Book buying survey results

The results of my book buying survey (shared on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) are in, and:

ruce

…people don’t buy poetry.

Book Buying Survey Results

Of the 104 people who have participated in the survey so far (primarily my Facebook friends and friends of friends), 82% said they would buy a work of fiction because they knew and liked the previous work of the author. Seventy-six percent said they would buy a nonfiction book that a friend recommended, and 39% said they would never buy a book of poetry.

I can’t say I’m surprised by these results — as my husband said when I showed him, “you’ve never heard of a rich poet.” But it’s somewhat comforting to know how many people might give a book of poetry a shot if a friend recommended it.

I think this survey also would’ve turned out differently if I had asked on the basis of what a person might read instead of what they might buy — I’ve gotten the impression in my adult life that people would rather read something for free than pay for it (and I get that). The results might also be different if I had been able to cast a wider net in gathering data (even though I made the survey public, my network only reaches so far; if you would like to take the survey, click here).

One reason I created this survey was that the data I wanted didn’t seem to be readily available, but there are some other interesting factoids out there. According to Pew Research Center, 74% of U.S. adults surveyed in 2018 (2,002) said they read a book in the last year, and 24% said they did not read or listen to a single book in that same time frame. I’m not sure if this should be upsetting or not, but it’s curious to me that eBooks and audio books are maybe not the motivator for non-readers that one might expect; so why aren’t people reading? And how many of those people who do read actually buy the book(s)?

It’s also worth noting that, according to an article posted by Publisher’s Weekly in 2014, 65% of all online new-book sales — print and digital — came from Amazon. That seems like a pretty big deal, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that number has increased in the last five years.

That said, the American Booksellers Association also found that retail sales at U.S. bookstores were up in 2018.

So what does this mean for readers, writers, publishers and bookstore owners?

Leave your thoughts and questions in the comments below 🙂

So…self publishing

This week, I self-published four books: Songs from the UndergroundEver Unknown, Ever MisunderstoodUneven Lanes; and Wabi-Sabi World: An Artist’s Search.

The first three are available as eBooks on Smashwords, and the last is available on Blurb in softcover and hardback.

But that’s not what this post is about (really).

I hadn’t intended to self publish. I admit to being one of those people who turned up their nose at such an endeavor — not because I knock the process, exactly, but because I’ve seen too many self-published books that weren’t really ready for publication. They needed more editing or a better cover artist or just a lot more time to stew in their juices, as it were, to become the best they could be.

I almost went that route once before, with my first novel. I was riding that NaNoWriMo high of achievement, and I thought I was ready. Halfway through — after I’d spent about $30 and was about to spend $300 more — I realized I was wrong. I wasn’t ready. God Only Knows wasn’t ready. The Blame Game wasn’t ready. And I wasn’t about to “blow my career” on a “bad” first novel.

Now, maybe this is somewhat errant thinking. Maybe you can come back from a poor debut. I don’t know. But you can guess what I think based on the fact that I haven’t actually published a novel yet…

My philosophy on self-published poetry, however, is different. To me, poetry doesn’t need much sitting time. You write it in the moment, and usually it’s done (there’s a famous poet who agrees with me, but I can’t recall who…very inconvenient, I know). This makes the most sense when you’re writing in free verse, I think; for form poetry you might want to do some actual revision, unless you’re super familiar with the form, to the point where it comes naturally. I am not that kind of poet.

That said, Songs from the Underground DOES include some form poetry, since I wrote most of the poems for my undergraduate poetry class (under former Poet Laureate of Minnesota Joyce Sutphen — she’s amazing). I’m proud of those poems, and many of them did see much more editing than I usually engage in — but I still prefer to write poems when inspiration strikes, and leave them preserved.

So it’s not that I care about my poetry less (although for some reason I do feel more pressure to produce a great novel than a perfect book of poetry), but that I’m more confident — or at least comfortable — in letting it simply “be.” I also like to keep covers simple, using my own photography and a simple text overlay. I think that’s all a collection of personal poetry needs.

I harbor similar sentiments about nonfiction writing, possibly because I wrote and photographed so many news stories on such a short timeline that I simply had to write, proofread, publish and move on. Wabi-Sabi, like Songs from the Underground, was composed for a college class, and I’d really been meaning to publish it for years now, so its venture into the world this week doesn’t seem sudden.

I should also note that, technically, I’d already published each of the abovementioned books through Photobook America — I just only printed one copy, and didn’t have an ISBN for any of them. So I guess you could call that a kind of revision.

In any case, I can now call myself a published author in a way that people can see and (hopefully) understand. And that doesn’t suck 🙂

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What do you think? To self publish, or not to self publish? What are your conditions?