Apr 21 2009

Survey Planning

Published by at 10:13 am under Writing a Query,Writing Articles

Hi.  I’m about to pitch a book about how to write a superhero story to publishers.  In the near-future, I’d like to do an audience survey to help describe my readers to prospective publishers.  These are some of the questions I’m considering.  I’d appreciate any suggestions.

Audience Demographics — this affects how a book will be written, marketed and promoted.  Additionally, it may affect whether the book gets published internationally.

  1. Which country are you from?
  2. How old are you?
  3. What is the highest level of education you have attained?
  4. What is your gender?

Audience Interest — this affects whether the book gets published or not.

  1. On a scale of “I am definitely not interested” to “I’ve already preordered a copy,” how likely are you to buy my book about how to write superhero stories?
  2. How many times have you been to Superhero Nation before?
  3. How many how-to guides have you purchased in the last year?  (This will help a prospective publisher determine whether our readers are likely to buy this book).
  4. How many books about writing have you purchased in the last year?

Marketing Considerations — this helps the publisher and author decide how to market and promote the book.  Where can the fans be reached?

  1. Which of the following have you been to in the last year: a comic book convention, a college campus, a bookstore, a library, and/or a military base.
  2. Are you a writer, journalist or a professional in the publishing industry?
  3. Do you run or contribute to a blog/website?  If so, which website?
  4. Would you like to sign up for our mailing list?

Here is some general advice on these sorts of surveys…

–Focus only on information that will help publishers figure whether and how to publish your book.  For example, “how likely are you to buy this book?” will help a publisher determine how easy it will be to sell the book.  “Which country are you from?” is useful because it will help the publisher determine whether to publish internationally.

–Keep the number of questions low.  I’d recommend ten or fewer, so I will try to eliminate a few questions here.  If there are many questions, fewer people will complete the survey.

6 responses so far

6 Responses to “Survey Planning”

  1. Lunajamniaon 21 Apr 2009 at 10:20 am

    I don’t have any suggestions. I actually thought that those were questions you wanted us to answer, so I did. Then I re-read it and got it. (I can be rather blond sometimes … )

  2. Tomon 21 Apr 2009 at 10:35 am

    3. What is the highest level of education you have attained?

    You might want to reconsider this question, as it is meaningless for someone like me, who is still in school (also the answer for this question for me will be different in a few months’ time). Try rephrasing it to something like ‘if you have left school, what is the highest level of education you have attained?’

  3. Alison Robinon 21 Apr 2009 at 3:01 pm

    First of all, I think this is a great set of questions. You’ve done a great job covering your bases. I might add/modify one thing- when you ask about schooling, you might want to follow up by asking the person’s area of study (if applicable). An English major might be more interested in the writing parts of the story than, say, a chemistry major.

  4. B. Macon 21 Apr 2009 at 3:27 pm

    Hmm. That’s an interesting idea, Alison. A conditional question (“If the user says he’s in college, ask him if he’d like to name a major”) should not be technically difficult.

  5. Chris Osborneon 21 Apr 2009 at 10:15 pm

    While I agree with Tom and his points about that question, it’s also a pretty standard question. You’re answering the question as, say, a 22 year old college student and not as the 22 year old college graduate you’ll be in a few months. The point isn’t to get your answers, it’s to get the answers of people in certain subsets of the population.

    That being said, I would add a question asking if the participant is currently in school and if so what level of education it is. A 22 year old college student and a 22 year old high school graduate fit into the same box here but are not the same thing.

    When asking about how interested people are, how in Hell are you going to get anything useful out of that in the way you’ve prepared the question? Without giving answer choices you’re setting yourself up for a situation where few if any people will give you the same answer and some people probably giving you an answer that you don’t understand (ie Star Trek references in regards to people who don’t like Star Trek). Having it on a 1-5 (or 1-4 or whatever) scale is going to be bad enough since people will have a different definition for what each number means.

    First section is fine, and I can’t think of anything else to add there unless you come up with some other demographic variable to look at.

    For the second section (what I didn’t talk about already), I would think about adding questions asking how many how to guides I own and how often I use them. I don’t think I’ve bought any in the past year, but I do own a few and pull them out often.

    Third section, first question is worded like I have to pick one. Easy thing to fix.

    Really, 20 questions isn’t that much. Especially when they’re simple things like this.

    Just so you know, I’m a psych major about to graduate who has lived on surveys the past 4 years. Feel free to email with anything you need or to get some data analysis run.

  6. B. Macon 22 Apr 2009 at 5:40 am

    I can only think of a few other demographic-related questions, but they don’t seem like they’d add very much.

    1. Some readers buy books like this because they want to get published or advance their career. Other readers buy books like this for entertainment but not because they’re seriously considering a career in writing or publishing. Which of the following answers best describes what you’re looking for? [I’ll list five choices.]

    2. “Are you planning on publishing in English?” (If not, which language?)

    3. “Are you planning on publishing in the United States?”

    #2 and #3 would help us gauge the international demand. Also, if I eventually do an international version, this will help me determine which markets and publishers to cover.

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