How reader surveys influenced my writing

Preferred-Story-TypesIn 2012 I wrote a post for Historical Tapestry on personal learnings from the first reader survey. Now, four years later and with three books published and three surveys behind me, it’s time to step back and reflect again.

So what am I doing differently in the areas of writing historical fiction? What you will see below are survey insights followed by actions I have taken. A second post will look at marketing and publicity.

Women read historical fiction at higher rates than men but 20th century stories are of greater interest to men than women. Women are quite clear about disliking violence:

  • Adjust the tone and balance of my stories to appeal to women.
  • Reduced the number of war scenes in Unravelled and Lies Told in Silence.
  • Reshaped the plot for Time and Regret.
  • Chose nineteenth century for my fourth novel.

Top three preferred historical fiction story types are (1) strong female characters, (2) adventure, and (3) a series with ongoing characters:

  • A fourth novel is underway that extends the stories of two female characters who appear in Lies Told in Silence; not quite a series but it extends the franchise of my first two novels.
  • Continue to write about strong female characters.

The top 20 or so favourite authors have been remarkably consistent across three surveys:

  • Read all of these authors. Analyze and learn from their styles.

Top three reasons to read HF are: to bring the past to life, appreciating how people lived and coped in very different times; because it’s a great story; to understand and learn about historical periods without reading non-fiction. A complementary finding is that favourite historical fiction must immerse readers in time and place while being superbly written:

  • Research more deeply for my novels so I can evoke the historical periods more effectively.
  • Create more time-appropriate dialogue.
  • Broaden the elements used in my novels to bring the past to life.

Readers love fictional characters within a backdrop of great historical events:

  • I had conceived a story based on the life of a relatively famous woman but have abandoned it in favour of a story set in 1870 Paris, a time of great turmoil and conflict.

A final thought—wise people suggest that authors should write what appeals to them rather than attempting to write for the market. In my case, I’ve tweaked what I write with an eye to the market, which I believe is different from writing for the market.

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION follow A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction and blogs about all aspects of the genre at A Writer of History. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET will be published by Lake Union on August 16, 2016. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website

10 Insights on Millennial Readers

Millennial readersA few weeks ago we explored a few facts about boomer readers – so, today we’re looking at millennials to see if their reading habits and preferences differ from other age groups based on surveys done in 2015, 2013 and 2012. Millennials are generally defined as those born from the early 1980s to the early 2000s.

  1. More millennials than any other group read over 30 books a year. 61% in 2012, 52% in 2013 and 58% in 2015. And they have the highest intention to read at that level or more in the future.
  2. More than other age groups, millennials read historical fiction ‘because it’s a great story’ or ‘because it’s the best form of entertainment’.
  3. Types of stories – as a group millennials have less interest in historical fiction series than other age groups. And they are the most likely to choose books with ‘high stakes’.
  4. Millennials are more likely to consider geography as a factor when choosing stories to read. They prefer stories set in Europe or Britain over any other geography.
  5. As for time periods, millennials most preferred stories are from the 13th to 16th centuries, and they have a keener interest in ancient history than other age groups.
  6. When choosing books, price and cover have more influence while author is less important to millennials.
  7. As a group, they are most likely to consult social media before purchasing a book and have the highest interest in adding their voice to the rating of books.
  8. In terms of acquiring and reading books, they are slightly less likely to purchase from bookstores (even though they say they are more like to find books by browsing the bookstore) and more likely to borrow from friends than other groups. They are more likely to ‘read mostly print books’ and least likely to ‘read mostly ebooks’ than others.
  9. 86% use blogs, social media and other online sites for reading recommendations and discussion and are the least likely to check reviews in newspapers and other print media.
  10. Features they value from online sources are: ratings, giveaways, best of lists, an opportunity to comment and connect with other readers, and the ability to track their books.

I’m not particularly surprised by any of these insights and as a general conclusion — now that I’ve looked at boomers and millennials and scanned the age groups several times — I would say that age does not have as big an impact as gender does.

A note about numbers: in the under 30 group, 419 people participated across the three years which is roughly 8% of all participants; 159 in 2015, 202 in 213, and 58 in 2012. It’s impossible for me to assess whether some individuals responded to the survey in more than one year. As with other age groups, a huge percentage are women, which affects some of the results.

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION follow A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction and blogs about all aspects of the genre at A Writer of History. Her latest novel, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE is set in WWI France and is available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. Her debut novel, UNRAVELLED: Two wars. Two affairs. One marriage. is also available from these retailers.

Mary can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.

Top 10 Posts from Reader surveys


Having conducted and posted about three separate reader surveys, I thought it might be useful to bring together some of the posts that have attracted the most interest.

First, the survey reports themselves from 2015, 2013 and 2012.

Favourite historical fiction authors from 2015, 2013, 2012.

Favourite Reading Oriented Sites where readers go to discover and discuss books

Favourite Historical Fiction conducted for the first time in the 2015 survey

Gender differences played out in many ways – from the 2013 survey Men Have Their Say on Favourite Historical Fiction Authors and Reading Historical Fiction Varies by Gender while from the 2012 survey Historical Fiction Survey – She Says, He Says

Historical Fiction Would be Better If offers a look at what detracts readers from their enjoyment of historical fiction.

Reading Historical Fiction Varies by Country Part I and Part II

A recent look at boomer readers prompted much interest. More broadly there’s this post on Age Makes a Difference.

Historical Fiction Preferences – Publishers vs Readers a look at the eras being published compared with the eras readers prefer

A Reader’s Paradise – 312 reading blogs and sites mentioned in the 2013 survey plus Four Top Book Blogs from the 2012 survey