Thursday, July 5, 2012

What We Learn When a Reader Asks a Question by Jerry Peterson

Today I'm pleased to feature a return visit from Jerry Peterson whose post, Where Are We Going in the Book Biz?, appeared here on June 21st. 

Jerry writes crime novels set in Kansas, Tennessee, and Wisconsin. Early’s Fall, his current novel, features Kansas Sheriff James Early – the Early in the title – and takes place in 1949. Early’s Winter, the second book in the series, will be out next month. Peterson will follow that with Thou Shalt Not Murder, a new crime novel series set in Tennessee. Book 1, The Watch, will be out in September and Book 2, Rage, later in the year. 

Before becoming a writer, Peterson taught speech, English and theater in Wisconsin high schools, then worked in communications for farm organizations for a decade in Wisconsin, Michigan, Kansas and Colorado. He followed that with a decade as a reporter, photographer, and editor for newspapers in Colorado, West Virginia, Virginia, and Tennessee. 

 Jerry, thanks for this follow-up to your original guest appearance.


What We Learn When a Reader Asks a Question  by Jerry Peterson

We writers like to hear from readers. Often they cause us to rethink something we’ve said or go dig for more information.

Example, in my guest post here on June 19, Susan Oleksiw said in her comment, “The book world is changing for sure, and your statistics tell us something interesting about it. Are women really leading the way?”

I had said a recent Pew Research survey reported that more women buy e-readers than do men – 21 percent versus 16 percent.

I then said, “Perhaps we men aren’t as eager to give up real books as women appear to be. But the real truth is more women read books, particularly fiction, than do we men.”

Do they?

That’s the perception we have in the book business, but I’ve never seen any real stats.

So I went Googling and found Charlotte Abbott’s May 14, 2009, post on the website Follow The Reader.

She was presenting the results of a survey PubTrack had made of 36,000 book buyers, the sample selected according to age, gender, income, household size and location.

PubTrack had asked 75 questions.

In answer to the question who was buying books in the sample year 2008, PubTrack found this:

– 57 percent of book buyers are female and they buy 65 percent of books (e.g. women buy books and they buy in volume).

The survey also provided these results:

– 50 percent of Americans over 13 bought a book in the sample year

– The average age of the most frequent book buyers was 50
 – 67 percent of books were bought by people over 42; Gen Xer bought 17 percent of books; Gen Y bought 10 percent
– Of books purchased by those who earn $100,000 or more, mystery and detective fiction represent 16 percent of sales, juvenile 13 percent, romance 6 percent, thrillers 4 percent, and comics and graphic novels 4 percent
– 41 percent of all books are purchased by those who earn less than $35,000
– The average price of a book purchased in the sample year 2008 was $10.08
– 31 percent of all book purchases are impulse buys.

Whoa, a third of the books people buy, they buy them just because they see them online or in a store. The buyers weren’t shopping for those titles.

That says you and I better have really good book covers if we want to get in on those impulse buys.

One more thing that came out of the survey, people are twice as likely to buy a specific book because of online reviews they’ve read than as a result of reviews they read in newspapers or magazines.

That’s powerful.

That tells all of us writers we’d really better hustle to get those online reviews.


Thanks for the follow-up blog post, Jerry. This is great information and a powerful incentive for authors to work a lot harder to engage with their readers on blogs and sites like Goodreads, in addition to personal appearances at book clubs, bookstores, and libraries.

To learn more about Jerry and Early's Fall, visit his website and his blog. Jerry also can be found on Facebook with his regular page, a page for Jerry Peterson, wordslinger, the Early's Winter page and his Jerry Peterson Mysteries page.


Margot Kinberg said...

Pat - Thanks for hosting Jerry again.

Jerry - It's so interesting isn't it how one question can really get you started thinking. I think it's absolutely critical to engage readers. People want to feel that authors they read are accessible. Besides, let's face it, it's good business to behave in an approachable professional way.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Some interesting stats. Guess I'm one of those elite sixteen percent with an eReader.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

I don't know if the online reviews effect publishers like Five Star/Gale's sales very much. Since they are a library publisher mainly but don't sell much to bookstores, major print reviewers matter most. It seems librarians check out LJ, PW, Booklist and Kirkus, then make their selections. When the books go digital, that's a different ballpark.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Margot, it was serendipitous to have this date open just waiting for Jerry to come back for another visit.

Alex, me too. I now have a Nook tablet as well as a Kindle...and I still read real print books too.

Jacqueline, that may change soon since we can now download library books to our Kindles and Nooks. Our library holds classes almost every month for new e-book users to learn the process.

Jerry Peterson said...

Margot . . . Most of us who write have an insatiable curiosity about many things. So, yes, finding an answer to one question frequently unearths a second question that, as we see it, also is begging for an answer.

Jacqueline . . . You are right. If you want to get your book on the shelves of public libraries, you do have to get a good review from one of the majors. Librarians who make the buy decisions for their libraries hold Kirkus, particularly, and Publisher's Weekly, too, in high regard. Their endorsement of books are golden.

Racking up online reviews for your ebook does boost the rating for your book at the Kindle Store, and that will lead to more sales . . . retail sales that print reviews do not produce.

Pat, you own both a Kindle and a Nook. That's interesting. Why did you purchase both e-readers?

Lynn Proctor said...

fascinating information---not surprised on the impulse buying!

Patricia Stoltey said...

Jerry, I knew you'd ask that.

I received the basic Kindle e-reader for Christmas before the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablets were introduced. Since I also wanted a way to check my e-mail on trips, and since I received a gift card at Barnes and Noble from one of my kids, I decided to give it a try as well.

I now take both of them with me when I travel because I already have so many unread books loaded onto the Kindle. It's still more compact and less weight than a laptop and a couple of paperbacks.

Maryann Miller said...

Very interesting stats. I did find it a bit of a surprise that readers are influenced more by online reviews. Then I had one of those duh moments. Of course, since so many readers are now embracing e-books, the online review do carry more weight. Although I am very proud of my LJ and PW reviews I received for Open Season.

To support other authors, I have been trying to do more reviews on Amazon when I read a book. I definitely rate it via my Kindle when I finish, but it is also nice to go to Amazon and leave a brief review. I remind myself they do not have to be the full review I used to do for newspapers and magazines. LOL