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What, why and how do you read? A survey by M.K. Tod

Readers and writers – a symbiotic relationship. Ideas spark writers to create stories and build worlds and characters for readers’ consumption. Readers add imagination and thought to interpret those stories, deriving meaning and enjoyment in the process. A story is incomplete without both reader and writer.

And yet, so many authors I know mumble and grumble about their writing: Why hasn’t novel two done as well as novel one? Why is writer X getting so much attention? How should I adjust the manuscript to attract more readers? Why did my publisher reject my latest effort? How can I find the readers who will love my stories?

The grand bargain between writers and readers is a challenging one.

What then do readers want? What constitutes a compelling story? How do men and women differ in their preferences? Where do readers find recommendations? How do readers share their book experiences? These and other questions are part of the 2018 Reader Survey developed by M.K. Tod, Patricia Sands and Heather Burch.

Why? As authors, understanding the reading community is essential not only to shaping the stories we want to tell but also to finding readers who will enjoy those stories.

I conducted my first reader survey in 2012, when I set out to find an answer to the question: Why do people read historical fiction?  Searching GoogleLand I found almost nothing other than a university class that had conducted and reported on twenty or so interviews with readers. There seemed to be no comprehensive body of knowledge offering insights to someone like me who was passionate about writing historical fiction.

“Well, then, I’ll do a survey,” I muttered to myself. “Can’t be all that difficult.” Wrong on that point, I might add.

With a little help from Sarah Johnson, who runs a blog called Reading the Past, that survey reached over 800 participants. In 2013 and 2015, I added more questions and once again readers kindly responded.

This year’s survey is not genre specific. Instead it seeks to understand readers at large—the what, when, why, and how of readers who enjoy fiction. Of particular interest is the role social media plays in shaping the reading experience. As Lake Union authors, Heather, Patricia and I believe these are important questions. We hope readers will too.

PS – if you haven’t taken the survey, please do and please share it around! Here’s the link https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/68HL6F2


M.K. (Mary) Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, Time and Regret was published by Lake Union. Fellow authors Patricia Sands and Heather Burch helped design and plan the survey. Mary can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her blog A Writer of History.

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