10 insights from the social reading landscape

Social ReadersI began this series by looking at the data around social readers then developed 2 Models for Selling Historical Fiction followed by Selling Historical Fiction Parts II and III. In the process, I offered several diagrams illustrating the changing ways readers and writers are connecting.

Survey data suggests that social readers are changing the reading landscape. I suppose I could have said that social media and a wide range of new applications are enabling social readers to emerge as a market force.

After drawing all these pretty diagrams, do I have any conclusions?

Below are ten insights for your consideration:

  1. Embrace social readers and those who influence them.
  2. Seek out blogs and reading sites for your genre. In my case this is historical fiction and what my former agent called ‘up-market women’s fiction’.
  3. Seek out blogs and influencers in geographic markets and specialty markets where you think your books will appeal. For example, one of my novels is set in WWI France, which suggests looking for bloggers and websites with an interest in WWI or a focus on France.
  4. Since social readers are more likely to purchase online, make sure you provide links to purchase your books every time you appear online.
  5. Talk to your readers. Determine where they hang out and join the conversation. Interact with them whenever they offer a comment. Invite them to make their opinions known through mini-surverys, questions on social media and other mechanisms.
  6. Make sure your e-books are available in as many formats as possible.
  7. Look for opportunities to interact with book clubs.
  8. Maintain an active social media presence that is two-way not one-way.
  9. Include your email address with your books and on your blog so readers can contact you.
  10. Get active on Goodreads – by far the #1 favourite site mentioned by readers.

Oh, and two more:

  • collect emails as you go so you can reach out to readers from time to time, and
  • don’t forget to explore other sites – those I’ve categorized as ‘reading websites’ and ‘reading forums’. For example, IndieBound, IndieBrag and IndiesUnlimited are a mix of book sites and retailers. Pixel of Ink offers free and bargain books. Mumsnet and the Yummy Mummy Club are parent sites with books sections. Wattpad allows you to present chapters for reader comment, you can even serialize your book and test it out. Book Daily offers free book samples so that readers can do the equivalent of reading the first few pages of a book. Some of these sites may be suitable for guest posts, to engage with readers or as a marketplace for your books.

Whether you’re a reader or author, your opinion is important. Please let me know what you think of how social readers are changing the reading landscape.

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 in paperback from Amazon and in e-book formats from AmazonNookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. Mary can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.

Selling Historical Fiction – Part II

A few days ago, I wrote about the HNS conference presentation on Selling Historical Fiction, which sparked interest and comments on various social media forums. Tony Riches encouraged me to add ‘bubbles’ representing Amazon (all 12 sites) and the other main online retailers that enable writers to reach an international audience. On Facebook Dianna Rostad, Sarah Johnson and Rachel Bodner chatted about the importance of cover design and sub-genre to attracting an audience.

I promised another diagram to explore the topic of connecting writers with readers in the self-publishing realm. Having spent twenty years in consulting, I find diagrams illuminating although I am aware that some see them as simplistic and that it is difficult to show all the subtleties of a situation in one single diagram. Consider this one a work in progress.

Selling HF to readers

One of the outcomes of my 2013 historical fiction survey was a very long list of online sources readers use to find book recommendations. Almost 700 of them, in fact. Investigating the list – a laborious process – has allowed me to categorize them according to broad purpose or functionality as shown in the ‘bubbles’ that facilitate connections between writers and readers. (I’ve excluded some sources such as publisher sites, newspaper sites and librarian services from the diagram because they are not typically available to indie authors.) Self-published authors who cannot exploit the agent-editor-publisher-retailer chain, must decide the best combination of influencers to approach to get news of their books out to the market.

Bombarded as we are with messages and imagery, individuals pause only briefly to  assess interest, which means the book’s cover and title must arrest the reader and convey something about its subject. Rachel Bodner offers her personal experience in a very interesting blog post.

It’s also worth reflecting on the answers readers gave when asked to comment on the importance of several factors in choosing a book. Here’s the breakdown:

Factors influencing book choiceAdding ‘very important’ and ‘extremely important’, subject matter comes out on top, followed by author, trusted recommendation and price.

A few reflections:

  • choose online sources to feature your book that suit its subject matter
  • a trusted author might be willing to lend their brand to your novel but you have to earn that privilege
  • as noted above, cover art must convey subject matter
  • book blurb and tag line also have to grab attention
  • you need a combination of online influencers to reach an audience of any size at all

I think I’ll look for correlations between factors that go into choosing a book and other responses such as preference for e-book or print, age, gender, and number of annual book consumption.

That’s it for now. Your thoughts, critique and suggestions are very welcome.


2 Models for Selling Historical Fiction

The first main panel session of HNS London 2014 had the catchy title: SELLING HISTORICAL FICTION: THE CHALLENGES AND TRIUMPHS. Moderated by Carole Blake of Blake Friedmann, the panel included Matt Bates, Katie Bond, Nick Sayers, Simon Taylor and Susan Watt all discussing aspects of the market for historical fiction. Not surprisingly, most of the conversation centred on traditional publishing.

The takeaway for me is embodied in the following diagram:

Selling Historical FictionIn the traditional process shown on top, you can see 5 main selling steps:

  • (1) WRITER sells an agent on a book’s possibilities
  • (2) AGENT seeks and sells to an editor
  • (3) EDITOR sells internally to an editorial committee inside the publishing company she/he works for
  • (4) PUBLISHER sells to a select group of retailers
  • (5) RETAILER sells to consumers and entities such as libraries, businesses, schools

The arrow connecting writers directly to readers on the bottom is overly simplistic, however, what it suggests to me is the need for those of us who are self-publishing to find ways to differentiate our books for readers who are making a purchase decision. We need to provide readers with the same sort of confidence that comes from all the selling steps in the traditional model. More on that later.

As always, let me know what you think.

PS – as Tony Riches points out in his comment, the self-pub arrow needs elaboration. I will work on that and get back to you.