Friday, January 14, 2011

So Who the Heck Reads All These Mystery Books?

I do, that's who!

Yes, as I have admitted before my number one, go-to genre is mysteries, so I found the recent Sisters in Crime survey about the readers of mysteries particularly interesting.
So, what did they find? Well,

• 68% of mystery buyers are female.
• 48% of mystery buyers are over the age of 55.
• 48% of mystery buyers live in suburban areas.
• 35% of mystery buyers live in the South.
• 77% of mystery buyers live in households with no children living at home.
• Mystery buyers are similar to other genre buyers in terms of income.
• Mystery buyers are less likely than general fiction buyers to participate in social media such as Facebook and more likely to consume traditional media such as print newspapers and magazines.
• 94% of mystery buyers use the computer for email and 83% use the computer for random web surfing, but only 34% read blogs.

Well, it appears that I am fairly typical. Over 50, female, suburban...
But I don't live in the south. If you read the survey, it seems that the Northeast, where I live, lags in mystery readers. And then there is that whole blog issue. Seems mystery readers are not necessarily big blog readers or at least do not get a lot of recommendations from online sites like blogs. So where do they find their new books and authors? Well...

• Recommendations from librarians and booksellers seem to have more impact on mystery readers than readers of other genres.
• Libraries appear to provide a way for readers to try new authors without shelling out money, mitigating their risk. Other readers note they simply don’t have the space to buy and store all the books they read. This means the library is a place that authors, especially new authors, should not overlook when attempting to connect with their readers.

No room for more books? Gosh, that sounds familiar!
Certainly good news for libraries. As the report says later, author of mysteries might be well served from not forgetting that library events may be a good place to connect with new readers.
In other ways, it seems mystery readers, especially we older ones, may be influences by more traditional methods than the newer ones like social media sites or any online vehicles. Cover art rates high in what attracts their attention, as do in-store displays and very, very important in making their choices are personal recommendations from friends and family.

• Of only “moderate influence” among buyers are bookstore newsletters, bookseller recommendations, librarian recommendations, mystery catalogs, newspaper and magazine advertisements, author webpages, posters in stores and libraries and billboards and hearing the author has won an award.
• “Low influence” factors include author blogs, author mailings, publisher websites, Facebook, banner ads on websites, online communities such as DorothyL and following an author on Twitter.
• The majority of mystery buyers over 45 are not influenced by online marketing.
We like good characters, we like series, we like to follow a favorite author and will continue to buy their books. Personal recommendations are very important to choosing the books that we buy and price is an important issue. We over 50 readers buy and read a lot more books than younger readers and those in the business might do well to acknowledge that many of us may not be as cutting edge as some of our younger friends. For this audience, the majority of the mystery readers, a lot of the online attempts at book and author promotions may be a waste.
"Authors and publishers should dig deep in the develop strategies for successful promotional efforts. For example, many currently popular methods of promotion — blogs, author mailings and publisher websites — appear to yield poor results"
What?! Blog are a waste?
Now you tell me.
Certainly, this survey is aimed at booksellers and authors but it is all very interesting I think,  for we mystery fans. 
It sometimes seems that the future of book sales and book promotions are increasing aimed online. We hear more and more about e-books and e-readers, authors, publishers all have their web pages, are active on Facebook and Twitter.
But this survey would suggest, I think, that those in the mystery book field at least, should not be too, too fast to leave behind more traditional methods and jump on the online bandwagon. Yes, it may be the future and it may be more and more attractive to future younger readers, but for the present, we older fans, by far the larger mystery audience in terms of numbers, are found in the older, duty, corners of our bookstore and libraries, reading book reviews in newspapers and magazines, asking our friends for a good new book.


  1. I seem to be the "typical" mystery reader according to the survey. I'm not quite to 55 yet, but almost and I do (of course) read blogs. Otherwise, that's me. But it's been me for a lot of years. My mystery reading started in my single digit years (<age 10). LOL

    There aren't as many general blogs that are primarily devoted to mysteries I don't think. There's Lesa's and Jen's, but most are connected with authors or publishers.

    I agree that publishers might want to consider the whole spectrum of mystery readers. Thanks for summarizing this, Caite. I enjoyed it!

  2. I don't fit into the typical exactly, and I definitely didn't fit when I was in my biggest mystery phase. Back then, however, I did get most of my recommendations from friends. Didn't even know what a blog was! The horror!

  3. I get most of my recs these days from blogs!!! But I could see that many mystery readers are not bloggers. However, among those that are, you see, is a different category altogether, and among those that are, we DO! Also, I would like to see how the gender breaks down with respect to authors, like Lee Child, for example. And here's another question of interest to me: what is your preferred activity or food when you're reading a mystery/suspense book that is making you nervous?!!!

  4. I fit all those categories except the last two. I don't buy tons of mysteries though.

  5. I enjoy a good mystery now and then, but I've never been hard core about it. Maybe in a few years I'll catch "mystery fever." You know, when I give up blogging and all these newfangled technologies. ; )

  6. you can be one of the new breed that reads tons of mysteries and tons of blogs.

  7. Ayup, I fit right into that category - way over 55, pretty much feel FB is a waste of time, still read the newspaper and use the computer for e mail. I do read blogs however and get a lot of recommendations from them. I wonder if "Podunk" is a sub genre of suburbia. If so, then I fit that category too.

  8. yep, podunk is just down the road from suburbia.

    and around the corner. and make a left at the oak...and go just a bit, a bit more...


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