By Suraya Dewing

CEO, The Story Mint

Writers have to connect with readers if they want to succeed. 

So, before you put that first word on the page take the time to understand your readers. Consider their interests and what will motivate them to buy your book. Readers have millions of titles to choose from so why should they pick yours?

Give them a reason. Make the cover stand out, ensure the first paragraph grabs their attention and keep the story going using strong characters and storyline.

In the last year, two million new books came onto the market world-wide and they were delivered across a wide range of platforms. This changes the reading experience and writers need to consider how this reality impacts on their writing.

It is easier than ever to publish a book. While this makes the world of writing exciting because of the increased opportunities, it also challenges writers to be innovative. 

Understanding what is happening in the world of reading is important as this knowledge will inform  writers on how to write and package their stories. It will also challenge them to think beyond getting published to looking at how they will distribute their work. Few publishers will market your published work.

This year 25% of all books were delivered as ebooks and 75% as paperbacks. While it was once predicted that ebook sales would outstrip hard copy, this has not happened and is unlikely to. Nor will independent booksellers disappear from the landscape as was once predicted. However, the way that they sell books is changing. 

If I asked you who, in the world, is reading the most you would probably answer USA and UK. In fact, the locus of readership is shifting from the West to the East. India leads the way with each person spending an average of 10.42 hours a week reading. This is followed by Thailand and then China. USA is 26th and UK is 29th out of a surveyed 33 countries.

However, that is half the story. What readers in India, China and Thailand are reading is key to understanding what the future holds. 

The reason we perceive UK and USA as big readers is because they produce the majority of the  books people in India, China and Thailand read.

The top 15 books read world-wide include several British classics like Charles Dickens’, A Tale of Two Cities(, the Harry Potter series (5 titles), and Don Quixote (UK publishers). Catcher in the Rye and Think and Grow Rich are titles out of the USA. Two books come from Asia – Xinhua Zidian (Chinese dictionary) and Dream of the Red Chamber, a Chinese classic, and The Alchemist is Portugese.

Knowing this helps guide writers. If we study the books on the list they all have similar themes.

They are usually stories about a quest or a family drama. They explore universal social themes, have a strong moral message based around good triumphing over evil and have hope as the driving force. They always have a strong protagonist with supporting characters. However, The Red Chamber is the exception. With over 2,500 pages and 40 main characters I have to admit to not having read it. Think and Grow Rich is one of the first self-help books to come out and it has endured over all the many similar books to come out since.

What does all of this mean for the future of reading and what does it all mean for writers?

It means we have to have strong story lines, strong protagonists and a theme that in some way speaks to a reader’s need to feel hope.  

Above all, what this understanding tells us is that while people are currently reading Western titles there is a very good chance they will want to start selecting books about themselves, especially as they move further away from their colonial pasts.