Friday, August 7, 2015

How Do Readers Find Books?

It's Dan today, and I'm back to talk a little bit about book promotion & marketing. I stumbled upon a fantastic bookstore yesterday -- Southern Bound Books -- with a lovely inventory of gently used books for sale. One thing I love about used bookstores is that the inventory reflects a slice of the physical book market for the past 20+ years, as opposed to a new bookstore's carefully selected inventory (which incorporates, among other things, paid placement).

Many of us who are planning to publish books (or have already) spend a lot of time thinking about how to promote and market them to world. The same question from another point of view might be this: how do readers find books? Based on my research in this area, I think it comes down to three things:

  1. Author name recognition, e.g. Stephen King, John Grisham, J.K. Rowling.
  2. Word of mouth (family, friends, co-workers, etc).
  3. Everything else
Most of us don't have control over the two biggest contributors -- name recognition and word-of-mouth -- so that leaves us with the third category. So, what are the other ways that readers find books? How do you decide which books to read? 

Last but not least, I'll pose the obvious follow-up question: how should authors leverage this knowledge to promote their own work?

Caitlin: I think one way to look at it is what do you need to do (3. everything else) to get 1. & 2. to happen. Because, I'd bet, that's how most books are sold. But, there is one way I find books that I think (wish) could be enhanced. Sometimes I'm in the mood for a book on a specific element (an MC with telekinesis) or with a specific trope (trainer/trainee relationship, famous guy/regular girl). In those times, things like listopia on Goodreads help me find books I might not otherwise have found. But, I find myself frustrated even with those limitations. I'd love a system where you could get really specific with what you want (e.g., a mystery set in the 1980s in the American Southwest; a speculative YA trilogy involving references to the KGB that has a trainer/trainee romance, etc. etc.). Perhaps you could even search for things like word count, publications date, author bio, etc. etc. If you know of a search tool like this, let me know! But so far, I haven't found anything that lets you do an advanced search for these types of things and brings up a list of books that meet your criteria. I think that would be a great way to help readers find books that they'd love and help books find their audiences. 

Karlie: Caitlin, yes please. I would LOVE it if that were possible!! It would be the best. I also think that things like promoting specials on sites like Amazon tend to help, and social media can be a great tool as well. In my experience word of mouth is the best promoter of all.

Lisa: Name recognition usually only comes after a top ten best-seller - more than likely it'll take two or three top ten best-sellers before your name is recognized as widely as the authors you mentioned, Dan. I've found that website/social media ads aren't the most effective ways to promote your book, as well as many other forms of paid advertising. In my limited experience, which is mostly just witnessing from the sidelines, is that word of mouth is the best way to get the word out. This works on social media - Twitter, Facebook, Tumbler - but I feel like it's even better with a more focused social setting such as Goodreads or bookblogs. 

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