I’m back from my research trip and I apologize for the delay in answering your questions regarding my last post. To be honest, I didn’t realize I’d receive so many. It’s gratifying to see that many of you understand the potential value of measuring your future readers likes and dislikes. Many can’t be answered with a general statement; I’ve answered some of those that are specific to individuals already … and will get to the rest very soon.
There were some reoccurring questions that I can answer here. Four were asked repeatedly and I have listed each question and my answer.
1. How do you select the places you do your sampling and the people who you ask to complete the questionnaire?
Since you want to know who will buy, as well as read, what you’re writing, I take at least two-thirds of my observations from places where selling books occurs. It’s important to you, a potential agent and a potential publisher. That mean’s bookstores, book festivals, and other events where books are sold. Always ask the store/event managers if you can conduct your survey inside before you accost people with clip board in hand. Here’s a shocker … you’ll get many more rejections than acceptances even when you offer to share the results. Be prepared to stand outside. I never take more than 10% of my observations from one location for obvious reasons. The other third I get from libraries. I find them much more amenable to allowing the activity. Most are very interested in seeing the results of your survey. I select people completely at random. Again, be prepared for rejection. (Should rejection be a valid synonym for writing?) NEVER HARD SELL. Remember, these folks are doing you a favor. I qualify those I speak to so I know that they are interested in my genre areas. Don’t waste their time or yours. A friendly approach and a smile work the best.
2. How do you establish trends if you add new questions?
I didn’t expect this to be asked. The answer is, I’m less interested in trends than I am of a snap-shot of readers’ preferences at the moment – AND – the discovery of a new like or dislike. Change is one of the constants we face. This lets me measure this critical factor. I add questions to find out more about a perceived change.
3. How do you use the results?
I try to reflect the results in my active work and any manuscripts I’m in the process of rewriting. The best way to illustrate this is by examples. One of the readers’ consistent pet peeves is that novels are “front-end loaded” and die as they progress. I’m very cognizant of this and pace my novels carefully to avoid the problem. One of the answers I get overwhelmingly is that a reader much prefers that the book’s ending is as strong or stronger when compared to its beginning. That’s what most say shapes their decision to buy the next book from that author. Guess what I spend a lot of time being sure is as perfect as I can make it? The end.
4. Do you ask about your work?
Nope. I’m not a household name like Evanovich, Sparks, Stockett, Clancy, etc. Not a high enough percentage of folks have read my work to give me any valid feedback. Once you’re established, have a fan base, and are one of those who sets standards … the type survey I’m doing has far less value. (though it does have some, even for the lofty among us.) I do speak to book clubs and to other groups that have interest in a specific book I’ve written. I mine the information from these folks as eagerly as a gold prospector who just hit a new vein.
Hope this answers these issues. I’ll be posting the next installment in a week or less.
# # # # #