M.K. Tod’s 2013 historical fiction survey asked readers to name their “top 3 reading oriented websites, blogs and social media sites”. In other words, where do people go for information and discussion to enhance their reading. The answers are in:
Goodreads is way out in front with 907 mentions followed by Facebook, Amazon, Twitter and Historical Novel Society.
Interestingly, when readers mention Facebook they often qualify their response by mentioning a favourite group, author, fan page or the Facebook page associated with a blog.
Compared with 2012, Twitter has leapt ahead and I am delighted to see the Historical Novel Society featured so strongly.
Over 675 sites were mentioned. That’s an amazing number of sources for readers to peruse!
CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL THE SITES FEATURED
When I have more time, I will attempt to aggregate some of the numbers so I can report on different categories such as small book review blogs, sites dedicated to historical fiction, author blogs, library sites and so on.
After an incredible eight weeks consumed with survey responses and results, I’m attempting to pause and think. The process reminds me of wading through reams of consulting analysis to find the few gems that would make a significant impact for a client. After twenty years in that profession, such synthesis was relatively straightforward but today I feel less confident, as though I’m trying to find my way through a faintly lit tunnel.
Here’s a diagram I created a few months ago:
Coloured boxes represent the main players in the book business whose primary roles are listed beneath each box. Forgive the simplicity but I hope it helps illustrate a few points. Each player faces challenges, I have chosen what I think are the main challenges. The question I’m musing on is whether the survey augments this diagram in any way.
- When asked about favourite authors, 404 different authors were chosen by only one person; a further 99 authors were chosen by only two people. Not only are historical fiction authors faced with a highly competitive marketplace but the chances of becoming a top twenty or even top forty author are very, very slim.
- In response to questions about favourite digital and non-digital sources for recommendations, survey respondents told us that they do NOT look to publishers for that information. Only 3% mention industry sources such as Publisher’s Weekly or Ingram Advance. Only three publishers are mentioned by name – Random House, e-Harlequin and Harper Collins – and these only once.
- Traditional book reviewers like The Guardian and New York Times were mentioned, but I believe one of the most interesting statistics is readers’ overwhelming preference for small blog sites as a source for recommendations and a place to connect over books. Readers are pushing traditional reviewers out of the endorsement space.
- In the retail space, the survey offered no surprises. Historical fiction readers, like all other readers, have moved online. The selection role of retailers is seriously threatened. And what about Amazon? Readers told us that although they buy online, Amazon is not a favourite source of recommendations.
- Readers have embraced social media as a way to share their love of books. Faced with abundance, they seek like-minded people to discover new books. Readers also look to author sites for recommendations. I believe authors should ask themselves what else readers expect of them.
- Readers told us they intend to read more in the future than they do today. Those readers who discovered historical fiction early in life continue to select historical fiction as a significant percentage of their reading and in higher than average volumes.
I’ll leave you – and me – with a few questions: (1) are readers becoming more powerful? (2) is this a good time for historical fiction authors? (3) can new authors find markets for their books through the blog community? (4) what should historical fiction authors do differently?
Readers provided their favourite digital and non-digital sources for book recommendations. I am very pleased that the Historical Novel Society will soon publish information and analysis about digital sources; in the meantime, here are results for non-digital sources:
- The top three categories are: Other Newspapers (typically city-based papers), New York Times Book Review and Book Review Magazines
- 19% of readers use only digital sources
- Bookstores and general magazines are significantly ahead of libraries
- The Times is almost exclusively mentioned by UK residents; the New York Times merits only one mention by a UK resident
- Readers cited a range of book review magazines and general magazines
- I’ve checked various demographics but see little variation based on sex, age or annual volume of books read.
I believe the most significant insight is that 1 in 5 readers indicated that they only use digital sources. Stay tuned for further information!