Recently I set up a survey about the Aurora series in an attempt to learn more about my readers. I wrote a very brief blog post about it here. In short, I understood that not everyone is comfortable writing reviews, some people just want to read a book and leave it at that. But as an author, I am faced with the challenge of trying to find out who my readers are, and connecting with them to see what the like/don’t like about the series. Therefore I hoped this survey would help gain feedback in such a way that it wouldn’t take much of my readers’ time, and being anonymous, they would (hopefully) feel that they could be totally honest.
I have to say, some of the results surprised me! Because of this, I think the exercise proved useful, as it helped me gain an extra insight into my readers that I didn’t have before. As some of my readers expressed a desire to see the results as well, I have chosen to share them here today – question by question. But it’s not just for the readers, I think some writers may find this of interest as well.
So how many responses did I receive?
55 surveys were received. Not a bad collection for a first try, I think! However, as this is only a minute fraction of the total Aurora readers out there, this needs to be kept in mind when reviewing the overall results.
*Note (1): I added in the last 3 questions after the first 8 responses had been collected (sorry, I was new to this!). So responses weren’t collected to these questions (age, sex, and location) for the first 8 people.
*Note (2): according to the stats, 2 of the total survey responses were ‘incomplete’, meaning the respondent did not finish answering the questions. Upon looking at these two entries, they both only answered the first two questions.
*Note (3): many surveys were completed prior to the release of AURORA: EDEN, so this should be taken into account as some clearly referred to Eden in their comments, while others stated that they were looking forward to reading it, and this may or may not have had an effect on ‘Favourite Characters’, etc. In hindsight, I probably should’ve run this survey either before Eden came out, or after it did. Oh well, you live and you learn!
How were the surveys collected?
Now, this is probably more of interest to other writers who may be thinking of doing the same thing, but a quick snapshot of which channel the results came through, are as follows:
70% via the Facebook link. (Note: the two incomplete entries also came via this channel)
19% via a web link (posted through Twitter and also Google+)
11% via a pop-up on my website (I should note that my website was recently updated and this pop-up was accidentally removed, so this channel had been disabled for some weeks. Therefore it’s not a very clear indication of how successful this channel was, but I suspect that had it been left in place, it would’ve exceeded the figure of the straight web link via Twitter, etc).
So, what questions did I ask in the survey? The ten questions are broken down below:
How did you find out about the Aurora series?
I always knew that Word of Mouth was one of the most powerful ways an author can reach new readers, so it didn’t really surprise me that it was ranked second on this list. I was surprised that the Online Book Retailer came in the first place, though. But I guess I shouldn’t really be surprised, because readers obviously bought the books via these channels, so it’s only natural that that is how they discovered my books too. I did have some great exposure through the Australian iBooks Store ‘Book of the Week’ promotions, and the deal advertised through Bookbub saw Aurora: Darwin hit #1 on the Sci-fi Military chart on Amazon.com, which would’ve have increased my ‘discoverability’ significantly, albeit only for a few days.
It’s clear to see that Twitter swooped into third place, with some of my guest posts on websites like SF Signal, and the BookBub promotion, came in fourth spot for how readers discovered my books. Google+ has never worked for me, so I’m not surprised by no score there, and I don’t use Pinterest as a promotional tool, so that makes sense too.
It’s nice to know that votes were cast for having discovered my books at a convention. Sometimes you wonder whether you reach anyone at these events, so it’s nice to know that it can happen! Other hits were cast for discovering me via Facebook, my publisher’s website, and also on Goodreads. I think, in short, it’s good for a writer to cover their bases, and reach out through however many avenues they’re comfortable with. Even if a certain avenue only picks you up one reader, well, that’s one you didn’t have before. And that one reader may just tell their friends (see Word of Mouth, in second place).
How many books have you read in the series?
Again, these results aren’t much of a surprise. Given most of the people who completed the survey are fans of the series, it makes sense that they had read all of the books in the series. And it also makes sense that Darwin rates highly, because everyone tends to read the first book in a series, but they may not go on with the others if they find it’s not their ‘cup of tea’. All in all, it’s nice to know I have readers who are well and truly enjoying the whole series!
What do you like most about the series?
Watching as the results came in, for a long time ‘The Characters’ was in a clear lead. But ‘The Plot’ stormed home to almost call it a draw. This question was my attempt to see if readers could put their finger on one certain aspect that they particularly enjoyed, or that keeps drawing them back to the series. It’s good to see people are liking the characters and the overall story equally. Perhaps I should’ve put an option in there for ‘All of the Above’?
Who are your favourite characters on the UNF Aurora?
This was an interesting result! One could expect to see both Carrie and Harris in equal first place, but that wasn’t the case. For a long time, watching the results come in, Carrie was in a clear lead. Then McKinley caught up and they were neck and neck, then Carrie took the lead again, until finally McKinley stormed home to draw equal first place (always competing those two!). This actually put a huge smile on my face, to see how popular he is with readers. I can only assume that because Harris, so far, has been relatively steady and drama-free compared to Carrie, that that is why he is trailing in third place. But I’m sure that will change in the next few books . . . Another big surprise for me, was that of the rest of the Aurora crew, Yughiarto (Yughi) was the next most popular, after Doc. It’s nice to see he has made an impression. 🙂
Who are you favourite characters off the UNF Aurora?
Captain Lee of the UNF Vortex took first place among the characters off the UNF Aurora, and that was nice to see – that he had struck readers so clearly as a favourite. He had a clear lead for most of the time, until Professor Sharley caught up and slid into 2nd place, and Chet into 3rd. Which, as an author, is great to see – that readers like the bad guys you write also! It was nice to see Taya Harris and Colonel Welles rate, along with Ellen Walker, Doc’s mother. Again, sometimes you’re not sure whether the secondary characters leave any impression on your readers, so it’s great to see that most of them have been. 🙂
Do you have a favourite book so far in the series?
This question was aimed at finding out whether enjoyment of the series was increasing or waning. Thankfully the majority of readers have enjoyed all the books equally. Phew! And of course it must be taken into account how many books each reader had actually read, in order to rate their favourite book. Some respondents had only read Aurora: Darwin, so naturally, they could only select that one as their favourite. And as said earlier, many respondents had completed this survey before reading Aurora: Eden. What is interesting, is that Aurora: Meridian technically rated least of the four (when voted on singularly), and yet this is the book that was shortlisted for an Aurealis Award! Go figure! Still, at the end of the day, the majority of readers have enjoyed all the books equally, and that’s what counts!
Are there any other thoughts (positive or negative) that you would like to share about the series?
I gave readers the option to leave comments, so they could convey any thoughts to me that weren’t necessarily captured in my (very general) ten questions. 28 of the 55 respondents left comments. I won’t print the individual comments here, mainly because I didn’t state in the survey that they might show up on my blog at some point, so I think it’s best I don’t! But, in general terms, I really appreciated all the comments and feedback, which were predominantly positive – like having 28 mini-reviews! It was also interesting to see the contrast in readers’ opinions. For instance, some said they loved the pace of my books, where others said that they could be a little slow in places – but that the endings were always exceptional. Some commented on how much they enjoy the action sequences, while others said how much they like the character development, and some even said they wanted to know more about the secondary characters. And speaking of contrast, I couldn’t help but find it amusing that one respondent said they were devastated when I killed off a main character in Centralis, while another respondent said they were glad that I killed them off. LOL.
What age range do you fit into?
The last three questions in the survey, were basically about trying to find out who my readers were, in general terms. According to the results, there’s a nice spread of age ranges that are enjoying the books, with the 36-45 age range coming out on top. It would be interesting to compare these results with general stats of ‘typical’ readerships out there. After all, is the 36-45 age group considered the most prolific readers generally in the world? And how do these stats compare with sci-fi readership in particular? And then there are the comparison with ebook vs print readers and what age ranges they tend to fall into as well…
What sex are you?
Ok, so this result surprised me. I had assumed that females made up the majority of my readers (I’m not sure why), but according to these stats, I have more male readers. Which is really cool, actually! My books do have plenty of action and intrigue, violence and swearing, but I guess I always wondered whether the strong romantic subplot would turn male readers away. Well, apparently not. This was an awesome thing to discover! Again, it would be interesting to compare these stats with ‘general readership’ figures, and also of ‘typical’ sci-fi stats. After all, do more males tend to read sci-fi? Or was this recently debunked as a myth? That’s probably another blog post, I think.
Where do you live in the world?
I’m not surprised at all that Australia came in first place for where my readers resided, being an Australian author and all, but I was surprised to see that, although the USA came in second, it was a quite distant second – which doesn’t reflect my sales. Based on recent stats given to me by my publisher, Australian readers accounted for 43% of my sales, and readers from the USA accounted for 42%. Perhaps Aussies are just more into filling out surveys? LOL. Aside from the countries listed, I also received surveys from Singapore and Sweden.
As a writer in today’s world, there are many challenges faced with growing your readership, and fighting to be heard among the millions of books flooding the market. And while we experiment with different marketing tools and social media platforms, we get out and about at conventions, and do guest posts on various blogs, at the end of the day, sometimes it helps to just get in touch with your current readers and interact with them. Ask them questions and listen to what they have to say. This was only a very basic survey (and yes, it probably could’ve been run a little better), but I’ve learned a lot, and I’m really glad that I undertook this exercise. I think it will be really interesting to run this survey again in twelve months time, try to increase the number of responses, and see how/if the results change.
So there you have it! I hope you have enjoyed this little insight into the Aurora series readership. A big thank you to all those who took part in this survey. I really appreciate it – you’re awesome!
Until next time!