It’s Survey Time Again

Announcing HF 2015 SurveyYes, I know some of you will think I’m crazy!

However, the topic of reading is always on my mind and this time, with advice from historical fiction editor and blogger Jenny Quinlan and New York Time best-selling author Beatriz Williams, fellow panel members at the upcoming Historical Novel Society’s Denver conference, I’m releasing a 3rd reader survey.

Topics include:

  • preferences regarding famous or fictional characters
  • what makes characters come alive
  • favourite historical novels (yes, this will be complicated)
  • favourite historical fiction authors (let’s see how the rankings change this year)
  • effects of social media on the reading experience

Please take the survey and share the link with friends, family, and on as many social media venues as you can – https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/GXRD9B7. The survey will be open until May 14. Many thanks for your help.

A few highlights from prior surveys:

  • HISTORICAL FICTION IS MAINSTREAM: Less than 2% of participants said they rarely or never read historical fiction.
  • GENDER MAKES A DIFFERENCE: Women and men differ significantly in their reading habits and preferences and their views of historical fiction.
  • AGE MAKES A DIFFERENCE: Those under 30 have different preferences for genre and time period 
and have different patterns of consumption and acquisition.
  • SOCIAL MEDIA IS HAVING AN IMPACT ON READING: Social media and online sites play an increasingly significant role for those choosing, purchasing, and talking about fiction.
  • BOOK BLOGS ARE VERY POPULAR: 1,473 participants listed one, two or three favourite blogs.
  • GEOGRAPHY: Responses to questions such as the use of online tools for recommendations and purchasing and preferred setting for historical fiction varied by geography.
  • PRICING: Sadly, readers are pushing for low prices. For example, 60% want e-books at $5.99 or less and 66% want paperbacks at $10.99 or less.
  • ONLINE BOOK CLUBS ARE GAINING POPULARITY: 21% belong to online clubs while 15% belong to clubs meeting in a physical location
  • VOLUME OF BOOKS READ MAKES A DIFFERENCE: for example, high volume readers have different expectations for book reviews, a higher interest in tracking their books, and higher usage of online tools and social media to augment their reading experience.

A Writer of History has many posts on survey results and insights and you can find summary reports and other popular articles here.

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.

Reading historical fiction varies by country – part 1

After looking at survey results through a gender lens, I thought readers might be interested in a country lens. I’ve chosen to compare US and UK, since these countries had the most participants. One hypotheses is that favourite authors will vary – let’s see what emerges.

NOTE: I’ve looked for questions prompting significant differences rather than minor variations that are unlikely to be statistically relevant. Additionally, on a percentage basis more men participated in the UK group than the US.

What type of story appeals to you?

Story Preferences US & UK

Preferred time periods:

In some cases, US and UK readers prefer different time periods.

  • 3000 BC to 1000 AD: UK 34%, US 16%
  • 6th to 12th centuries UK 44%, US 27%
  • 17th Century UK 19%, US 33%
  • 18th Century UK 25%, US 45%

Reflecting on your favourite historical fiction books, how relatively important are the following factors?

While factors such as superb writing and the dramatic arc of historical events were of similar importance to US and UK readers, other factors showed wider variation.

Characters both heroic and human: UK 51% said it was very important, US a whopping 65%

Romance and/or sex: UK 56%, US 37% said this factor was unimportant; Hmm that’s interesting.

Where do you purchase/acquire books?

There was a marked difference in library usage with UK at 25% and US at 38%

What book format are you reading?

While e-book usage and mixed e-book and print had small variations, mostly print books showed a larger discrepancy: UK 50%, US 39%

Price Considerations:

On average, UK readers look for cheaper pricing of e-books than US readers

Where do you find recommendations for good books?

From Facebook, Goodreads or other social media: UK 39%, US 55%

And in contrast, browsing the book store: UK 53%, US 39% and from the books section of my newspaper: UK 23%, US 11%

Do you use blogs, social media or other online sites for reading recommendations or discussion?

Yes: UK 68%, US 83%

My head is spinning, so I’ll save the conclusions and insights for you, dear readers. On Thursday I’ll post the favourite authors by country.

Reader Interview Series – Ken L.

Man Reading - John Singer Sargent
Man Reading – John Singer Sargent

Please welcome Ken, the second of our reader interviews. In addition to reading, Ken has wide-ranging interests and many author recommendations to tempt other readers. Ken is a Facebook friend.

Tell us a little about yourself  –  I am male, 68 years of age and live in a small village in an area designated as an area of outstanding beauty which is in the  county of Somerset in the UK. I am now retired.

I trained as a design draughtsman in the Nuclear Power Industry, later becoming a site engineer helping to supervise the construction of Nuclear Power Stations, the latter part of my working life was spent in Sales and Marketing working for a Danish Pump Company.

My Favourite pastimes are reading, generally historical novels, spend a lot of time walking our two Giant Schnauzer dogs, gardening, we have a fairly large garden. Have done a lot of research on my family tree and through the National Geographic Genographic project have become very interested in the DNA aspect of finding out who and where our ancestors came from. Other interests are Folk Music, Art, drawing and painting, collecting  antique drawing instruments.

Please tell us about your reading habits and preferences – Generally read about one book per week so 50 to 60 per year, tend to read when I have free time, but mostly in the evening. I prefer a printed book rather than an ebook, although I have a number of ebooks on my iPad, this preference is probably an age related thing, although my daughters prefer printed books.

I generally only read one book at a time, and the majority will be historical novels set in Ancient times, Roman,Viking, Medieval, have not read many set in more recent times other than War Horse and just recently a novel set in the civil war period (England) mainly because I had read a number of the author’s books set in the Viking period.

Does not matter how long or short the book, I decide to read purely on subject matter. Mobile devices such as the iPad have only changed my reading habit insomuch as it is now far more convenient when going on holiday just to take my iPad.

How do you decide which books to buy, what influences your purchases? –  I generally decide by the author and time period of the novel, however I have bought books that have intrigued me by reading the brief synopsis of the story on the book cover, three come to mind, Labyrinth by Kate Mosse, The Last Templar by Raymond Khoury and Times Tapestry by Stephen Baxter – all of these books are historical type mysteries and I really enjoyed them.

What do you like about historical fiction what don’t you like? – I just like Ancient History and reading historical novels especially the really good ones, can give you an insight into a world long gone. You can also learn lots of interesting facts about the period and the people. I can’t say I dislike anything about historical fiction.

What types of historical fiction do you prefer? – As I have said earlier the main areas of historical fiction I prefer are Roman, Viking and Medieval period.

Do you have historical books or authors you would recommend to other readers, can you tell us why? – I have quite a large list of authors I would recommend such as Bernard Cornwall, Ben Kane, Anthony Riches, James Wilde, Simon Scarrow, Robyn Young, Jack Whyte, Stewart Binns, Angus Donald to name but a few. A few outstanding books for me come to mind, these are books I really could not put down  – Conquest by Stewart Binns, Requiem by Robyn Young, Hereward by James Wilde, Outlaw by Angus Donald.

In today’s world, there are so many opportunities to talk and learn about books – blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, book clubs – can you tell us about your experiences, where you go to talk or learn about books, why you enjoy discussions about books?  The only discussions that I have regarding my reading material is really within the family, particularly my brother. We tend to meet up every month for lunch and much to our wives’ disgust, we generally spend a lot of the lunchtime discussing the historical novels that we are reading or have recently read. My brother is actually having a go at writing an historical novel set in Roman times, he has done a great amount of research and finished a couple of chapters, really look forward to reading it.

What advice do you have for writers of historical novels?  – The only advice I would give is keep those novels coming, the greatest thing at the moment for me, is that we have such a healthy number of good historical novelists writing novels set in the periods I love. Long may it continue.

Is there anything else about reading historical novels you would like to comment on? – Discovering new historical novelists is always exciting, you can find them in the most unusual places. We were visiting a craft centre at one time, very near to where we live that exhibited all manner of things made from willow, in the showroom they were displaying a novel written by a local author, the title made me pick it up, “Warrior King”, a story about Alfred the Great. It was a really good read and I emailed the author to tell her how much I had enjoyed it.

Many thanks, Ken, for sharing your views. I’m interested in your point about ‘discovering new historical novelists’. Do you use features such as the one offered on Amazon ‘customers who bought this book also purchased …’ ? I think discovery is one of the biggest challenges facing authors, particularly those who are self-publishing.