Over at A Writer of History I have been working hard to publish information about the historical fiction survey I conducted. When I began this process, I had no idea of the amount of effort required to sift through results and draw meaningful information for readers, writers and others. For example, how long do you think it might take to analyze 567 written responses to a question about favourite digital sites for recommendations or 602 responses to another question on favourite authors?
Here’s the journey so far:
- The first post considered the locations of those who responded. Although dominated by individuals from the US, the survey drew a mixed crowd from all around the world. How the survey travelled from North America to Europe and Asia is somewhat of a mystery to me.
- The second post – Readers Share their Perspectives – offered a range of results from reading habits and preferred historical time periods to methods of purchase and the print versus ebook question.
- Other posts followed: Reasons not to Read Historical Fiction, Historical Fiction would be Better If, Where Readers Find Recommendations in the non-digital realm and Connecting Readers and Writers in the digital realm.
- Top Authors went up in two different posts last week because I had to make a correction (check here and here), and this week I posted She Says, He Says highlighting male and female differences.
With the business of writing in mind, I now need to consider two questions: what have I learned and what will I do with the information.
No answers yet but I’ll be back.
Weighing my way through Jerome de Groot’s The Historical Novel, I read of an interesting phenomena which he calls ‘extratextual elements’ designed to serve a community of faithful readers.
“The books of O’Brian and Cornwell, for instance, are marketed as part of a series, branded so that the readership can purchase familiar books and collect the entire set. There are numerous official fan clubs, and those who are interested in Cornwell’s creation can read Mark Adkin’s Sharpe Companion (1998) and his Sharpe Cut (2006), an introduction to the television series. Adkin’s text is an historical guide to the military elements of each Sharpe novel … with images, maps, factual narratives and biographical accounts.”
Apparently, another writer offers similar materials to augment O’Brian’s naval stories. De Groot goes on to say that “these secondary materials buttress the authenticity of the novels, ascribing them a gravitas and a meaningfulness … crucial to the male historical novel”.
Often writers do this with blogs and websites – for free – but what I thought interesting was the opportunity to bring such material together as a product to be sold alongside your novel. If companion materials work for a writer leveraging the novels of someone else, would they not also work for the original author?
Just wondering. What do you think?
Over at A Writer of History, I just published the first report from a survey of 805 readers on the topic of historical fiction. Below are a few general observations. The full report contains many more.
- THE PAST FASCINATES. Almost 75% of respondents read more than 25% historical fiction.
- SEX: Women and men differ significantly in their views of historical fiction.
- AGE: Those under 30 have different preferences for genre and time period and have different patterns of consumption and acquisition.
- GOING ONLINE: Social media and online sites play a very significant role for those consuming historical fiction.
- GEOGRAPHY: A reader’s geographic location has less affect than we might expect on preferences.
- EDUCATION: Readers of historical fiction are very well educated: 46% have university degrees, 40.5% have completed graduate school.
- EARLY HABITS: Those introduced to historical fiction in childhood continue to read it at high volumes.
I will continue to analyze and publish further details on both blogs.
One Writer’s Voice has been up and running for more than eighteen months. It’s a little known blog with some faithful readers (thank you!) and a number of visitors and a peak one-day reach of 68 – a red letter day for me. I love writing posts and, as some of you will know, have just created a second blog called A Writer of History to focus on historical fiction, my chosen genre.
Get to the point, Mary.
Four weeks ago, I received an email from a company wishing to place ads on my blog. Curious, I thought. Why would anyone target One Writer’s Voice? After a follow up email exchange I learned that the folks at rezatta.com wanted to place ads for Lacoste (Rezatta Agency is a French company, by the way). Then, two weeks ago, a company called More Digital knocked on my door explaining that they have “clients interested in social media marketing on smaller sites with little or no existing advertising”. Hmm, what’s going on?
I’m sure I’m not the only one receiving these solicitations. And, two data points do not a trend make. Still, I’m intrigued. Maybe there’s a new phenomena all about connecting brands to people through small, intimate spaces. Or perhaps, if people are connecting through multiple screens (think iPad, TV, laptop, smartphone) at all hours of the day and night, marketers are attempting to find different ways to engage through these varying windows into people’s lives. Maybe, the tribe phenomena has taken flight and marketers like rezatta and More Digital are trying to find spaces that curate for smaller and smaller tribes. Perhaps the noise factor associated with advertising on large sites has become so intrusive, consumers are turning off these brands rather than turning onto them.
Or, maybe it’s merely serendipity. What do you think?