Monday, November 22, 2010
What Readers Really Think
Last week wound up my posts on Promo School. But none of that matters one flip if we don’t look at promo and writing from the reader’s perspective, does it? With that in mind, I created a survey for readers. This survey was very informal, and there were no right or wrong answers. Just opinions. As someone who worked in the polling industry for a while, I understand the meaning of pure sample, and therefore chose to interview only readers—not authors or aspiring authors. Yes, authors read too. But when they do, they look at the books in a totally different way than someone who doesn’t write. It’s hard to separate the writer from the reader. Can you imagine me asking a writer what they think of their own promotions or writing? I think they might be just a tad biased in what they had to say. So, for the purpose of the survey, I chose readers only.
So I’m going to tackle what readers think of the way we authors promote our books, and tomorrow, Regina Carlysle is going to post on readers and their likes and dislikes on romance writing in general. She’ll be using the opinions in the survey along with her years of writing experience and all the workshop details she’s gathered along the way. Together, these two posts should be packed full of info and lead us into some great discussion. But heads up, some of the material may overlap as what pertains to promotions does at times involve the actual book content.
My initial questions revolved around cover art. Why cover art? Cover art is the first point of sale —a readers first look. Readers definitely think great cover art is a must. We all do, don’t we? But readers also think cover art with a hot man on it is a must in erotic romance. They also want to see quality cover art. Don’t skimp on the photos, don’t skimp on the gloss. They want the whole enchilada. And they want the cover art to reflect what is inside the book. Make the cover art a window that allows them a glimpse into the book.
Readers were split about evenly on the length they prefer for book titles. Short or long, as long as its memorable, they’re happy. Linda particularly likes “sexy” titles. She was also very specific about “sexy” hunks on the covers too. LOL Go Linda!
Let’s talk about Yahoo groups. All but one of the survey respondents belong to Yahoo groups. And almost all of them lurk. Contests tend to bring them out—maybe not to chat—but definitely to enter. Yvonne says, “A lot of the times, I'll participate and if I don't win, after reading the excerpts I'm so excited that I purchase the book.” When asked what they’d like to see more of on Yahoo groups, Mindy responded with, “MORE EXCERPTS!”
Tina at Two Lips Reviews really likes Yahoo groups and says, “I love getting to know the authors, but it’s a double-edged sword. If the author has a crappy attitude I might not pick up their novels ever again.” So authors—definitely watch the attitude. Be courteous and professional on groups. It’s a must. Anne Rainey posted about professionalism this past Thursday.
In addition, here is what Tina wants more of on groups: “I would like to see hour-long author chats with just the author, and blurbs, simply getting to know them.” All of the readers liked the idea of getting to know authors, but it wasn’t essential. Not all will respond to chatting. But they do read what you post apparently. And here’s a bit of a heads up from Regina: “If I had the time, I’d chat all day with the groups that interest me! LOL And I love the Hot pictures, but I don’t like the same subject sent over and over. People should clean up the emails before replying.”
Trim, trim, trim. LOL I’m with Regina. Although, I do forget to trim a lot of times, but that comes more from being out of time and simply not thinking about it than anything else.
And Mindy is a very organized reader it seems. “I do lurk quite a bit and I do read ALL the excerpts. My favorite excerpts I put in a file on my computer so I can look up a particular book I want to buy.” Yvonne prefers promotion days, “…where a certain day is picked and excerpts are posted for new releases”.
When asked if she was more apt to purchase a book from an author if she’d chatted with him/her, Roni had this to say: “If authors are on day chats on the groups. And I like them—Yes I will. But I also know the authors who show up on promo day-drop a dozen emails and hit the road…yeah…not so much running for their stuff.” And I’d say Roni hit the nail on the head there. Promo drops aren’t always the way to go.
So what I found in so far as Yahoo groups are concerned is this:
Readers sometimes chat, especially when there is a contest. They like getting to know authors but they don’t have to know an author to buy from them. Basically, they’re paying attention and reading excerpts. Evidently, all is not lost where Yahoo groups are concerned. And when you’re on and chatting, they’re at work or busy with life and simply reading your excerpts on digest, catching them when they can. It’s convenient. Just the way it’s supposed to be.
What about other ways authors advertise? Tina was very specific. “Tag lines will stick with me and make me wanna go back and get the book.” And Yvonne has apparently seen some signature lines from authors she really liked. Another specific comment came from Regina when asked about promotions that turned her off. “THE AUTHOR SENDING ME HER PROMOTION 10 TIMES!!
So authors, don’t spam. Catchy tag lines win, and pay attention to what you put in your signature lines. Also worth noting is that readers do buy sometimes based on author ads they see on the Internet. Catchy tag lines on banners are a real draw. Blurbs posted along with book covers do it too.
Now let’s touch on review sites. The most interesting thing I discovered is that all who took the survey do subscribe to review site newsletters—most subscribe to several. And all had purchased books based on those newsletter ads. Tina especially likes newsletter ads where the blurb is included. What about review ratings? Overall, none of the readers would buy a book rated lower than 3, although, if the book was in a series they were reading they’d buy it anyway. But they all considered three to be the definite cut off for a review recommendation with some saying they don’t buy books rated less than a 4. But it was interesting to note that the readers surveyed who were not reviewers, didn't look to review sites to always recommend their purchases.
I asked about what they thought of free reads and every single one responded positively. But when I asked if they preferred serial reads—such as posting a chapter or scene on a blog and then more the following day or week, most all of them much preferred to download the free read in its entirety. Personally, I can identify with that. The other day I purchased Destiny Blaine’s newest release, Breakfast by the Sea, http://destinyblaine.com (yep, getting in a plug here, lol) and have only had time to read a little here and there. I finally put it down after I’d taken two days to read two chapters and decided to wait until Thanksgiving evening when I had the time and read the book as it should be read. Just me, the book, and no distractions--all in one sitting. lol
Now, readers still read some of the serial reads, but they’re hard to keep up with. Sometimes they simply forget to go back and read or don’t have the time. So those free reads are much easier if they are sitting there on their computers or e readers when they do have the time. Yvonne has this to say about free reads: “I like a variation of both. The serial free reads with the option to download once the free read is finished. Podcasts are also a fun way to do this.”
Blogging or Yahoo groups? There really was no preference here and just as you’d expect, readers only comment when something piques their interest. So put some effort into your blog posts and into what you post on groups and you’re more likely to see reader response. As far as what kind of blog posts appeal? Well, all kinds, really. Humorous seemed to get the biggest mention. Mindy said that she liked character blogs. But just as I said in my Promo School posts, blogging in such a way that you can connect with readers is the key.
The last thing I want to mention is that I did get a few comments on what turned readers off. And I already mentioned “spamming” them with the same promotion. But there were two more things that were mentioned. One: Offering free reads in exchange for votes in a contest. And two: Begging for votes in a contest. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions about those two turn offs.
As I said, Regina Carlysle will be here tomorrow with more reader insight. So make sure you stop back by and see what she has to say. I know it’s going to be very interesting because she’s already told me a bit about her post. LOL
Hope everyone who reads, finds the result of this very informal survey as valuable as I did. Authors, AND MOST CERTAINLY READERS, are more than welcome to comment. I hope you do.