by Tess Gerritsen
Last weekend, Michael Palmer and I taught a writing workshop in Cape Cod. One of the participants asked a question: “Who are your readers?” It’s a very good question, but it’s one for which authors have only a hazy answer. Because, for the most part, we’re not certain. We get a general idea based on the fan mail we receive, and we see who turns out at book signings, but as for real statistics? For the most part, we’re just guessing. I suspected that my readership reflected the general readership of fiction readers in the country: 75% female, on the older side. And the audiences at my book signings tend to support that general female/male ratio. But these are just spot samplings, and I had no hard numbers.
Then I got back a survey of readers around the country, which checked the demographics of my readership. And what I’d suspected to be true has turned out to be pretty accurate.
— Women were four times more likely than men to rate me as one of their favorite authors. (Which is actually not all that different from other female mystery writers.)
— My readership tends to be on the older side, with the percentage peaking in the 45 – 54 age group. Again, this is probably right in line with other authors.
— My readership tends to also like mystery, thrillers, horror — and romance. But I have very few readers who also favor graphic novels, manga, and science fiction.
— My book THE KEEPSAKE was most popular among two groups: those under 18, and those between 55-64.
— No surprise, many of my readers work in the healthcare industry.
These results are just for the U.S. I have a feeling that those numbers might be slightly different outside the country, just based on who attends my signings overseas. At some of my UK and German booksignings, the male/female ratio has been close to 1:1. And the only time I’ve ever had a man approach me in a hotel lobby to ask if I was Tess Gerritsen, it happened in Berlin.
My reader demographics are probably similar to those of other female mystery authors. What can we all gather from this?
Our readers are primarily female, and older. I also have a fan base that’s under 18, but once a reader hits their twenties, it seems their novel reading slows down for a few decades. They’re busy with college, marriage, motherhood, and careers, so it’s not surprising they might cut down on their pleasure reading. But once the kids are raised, and they have more control over their lives, women seem to go back to reading again. I’m not sure there’s much we can do to snag more of those 18 – 40 year-old women readers.
As for the male readers, obviously I have a ways to go. But then, so do we all. How do we get more men to read us? How do we convince them that, yes, a woman writer can tell a story they’d enjoy? That’s the challenge.