At the Frankfurt Book Fair, readers are a big theme. It’s the biggest book fair in the world and heavily “rights” focused. The more readers a book has, the more valuable the foreign publishing rights are.
The main business of the Fair is to make deals: between publishers and literary agents, domestic and international publishers, and publishers and booksellers or libraries. There are little tables at every stand and most of them are full of people showing each other books. It’s an affirmation of all those hours we spend writing. What we do matters, people! 🙂
1. Andrew Rhomberg of Jellybooks gave an insightful presentation about the way we read. Amazon collects data about how the world reads, but their data isn’t shared with publishers or authors. Rhomberg described Jellybooks as “Google Analytics for books.” The new epub3 format includes a button at the end of each chapter and at the end of the book that lets Jellybooks figure out how and when people read the books and how much of them they actually finish. It works on iBooks (iOS), Adobe Digital Editions (Windows) and Ebook Reader (Android) platforms. The data isn’t anonymous so that the publisher can tailor the book offerings to the readers.
Publishers use the service to find out just how people read Advance Reader Copies. Readers sign up for free e-books in exchange for sharing their reading data. Three reading patterns caught my attention:
- Gradual fizzling out. Some prize-winning literature had a high percentage of readers finishing the first chapter, or maybe the first three chapters, but not much more. Or a skipping ahead pattern to see if the book got more gripping later on.
- Commuter readers. Some readers only read around 8 AM and around 5 PM. If this was your target audience, you’d probably do well marketing to the commuter crowd.
- Pageturners. Then there are the books where readers who finish the first three chapters read to the end without pausing. As Rhomberg says, “Some readers have discipline. They go to bed. But the others can’t put it down.”
Rhomberg also collects feedback about book covers to find the answers to two smart questions:
- What’s the influence of the cover for choosing a book to read?
- Was the promise of the cover fulfilled by the story?
Writer take-home: If your book’s cover and your opening chapters are the perfect set-up for the exciting chapters that follow, you’ve got a winner.
2. Fabian, an Indie author on the same panel, talked about a low-budget way to get feedback about your readers. He posts chapters of his book on his blog and uses Google Analytics to track reading time. He uses MailChimp’s analytics too. His 3,000-member e-mail list also puts him in a perfect position for a reader survey about new cover designs.
Both presenters agreed that the most helpful information to describe your readers is time of day, context, gender, and age. Rhomberg said that men and women give up on books at the same rate, but men read 50 pages before they stop and women read 100.
3. Wattpad‘s Star author, Jenny Rosen, has a much more personal connection to her 17, 747 followers. Wattpad is ten-year-old Canadian company with its strongest audience in the Philippines. Most stories on Wattpad are early drafts, she says, and reader input is useful. She and her editor, Kristen Maglonzo, consider reader feedback as they decide on the story structure. At the same time, she stays true to her vision for her story, describing herself as “stubborn.”
This young, dynamic team inspired me to go out and write the stories that need to be written! And to learn how to write a cliffhanger. 🙂
It’s clear that building an audience this way works: Wattpad is offering writers the ability to include video ads relevant to their readers. As Jenny Rosen says, “This lets readers support authors for free.”
Wattpad looks like a great platform for YA fiction and may work for Middle Grade, even though there isn’t a dropdown category for it. According to Wattpad’s spokesperson, most readers don’t search for books by category, so they’ve stopped adding new categories.
As a writer, seeing this data and hearing Jenny Rosen’s story was powerful confirmation that first chapters matter. They really do set the tone and make promises to the reader. And when the promises are fulfilled, readers really do read every single chapter that follows.
Writers build stories with set-ups and payoffs to satisfy their readers. This reader data is more confirmation that craft matters.
I hope you’re feeling empowered to write more stories!
For more of the 2016 Frankfurt Book Fair, try these podcasts.