Trends in Book Discovery

Physical bookstores are shrinking. e-Reading is on the rise. These changes are affecting how people learn about books and how they buy and read them.

Codex Group has been conducting interviews with readers since 2004. They have interviewed more than 250,000 individuals. Codex has found that, in the past two years, a major shift has taken place in how people discover books.

Two years ago, the physical bookstore was the single-largest site of discovery with 35% of book purchases made because readers found out about a book in a brick-and-mortar bookstore. This year, in 2012, that figure dropped to 17%. In this two-year time period, personal recommendations grew the most from 14% to 22%. Three-quarters of these personal recommendations are made in person, while the rest come by email, phone, and social networks.

Interestingly, Codex discovered that the vast majority of personal recommendations are backlist titles. Only 6% of books recommended personally have been published in the past half year. This can be better news for small publishers who generally keep backlist books selling longer than larger publishing houses.

Digital mass media such as Facebook and Twitter are not as strong for book discoverability as you may think. These sites rose from 1.9% as a place people learned about books they bought to just 4.5% in the past two years.

Overall, online channels represent only 9% of discovery which is low in light of the amount of book purchases that are made online. This may be because book readers already know which books they want to purchase when they go online to buy books. In contrast, readers often go to a bookstore with the idea of browsing to “discover” something they might want to read.

What does this mean for your next book? Remember, personal recommendations are the most frequent way people discover books. Having people read, like your book, and then recommend it is the surest way to spread the word and increase sales.

I believe that having bloggers review your books is one great way to help spread the word about a book. If a blogger likes your book, she will recommend it to her friends (blog readers). That is why Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) runs the BookCrash program. A number of our publishers have reported that they have seen increased sales after a blogger has reviewed and recommended their book on a blog.

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