I came into doing my market research with a concept of perfect Science Fiction Readers which was probably the wrong thing to do. Additionally, it seems that the ideal reader I had in mind is quickly becoming an outdated model. So goes the world of publication. Luckily, Google and the library came to the rescue. Here’s what I discovered.
Science fiction sales took a deep dive, a real blow a couple of years ago. It was looking a little grim for those of us that write SF tales. But, “the existence of that underreported 48% of the SF&F book market remains heartening news for any budding SF&F author or self-publisher struggling to carve out a foothold in the fantastical genres of science fiction and fantasy.” (Rowe) Additionally, with the popularity of science fiction shows on Netflix, such as Love Death and Robots and Black Mirror, the rebirth of science fiction seems to be in full bloom. It’s likely that at least some of those viewers and fans will translate into readers. Yeah for a come-back kid!
As for the kinds of people that read Science Fiction, my pre-determined concept was this: mostly male, middle-aged, employed but under paid and single. Some of the research supported my idea. Mark Neimann-Ross conducted a very helpful survey and found “a common interest at all ages, except from ages forty-five to sixty-five. Those ages drop their interest in Science Fiction by almost ten percent. After sixty-five, interest levels rise back to match the general population. The Bowker Review mirrors this age-related behavior; they claim sixty percent of eBook buys are younger than forty-five. So much for the stereotypical old guy reading sci fi!” (Neimann-Ross) He also states that those that read SF tend to make about $30,000 more a year than the average. That’s a pretty big jump. I think it might have something to do with the idea of SF being interesting to those in the STEM industries, as well as young-ish middle-aged and thus slightly more experienced professionals who we would like to think are getting paid more for their expertise. All this is great, so far only a little bit of what I assumed was shot out of the water, and it was towards a positive anyway. If the reader makes more money, that means that they have more disposable income to use to buy books. Good deal.
Then I found a scientific survey conducted by Susan Jacups and Christopher Benjamin Mendue with a research paper attached and everything. Very academic. Now, admittedly their 902 respondents is just a tiny fraction of the total 357 million people that live in North America, so the results are slightly skewed, but who doesn’t love a good graph? In their research, Mendue and Jacups found that a majority of SF readers are between forty and forty-nine, speak English, are in a relationship of some kind, college educated, employed, and the real kicker…. Female. To be specific, 54.5% female. Yes! Exactly who I’m aiming for! Expectations blown and a happy dance ensues. Even though I know that the research is only a small sliver of the total population, and may be messed with by female tendency and book sales (neither of which I’m getting into right now) I can learn from this research.
One: Interest in Science Fiction is climbing back up not only in film/tv, but also literature.
Two: The average SF reader will more than likely have the extra money to buy books and be within my age-range, since my novel is not YA and considering the age of my main character.
Three: Science Fiction readers may be extra interested in my novel, if they are actually a majority female, because almost the entire character cast identifies as female. Additionally, the themes discussed within the novel boost women and matter to females, such as feminine power and the true definition of soul.
Now to attract these sorts of people to my site. What’s a tool I can use to do that? Keywords. I already use several of them such as writing, short fiction, and essay. Short fiction I think works well because of the somewhat condensed time society has now, a slightly shorter attention span satisfied with scrolling and scanning. But, I need people who are interested in investing time in a Science Fiction novel. So, I’ve decided to start using tag words and keywords like science, robots, space, soul, alien, and female more often. I think that these words will attract the readers I’m looking for when they search for something to read or research. Specifically science, robots, and space feel like the strongest lures because they will include not only personal interests, but likely professional ones and thus are a double whammy. Soul and female are targeted at my most narrowed down ideal readers and I think that they will be interested in them because the words hit on a more personal, deeper level. Those readers will be getting not only their Science Fiction, but a little slice of themselves, along with a personal boost in the discussion of empowerment. I’m also shifting my reviews and research in a more female-author-science-fiction related direction and using those authors names as keywords. If someone looks up Ursula K Le Guin, they may just come across my essay on point of view. It seems sort of scammy at first glance, tagging along with a famous author, but I want to share my work and research with the other budding writers to help them learn how to construct their best stories. How better to do that than to look at those that have come before and succeeded? If it brings an extra viewer or two, thus a few more chances to share, I’ll go ahead and do it. I don’t think that the authors would mind, since it’s spreading the word of their amazing works and helping to add to the literary community. We are all in this together, after all.
~Sarah Ockershausen Delp
Christopher Benjamin Menadue, Susan Jacups. “Who Reads Science Fiction and Fantasy and How Do They Feels About Science?” 5 June 2018. sage journals. web. <https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/2158244018780946>.
Neimann-Ross, Mark. “Who Reads Science Fiction?” 02 January 2014. Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. web. <https://www.sfwa.org/2014/01/reads-science-fiction/>.
Rowe, Adam. “Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Sales Have Doubled Since 2010.” 19 June 2018. forbes.com. web. <https://www.forbes.com/sites/adamrowe1/2018/06/19/science-fiction-and-fantasy-book-sales-have-doubled-since-2010/#1184e12e2edf>.