Monday, February 6, 2012

And the Survey Says …

Thank you to everyone who filled out the survey last week. Most of the results were about what I expected and I now have the numbers to prove it. A few items caught me by surprise. I also learned a bit about putting together survey questions for the future. (Note: I’m writing this based on current numbers on Saturday, January 28th, but will be leaving the survey open temporarily for anyone still interested in weighing in.)

Who are you?

Although not included in the survey, other data I’ve seen suggests that our readership is dominated by females (about 60%) with most being in the 25-45 year old age range, more to the top half of that range than the bottom half. Those outside of that age range are more likely to be older than they are younger. This seems correct for a group of recreational readers who are using new technology.

You all read eBooks, with two-thirds of you owning one of the e-ink model Kindles. Ninety percent use a Kindle product or app. Those users of the Nook or Nook apps dominate the remainder. Most have multiple ways you read eBooks, combining dedicated eReaders, tablet computers, apps for your Smartphone, and PC reading software. Four out of five read at least three books a month, with almost one out of three reading six books or more. Your preferred eBook retailer is predictable, with Amazon and affiliates as the favorite of 75%, B&N 5%, and Smashwords 12.5%, with the remainder spread among other eBook retailers.

Most read a mix of Indie and traditionally published books. However, a small number (5%) read Indie books almost exclusively and slightly more (10%) read only a small number of Indie books, with books from traditional publishers making up the majority of your reading fare. Four out of five of the respondents visit Books and Pals at least weekly.

Slightly more than half of those who responded are authors.

How are we doing?

At least in the two main questions aimed at uncovering this, I liked what I saw, although these questions were also those that were the least well thought out on the survey. It appears that most find the appraisal section, which is the heart of the review, valuable. While a slight majority of the respondents found the ranking among the most valuable sections, I was happy to see that the book description, appraisal, and genre generally scored as more valuable than the ranking. That means you’re paying more attention to what is being said than an imprecise numerical score, which is how I think it should be. Some comments validated that interpretation. A small, non-trivial number thought the Author bio was not valuable, with most people finding value in all other sections of our reviews.

What is going to change?

Of the non-review posts we’ve had in the past or might consider having, two of them (guest posts from readers and book giveaways) are only of interest to one in three people. My sense has been that book giveaways are popular with a small subset of our readers and don’t do much to attract new readers. While I’m sure we’ll continue to participate in giveaways, I expect it will continue to be somewhat rare. There doesn’t seem to be a demand to increase these.

The other categories (guest posts from authors, commentary on happenings in the eBook world, and author interviews) were all popular with 70-75% of the respondents with commentary being the most popular. The commentary, I enjoy doing. The author interviews, I think I would enjoy and, since this is something our readers are interested in seeing, would like to do. Guest posts from authors are something I’ve also liked and thought have been both entertaining and educational when we’ve had them. All book reviews all the time feels like a rut for both me and, I suspect, for our regular readers.

However, we still have hundreds of books in our backlog with authors hoping to see a review some day. I’d like to continue at the current pace of four or five books reviewed each week with a post most weekdays. I’m thinking I’ll aim to have an author interview each weekend on either Saturday or Sunday, with commentary or guests posts displacing an interview or review once or twice a month and see what the response is like. I’ll want to limit the interviews and guest posts to authors who have already had a book reviewed here. If you’re interested in an interview, contact us. I’m interested in guest posts that would be of interest to readers, like those we’ve done previously. (Click on the ‘Guest Post’ label on the right for examples of the kind of thing we would be interested in.) If you would be interested in writing a guest post, email a description of your idea for consideration.

What has me confused?

I’m not surprised that the respondents were almost half authors (who are also readers). I’ve always known the blog readers who are most engaged, those who leave comments, make frequent visits, and respond to things like this survey, included a lot of authors. Those who follow are disproportionately authors and they are more likely to comment or otherwise engage with the site. If anyone has suggestions for increasing the number of readers who are not authors or inducing those who are already regular readers to engage more, I’m open for suggestions.

Although some of the statistics I’ve seen made it appear this way, it surprised me when I saw the number of people whose visits are random (although regular), using a bookmark or typing in the name of the site, and how few are prompted to visit by a tweet or Facebook post. I have some ideas under consideration in this area, but am also open to suggestions, either in the comments or via email.

I also thought the survey was an interesting exercise and something I’ll do again, focusing on different things each time. What do you think?


?wazithinkin said...

Thanks for posting the results of your survey Al. I am surprised that FB doesn’t play a larger role in drawing in more readers. I don’t twitter so I have no idea about that. Although I think you get a lot of traffic that does not post replies. I think maybe if you had counter buttons at the end of each post like ‘find this post interesting’, ‘will buy this book’, ‘I agree’, ‘I disagree’ or things of that nature might be something to think about adding. Just a thought . . . :)

BooksAndPals said...

Thanks, Linda. What surprised me is the large number of people who come her regularly on there own without prompting, as opposed to those that come based on seeing a FB post or tweet. I can see how you idea could be useful in a lot of ways for feedback purposes. I need to think about something like that.

Daniel Powell said...

Hi Al,

Thanks for the great content you provide here on the site, and the helpful reviews. I participated in the survey, and I appreciate that you're interested in gathering feedback and making the site even better for your readers.

I'd love to see some themed weeks (five horror writers discuss their process during October, for instance), and also some content generated by editors and publishers. It's interesting to hear about all phases of book production.

BooksAndPals said...

Thanks, Daniel. If readers don't like what we're doing, there isn't much point in doing it. :)

I like your ideas. Were it probably a little late to pull it together the same timely theme could work with romance writers around Valentine's Day. And of course the theme wouldn't have to be timely to work.