by J.D. Rhoades
Wow. 118 replies to my last post asking what is it that influences people to buy. Several people have asked me if that's some kind of record. I'm not sure, but it may very well be.
Thank you all for your responses, which were very illuminating. I won't bore you with a tabulation of all the votes, partially because a lot of your answers defied easy pigeonholing and partially because counting every vote was looking like it was going to take longer than the Minnesota recount litigation. But I did get enough data to see significant trends. Here are the trends I saw, with my answers, and some thoughts, and…whee! More questions!
1. Have you ever bought a book by an author who you'd never heard of because you saw the trailer for it on the Internet?
Your answers: the overwhelming response was "no." But Our Toni pointed out another use for trailers: to give the sales reps a quick and easy way to grasp what the book was about and, possibly, a tool with which to sell it.
My answer: I've never bought a book because of the trailer. All due respect to my friends who've done these, but most trailers bore the pants off me. I did have an interesting experience with Toni's trailer for BOBBIE FAYE'S' VERY (VERY VERY VERY) BAD DAY. It was done like a movie preview, with scenes from the book brought to life. This trailer, I'm happy to say did not bore me, but I discovered that, when I read the book, the actress Toni had playing Bobbie Faye clashed with the picture I got in my mind from the book. I quickly got over it, but was jarring at first.
2. Have you ever bought a book by an author who you'd never heard of based on their website, blog, or MyFace page? Or did you more often find the author's 'net presence AFTER you read them?
Your answers: The majority said they went to an author's website AFTER reading the author's book, to learn more about the author. But, there was a significant enough number of people who noted that they'd "met" authors on blogs and such and picked up their books as a result. It's too significant a minority, IMHO, to be safely ignored. This made me realize that I had phrased the question too narrowly by only including websites and author blogs, so there's an additional question at the end of this installment. Some people pointed out that they looked to the website to learn about upcoming books as well.
My answer: I have had people tell me they've picked up one of my books because they read my blog or encountered me on an Internet message board or on Facebook. No one's ever told me they've bought a book because of my website. I've bought several books by people who I've "met" online, but that's because of actual online interactions with them, not by passively reading the website.
3. Have you ever bought a book by an author who you'd never heard of because they were appearing in a bookstore and they caught your interest?
Again, the vast majority said "no." BUT…see below for a reason writers may not want to just stay home.
My answer: No. Never.
4. Have you ever bought a book by an author who you'd never heard of because you saw it in the store and it looked interesting? Where was it in the store?
A vast majority said "yes", and a lot of you credited prominent display of the book, either on the tables at the front or face out in the stacks.
5. If you've ever bought a book from an author who you'd never heard of for any other reason, why was that?
Here, the answers were all over the map, but there was a definite preference for personal recommendations, either by friends or by bookstore staff. Other things that influenced people were the cover, the jacket copy, and just picking the book up and reading a bit.
So, what have we learned? Well, some of the things that influence buyers we don't have any control over, but some we do. So let's talk about the things we do, and feel free to disagree with my conclusions below:
Trailers may have their uses, but they don't seem to have a lot of influence on consumer decisions. They may be handy for influencing buyers for bookstores (and any bookstore owners or managers out there, feel free to chime in).
Personal appearances of the "read and sign" variety don't seem to influence new readers to buy books. However, since staff recommendations do seem to have an effect, a writer's time might be better spent on stock signings, including so-called "drive-bys", where the writer drops in, sign copies so they can slap those "autographed Copy" stickers on, and most importantly get to know the bookseller.This last part is actually fun, because let's face it, booksellers are people with whom writers should have a natural affinity.
In addition, as I think I've mentioned before, Stacey Cochran once set up an interesting series of events with me and Our Alex that were less reading/signings and more educational events on publishing and getting published. And they packed the house. And we sold some books.
A traditional website may not sell huge numbers of first time readers on you, but they can be good for selling your other books to the same readers. As Toni Kelner put it: "the biggest thing [a website] does is to take a reader and turn her into a Fan. "
Now you'll notice I said "traditional" websites and blogs, by which I mean the Web 1.0, I-talk-you-listen, "here's what I've written, here's where I'll be" style website. But, as I noted above, my original question didn't take into account more interactive web experiences, such as newsgroups like rec.arts.mystery, listservs such as DorothyL or 4MA, author website forums like Le
e Child's, or social networks like Facebook or MySpace.
So, new questions:
1. Even if you're not persuaded to buy by an author's traditional website, does it make a difference if you've "met" them online, as in actually had some interaction with them?
2. What are your favorite sites, if any, at which to do meet n' greet authors?
3. What are your favorite sites, if any. to get recommendations?
4. Have you ever done one of the those "live chat" thingies with an author you've never read before and did it make you go "Hmmm, I'd like to buy that book?"
5. Twitter: brave new marketing tool or complete waste of freakin' time?
6. Isn't JD just fishing for excuses to waste more time hanging out on the Internet?