Friday, May 27, 2016

#3 Reader Motivation for Buying a Book

Teach Me Something Reader Motivation

This week I'm talking about reader motivations for buying a book.  I've hypothesized these as the top five internal motivations for buying a book.

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

My previous two post talked about #1, Instant Gratification of Entertainment, and #2, Hooked on book idea, buy and save for later. Today I'm discussing the #3 Teach Me Something reader motivation. Though it would make sense that this reader is really looking for non-fiction, there are also a number of fiction readers who fall into the teach-me-something category. Let's discuss each of them.

Non-fiction Readers

This reader wants to learn something to justify the time spent in reading.  With so many media opportunities--Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, SnapChat, Movies, Live videos, and a variety of video training sites, the teach-me-something non-fiction reader tends to be in a hurry to learn. In most non-fiction, teaching is a key element of the book. Non-fiction is successful based on how well that learning need is met, and how easy the learning is acquired based on the book.

Non-fiction books need to be accessible, easy-to-follow, and have descriptive chapter titles and/or a great index. It is not at all unusual that this reader will purchase a book solely based on the Table of Contents. She looks to see that the topics covered are sufficient to meet her needs and justify the price. Furthermore, this reader is highly likely NOT to read the entire book. Instead she will go directly to the chapters that appear to provide the learning she desires. If those chapters meet her expectations it may be all she reads. If they do not, she might read a chapter before or after. But if the desired learning does not occur, the book is then forgotten.

However, IF the desired learning occurs quickly, the book is kept and may be used again when a new learning need is identified. Or, in the case of technical learning, the book may be used again to re-familiarize the reader with the steps.  The best feedback I've received on my DIY Publishing book has been by people who state things like: "This is my self-publishing bible." OR "My book pages are tattered because I go back to this every time I publish."  

The most successful books in this category are business books. Books that provide instruction on any aspect of business from technology to marketing to management.  Even though business books are rarely finished and almost never read from cover-to-cover, they tend to be purchased to solve a particular problem/need for the reader. It is not uncommon for someone to purchase a $20 book to learn how to do something that is covered in only one chapter. If that need is met, the person is quick to recommend it to others even though they only read a small part of the book.  The second popular category in this group are self-help books, ranging from DIY to physical, psychological or spiritual help.

Fiction Readers

Many fiction readers also fall into the teach-me-something group. One of the reasons historical fiction, across all genres, is so popular is because readers enjoy learning about another time and way of life.  Science Fiction readers tend to be teach-me-something readers as well. They love learning about new possibilities of scientific invention or discovery in the future. They also love intelligent extrapolations of socio-economics, cultures, and politics in the future. 

Teach-me-something readers can be found in all kinds of genres that are specific to a niche. Fiction based on popular careers is a great example. Readers flock to protagonists who are doctors, lawyers, police, military, and firefighters not only for the hero factor, but also to gain insight into the actual career.  They love learning about the training required, the actual on-the-job things that happen, and the emotional trials and triumphs of living in this type of career. Novels based on specific sports can also find a great niche audience. I remember speaking with a romance novelist who focuses on hockey players as her protagonists. Her readers are all hockey fans and love the attention to detail where they can learn even more about the game, the politics, and the perceived inside scoop. The same has happened with fiction books about baseball, football, soccer. This can fit into all types of genres from romance to thrillers and mystery.

The books displayed above are a good example of the many genres this motivated teach-me-something fiction reader can include in her choices. Included above are the following: 1) a brief book teaching something about Buddhism in everyday life through a short story, 2) examining the varied roles of women in American pioneer days, 3) a noir detective story based in the 1920's; 4) historical women's fiction novel about a singer in the roaring '20s gangster days; 5) a contemporary romance with firefighters as the heroes; 6) a historical literary novel about the depression; and 7) a sports romance with baseball at it's core. 

Of course, to be successful these books must still be entertaining but they speak to a particular audience who also wants to learn something. The great thing about these motivated readers is that they aren't necessarily wedded to a single genre. In their desire to learn about different times, people, culture, experiences through fiction, they are willing to try more than one genre. 

However, finding these readers is not easy. Like the buy-now-read-later books, these books tend to go on the to-be-read (TBR) pile and aren’t selected above the instant gratification entertainment choice. Thus, the teach-me-something book—particularly fiction ones—require the author to build the niche audience into a strong fan base. These books will get purchased again and again if they deliver on the promise of being interesting and subtly teaching something. Books that fail to sell in this category tend to be books that don’t deliver on that promise. 

Are you an author who includes teach-me-something details in your fiction? If so, is your marketing reaching out to this motivated reader?

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