Friday, February 13, 2009

Lit Blogs Drive Purchasing Decisions

The results are in, and they're pretty overwhelming: Literary blogs have a very significant impact on book-related purchases.

A little over 2 weeks ago, I decided to run a survey in an attempt to measure, at least roughly, the influence of literary blogs on book-related purchasing decisions. Thanks to the help of many fellow lit bloggers, thousands of people completed the survey during the two-week period. The results are analyzed in detail below.

Questions 1 and 2
The first two questions of the survey were geared towards lit-blog-reading behaviors in order to get a general sense of the habits of the survey respondents. These questions revealed that lit blog readers are both active and promiscuous. In response to the question "How often do you read a lit blog?", 87% of you replied "daily." 96% of you read a lit blog at least weekly, and only 4% of you read a lit blog only "monthly" or "rarely." These results aren't particularly surprising considering the survey was geared towards lit blog readers and primarily publicized on lit blogs and other on-line sites related to books and reading.

More surprising, at least to me, were the answers to question 2: "How many lit blogs do you regularly read?" 78% of you read 5 or more lit blogs a day, and 59% of you admit to reading 10 or more lit blogs a day. (I'm glad to know I'm not the only one.)

Questions 3 and 4
Questions 3 and 4 asked about primary and secondary influences on book-related purchases. For 56% of you, lit blogs are the primary influence on your book-related purchases. The rest of you split pretty evenly between traditional media (e.g., newpaper book reviews, NPR, Oprah) and family and/or friends. Bookseller recommendations are the primary influence on book-related purchases for only 2% of you.

As for secondary influences, lit blogs won again with 28% of the vote. Assuming nobody claimed lit blogs as both primary and secondary influencers, lit blogs are a primary or secondary influencer for 84% of you. Basically, for those of you who read lit blogs, those blogs exert a strong influence over your book-related purchases.

Question 5
Now that we know lit blogs are a strong influencer over the book-related purchases of their readers, the next step is to quantify that influence. Towards this purpose, question 5 asked, "How often do you make a book-related purchase based on something you've seen on a lit blog?" A whopping 76% of you responded "at least once a month," including 10% of you who answered "at least once a week," and 4% of you who answered "every few days."

These results show that, for those of us reading lit blogs regularly (and there are quite a lot of us these days), those blogs are influencing us to make book-related purchases at least once a month in most cases. In an industry where a work of literary fiction is considered a success if it sells between 4,000 and 7,000 copies, these results demonstrate that lit blogs have the power to exert significant influence on the literary marketplace.

Anecdotal Evidence
The anecdotal evidence, while far from scientific, supports the survey results. Here are just a couple examples:

  • Tiago Pavan commented: "I own a bookstore here in São Paulo, Brazil, and also a blog that talks about culture and books. I can say that I had an increase of 70% in sales after blogging! The bookstore is: the blog,"

  • In response to a post about this survey, Evie commented at Three Percent: "You might like to know that your wonderful blog [Three Percent] has resulted in four or five of my recent purchases, one of which was an Open Letter title and all of which were in translation."
Other Interesting Questions
Obviously, this online, lit-blog-administered survey captured a very specific group of respondents. Although an on-line survey is not the proper tool for such an inquiry, it would be interesting to (a) measure the size of the lit-blog-reading population and (b) determine the ratio of lit-blog readers to non-lit-blog readers among the general reading population. It would also be interesting to explore the homogenizing effect of cross-pollination among lit blogs (how long does it take for a major piece of literary news or a word-of-mouth bestseller to hit all the lit blogs). Clearly, there's plenty of room for future exploration.

One final note: The last question of the survey asked, "What's your favorite lit blog (if you have one)?" The most common response was a variation of "too many to name just one" or "all of them."


bermudaonion said...

I think it's not just the blogs, but the bloggers who influence purchases. People who blog about books also talk about books, and some of the people they talk to don't know they have blogs.

Anonymous said...

That's a good point, Kathy. I don't talk to most of my clients about my blog, but I am constantly sharing recommendations with them based on what I've read lately or heard about in the blogging community. People are who willing to invest their time in a book blog are probably also out there evangelizing books in the real world....

Or am I the only person who comments on the books other people are looking at in airport bookstores?

If you ever do this again, it would be interesting to expand the options on the question about how many blogs we read Google Reader is teetering toward 200 subscriptions to bookish would be interesting to see the variation you'd get.

Adele said...

I think the power of the blogosphere on book purchases should not be underestimated by publishers or authors, your poll certainly supports that.

Anonymous said...

Interesting stuff, Gwen. Thanks for exploring this issue. There are so many good literary blogs out there it's hard to find the time to visit as many as I'd like, let alone read all the good books they recommend.


S. Krishna said...

Thanks for conducting this survey, I'm going to link to the results!

Robert Nagle said...

It's probably better to say, "Literary blogs have a very significant impact on book-related purchases for people who read literary blogs."

The next question is how many people read literary blogs....

On Teleread, our advertising survey revealed that 40% of our respondents bought 20+ books and ebooks over the last year and that fiction comprises 80% of what is read. I'm sure if you asked the same kinds of questions, you'd get similar results.

The next question: if blogs are frequented by heavy readers, why are advertising budgets focused on print media and Major Media outlets?

Jenners said...

This was so interesting ... but I guess I'm not totallly surprised. Ever since I started blogging, I've been exposed to so many good and new books that I don't think I would have read before. And I must say, book bloggers are truly dedicated and faithful and loyal.

This was really neat. I'll try to link to it on my blog soon.

Lenore Appelhans said...

I expected nothing less! And yes, I am one of those crazies who always seems to be telling random people in bookstores what to buy.

Meytal Radzinski said...

I'm not sure how much this survey actually says... the people responding are predominantly book bloggers - it is unsurprising that a majority of book bloggers accept advice from others in their field. Still very interesting, though.

Anonymous said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Anonymous said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Belle said...

Last year, after writing a few guest reviews on a friend's blog, I started clicking around through the comments to other blogs, and discovered there were so many books I hadn't heard of, that I knew I would love to read. I'd just gone through a terrible dry spell during which I felt like I couldn't find anything I wanted to read. I now no longer have that problem because I've been discovering some really fascinating and new-to-me titles and authors on the blogs I frequent. And I've discovered that my library actually has a ton of books that I'm interested in.