Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Research Your Readers

Research is a vital part of the writing process.  Few writers have ever swung any battle axes in the middle of medieval melees, and even fewer have stowed away on an alien cruise ship.  Far fetched and silly examples aside, every writer has to do their research at some point during the writing process.  I've run countless hours of research over things like the design considerations for building a castle, to theoretical propulsion drives for space travel, to pondering why a sniper might favor a Dragunov SVD over a Barret XM500.  What some writers may overlook during the course of the creative aspect of their research is the need to delve into an even more critical and very practical topic: the reader.  

While some of the best writing may very well come from writing for its own sake, the chances for writer-reader disconnect abound if there's no understanding about the people who are most likely to read your book.  The key thing here is determining just who is most likely to read your book.  There's been some interesting research released from the Pew Research Center back in April 2012, as well as earlier this year.  When viewed in concert with each other, the data supports what we all already know: that e-readership is on the rise.  With that in mind, the 2012 report (a four part series) yields a lot of useful data that provides some very valuable insight on who is more likely to engage in e-reading (whether via e-reader, tablet, cell phone or computers).  Certainly, if e-reading is still going up in 2014, than there's a good chance that the other figures from Pew's study are on a similar upward trend.  This is vital information to an author when trying to determine the audience for their work.  

Another reason why it's worth researching who's reading what is to avoid stereotyping your audience.  For example, some outside of the video gaming world might not be aware nearly half of all gamers are female, based on a 2014 study by the Entertainment Software Association.  If the power houses behind the video game industry don't want to risk offending its half of it's consumer base, neither do you.  Besides, you might even be surprised at what you find the deeper you delve.  A 2013 report from Pew also sheds light on reader demographics by gender/age/race/education/income and provides figures for print, e-book and audio book reading habits.  Further internet research can even provide useful information on readers by genre.  While I'm not a romance writer, it's still useful for authors like myself to know that men make up a little less than twenty percent of the market for romance novels.  

The point is that the information is out there and it's worth reading to get a better sense of who may be interested in your work.  Having an understanding of this, and thereby a better understanding of your audience, may help forge better connections between you and your readers.   

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