The First Annual State of Author Discovery Address – The Readers Have Spoken!


My fellow authors…

Like many of you, I’ve been reading all the publishing insider’s 2015 industry predictions. The outlook appears quite dire and challenging, especially if you believe Mark Coker. I usually side with J.A. Konrath in these matters, but he has yet to speak on 2015 (but boy did he hit the nail on the head about the coming battle between Amazon and legacy publishers in his 2014 predictions!). Friends, I come with glad tidings. You as an individual author/publisher don’t need to be over concerned with the macro direction of the industry (issues like slowing tablet sales, or the implications of the Hatchette/Amazon settlement, or Waterstone opening more stores in the UK). You may feel passionately about these issues one way or the other, but the truth is that your sales and publishing success are linked to one question alone – are readers continually discovering your work and satisfied with what they are experiencing?

And that’s where I come in. Please indulge me as I walk you through the current state of author and book discovery (circa mid 2014). Some of you may recall a blog I posted in late 2013, announcing the first Book Discovery survey. The questionnaire was drafted by myself along with several members of the Alliance of Independent Authors FB group – most especially Dan HallowayJoanna Penn, Sarah Ettritch, Karen Inglis, Diane Capri, Claire Weiner, and Averill Buchanan. I had an objective to reach 3,000 readers and gave it my best shot, ultimately winding up with a not too shabby 1,289 respondents (1,089 reached via a independent survey panel). I began analyzing the data in May and it took me some time to identify all the correlations and mine all the interesting data points, so I apologize for the delay in getting this out. The relevancy should still be quite high, I hope.

What makes this questionnaire so special was that it was designed specifically to shed light on key factors in author discovery and provide guidance that all of us can follow to ensure greater success. The survey had 25 questions divided into the following segments:

  • Demographics
  • Reading Habits
  • Current Book Discovery
  • Future Book Discovery

Before we get into the findings, please review the demographics:

Well, hopefully you don’t find anything too controversial there.

The survey was eye-opening in a number of areas. Here are some of the top line findings:

  1. There was no clear format preference between ebooks and print, although younger readers leaned towards digital reading more than older readers (not a shocker).
  2. Regardless of whether reader preference was ebooks, print, or both, Amazon was the clear leader in book procurement in 2013 (also no great insight).
  3. The four most common book/author discovery methods were Author Loyalty (meaning authors whom the readers actively follow), recommendations from friends, Amazon Recommendations, and free or discounted books (getting more interesting…)
  4. Those who downloaded free ebooks in 2013 downloaded more than 15 and completed more than 50% of them (now that, I did not expect!)
  5. Books were recommended in 8 primary ways (many times in more than one way by the same reader) – with face to face the number one recommendation method by far (so actual word of mouth is still very important)
  6. How an author published (self-publishing, indie, small press, big 5) is the least influential factor in future book purchasing (in the words of the late great Stuart Scott – boo yow!)

Hopefully I have your full attention now. Let’s take a look at the reading habits of our respondents:

Well, that certainly sheds light on a number of opportunities, doesn’t it? I was especially fascinated to find that those who have switched to preferring ebooks have lost their preference for print much more so than those readers who have a preference for print. This signifies that convincing readers to try out electronic reading could be a real boon for moving volume – and puts a feather in the cap of subscription reading services like Scribd, Oyster, and Kindle Unlimited.

Let’s move onto the current book discovery section (be advised that this is a highly analytical portion and you may want to view the slides in full screen mode to clearly see everything):

This is what I call the “money section” of the survey. So much valuable information in this segment, am I right (posting on facebook was a more prevalent recommendation method than writing a review – who saw that one coming)? I’m sure you may also have questions about some of the analysis I conducted so please comment on this post or e-mail me directly at

Now let’s examine the responses related to future book discovery we collected:

Very interesting and compelling stuff (especially for you mystery, thriller, and romance writers out there)! My key insight from this section was around the lack of trust associated with social media recommendations – in other words, don’t wrap your entire marketing strategy around Twitter and Facebook!

Clearly, this study demonstrates 2 things. 1) I am a major data geek who needs to get a life, and 2) it’s important to keep the pulse on how readers discovery books by asking the rightquestions.

So to wrap up my first state of Author Discovery address, here are my 7 suggestions to improve discoverability in 2015, based on the results of this survey:

Let me know your thoughts, questions, and comments! If you want the whole compiled survey presentation, please request it here. Once again I’d like to thank my friends over at ALLi, everyone who sent a tweet or post about the survey, and for the great facilitation.

Wishing you much success getting discovered by more of the right readers in 2015. Here’s a free author discovery template to get your started!



Part owner of Independent Publishing Venture, The Pantheon Collective. Award-winning, bestselling author of One Blood (under pseudonym Qwantu Amaru). Book marketing expert and social media marketing consultant.

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Posted in Book Discovery, Book Marketing, discoverability
2 comments on “The First Annual State of Author Discovery Address – The Readers Have Spoken!
  1. Steven Wolff says:

    WOW! Lots of great info on this page. THANK YOU for sharing with us this data. It’s really going to help. 🙂

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