Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The SinC Mystery Buyer Survey: A Reaction

When SinC Board Member Barbara Fister was asked for her reaction to the SinC Mystery Buyer survey, she offered the following in reply:

Some things that are interesting but not necessarily a surprise:

... That people still depend to a large extent on the physical -- rather than the virtual -- world when it comes to discovering and purchasing mysteries. It's no surprise that personal recommendations are the major driver of reading choices; what is interesting is how little online media seem to play into that decision-making.

... The importance of brick-and-mortar stores is also interesting and one wonders, with the decline of the massive chains, how that will play out. (More market share for indies? Or more migration elsewhere?)

... I'm also intrigued that covers still play a major role. I know they do for me, but in a world where ebooks get such a share of publishing buzz, I wonder how that physical and visual information provided by covers will develop.

... Finally, I am not surprised by -- but am interested in -- the fact that the under-30 group has the most experience with reading ebooks, and yet is nearly as resistant to them as the over-60 cohort. That's what I hear when working with traditional-age college students. They tend to prefer "real" books. But I suspect that is a finding that may surprise others.

The things that surprised me:

... Are that many books still sold through retail book clubs? Really? That seems such a relic of the past.

... That book reviews in traditional media remain so influential, given that review space has so severely contracted in the past five years. (As an aside, I never could understand why media that depend upon readers assume those readers are not interested in books.)

... I am not really that surprised that blogs and reviews on other social media are equally influential but, since on page 10 the report says only 34% of mystery buyers read blogs, I am wondering what social media they are paying attention to -- Facebook? GoodReads and LibraryThing? Or do people encounter blog-based reviews when searching online without identifying them as blogs?

... That people are more likely to take the recommendation of a bookseller than a librarian when choosing books; as a librarian that's fascinating. (I mean, it's not as if we're trying to sell them anything!) But then again, the report suggests that people in this survey are more likely to buy a book than borrow one from a library, so I suppose that lower profile then makes sense. (Given that I buy a lot of books but borrow far more from the library to feed my addiction, I can't imagine not depending on a library -- but each to their own. I can't resist pointing out that under-30s are among the heaviest users of libraries.)

Barbara Fister, the author of the Anni Koskinen mystery series, is an academic librarian at a liberal arts college in Minnesota. Her most recent mystery is titled Through the Cracks.


Sandra Parshall said...

Barbara, I'm not just trying to flatter you when I say that librarians are the most book-savvy people I know. Maybe some people, especially younger ones, never stop to think that librarians earn degrees in library science and go to work in libraries because they love books! They're voracious readers. Want to know what's new, what's good? Want to find an older book but you're not sure of the title or the author's name? Ask a librarian!

Sheila Connolly said...

What is frustrating to me about the results is that the key factors seem to be things that we as writers can't control, like placement in bookstores. We have limited input for the covers. And we can't be everywhere and meet everyone to talk about our books (and hope they like us). That's why so many of us rely on electronic communications--it's the best we can do.

Nancy Martain said...

The surprise is that traditional media still matters. Rumors of its demise have been exaggerated! I think it shows readers are still hungry for input about books and seek it out.

Is all our online PR a waste of resources? (We're all hoping for an easy fix, right? And doing PR from our home computers makes us feel as if we're doing something right!) I think online efforts will grow as an influence, but this is a wake-up call for many of us. A great website is clearly vital. Update often. And targeting who our readers are--that's a subject each of us should be taking very seriously. But otherwise, I'm putting my mind back to writing well. and often.

Barbara said...

Thanks for the library props, Sandy. I know a lot of librarians try really hard to stay up to speed on all the books their patrons might be interested in.

As for the online promotion, I found it interesting that respondents were influenced by online reviews, but didn't rate blogs highly. It made me wonder whether they are reading blogs and just don't read them serially. Some of the smartest reviews are being written by bloggers who are avid readers.