I managed to find time to review the recent survey results and the results are quite clear; if you want to sell books it really is down to word of mouth and by the way; paperbacks are still popular. At least that is the findings of a survey of 48 respondents to my recent survey. Now let’s be clear about who responded too as that is important. Around 60% were friends and family while the other 40% were random responses from Facebook and other sources. Still, whoever responded (my sincere thanks), the results are useful and intriguing.
When asked what sort of book people preferred about 47% would rather have a paperback although around 23% enjoyed ebooks. Hardbacks and audiobooks ran neck a neck at 17% each. Actually, I find this result rather strange as most of my own sales are ebooks, followed by audiobooks and only a very small percentage are paperbacks! Plainly, the smell of paper and ink still has an aura that many find difficult to lose.
What is important when people are browsing books looking to make a purchase? Well, it seems that the short description on the back cover or on amazon is the most critical factor and was ranked most highly. To my surprise, the book cover art was ranked least important in selecting a book to read. Genre was of second most importance followed by the amazon seek peek feature that allows you to read the first few pages of a book online prior to buying. Title was next and the author name second to last. To me, this suggests that an author’s brand is not so important as the genre and content of the book however, again, I see evidence all around that certain authors attract readers for their books. Additionally, I find cover art to be critically important especially online and have had reviews in which it is mentioned that the cover attracted them in the first place.
How do people find books to read? By far and away the most important indicated by the survey is friend recommendations at around 31% followed by browsing Amazon at 16%. No other response scored more than 5% including reviews. It is clear that friends recommendations or word of mouth is a key attribute in a books success however, to me, it is a mix of many things that gets a book noticed and purchased including reviews, free promotions and so on. The importance of word of mouth is also echoed by responses to the question about how respondents found my books where friend recommendations was again the highest rated response by a long way at 46% of all responses to the question. However, this latter question also showed that Facebook, interviews and features on the author and blog site wall had a reasonable level of responses as well.
What can we authors learn from this?
Well, bearing in mind it was a small sample and had a high element of family and friends as respondents, we need to take the results with a small pinch of salt as they may not be representative. However, quite clearly, if you want to sell books, you need to have your network working for you via word of mouth. This is the single most important factor and to me, it comes with an element of luck for not everyone bothers to tell their friends about the book they are reading. On the other hand, there was enough in the survey to also suggest that authors need to cast their nets widely and use social media, their own websites, mailing lists along with a good presence on Amazon to drive book sales. It also suggests that authors should pay a lot of attention to the copy they use to promote the book – compelling copy sells books.