The State of Fiction Reading

My teenage daughter loves to read fiction. However, as a young teenager, she is finding it difficult to fine good novels to enjoy. She feels that she has outgrown children’s novels, yet at the same time doesn’t like many of the mature themes presented in many Young Adult novels. Lately my daughter has been complaining about the “lack of good writing” in the books she has been reading.


Interestingly, a recent study by the National Endowment for the Arts reveals that the number of people reading fiction in the United States is on the decline. The study found that in 2012, only 47% of people surveyed (survey size of 37,000) reported reading a fiction book, down from 50% in 2008. Yet back in 2002, only about 47% of people also reported reading a fiction book.

So I wonder. Is the number of people reading fiction really on the decline—or—do these figures better reflect on the type and number of good fiction titles release each year the survey was completed?

I suspect that that answer is really the latter, especially since the decline is only a matter of a few percentage points. Maybe 2008 was a year that had a few more really popular novels released. Years in which novels like The Twilight Series, The Shack, The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Fifty Shades of Gray, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and the like are released may have more people responding that they have read a fiction book. After all, some people only read a book when they have heard from family and friends that it is a “must read.” Some years I read more fiction than other years. So some people may only read a fiction book once every few years.

On the whole, this study seems to indicate that about half the population in the United States reads a fiction book each year. The study also found that men are more likely to read nonfiction books and women are more likely to read fiction.

The only way to increase reading rates—whether that is for a book you publisher or just fiction books in general—is to give readers what they seek: a compelling story.

Anyone publishing a fiction book faces huge competition for readership. So, be sure that your book has a compelling story and that it stands out from the crowd before you take the plunge. And, be prepared for negative reviews. People’s enjoyment of stories is very personal and subjective based on their tastes, experiences, and worldviews.

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