Discovering reader preferences, habits and attitudes
Readers and writers – a symbiotic relationship. Ideas spark writers to create stories and build worlds and characters for readers’ consumption. Readers add imagination and thought to interpret those stories, deriving meaning and enjoyment in the process. A story is incomplete without both reader and writer.
What then do readers want? What constitutes a compelling story? How do men and women differ in their preferences? Where do readers find recommendations? How do readers share their book experiences?
ANNOUNCING A 2018 READER SURVEY designed to solicit input on these topics and others.
Please share the link https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/68HL6F2 with friends and family via email or your favourite social media. Robust participation across age groups, genders, and countries will make this year’s survey – the 4th– even more significant.
Participate by clicking this link. (You may only take the survey once!) Those who take the survey will be able to sign up to receive a summary report when it becomes available.
M.K. (Mary) Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, Time and Regret was published by Lake Union. Fellow authors Patricia Sands and Heather Burch helped design and plan the survey. Mary can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or here on her blog A Writer of History.
Having conducted two reader surveys with more than 3000 participants and ten reader interviews, I’ve identified six recommendations for writers of historical fiction that seem to surface again and again.
- Historical accuracy is crucial – half the readers interviewed said that historical accuracy is very important to their reading enjoyment. Moreover, when asked in the 2012 survey ‘what detracts from your enjoyment of historical fiction?’, 44% of readers responded with inaccuracies which included seeing modern sensibilities in a historic setting, anachronisms, dialogue that does not fit the period, poor research, moving major dates to suit a story line and so on.
- Make all aspects of your story authentic – since the top reason cited for reading historical fiction is ‘to bring the past to life, appreciating how people lived and coped in past times’, it’s not surprising that readers want an authentic story, the kind of story that makes them feel ‘immersed in place and time’.
- Avoid too much historical detail – in essence, make sure your facts are correct, but don’t weigh the story down with all the research you’ve done. Nothing bores readers more than feeling like they are reading sections on non-fiction inserted within the story. What one writer referred to as a ‘Wikipedia dump’.
- Keep your novels coming – readers who discover a new writer or those who wait longingly for the next story from tried and true favourite authors are anxious to dive into the next story.
- Ensure that your writing is superb – poor writing, unrealistic characters, slow pacing, overly sensational stories turn readers off. Polish, polish, polish every line of text.
- Avoid gratuitous sex and violence – cheesy sex scenes, explicit sex scenes, overly gory battles and scenes of violence are a particular turnoff for women.
Note: in the accompanying chart, the section in purple refers to other reasons cited by survey participants.