Updated: Aug 7
The short version of knowing your audience is essentially knowing what they like to read. But the question is, where do readers decide to buy a book? Where do they become the most engaged to make that buying decision?
In a study published by Panorama Project at Portland State University in 2021, the study found several key interests in the "How," "Where" and "Why" readers engage and buy books. Avid readers defined by the study were people who engaged with four or more books a month, totaling approximately forty-eight books in a year. Millennials were found to be the most avid in media engagement with great percentages of Black and Latinx than within the general survey population. Library card holders made up seventy-five percent of the respondents, meaning one in three people who bought a book from a store or online first checked it out in a library.
We may think of libraries as ancient relics that are going to fade away at some point. However, libraries remain tools for discovering books and become potential catalysts for book buyers. Thirty-one percent of the study participants went on to buy books from a store after they discovered them in a library, and thirty-five percent went online to buy them. If the book was unavailable in the library, out of the number of respondents, thirty percent conveyed they would just buy the book instead of waiting for it to become available.
According to the study, bookstores are not showrooms for Amazon, as study participants conveyed the same when discovering a book online vs. discovering a book in a bookstore. And while word of mouth is still a popular marketing method, such as recommendations made by friends, it only made up about twenty percent, while the genre was at thirty-nine percent as the most important deciding factor in buying a book. More so, fifty-three percent of avid readers also highly engage in video games, TV, and movies.
For the self-published author, it is important to know these factors when beginning to write for your target audience. The study revealed a "racially diverse market for book content" that is available to be nurtured, and self-published authors (who are also booksellers) are missing out when they don't use Librarians to reach their audience, as they can assist in helping patrons explore "expansive collections, including self-published titles."
The study revealed the greatest question is "Why?" People buy books mostly because of the genre, while the next answer to the "why" question is the author, followed thirdly by reviews. So, if you are a new self-published author, and no one knows who you are — it is highly unlikely you'll hit the number two spot. So how do you know where to begin getting your work out there?
Get your book published online. This is the biggest step. You can use Kindle Direct Publishing through Amazon. Make sure you tell your readers where they can find your book online by saying something like "available on Amazon" on the inside of the cover, maybe on the copyright page. This way, when your book is in the library, interested readers know where to go buy a copy. Save in-person author events for when your book gains traction.
Panorama Project; Noorda, Rachel; and Berens, Kathi Inman, "Immersive Media & Books: Consumer Behavior and Experience with Multiple Media Forms" (2021). English Faculty Publications and Presentations. 74.