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What do SFF readers really want?

Discussion in 'Novels & Stories' started by Puck, Nov 4, 2021.

  1. Puck

    Puck Minstrel

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    I am interested to find out about SFF reader tastes and opinions – the genres people like, any preferences for formats, story length preference and other love/hates. I am guessing most of us here are.

    To find out I could ask industry 'experts' (whoever they are), or we could chat about it and all offer our own anecdotal opinions.

    But I thought it might be a better idea to run a survey and collect opinions from a lot of readers. I have designed something on surveyprimtate with just this in mind & rustled up some participants from my friends circle, facebook groups and some goodreads people.

    But the more the merrier, as they say!

    So, I’d be grateful if you could help by completing my survey. It’s dead simple. Just click on the link to the questionnaire below and fill it in:

    Link to the survey

    It takes about 5 minutes to do, so it's longer than a simple poll. Please note, I am not collecting any personal information or asking for email address etc. I have deliberately kept it 100% anonymous to encourage more people to answer.

    Anyone who reads SFF in any form can participate (including publishers) – but please answer with your SFF reader head on rather than your professional head if you are in the business.

    I shall probably leave it running a week or two to glean as many responses as possible.

    Once I have enough completed interviews, I’ll share the results online (a bunch of charts) & provide a link for people to view them on this thread.

    Thanks,

    Puck of Olde England
     
    Devor likes this.
  2. Puck

    Puck Minstrel

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    Thanks to those who've filled this out so far. If you haven't done it yet & have some time to do it over the weekend I'd be most grateful.

    The more answers I get from various different sources the better. So far I have over 50, so hopefully I'll end up with a good final number.
     
    Devor and Ned Marcus like this.
  3. Puck

    Puck Minstrel

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    I now have over 100 responses, so looking like this should give a fairly good overview of what readers are looking for.

    Interestingly, looking at what has come back so far - poor cover artwork emerges as one of the most off-putting things (not a huge surprise there). However, it has a couple of rivals for things likely to put readers off.

    One was the blurb - in particular if the blurb doesn't provide enough info for the reader to make a decision on whether to buy or not. Looks like not providing enough detail in your blurb is as likely to put readers off as bad quality art on the cover.

    Also getting quite a few readers complaining about reviews that they suspect might be fake. Fake reviews is obviously a problem online these days with online shops. Looks like some readers (quite a lot actually) suspect this problem is spreading into the world of book reviews on platforms like Amazon and other online book stores. Makes me wonder how widespread this problem is really becoming.

    There are also a chunk of readers who think "free" = poor quality. It is likely that the context in which something is offered for free (or not) can potentially be very damaging if you get it wrong.

    When I run the final analysis it will be interesting to see how this all finally pans out.
     
    Ban, Slartibartfast and Devor like this.
  4. Puck

    Puck Minstrel

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    I'll be closing this tomorrow (Saturday). Thanks to all who've helped with it so far (I now have 118 completed). I'll look to slide share the results next week.
     
    Slartibartfast likes this.
  5. Puck

    Puck Minstrel

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    I closed this survey at the weekend. We had 119 people complete the survey in the end. I have slide shared the results for anyone who is interested:

    Link to see survey results
     
    Ned Marcus, Ban and Slartibartfast like this.
  6. Slartibartfast

    Slartibartfast Minstrel

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    Very useful. Thanks for taking the time to undertake and upload this. There were a few surprises in there for me and I will definitely be bearing this in mind going forward.
     
  7. Puck

    Puck Minstrel

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    It is not necessarily a total either / or choice - some people clearly like both formats. Whether they go for an ebook or paper is probably partly a situational decision I suspect - i.e. just a matter of convenience on the day. A lot of people of all age ranges appear open to paper or ebook. Audio is more niche but clearly more popular with a younger audience (and probably growing - although we can't measure that in a one off survey). It is an online survey though - there are probably some people (the more internet and social media averse) who'd be more likely to opt for paper but who would be less likely to have answered this survey.

    For me, I was particularly interested in the negative experiences people mentioned for ebooks. It looks like 3 things are most offputting:

    1) Poor cover art (which we kind of knew)
    2) The blurb / info about the book isn't sufficient for the reader to grasp what it is about. (an interesting one)
    3) Scepticism about ratings and reviews (also interesting)
     
  8. Ban

    Ban Troglodytic Trouvère Article Team

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    I'll never understand the preference people have for page numbers over word count. Page numbers don't tell me anything, you could stamp a single letter on each and fill a few hundred pages with a single paragraph.

    Obligatory mini rant aside, thanks for the survey Puck. Appreciated.
     
  9. Ban

    Ban Troglodytic Trouvère Article Team

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    I saw you had a different slide later on mentioning preference, which was more balanced, so I deleted my comment.

    Those three dislikes make sense, though I'd reckon cover art will have a much lesser impact on eBook sales than paperbacks or hardcovers. Us paper aficionado's use them for decoration after all.
     
  10. Puck

    Puck Minstrel

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    I suspect that is Amazon Kindle for you, who've pretty much gone down the page number route (which therefore means people are familiar with what this is and therefore more comfortable with it).
     
  11. This isn't really anything to do with the book though. All this sais is that if the sales / marketing part of the book is wrong then people won't buy it. Pick up any indie-publishing self help book and they will tell you that the first thing you need to do after writing the book is get a professional genre cover, write a good blurb and get as many reviews as possible, since those are what a shopper uses to buy your book. It's only missing "make sure your preview is great and preferably ends on a cliffhanger" as the 4th part of how to get people to buy your book.

    These 3 things go for anything you buy online and most things you buy offline. If the images of a product are bad then people will simply buy one of the alternatives with better images. Same with the description. This works just as much in a brick-and-mortar store. People do judge books by their cover, even people who say they don't. And I think people have gotten wise to fake online reviews, again not something to do with books, just with online shopping in general.
     
  12. Puck

    Puck Minstrel

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    Certainly. I am sure people's experience of dubious reviews and ratings outside of books has inevitably made them more sceptical of book reviews.

    Streaming services are a good example. I know I take the star ratings with a massive pinch of salt ( I think the stars are going from Netflix now because so many people just don't believe them).

    The self-help books have been talking about the need for reviews for ages but the change that has happened over recent years is the growing level of scepticism people have about the reviews (and ratings).

    There are blogs out their now for readers and customers offering tips on how to spot fake reviews. They are probably worth a read in terms of understanding what sort of reviews we might not want.

    I suspect that increasingly people might ignore the 5 star and 1 star reviews and look more to the mid-range in the quest to get a more balanced view. Every book will have its pros and cons - people who'd love it vs people who probably wouldn't. I have seen at least one blogger saying that readers should be sceptical of reviews that are either 100% positive or 100% negative.

    Another guy was saying readers should ignore reviews written before the book was published, or reviews that all appear at once shortly after publication as they were more likely to be paid pro-reviewers rather than 'genuine' readers.

    This could be an area where things will change fairly fast; so well worth keeping an eye on any latest developments.
     
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