Why Finding Readers is like Shopping at Sam’s Club

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Recently, I conducted a poll on Facebook to try to determine what factors influence readers to find and purchase books from “new-to-them” authors. The “influencers” were compiled from previous author polls, discussion on Marie Force’s Author Support Network, and from my own inspiration. I randomized choices for each respondent to allow for a more authentic poll response. Even so, this is the least scientific study I’ve ever conducted, with all kinds of potential bias.

  • The poll was conducted on social media, which may account for the heightened responses regarding those platforms.
  • It was only offered for a week.
  • It wasn’t, to my knowledge, distributed via author newsletters. A few loops, groups, and shared on FB.
  • There was no accounting for the reader actually buying/reading romance, and the sample size isn’t statistically relevant, given the overall projected number of romance readers.
  • I offered a chance to win a prize in exchange for participation (see winners below).

TLDR: It’s not a perfect study. Not even close. (But it was REALLY interesting!)

Below is the screenshot image of results and my analysis. I’d love to read your feedback/insights, so please leave a comment. Keep in mind, as this was NOT a scientific study, YMMV rules apply.  BEHOLD!

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(Click the image and embiggen for more details. Back to return.)

After viewing the Top 3 responses, I think it’s safe to state that the largest impact on gaining new readers is: 1-Great Products 2-From a Trusted Source 3-At a Reasonable or Reduced Price (AND with available free samples to try).

Shocker. This is NOTHING NEW. Marketing experts have been saying this for years, and apparently it works.

I was struck by the analogy of Bulk Shopping. When you go into a Sam’s Club, there’s a large quantity of products (even books, whee!) all at supposed discounted prices. Maybe you only intended to buy a case of wine or a spiral ham for your upcoming party, but darn, as you wheel through those HUGE aisles on your way to the meat case, those frozen food free samples are sooo tempting. You didn’t intend to purchase something else and you didn’t even know that mini-quiches were a thing, until you stuffed that hot gooey goodness sample into your mouth.

You tried it. And you liked it. (And P.S. your mother would be shocked that you actually LIKED spinach.)

The price $8 for a box of 40 seems reasonable, but wait! They’re actually on the endcap, which usually means they’re on sale (hence Free Sample Sally hocking her wares!) You drag out that weekend sales circular—Yep! They’re listed at $5 until tomorrow.

So, you buy it.

Still brushing quiche crumbs off your lips, you congratulate yourself now have appetizers for 20 people for less than the cost of a Starbucks latte. Score!! But, you’re still hungry. Darn it, you apparently LIKE spinach. And you won’t feel like cooking tomorrow. Maybe you should stock up…

Now you’re off roaming the aisles, looking for other party food platters in the same frozen food section, made by the same company. Because, hey, you liked those baby quiches. Maybe the box even had a hot guy in a chef’s hat on the front, telling you how great they are, like that chef you saw on Chopped.

Sexy Aussie Super Chef Curtis Stone.

He’s good. Yeah….you like him. Just last week, he compared spinach egg rolls to a culinary orgasm. And while you don’t normally go for spinach, you trust his taste in frolic fare, so you grab a box to have at your party. Not on sale, but, you don’t mind. The price is reasonable.

And…Curtis likes them.

“Good choice. Have you tried these?” Free Sample Sally asks in a conversational tone, watching you. “They are to die for.”

“I’m just here for ham and wine.” You reposition your egg rolls and mini-quiches, careful not to cover that cute Food Network chef’s face with your thumb.

“I love those,” Sally gushes. Love is kind of a strong word, but you ARE still thinking of those yummies, so you nod. “Have you tried these spanikopitas? They’re on this aisle.”

More spinach? Why not? It can be your theme. You now adore spinach, actually. Mom would be proud.

You thank Sally and cram a few more boxes into your cart, vowing to eat leftovers for the rest of the month.

And that, my friends, is how those Top Three influencers work. You got a free sample of something you liked. You had suggestions from “trusted” sources. And what drew you to Costco was their emailed blast of upcoming weekend sales, which is why you were there to buy a ham in the first place.

In the future, I hope to conduct a few more polls regarding the actual product features that readers find most important when making a decision, but for now, I’m going to pop a plate of mini-quiches in the oven (spinach!) and get on to the more pseudo-science-y stuff:

  1. The total number of respondents was 232, with a total of 693 votes recorded. The poll question did not address rank order (e.g. I look at reason A first, then B, then C), and while I could filter them, since it was not specifically mentioned in the question, I feel it’s not appropriate. The poll simply asked, “How Do You Find New Authors to Read?” with no qualifiers.
  2. The #1 Response-Free Books remained constant for the entire survey. It did not change, no matter when or how many responses came in. The “free sample” still seems to be effective for drawing in new readers.
  3. The Top Three Influencers retained almost equal votes at 89, 86, and 82 respectively.
  4. There is a clearly-defined drop after the Top Three Responses, with #4-Recommendations from Friends garnering only a 26% vote. What’s interesting is that for much of the poll, this response was listed at a lower position, which only shows that without a statistically-relevant response pool, YMMV. Even 10 new votes was able to reshuffle the order outside of the Top Three.
  5. Also of interest—Readers place MORE weight on what a favorite author suggests or endorses, than what their FRIENDS do. I think this illustrates that reading is a personal and subjective choice, and it’s a real testament to “write what you wish to read”
  6. Responses #5-“Facebook parties” and #6 – “Also Bought or emailed book retailer suggestions” tied at 19.5%. This seems to indicate that usual social media marketing/sales techniques still have some success with finding new readers.
  7. The bottom three influencers (Author “puff” blurb on the cover, Bestseller lists, and Keyword searches) remained constant through the entire period of the survey. Combined they received only 26 of the 693 total votes.
  8. It is interesting to note that the #2 ranked “suggestions from favorite authors/author endorsement” seems to be the same as the Bottom ranked “Author puff” (which may be due to reader’s lack of comprehension or an unclear wording on the survey) in fact, it seems that having a favorite author’s personal endorsement or suggestion does not have the same impact as any random author’s quote on your cover. (i.e. Suggestions of what YOU (the author) love to read go much further than a reader picking up a book and seeing an author they do not have a personal connection with puffing the book)
  9. It’s important to point out that there were very few “outliers” and no one chose to write-in an answer.
  10. Lastly, the responses’ popularity was clearly delineated into tiers of impact as evidenced by similar or shared percentages. The Top Three. Responses 4-9. The bottom two.

Also of interest was the screen shot regarding data of who and how readers responded to the survey. Here’s that thumbnail if you care to see it (click to enlarge):

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Thanks to all who participated and shared in my Reader poll and to you, for dropping by. I chose two winners for either a copy of any book on my backlist OR a $5 book retailer gift card.

Big congratulations to Kathy O. and Inga K. You won!

I hope to conduct this survey again later this year, to determine swing in influencers. Who knows? Maybe some new hook may arise to garner reader interest.

And maybe by then I’ll be over my double addictions to Spinach…and Super Chef Curtis Stone.

Did you get your free copy of LIAR LIAR, Book One of my sizzling hot Romance series? Tap to subscribe and get yours today.