We get a lot of questions from authors about how to write a book readers will love. Do they like series or standalone? Why do readers stop reading a book mid-way? Are reviews really that important? What better way to figure out what readers want than to ask them! We asked a few hundred readers what they like and don’t like about books and reading. We’ve rounded up their answers in this article and provided the key takeaways for authors.
Do Readers Prefer Books in a Series or Standalone Books?
Authors like writing in series. Marketers like marketing series. But how do readers feel? The overwhelming majority of readers are indifferent with 63% of respondents saying that they have no preference between series or standalone books. 14% said they prefer series while 22% said they prefer standalone books. For authors, this is good news. It means that whichever way works for you, will work for a majority of readers. Successful authors tend to love the series model, and at Written Word Media, we do too. Offering the first book in a series for free or low-cost is a great way to hook a reader and then draw them into your series. The reader gets to try out a new author and the author has an opportunity to gain a reader who will spur additional revenue month after month as they make their way through the series. It is easier to make the economics of writing and selling books work when you write in a series. If you have a series where the first book in the series is free, our Freebooksy Series Promotion (browse series promotional options for freebooksy here)is a good place to get your series in front of avid readers.
Some of the more enlightening information came in the open-ended comments section. One frustration that readers voiced with series books is simply the inability to find the other books in the series. That means that readers will gladly read your entire series, but only if it isn’t difficult for them to find the next book. When you are setting up your books in KDP make sure you keep series information consistent so your readers can find the books their looking for. Additionally, we saw lots of comments about cliffhangers. Readers hate them! It’s okay for your book to gently lead into the following book, but wrap up the story so the reader is satisfied by the last page. Cliffhangers lead to unsatisfied readers and unsatisfied readers lead to bad reviews and a decline in follow-on sales!
What Makes Readers Put Down a Book?
In the era of Kindle Unlimited, where authors are paid by the page read, every page that a reader reads counts. With this in mind, we wanted to find out some of the biggest story no-nos according to readers so we could help you avoid them. We asked readers what makes them stop reading a book. The results were informative. We asked this question as an open-ended question so as not to bias the poll. The most common theme among responses was the word BORING. Readers want a plot that keeps them engaged. Also mentioned frequently were uninteresting characters and overdone descriptions. Farther down the list, but still worth mentioning were grammar mistakes and spelling errors. For authors, this means plot and characters need to be a primary focus. It is critical to have a plot that progresses quickly to hook the reader and keep them reading. If you find there are slow parts to your story, try workshopping these scenes with an author friend until you’re confident readers will get hooked and stay engaged.
Reading through the comments, another big takeaway was that readers like reading a book that is inline with their expectations. If there’s going to be explicit sex scenes, make sure that’s clear up front. If it’s part of a series, make sure to tell the reader that so they can expect that some plot threads will be left untied at the end. Readers want to be surprised by how a story unfolds, but not confused by a book that is different than what they expect. Make sure your cover and your book description give the reader an accurate picture of what type of book they will be reading.
Do Readers Want to Interact with Authors?
When we asked readers if they would want to interact with the author of the book they are reading, the most common answer from readers was yes (45%). However, that leaves a majority who either aren’t sure (31%) or do not want contact with an author directly (16%). For authors, this is helpful in setting expectations for engagement. You can expect half of your readers to just want to read the book and have little to no interaction with you. That’s okay! Focus on engaging the other half.
We asked readers what their preferred interaction method is, and the responses were overwhelmingly digital. The top choices were email (55%) and social media (48%). That said, many readers would be interested in more intimate types of interaction like texting (25%) or in person meetups (39%). Authors should feel comfortable engaging readers over social media, and many of you already do. Email is the preferred method of communication for most readers so building a mailing list is something every author should be investing in.
Which Social Media Platforms do Readers Use?
With new social media platforms popping up regularly, it can be overwhelming to try to post to all of them. Good news: you don’t have to. Focus on Facebook. We know authors love Twitter, and it’s a great place to meet other Authors and engage with the wider author community, but Facebook is where the readers are. 73% of respondents chose Facebook as their preferred social media platform. If you are pressed for time and need to spend time updating your social media presence, focus on Facebook first.
Not sure what to post on Facebook when you aren’t actively promoting a new release? Try quote boards. These are small graphics with sayings on them. Read our article on How To Use Canva to get a better sense of the types of images you can post to boost reader engagement.
Do Readers Care About Reviews or Price?
We asked readers to pick a book based on just a few limited factors to try and understand how reviews and price impact the decision making process. The answer to this question was dependent on the type of audience you are after, and your goals for the book. We polled three of our reader audiences, and they all answered this question a little differently. Readers were asked to choose from the four options below:
The readers on Freebooksy love free books. They are happy to choose a free book with no reviews over all others. In fact 58% of them would pick a free book with NO REVIEWS over other the other options pictured above. Our Bargain Booksy audience enjoys a great deal but understands that good books often come at a price. That audience still liked the free book with no reviews, with 31% saying that would be their top choice, but almost equally popular was the $0.99 book with two 5 star reviews. A takeaway here is that in the early days of a book when it does not have a lot of reviews, you may need to lower your price in order to attract readers. If you don’t have any reviews on your book and your goal is to get those first few reviews, try running a Freebooksy feature. It will drive free downloads of your book which will get it in the hands of lots of potential reviewers.
Our NewInBooks audience is less concerned with the price of a book. They are not conditioned to look for discounts and have less of a problem paying full price for good books. They choose the highest price book 2.99 that had a 4 star rating.
The takeaway for authors is that reviews and price both matter to readers. When your book has more reviews you can begin to attract readers at a higher price. If you aren’t getting traction at $4.99 or $3.99 try lowering your price and running promotions to boost those reviews. After you get more reviews, you can start raising your price.
We hope this has helped you gain some insight into the minds of readers. The major takeaways from our readers survey are:
- Readers do not have a strong preference for series vs. standalone books. It is easier to become a profitable author when you write in a series and given that readers do not have a preference we recommend start with the series model. If you are writing a series, make all books in your series easy to find and avoid cliffhangers at the end of books.
- Make sure your book is not boring. Keep the plot moving quickly and spend time developing your characters.
- Be honest about your book. If it’s a series, be up front about it. Sex scenes, bad language, genre fit – make sure all those things come through on your cover and book description so readers are not surprised by what they find inside your book.
- Interact with your readers through digital channels like Facebook and Email newsletters. Readers want to hear from you when you use their preferred communication channels.
- If you have to pick, spend your time promoting and engaging on Facebook as opposed to other social sites. That’s where the most readers are.
- Reviews matter. Get reviews by running a free promotion. As you get more reviews you can charge more for your book and run successful bargain promotions or full priced promotions.
Do you have any burning questions for the reader community? Let us know in the comments and they just might make their way into our next survey!