Back to all articles

How Readers Pick What to Read Next

Understanding reader behavior is key when it comes to selling books. Yes, not everyone feels the same, and some genres may vary, but by putting yourself in the shoes of readers, you will have more success communicating with them.

So, how do you put yourself in a reader’s shoes? Well, a great place to start is right here!

We recently polled our reader audience to find out how they choose what to read next, what makes a good book, how much they spend on their reading habit and how they like to connect with authors. 

The readers surveyed are subscribed to one of our email promo brands, like Freebooksy or Bargain Booksy, and we think this data can help inform where you focus when it comes to marketing your books.

Here are our results, and what they mean for authors.

Reader Behavior

Before we get into site specifics, here are some takeaways that held true across readers from all five of our promo sites.

You can also view a summary in this infographic.

1) The book description, author, and book cover are the most important factors for readers when deciding on a book purchase.

Most Important Factors When Deciding Whether to Read a Book

What this means for authors: Invest in your covers and take time with your descriptions. Also, once a reader knows your work, your author name will help them purchase your books in the future.

Cover ranked third, but it shouldn’t be underestimated how important a good cover is. Many readers are hooked by a cover first, and then move to the description and author name to decide whether to buy.

2) An entertaining or unique plot was the most important factor in influencing readers’ enjoyment of a book.

What this means for authors: Your content is important. Books with robust plots and interesting storylines will resonate with readers. Yes, covers and descriptions play a big role in driving sales, but once someone begins to read, it’s the quality that matters.

3) Readers consider the average review score when evaluating whether or not to read a book.

What this means for authors: Focus on getting reviews so you have a score for readers to assess. Don’t get sidetracked by a low review here and there. It’s the average that matters.

4) 23% of readers are active reviewers that leave book reviews frequently.

How Readers Pick What to Read Next 2

What this means for authors: Make sure to put that review ask at the end of your book. A simple line of text in your backmatter asking for a review is a great way to maximize how many readers actually write one!

5) If given an opportunity to learn more about authors, our audience agreed that they would most like to know “the author’s inside scoop on characters and storylines from their book.”    

What this means for authors: When creating and sharing content on social and in author newsletters, include details about your characters and storylines. This content could even potentially be sold to readers, or given away as bonuses to readers who share your book with others.

6) Over 75% of readers use Written Word Media newsletters as their primary source for finding their next read.

How Readers Pick What To Read Next 3

What this means for authors: Running a promotion in a Written Word Media newsletter is a great way for authors to start building a reader audience.

7) Over 35% of readers are Kindle Unlimited subscribers.

What this means for authors: Running a promo with Written Word Media will likely boost your KENP reads, even if you’re running a free day during the promotion.

8) Over 25% of readers read 6-10 books per month and spend up to fifteen dollars per month purchasing books.

What this means for authors: Having other books in a series, or by the same author, will lead to buy-through. Highlighting your other titles in your back-matter can result in future sales.

Site Specifics

That covers the high-level takeaways from our survey. Below we’ve taken a deep dive into each of our promotion sites and their associated reader behavior:


Bargain Booksy

Red Feather Romance



Freebooksy is our oldest and largest promo site, and, as you might have guessed, it is for promoting free eBooks. Here is what stands out about the Freebooksy audience.

  • The Freebooksy email list is now over 672,000 readers.
  • Over 80% of Freebooksy readers use a Kindle or Kindle app to read books.
  • Over 24% of readers spent over $5 a month on books each month, with over 12% spending over $15 a month. 
  • Readers love Freebooksy: 75% of Freebooksy subscribers use the newsletter to find their next read.

Bargain Booksy

Bargain Booksy promotes books priced between $0.99 and $4.99. Here’s what we’ve learned about Bargain Booksy readers:

  • The Bargain Booksy email list now stands at over 400,000 readers.
  • 41% of Bargain Booksy readers are also subscribed to Kindle Unlimited, so you can expect to see an uptick in your KENP pages read when you run a promotion.
  • 84% of Bargain Booksy readers use a Kindle or the Kindle App to read books.
  • Eager Learners: while the primary reasons Bargain Booksy subscribers read are to be entertained and relax, over 50% also read to learn. This was more than any of our other sites.
  • 76% of Bargain Booksy subscribers use the newsletter to find their next read.

Red Feather Romance

Red Feather Romance is a romance-specific promo site, and this list boasts some of our most active and ravenous readers.

  • The Red Feather Romance email list now stands at over 176,000 readers.
  • Red Feather Romance readers are voracious, with almost half of readers reading over 10 books per month. Almost 20% of subscribers read more than 20 books per month!
  • 91% of Red Feather Romance readers use a Kindle or the Kindle App to read books.
  • A whopping 47% of Red Feather Romance readers are also subscribed to Kindle Unlimited, so you can expect to see an uptick in your KENP pages read when you run a promotion.
  • Readers love Red Feather Romance: 86% of subscribers use Red Feather Romance to find their next read.


NewInBooks is focused on promoting new releases. These readers want the newest hottest reads, and we find that this audience is one of our most unique.

  • The NewInBooks email list stands at over 130,000 readers.
  • Big Spenders: 26% of NewInBooks subscribers spend over $25 per month on books. That’s more than any of our other audiences.
  • Social readers: NewInBooks subscribers are more likely to engage with others about what they are reading than any of our other audiences. 44% of NewInBooks subscribers talk to friends and colleagues about what they are reading.
  • They crave their weekly email: 75% of NewInBooks subscribers use the newsletter to find their next read.

As always, we are continuing to add new readers and engage our existing subscribers to get authors the results they want. If you have a question about one of our promo sites, feel free to contact us or ask it in the comments below.

Get more articles like these!

We send out monthly emails full of tips, resources, and industry data!
34 comments on “How Readers Pick What to Read Next
    1. Great article, although I used FreeBooksy, but I haven’t had anything back from it. No new reviews. It would be good to have feedback from it as you pay for the service.

      1. I had a lot of reviews from two of the Freebooksys I ran. The one I did on my MG novel didn’t get any, but I did give away a good number of ebooks.

  1. I really enjoyed reading this article. I’ve always thought their selection had more to do with the number of reviews. Thanks so much for posting. I’ll be sharing it with my author friends. This is very informative!!

  2. It would be even more helpful to poll your subscribers re how they discover/select books when their primary source is the Amazon website.

    For instance, what % choose based on:

    keyword search
    category browse
    new release search
    best seller search
    ad (by type)
    author new publication alert
    Amazon recommendation
    other (specify)

    1. Hey Reid, great idea! Perhaps we can do some more consumer habits research and learn more about how readers use Amazon.

  3. I look forward to the Written Word Media’s newsletter every month. This is especially true when you release those types of surveys. I find them invaluable to me when planning my book marketing strategies. Thank you for this!

  4. Thank you for providing such great information. I am especially intrigued by #5, where readers most want to know from an author about the characters and storylines. Good information to have as I plan blog and social media posts.

  5. As someone new to the author game and embarking in the journey to be published this is very informative and useful. Thank you for the article!

  6. I overheard the author saying that he resisted blogging until he realized that every blog is a preparation for a chapter in his books. Although she probably knew what that meant better, there are many bloggers who don’t know. I agree that even without being cut and glued together, especially without indicators, it is cowardly and reckless, but never to be called plagiarism by that thought.

  7. Great information. Please, can you give me details on what I need to run promo on your newsletters, especially those of us in Nigeria.

  8. Well, this won’t probably be a popular comment, but what they want is smut. I have been writing thrillers and horror for years and still haven’t made back what I spent on overhead. I sold stories to magazines in the 90’s so my writing can’t be that awful.
    I got tired of it and switched to the dark side this May and began writing erotic. I now have 12 stories out and I am making sales daily. No ads. No pro covers. No reviews. That crowd doesn’t care. They can’t get enough

    1. No, Savvy, yours isn’t a popular comment. If you write smut, I’ve no doubt it does sell. My books are steamy, but they have powerful stories with subtle messages to influence readers for good. They sell well, as do my Christian Romance.

  9. The first comments on this post are from 2020. Did you seriously just reblog an old article and act like it was new and relevant?

    1. Hey Sutton, we re-ran the survey in 2023 and updated the post with new data. Sorry for the confusion.

  10. What does it say about reader audiences today when this survey shows just “Over 24% of readers spent over $5 a month on books each month, with over 12% spending over $15 a month.” That really is ridiculously low. How can the book industry survive on such a low expenditure each month. Admittedly, this for audiences using the Freebooksy.

    1. Hi Ricardo, thanks for the comment. This particular statistic is from our Freebooksy subscribers who are primarily interested in free eBooks. The statistic is simply sharing that even though they are mostly interested in free eBooks, some are willing to spend money on books as well.

    2. I was thinking the same thing as I read through the article.
      The problem with Freebooksey is it prostitutes the industry. Nobody wants to spend money on books if they can get them for free. And with the advent of Indy publishing, it’s become more and more prevalent. Now, don’t get me wrong; I’m not trying to bash Written Word Media. They are not the only place that offers free books. They are offered everywhere, even by authors themselves trying to get their books noticed. Unfortunately, once you offer something for free, people always want it for free, so it’s really not helpful. Most readers won’t pay for a book when they can get it for nothing. As it is, we get very little off of a sale of one of our books. All our time, energy, hard work heart and soul, and expenses that we all go through to produce a novel is not returned. We can’t even get the benefit of feeling good about someone liking our work, because the majority of people don’t even write reviews.

  11. So, what’s your survey sampling like? How representative is it? Don’t you think it’s inevitable that you’d find 75% of readers use your promo sites if your sample was drawn exclusively from your subscribers?

    1. Hey Evy, great question. This is a representative sample of readers subscribed to our sites, so the fact that 75% use promo sites as a primary way to find books isn’t surprising, but it’s certainly good to be sure!

  12. Won’t dare doubt your survey. Sounds accurate, as does the one comment about smut writing… though I wouldn’t generalize …let’s say… racy stories if the storyline is racing. I’ve been at this (reading, writing and reviewing) since 2000 and find it challenging to come across sweet sappy thoroughly entertaining stories without violence or upfront sexual elements.

  13. Thanks for this info. Very helpful. If you ever dig deeper, I agree the Amazon criterion is what I’d like to see. Also, My background in the arts is prominent in my novels and would like to identify a readership interest in that sort of backdrop.

  14. Thank you for your candor in answering several tough questions. I was wondering about the analytics and if they were skewed because of your sample population.

  15. Interesting stuff! I’d love to know the breakdown of retailers your readers use. Was that included in this survey? Or could it be in a future survey? Either way, thanks for sharing with us!

  16. Choosing the next read involves a mix of factors: genre preferences, recommendations, reviews, and mood. Readers navigate this process to find the perfect literary adventure that resonates with them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *