A unique blog dedicated to covering the worlds of book publishing and the news media, revealing creative ideas, practical strategies, interesting stories, and provocative opinions. Free speech, literacy, and great books are also discussed. Along the way, discover savvy but entertaining insights on book marketing, public relations, branding, and advertising from a veteran of two decades in the industry of book publishing publicity and marketing.
Monday, May 9, 2016
Do You Survey Your Readers?
been commuting on Metro North railroad from Westchester to New York City for
over a dozen years. One thing the rail
does well is take surveys of its commuters.
Just the other day I took the time to fill out one when I otherwise would
ignore such requests from other service providers. The train is generally
providing a good service but it has its quirks that need attention.
questionnaire got me thinking: Shouldn’t
publishers survey their consumers?
Shouldn’t authors query their readers?
For the book industry to grow and improve upon its product and service
it will need to engage its core fan base more.
of the reason publishers don’t survey their consumers is that they don’t know
who they are. Most publishers fail to
sell directly to consumers and thus have no clue as to who buys their
books. How can they survey a mysterious
first they should reconsider direct-to-consumer sales. They can increase their profit margins by
selling to people without a middleman.
The next thing they can do is survey those who visit their site or the
sites of their authors. Facebook or
Twitter can also be locations ripe for surveying readers.
what could publishers or authors learn about their potential reader that would
and publishers need to know why someone bought a book. Publishing professionals guess as to what
inspires consumers to make the purchases that they make. Was it a book review or word of mouth? Was it a poster or a timely email? Did the title or book jacket copy or cover
image make a difference? What else do
you read or buy?
are some industry studies put out from time to time about the demographics of
book consumers but I’m not aware of any publisher-specific or author-specific
surveys that explore why people buy their stuff.
not much data is needed. One could think
that if a potential reader is told by a reliable source that a book is really
good, explains what it is about, and is offered a low price he or she would be
more likely to buy it, but even under that scenario, there are competing books
and non-book purchasing options. What
really sways one to make the purchases that they make? I want to know.
could be the answer is based on some psychological factor that a survey
responder neither can -- or desires to -- identify.
Maybe a lot of book purchases happen haphazardly or spontaneously.
would also want to survey people after they make their purchase. How many end up reading the book? How many find it was as good as they expected
or hoped it to be?
would also like to know what readers want.
Can we survey them to tell us what they would have changed about the
book? How can we build a better product?
editors and authors really work off of very little information. It’s a lot of
gut-instinct guessing that guides the decisions of those who create, publish,
and promote books.
news media is the same way. Book
reviewers determine what to review, not only based on advertising factors or
their personal preference, but upon their perceptions of what they think their
readers need or want. Take a survey and
they may be surprised.
survey is done more informally, by piecing together statistics and anecdotal
information. When something sells well a
variety of conclusions are drawn though little is available to support
them. When something fails, all kinds of
reasons are speculated, but again little is there to disprove or support such
theories. In an era where information is
abundant, the book industry still knows little about customer behavior when it
comes to books.
ask a reader – once you secure one – what he or she thinks or wants. You may just be surprised.