely the Boomer will be purchasing your book to give to a child or grandchild.

I still think the best advice for selling to people over the age of 42 is the same as selling to any age. Show them their need and then tell them how your book meets their need.

Keep in mind, the majority of the people in this age group are not using the Internet to social network and many are not Internet savvy. Some of your marketing to this age group needs to be through more traditional avenues to catch those who are not using the Internet.


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