Thursday, 29 June 2017

How do readers discover books?



If you're a self-published or independent/small press published author, you've probably read many blog posts about what makes a reader choose to buy a book.  Is it the eye-catching cover?  The favourite genre?  The catchy blurb?  The price?  The reviews?  Of course, it's a combination of some or all of those elements.  Before any of them, though, comes the greatest problem of all:

In a time when thousands of new books are published every week, how do you get the reader to discover the actual existence of your book in the first place?  




As well as being a writer, I am an avid reader.  I read 99% of books on the Kindle app on my tablet, and download between 1 and 10 a week.  I read, or start to read, between 6 and 15 books a month.  I'm sure you've seen all those graphs showing how most readers discover the books they buy, so I thought I'd do an assessment of the around 300 books I've reviewed on my book blog.  The categories differ slightly from those you see on standard graphs, but I think the results will be interesting for writers and book bloggers to see how an average Kindle user makes her choices ~ particularly for those writers who don't buy Kindle books themselves, but hope to sell their own.


Here goes:


Amazon: chanced upon during an Amazon browse (usually in 'also boughts'), 
or books that have come up as recommended for me by Amazon.
16


Book Blog: downloaded after reading a review on a book blog, 
or other article about the book/author.
14


Personal Friend Recommendation.
4

Twitter, after talking to the author/getting to know them.
43

Twitter, via a passing tweet.
16

Favourite author
When I've read one book by an author via one of the other discovery routes, 
and liked it enough to buy another of their books ~ sometimes just one other, but with some authors that initial discovery has resulted in multiple downloads.
98


Chosen to review from the list of submissions
on Rosie Amber's Review Team, of which I am a member.
91


Other Review Request: I don't take requests generally,
but on occasion a fellow writer has asked me to review a book, 
or I've read submissions for an award.
16


Paperback lent to me.
3


Won the book 
(incidentally, I've since bought and reviewed all of this author's work)
1


Bought after watching a TV programme or film.
8

Classic I always meant to read.
1


Facebook promotion or advert.
0


Goodreads recommendation.
0

Sometimes the categories merge, for instance, when I choose a book from Rosie's review team list that I would have bought anyway.  And do bear in mind that I don't use Facebook much, and when I do it's mostly in a non-book/writing fashion.  It's worth noting, too, that I am about 50% more likely to download a book if it is available on Kindle Unlimited.


I'd be most interested to hear how you make your choices 😃



40 comments:

  1. You read a lot more than I do (I'm slow at EVERYTHING), but when I choose a book that's out of my usual authors or element, I ask friends for recommendations or chance on something on twitter or a random blog. Your list was interesting.

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    1. Thanks, Judith ~ yes, some of my best finds have been via random tweets. Or just someone I got chatting to about something else on Twitter, after which I've looked at their books!

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  2. This is interesting - I've not analysed my buying habits, but know I do look for books by favourite authors - which makes it hard for those of use trying to edge into a crammed market, but worth thinking about. And I know I often read books recommended by friends.

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    1. I think that if we're going to expect the reading public to move out of their comfort zones to discover our books, we have to do the same, Jo. It's a karmic thing, I suppose! Before Twitter and the writer community online, I was stuck in such a rut, only ever read the same few authors, over and over. Friend recs, yes. In fact, I recommended your travelogues to someone only the other day, ha ha!

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    2. ...btw, the 'won' book was yours - after which all your others came under the 'favourite author' category ;)

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  3. Lately, as I haven't had as much time for reading as I'd like, I have mostly read books sent to me by Rosie. She always picks for me so I get a wide range of genres and don't just stick within my comfort zone. Other than that I usually go on friends' recommendations or with paperbacks I like to just browse in Waterstones. A very interesting post T and it's interesting to see how we all choose differently :D

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    1. As I mostly just read Kindle books I browse Amazon rather than Waterstones, E! What I try to do is alternate between Rosie read and an own choice, except that it's often 2 own choices to 1 RBRT!

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  4. Very interesting, I think I need to do this too.

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    1. It is, indeed! I'd like to see where you find yours - the few that aren't review subs, anyway!

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  5. Just wondering what the classic was?

    Bought a travel book on your recommendation lately.

    Besides the books I receive from Rosie (as a team member) I download books from the 'also read' list, from friends I've made on Twitter or as a result of some of the interviews I've done with authors. Paperback books are usually from charity shops or passed on from friends.

    I'm ashamed to say my kindle is much like my desk at the moment, cluttered - the kindle cluttered with half-finished disappointing books left unread - desk with the thousand and one writing posts 'to do'.

    Interesting, Terry - I've never thought about how I've found books before.

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    1. The classic was Jack London's Call of the Wild (AMAZING book!)

      Glad to see you choose in a similar way to me. As I said to Jo, above, I think that if we want new readers to chance on us via tweets, blog reviews, etc, then we have to do the same. And I'm so glad I do, because I've discovered such gems and lots of new favourite writers! As for those Kindle disappointments, I just delete them as soon as I know they're not going to happen. It's one reason why I love Kindle Unlimited - it's just a library, that's all.

      Now I want to know what the travel book was....!!!

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    2. I couldn't find a new book by Jo Carroll so I read about a few of her books and chose Bombs and Butterflies: Over the Hill in Laos

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    3. Oh good, I love that one, it's possibly my favourite!

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  6. What a brilliant idea, Terry. It's interesting to see your book buying stats. I might take a look at my purchasing habits too although my kindle is a bit chaotic at the moment!

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    1. Oh no, I couldn't do it from my Kindle, too many are abandoned after reading only a little, and there are so many that will never get read! But it would be interesting to do it that way, I must say. Hmmmm!!

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  7. I tend to read books in certain categories: Nordic crime, other crime...and certain writers, whose latest novel I'll always grab. Other than that, I do take the odd recommendation or read something by someone I like on social media ...but as a former librarian, I know what I like....ooh and I have certain re-reads: Dickens, Wilkie Collins. 'Fraid I never read chicklit or romance. Have tried, honest.I DO review what I read, because as a writer, I know the importance of reviewing

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    1. Why 'fraid' you never read chick lit or romance??!! I see that as a good thing, ha ha! Yes, the 'favourite author' category is high for the reason you said, with me, too; if ever I have nothing pressing to review and get stuck, I go and see if any of my favourites have new books out. And sometimes my favourites who I know on Twitter let me know!

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  8. Hello Terry, Thank you so much for sharing this - it's really fascinating. As an author who has just found an agent - and who finally hopes to crack a publishing deal - I have been thinking a lot about how to get my work seen. Also, it was particularly useful as I am not a Kindle user. Many thanks! Anne de Gruchy (at:
    https://annedegruchy.co.uk/)

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    1. I think that's one of the problems new writers who don't use ereaders or purchase via Amazon face, Anne; they don't understand how it works! Obviously if you get trad pubbed you'll have books in shops anyway, but if you are published by an indie press you'll probably find that most of your sales are Kindle. Amazon's visibility works like Google's; the more your book is bought, the more likely it is to come up in searches or get recommended to readers who have bought books in a similar genre. On my Kindle app on my tablet, there is a running list along the bottom of the library carousel, that gives suggestions, and when you finish a book, you get a list of others that people have bought after reading it.

      As I said to Jo, above, I think it's important for us, as writers who want to get our work noticed, to adopt the habits we hope potential readers will, ie, actually reading book blogs and taking the recommendations, rather than just buying from the selection offered in high street shops. Thanks for reading and commenting, and I wish you all the best in finding a great publishing deal!

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  9. Nobody has mentioned the public library. When I first retired from full time teaching I went to the library every week. First I would look at the returned shelf which is often rewarding, then the new purchases shelf. Next would be favourite authors and lastly genres such as crime or history. After 18 months I couldn't find many books of interest which I hadn't read so that's when I turned to browsing Amazon and Twitter. Now I mainly buy or receive free kindle books such as those via Rosie Amber and there's always a new book to begin.

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    1. Sadly, Liz, I think this says it all - simply that people don't use libraries so much. I went to my local ones every week until I started to use my Kindle app, and now my library is Kindle Unlimited. I prefer Kindle books because the Kindle is easier to prop up when I'm doing other stuff, I can carry all my books at once, highlight passages for reviewing, and read in the dark! Alas, libraries just don't hold the selection, and never did. The one I used to provide in Cromer had the 'if you liked that you'll like this' shelves, but not many do!

      It is a great shame, but things change and it is sad but true that you can't halt progress! As you say, now there is always a new book to begin. And if I don't like it, I can just delete it, I don't have to remember to take it back to the library!!!

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    2. Reading in the dark is the best feature of a kindle and that you can carry so many books with you in one small container.

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    3. Agree, absolutely! Can't read a paperback beside a sleeping, snoring husband ;)

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  10. This is so interesting, Terry. Years ago I spent most of my time in the local library and didn’t buy many books at all. When I began to buy more I stuck to favourite authors and genres. Now I think the majority come via Amazon, or the review team, to my kindle or bookshop browsing. I still follow favourite authors and that category has expanded enormously since I’ve been blogging.

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    1. Isn't it one of the fab things about our strange corner of the online world, that we've discovered all this new stuff???!! And Amazon HAS taken over from libraries; sadly, you can't halt progress. A book I don't like from Kindle Unlimited can be deleted with one touch, rather than trying to remember to take it back, forgetting, being charged a fine...!!

      Only yesterday I saw that Gemma Lawrence has a new book out, and I was quivering with excitement even as I downloaded, then abandoning my writing and going to finish the current 'read' by Liza Perrat, who I also love, so I can start it.... this is as I might have done with books by John Boyne and Douglas Kennedy, before!

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  11. Great post, Terry. I thought it was interesting you found so many of your new books through Twitter - but then your post was recommended to me on Twitter, so that just goes to show how word spreads there! As a reader I find most new books through recommendations by friends, through book reviews on blogs I follow, or by hearing about them on FB. I don't often find new books on Twitter, but as an author I do promote my own there. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Glad to hear that you take up book blog recommendations, Helena. If only all readers read as we did, eh? I MUST use FB more in a book way, I really must....

      Thanks for taking time to comment :)

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  12. I'm never quite sure. Looking at the latest novels I've read/am reading:

    1 sent to me by someone I know online because they were hoping for a review
    1 sent to me by same person because they liked the review I posted
    1 from NetGalley. I requested it because the author is well known and I enjoy thrillers
    1 recommended by my wife who gave me her copy.
    1 birthday gift
    1 thriller I picked up free on Amazon because the author (whose work I like) plugged it on Amazon
    1 histfic that has been sitting around the house for ages because it was a gift I expected not to like and I now feel guilty not reading it earlier because it was so good.

    I do buy books, but really very seldom because I get given quite a lot and I have a big TBR pile. I don't want to end up one of those people who buy more books than they are ever going to have time to read. I favour thrillers, though only three of the above fall into that category. I read a lot of histfic, though that's what I write, so it's not necessarily very relaxing.

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    1. This is interesting, Tom, and I think you're probably not dissimilar to many busy writers. But as I said to Jo, above, I think that if we expect readers to see our books on social media and book blogs and buy them, we need to do the same... behaviour follows trends; change is a slow-moving, subtle wave.

      Guilty, re the having having more books than I will ever read. I buy them as I see and fancy them and add them to the to-read list, that sits on my wall (I like crossing them off!)(Burke is at #7!). (btw, how did the # before a number thing start, anyway????)

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    2. Because I get given books (including one of yours once) I do end up quite often reading outside my comfort zone. My wife will choose very different books to me, but I often read and enjoy the ones she passes on - so quite a lot of my reading is "chick-lit" of one sort or another. I do have a weakness for rom-coms. Of the seven books I've listed, only one (the NetGalley one) was actually a thriller I chose. All the others were, to a greater or lesser extent, chosen for me, though people do tend to be quite good at guessing what I will like even if it's not something I would necessarily have picked out for myself.

      I think I'm far more concerned with the quality of the writing than with genre. A really well-written romance will keep me going where a badly written thriller won't, though I'm not generally a romance fan.

      I think # for "No." is a US thing. Neater, really, so I can see why it caught on.

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    3. I suspect by 'chick lit' you mean 'women's fiction'??? Chick lit is generally those ditzy romances about cupcakes and greek beaches...!

      Oh yes, of course, quality of writing every time. But there are some subjects I am just not interested in reading about. Vampires, romance, fantasy worlds, action adventure, police procedurals, kids going missing, to name but a few.

      I like the # thing, too.

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  13. I would think of Bridget Jones, anything by Sophie Kinsella, some Meg Cabot - that sort of thing. If you say 'women's fiction' I think more Joanna Trollope, which is rather less my thing.

    Rather to my surprise, I love the 'Twilight' books, so I wouldn't necessarily blank vampires. You'd think that a police procedural would be a police procedural, but I think there are some that are noticeably better than others.

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    1. I see - yes, totally chick lit. I'm amazed you read it, that's all! With exception of the first Bridget Jones, and the first Shopaholic book by S Kinsella, it's a genre from which I run a mile! 'Women's fiction' I find dull, dull, dull, mostly.

      I don't care how good a police procedural is, I just find them tedious. Problem is that I never care that much whodunnit, and all the discussions between the detectives to get to the root of the case bore me senseless, even if they're well done. Reviewing for Rosie has really made me understand which genres I shouldn't even attempt!

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  14. Thanks for the post with your interesting results. I have always avoided using Twitter as yet another new piece of technology to learn, but this isn't the first time I've heard of Twitter being successful. I do FB, Goodreads, LinkedIn and Amazon plus my own website, but I'm not so good with Instagram. I write historical/social history set in New Zealand so maybe I'd better broaden my marketing horizons! I know a lot of my target audience don't use the internet as much as I do and I don't profess to be an expert but as you said, it's all about pushing your comfort zone.

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    1. Vicky, it's so hard, isn't it? To be honest I don't do half that I 'should' do. I scarcely 'do' FB, and have never even looked at Instagram. LinkedIn is more for business connections, isn't it?! I just find that on twitter people are more interested in a wide range of subjects, and there are so many useful hashtags to use that really get your stuff out to the reading public. I've done some articles about how to use Twitter, links here:

      http://terrytyler59.blogspot.co.uk/2016/07/twittertips-posts-and-more-on.html

      Tho probably best to wait until you've registered, it won't mean much until you've had a look around the site!

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  15. Hi Terry - fascinating post to read and then read the comments and your answers. I've so many here waiting for me to read - and feel guilty as I don't read whole books often - then I'm hooked and that lasts me a year - well has done so far. Equally there are masses I dip into as reference type books that I use when something prompts me ... one day I shall read, read!!

    So interesting to see your thoughts here ... cheers Hilary

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  16. Glad to see Book Blog reviews on that list. At least I know spending a hell of a lot of time reading, reviewing and writing up posts is worthwhile.

    When I'm not reading a book I've been asked to review, I mainly scout NetGalley and see what sounds interesting - although this has certainly failed a few times with books I couldn't finish, as they were nothing like their blurb.

    Failing that I also like to browse book shops, and pick out something that stands out to me.

    I've even gone off the front cover before now - Bad girl I know!

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    1. Oh yes, for sure - and the one I'm reading at the moment is from a book blog rec, and I've got one on my to-read list that I read about on your blog, recently, too!

      From a writer's point of view, if I get a really good review on a book blog, it always produces some sales, even if it's an old book.

      I've never used NetGalley, mostly because a lot of the books I read are self-pub. We don't put them on, because it costs £200!

      Nothing wrong with a front cover choice - that's why covers must convey the genre adequately. And your remark about the blurb not being like the book is interesting; someone told me that a lot of smaller publishers are trying to shoehorn books into the grip lit genre when they aren't, really, because that is what is selling.

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  17. I like the recommendations of friends on Goodreads and blogs that I follow. I use the goodreads as my list of reading and of books I want to read. My memory for names of books and authors is bad and without the goodreads I would be lost.

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    1. That's good to hear that people use Goodreads as it is intended to be used, Lu! I mostly just use it for reviewing, I find, but I know that some actually do refer to their 'want to read' list. Mine is stuck on the wall!!

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