How Readers Choose Books

If we could figure out the formula for how readers choose what book to read next, then almost any author could write and publish a bestseller. Sadly, no formula exists. After all, we are humans and formulas rarely describe human behavior.

So, how do readers choose books? —and if we have an answer to this question—how can it inform us to better market our books so that they are the ones readers choose?

A book reviewer recently conducted an informal poll on fiction reader behavior. She asked a group of Christian fiction readers how they decide what book to purchase next. Here is what the survey found were the top five criteria driving what book readers choose to read:

  • The book was written by a favorite author.
  • The book was classified in a favorite genre.
  • The book sported an attractive cover.
  • The back-cover copy was appealing.
  • The book was recommended by reviewers and bloggers.

Remember, this is not a formula, rather it is a loose guide of what draws readers in to choose a certain book. I believe there are a few marketing takeaways from the answers to this survey. None of these takeaways are new, but reminders are useful and help us keep our minds focused on what is important.

1. Fans are important.

Every author needs fans. Especially with fiction books, fans are necessary to sell more books. Many readers read authors they have read in the past and know they will deliver a good story. For fiction authors, cultivating a group of fans who love and promote your books is crucial. Find ways to reward your fans and keep them engaged between books.

2. A professional, engaging cover design is a must.

Your book cover is your number one marketing tool. Don’t skimp on your book’s cover. Use a professional designer to develop an engaging, eye-popping cover that fits your book’s genre. Test your cover design. Offer your friends and fans two designs of your upcoming book’s cover and have them vote on which one appeals the most to them. You can use a quiz generating service like Interact to run your poll.

3. Crafting a great description for your book is crucial.

People read fiction books for entertainment. They want to read a compelling, memorable story. Good fiction always has tension that comes from the challenges that the main characters face. These characters desire something deeply, but an obstacle stands in the way of allowing them to achieve their desire. In crafting a book description for fiction, show the readers these elements and promise them an intriguing story that they can relate to. Then, make a promise to readers about what they will find in the book. This promise should be intriguing so that the reader wants to read the book to find out more.

4. Reviews are essential.

Word-of-mouth remains the number one driver of book sales. Positive reviews by readers and bloggers are a form of word-of-mouth. They are social proof to readers that your book is worth their investment of time and money. Make obtaining reviews one of your top priorities in your book marketing plan.

Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) understands the important of reviews. This is why we offer our members the BookCrash program. This books for bloggers review program helps CSPA members get more reviews for their books. In addition, CSPA offers an on-demand seminar, Book Reviews: Tips for Getting More Reviews, free for our members. This seminar teaches easy to implement steps for obtaining more book reviews.

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Which Country Reads the Most?

Did you know that English is one of the world’s most wide-spread languages? There are 1.5 billion people in the world who speak English. It is estimated that 375 million speak English as their first language, while over one billion speak English as a second language.

Out of the total 195 countries in the world, 67 nations have English as the primary language of ‘official status’. Plus there are also 27 countries where English is spoken as a secondary ‘official’ language.

Your English-language book can have worldwide readership, not just in countries where English is the majority language, but also in countries with large expatriate American communities like Ecuador. Both Christians and seekers can benefit from your message in these countries. Knowing where to concentrate your marketing efforts based on reading rates in various countries can help you sell more books.

The infographic below by Global English Editing is a great resource for learning about reading habits around the world. .

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How the World Reads

Reading is a worldwide activity. That means that you can sell your books around the world.

Recently, the people at Feel Good Contact Lenses created an interesting infographic on “How the World Reads”. This infographic contains some great information for authors and publishers on which country reads the most, the types of books being purchased, and where these books are purchased. All great information when broadening your sales horizon. Check it out:

global-reading-habits-infographic-galleycat

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Reading Rates Remain Consistent

Every author needs readers. Without readers, there would be no one to buy books. Every year, the Pew Research Center studies reading rates. Recently, Pew released its newest findings. Here is what they found.

In spite of competition from a vast menu of entertainment choices, the average book readership of Americans is holding steady. In their report “Book Readership 2016”, the Pew Research Center records that 73% of Americans have read a book in the last year. This number remains largely unchanged from 2012 levels (although it is down from 2011 at 79% when Pew began tracking reading habits).

pew-reading-rates

A few of the interesting findings from the survey are:

  • 40% of Americans read print books exclusively.
  • Only 6% read ebooks exclusively.
  • Americans read an average of 12 books per year. However, the typical American has read four books in the last 12 months.
  • College graduates are nearly four times as likely to read ebooks, and twice as likely to read print books and listen to audiobooks, compared with those who have not graduated high school.
  • Women (77%) are more likely than men (68%) to read books in general, and are also more likely to read print books (70%).Men and women are equally likely to read ebooks and audiobooks.

One additional piece that this study looked at was why people read. Interestingly, the percentage of people reading for fiction and nonfiction reasons were about the same:

  • 84% read to research specific topics.
  • 80% read for pleasure.

The Pew survey was conducted from March 7 through April 4, and used a national sample of 1,520 adults, 18 years of age or older, living in all 50 states in the United States.

The fact that reading rates are not declining in the United States is good news for authors and publishers. Better news would be that reading rates are on the upswing.

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Starting Strong May Not Be Enough

Author and leadership speaker Robin Sharma says, “Starting strong is good. Finishing strong is epic.”

As humans, we start new projects strong, but often our efforts peter out when we don’t see results that meet our expectations. As writers, we can start a story or book strong, but keeping that strength in the story or writing until the end is difficult.

sharma-quote

Companies that study book completion rates for readers find that readers’ attention often decays as they progress through a book. One of the benefits of ebooks, is that they can provide data on just how many readers complete a given book.

Jellybooks is one of the leading voices collecting data from readers engaged with ebooks. This company tracks all sorts of reading data. One of the pieces of data Jellybooks collects is how many chapters a reader finishes in a given book.

Most of Jellybooks’ data collection for reading completion rates is collected from fiction books. Fiction reading is linear. It is a story, so the reader starts at the beginning and progresses to the end. Nonfiction books, by nature, are not always linear. Readers can opt to read random chapters on the subjects that most peak their interest.

Jellybooks has found that readers don’t get past the first 50 to 100 pages for the majority of fiction ebooks they read. Wow. That is the majority not the minority. Of course, some books boast a higher dropout rate—up to 90% of readers give up after the second chapter, while some boast higher completion rates of 70 to 90+ percent.

Jellybooks is not alone in their discovery about fiction ebook reading completion rates. Other companies are confirming this data. Authors have about 50 to 100 pages to grab a reader’s attention and keep it. You must get your reader hooked and get them hooked fast.

The reasons readers don’t get hooked usually include:

  • The reader does not like the writing style.
  • The reader can’t identify with the main character.
  • The reader can’t get into the book.

Jellybooks feels that the cure for reading incompletion rates is to have a strong beginning that grabs your reader within the first 30 to 100 pages. I agree.

A strong beginning is important, but I believe it is not enough. A strong story throughout a book and a strong finish are also necessary. A strong finish is required to turn the reader into a fan. Turning a reader into a fan means that reader will seek out the other books you have published to also read. A win for you.

Related Posts:
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