Skip to content

Developing a Reader Profile

March 29, 2009

looking in a bookstore

Book marketing is largely grounded in sales behavior.  We draw conclusions about what works based on what the marketplace sells.  Then we build sales and marketing models for future books based on this information.

But what happens if the marketplace doesn’t actually offer what people need or want?  Then the models are built on poor assumptions.  And we all know what happens when one assumes.

Put another way: one man’s WOW is another man’s Whatever.  We need to know which is which before we go to market.

In the book business, we need to know intimately what people want to read, before we move on to drawing conclusions about what they will buy.

As I’ve noted in previous posts, publishers know relatively little about how people’s reading habits.  The studies haven’t been done.  So here I offer 60 questions that all publishing houses should know the answers to before they create books and take them to market.  [Note:  these questions are, admittedly, not designed appropriately for actual polling.  But they do form the basis.]  Please offer any additional questions you think should be added.

DEFINING READING

1.    WHAT IS “READING” TO YOU?

  • a.    Visual–word for word of text on print or screen?
  • b.    Visual–skimming words
  • c.    Audio-listening (on cd or mp3 or other mechanism)
  • d.    Watching a TV show or movie that you know was originally a book.
  • e.    Listening to a commentator on TV, radio, internet, or podcast discuss a book.
  • f.    Being read to.
  • g.    Being read to and following along in public setting.

2.    WHAT IS “READING A BOOK”?

  • a.    Start at the beginning and finish the book.
  • b.    Skipping parts or skimming the book from beginning to end.
  • c.    Reading a review of a book.
  • d.    Listening to an entire audio version of a book.
  • e.    Reading or listening to less than half a book.
  • f.     Reading or listening to half a book or more.
  • g.    Reading sections of a large spiritual, reference, or devotional work (e.g. the Bible).
  • h.    Watching a TV show or movie that you know was originally a book.
  • i.     Listening to a commentator on TV, radio, internet, or podcast discuss a book.
  • j.     Participating in a group discussion that involves a book.

READING HABITS
3.    WHERE DO YOU READ?

  • a.    At home, in a regular chair/location.
  • b.    At work.
  • c.    While commuting to and from work.
  • d.    While flying.
  • e.    When someone else is driving.
  • f.     Outdoors
  • g.    The beach

4.    WHAT DO YOU DO WHILE READING?

  • a.    Eat
  • b.    Drink non-alcholic drinks
  • c.    Drink alcohol
  • d.    Highlight passages
  • e.    Take notes
  • f.     Journal
  • g.    Take a bath
  • h.    Listen to music
  • i.     Engage in conversation
  • j.     Watch TV
  • k.    While doing something else (e.g. running or fishing)
  • l.     Killing time while attending something dull
  • m.   Smoke
  • n.    Go to the bathroom
  • o.    Nothing else

5.    WHAT DO YOU READ?

  • a.    Newspapers
  • b.    Online newspapers
  • c.    Online reference sites and magazines
  • d.    Online blogs
  • e.    Online retail, music, or video sites
  • f.     Magazines
  • g.    Books

6.    HOW MANY BOOKS ARE YOU IN THE PROCESS OF READING RIGHT NOW?
7.    HOW MANY BOOKS DO YOU NORMALLY READ AT THE SAME TIME?
8.    HOW MUCH TIME DO YOU READ (ANYTHING) A DAY?
9.    HOW MUCH TIME DO YOU SPEND READING A BOOK EACH WEEK?
10.    WHAT ACTIVITIES DO YOU CONSCIOUSLY PREFER TO READING?
11.    WHAT ACTIVITIES DO YOU FIND YOURSELF DOING INSTEAD OF READING (WHEN YOU THINK YOU “SHOULD” BE READING)?
12.    HOW MUCH TIME DO YOU SPEND WATCHING TV AND/OR PLAYING VIDEO GAMES A DAY?
13.    WHAT TIME OF DAY DO YOU READ?

BOOK ACQUISITION
14.    HOW DO YOU ACQUIRE YOUR BOOKS?  (percentage)

  • a.    Gifts
  • b.    Samples
  • c.    Purchases

15.    HOW DO YOU HEAR ABOUT MOST BOOKS YOU ACQUIRE?
16.    WHO OR WHAT HAS THE MOST INFLUENCE ON YOUR BOOK READING DECISIONS?
17.    WHO OR WHAT HAS THE MOST INFLUENCE ON YOUR BOOK BUYING DECISIONS?
18.    OWNERSHIP OF OTHER MEDIA

  • a.    How many DVD’s do you own?
  • b.    How many musical CD’s do you own?
  • c.    How many magazines do you subscribe to?
  • d.    Do you subscribe to a newspaper?

19.    WHEN YOU BUY A BOOK, WHERE DO YOU USUALLY GET IT?

  • a.    Retail chain store
  • b.    Independent book store
  • c.    Christian Book Store
  • d.    Discount Store (e.g. Wal-Mart; Target)
  • e.    Gift Shop
  • f.     Retail Store— Non-book
  • g.    Online bookstore (e.g. Amazon.com; BN.com)
  • h.    Online store-Non-book
  • i.     Used book store
  • j.     Online book swap site
  • k.    Catalog or direct mail

20.    HOW MUCH DO YOU SPEND ON BOOKS A YEAR FOR YOURSELF?
21.    HOW MUCH DO YOU SPEND ON BOOKS A YEAR FOR YOURSELF AND OTHERS?

SUBJECT PREFERENCES
22.    WHAT NON-FICTION SUBJECTS DO YOU READ ABOUT?
23.    WHAT NON-FICTION SUBJECTS DO YOU REFUSE TO READ?
24.    WHAT GENRES OF FICTION DO YOU LIKE TO READ?
25.    WHAT GENRES OF FICTION DO YOU REFUSE TO READ?
26.    WHAT FORMAT DO YOU PREFER?

  • a.    Hardcover
  • b.    Paperback
  • c.    Audio
  • d.    Digital

27.    DO YOU GIVE BOOKS AS GIFTS?  WHAT DETERMINES WHAT BOOK YOU WILL GIVE?
28.    HOW OFTEN DO YOU GO TO A PUBLIC LIBRARY?  DO YOU BORROW BOOKS WHEN YOU GO?  WHAT OTHER SERVICES DO YOU USE AT THE LIBRARY?
29.    OF EVERY 10 BOOKS YOU BUY, HOW MANY OF THEM WILL HAVE BEEN PREVIOUSLY USED?

ATTITUDES TOWARD READING
30.    WHICH OF THE FOLLOWING BEST DESCRIBES YOU?

  • a.    Can’t Read (language barrier, learning disability, never learned)
  • b.    Won’t Read (generally choose not to)
  • c.    Will Read (if required for school, work, or personal necessity)
  • d.    Want To (enjoys reading often)

31.    WHY DON’T YOU READ MORE THAN YOU DO?

  • a.    No time
  • b.    Prefer other activities
  • c.    Don’t like to read
  • d.    Don’t like books
  • e.    Don’t like book shopping
  • f.     Can’t afford books
  • g.    Don’t shop where books are
  • h.    Books are dull
  • i.     Books are for smart people
  • j.     Books aren’t exciting or interesting enough

32.    ON A SCALE OF 1 – 10, HOW MUCH DO YOU LIKE TO READ?
33.    ON A SCALE OF 1 – 10, HOW IMPORTANT IS THE ABILITY TO READ?
34.    ON A SCALE OF 1 – 10, HOW MUCH DO YOU LIKE TO READ?
35.    WOULD YOU IDENTIFY READING BOOKS AS A “HOBBY” OF YOURS?
36.    RANK YOUR FIVE FAVORITE RECREATIONAL ACTIVITIES/HOBBIES IN ORDER OF IMPORTANCE TO YOU.
37.    RANK YOUR FIVE FAVORITE RECREATIONAL ACTIVITIES/HOBBIES IN ORDER OF ACTUAL TIME SPENT.
38.    RANK YOUR FIVE FAVORITE RECREATIONAL ACTIVITIES/HOBBIES IN ORDER OF MONEY SPENT.
READING AND THE HOME
39.    TO WHAT EXTENT ARE BOOKS DISCUSSED IN YOUR HOME?
40.    IF APPLICABLE, HOW MUCH TIME DO YOU SPEND READING WITH OR FOR YOUR CHILDREN?
41.    DO YOU HAVE BOOKSHELVES?
42.    HOME MANY LINEAR FEET OF BOOKSELVES (WITH BOOKS ON THEM) DO YOU THINK YOU HAVE IN YOUR HOME?
43.    HOW MANY BOOKS DO YOU OWN?
44.    HOW MANY HAVE YOU READ?
45.    ON A SCALE OF 1 – 10, HOW MUCH DO YOUR CHILDREN ENJOY READING?

  • Age_________  Gender ________ Score __________

POTENTIAL BARRIERS TO READING
46.    WHAT IS YOUR NATIVE LANGUAGE?  AT WHAT GRADE LEVEL DO YOU BELIEVE YOU READ?
47.    WHAT IS YOUR SECOND LANGUAGE?  AT WHAT GRADE LEVEL DO YOU BELIEVE YOU READ?
48.    IF YOUR NATIVE LANGUAGE IS NOT ENGLISH, HAVE YOU/ARE YOU TAKING CLASSES TO IMPROVE YOUR READING SKILLS AND COMPREHENSION IN ENGLISH?
49.    CAN YOU FIND BOOKS IN YOUR NATIVE LANGUAGE, IF NOT ENGLISH?  WOULD YOU BUY THEM IF YOU COULD FIND THEM?
50.    DO YOU PREFER BOOKS THAT HAVE LARGE PRINT?
51.    DO YOU FREQUENTLY WEAR READING GLASSES?
52.    DO YOU HAVE A READING DISABILITY?

  • a.    Partial or complete blindness
  • b.    Learning disability

THE USUAL, BUT ALL IMPORTANT
53.    AGE
54.    GENDER
55.    EDUCATION LEVEL
56.    PERSONAL INCOME
57.    EMPLOYMENT
58.    HOUSEHOLD INCOME
59.    NUMBER OF PEOPLE IN HOUSEHOLD
60.    RACE

One Comment leave one →
  1. April 6, 2009 5:47 pm

    I will answer question 42:

    I have 1000 feet of shelves filled to the brim with books in my home.

    My wife says that is an under-estimate.

    Reading the Bible led to my interest in Christian books.

    I was fortunate to learn of a very important Christian book containing a full set of cross references to the Bible. That is where I started in 1955.

    Now, many decades later, I have prepared two major books of cross references myself: (1) The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge and (2) Nelson’s Cross Reference Guide to the Bible.

    People who get serious about Bible study use Nelson’s Cross Reference Guide to the Bible.

    That leads to spiritual growth and a hunger for more.

    That leads to book buying.

    I have seen this happen over and over.

    It is about time Christian publishers caught on. I tell them, but like the Bible character, Nabal, they won’t listen.

    I became an English teacher at the secondary level. I solved the dropout problem and the achievement gap problem. I solved the behind-grade-level in reading problem, and was made a reading specialist.

    As for developing a reader profile, I did that about 1962, creating what I called a “Reading Experience Inventory” for my students. They loved responding to it, and I learned about their reading interests and experience.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: