Tuesday, May 24, 2016

#1 Reader Motivation for Buying a Book

Over the past three years I’ve taught a lot of classes to indie authors about marketing.  I’ve also continued to take workshops myself. The majority of marketing workshops focus on the technology side of marketing—optimizing metadata, the numbers of posts you make in social media, pressuring (I mean leading) customers to buy a book, and overcoming various obstacles in the sales cycle. These are all important AND needed to be successful. However, one of the reasons these are taught so often is because they are easily quantifiable. With the right tracking and technology you can tell where a customer fails to move forward in the sales cycle. However, what this does NOT measure is what is the initial motivation for a reader to get online and look for a book.

Most authors agree that the primary buy decisions revolve around: 1) a great cover; 2) a blurb that hooks them to read more; 3) good reviews; and 4) price. There is quite a bit of good data to back this up. However, it still doesn’t tell us WHY they came. Why certain books consistently do better than others. If you know of data around this I’d love to see it!

Here is my list, based on a lot of anecdotal data from discussions with authors and readers, blogger’s take on this topic, and my own hypotheses on internal motivations. One day I might survey people on this. But it would take significant energy, research, and survey design to be meaningful from a statistical inference standpoint. So, take it for what it is. I’ll be talking about one each day on this blog.

Top 5 Reader Motivations for Buying a Book
1.     Instant gratification of entertainment
2.     Hooked on book idea, buy and save for later
3.     Teach me something
4.     MUST read
5.     Impulse buy

#1. Instant Gratification of Entertainment – This is the desire to spend some period of time (usually shorter rather than longer) escaping into a different world than we inhabit. These books are usually consumed within 24 hours of purchase. This is true for both fiction and non-fiction. In fiction it applies to romance, mysteries, thrillers, contemporary fantasy. In non-fiction it applies to anything celebrity-driven.



When I look at instant bestsellers, this desire for instant entertainment is definitely evident in sales. I think it also drives the current market of shorter fiction works (novella length, or short novels up to 55 or 60K); as well as the celebrity memoirs or self-help books that also tend to be in that same word count range. Because these works are purchased and read quickly, they tend to have high velocity in sales and reviews and then drop off the sales cliff as the next “instant entertainment” is released.


I know a number of fiction authors who write these type of books and are making a good living at it. They have it down to a science of regular releases (every six to eight weeks), book and series branding, and joint cross-promotion with others writing in the same genre and length. It seems clear that to continue making that income they have to write five to six novella-length books every year because of that income cliff. Most of them quote that the rankings hang on for only 2-3 weeks, which means something has to happen to boost it back (e.g., a new release, a re-packaging of a set of books) into continued sales.

Tomorrow I'll talk about the #2 Motivator, the Buy Now and Save for Later Group.

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