Reader Survey: 22% Won’t Pay More Than $4.99 for a Book

Nearly a quarter of readers don’t want to pay more than $4.99 for a book, according to a new survey. At the same time, about half said that if they really wanted a book, they didn’t care what it cost.

The survey findings should give publishers and ebook retailers pause. Lower pricing for name-brand books from blue-chip authors means leaving money on the table and higher prices for commoditized books like many romance and thriller titles may scare readers away.

The survey was conducted online during the month of June among nearly 3,000 participants, 80% of whom identified as romance readers.

Aside from the results (more below), what may be most astounding is that the survey was conducted entirely by hybrid authors. Best-selling author Marie Force led the way but gathered a coalition of about a dozen others around her to help. Conducting market research: Authors are acting more like publishers all the time.

Related: Learning What Hybrid Authors Want From Publishers, Self-Publishing Platforms and Agents


More Findings

— Two-thirds of readers don’t pay attention to who publishes a book; only 4% said that a publisher’s “seal of approval” matters.

— More than half have visited a bricks-and-mortar bookstore twice or less in the past year. About a fifth visit a bookstore twice a month or more.

— Some 80% buy books from Amazon and 23% from Barnes & Noble.

— It’s hard for new self-published authors to break out: 95% of readers are “more likely” to buy a self-published book from a known author and about two-thirds say they are “less likely” to buy a self-published book from an author who is unknown to them.

— However, book giveaways might help: More than a third of readers were enticed to try a new author due to a free book giveaway.

Read more below, including how readers follow their favorite authors and find new books through social media.


[Press Release]

A Finger on the Pulse of Readers—New Survey Confirms Reader Passion for e-Books, but Half Still Want Paperbacks

What do readers like? Where do they buy their books? What format do they prefer and where do they hear about new books and authors? These were some of the questions posed to nearly 3,000 readers in a survey designed to take the pulse of how today’s book consumer is reading and what influences their reading choices. The survey results show the e-book phenomenon continues to explode while traditional paperback books are still popular with more than half the reading public.

The key findings of the survey found:
— Readers prefer e-books to paperbacks, (77% to 52%) however the question allowed readers to choose all formats that apply. This result indicates that some readers are buying the same books in multiple formats.
— When it comes to pricing, 52% said if they want a book badly enough, they don’t care what it costs, but 22% said they won’t pay more than $4.99 for a book.
— A full 50% say reviews posted by other readers to retail sites are most important to them when selecting a book to read.
— Sixty-four percent of those surveyed say they pay “no attention” to who publishes a book and/or “it doesn’t matter” to them. Thirty three percent pay “some attention” to who the publisher is whereas 4 percent say the publisher’s seal of approval “matters” to them.

“The results of this survey more or less confirm what some of the more business-savvy authors already knew,” said Marie Force, New York Times bestselling romance novelist and a leader in the self-publishing community. “E-books are a huge and growing part of the market, paperback books still matter to many consumers, the reviews that are most influential to potential readers are those left on retail sites by other readers, and the author name is the brand that matters most in the digital age. We suspected these things, but now we can prove them.”

The 44-question survey was designed by Force with input from more than a dozen other authors who took advantage of the opportunity to pose some of their most pressing questions to readers. The survey featured multiple choice as well as open-ended questions with as many as 2,951 individuals responding to some of the questions in the survey which was conducted from June 1-June 30, 2013 on Survey Monkey. More than 80 percent of those surveyed chose romance as their favorite genre of fiction. According to the Romance Writers of America, romance was the top-performing category on the major bestseller lists in 2012 and accounted for $1.438 billion in sales in 2012, so it’s not surprising that most of those surveyed chose romance as their primary genre of interest.

When asked where they buy books, the survey found:

— Nearly 80% buy books from, with Barnes & Noble scoring 23%, and iBookstore/Apple scoring 13% (readers were allowed to choose all that apply).
— Nearly 58% have not visited a brick and mortar bookstore in the last year or have only done so twice. Twenty-five percent visit a bookstore once a month and 20% visit a brick and mortar bookstore twice a month or more.

When asked questions about publishing and what influences them to read a particular book or author, the survey found:
— Ninety-five percent of readers are “more likely” to buy a self-published book from an author who is known to them, with 68% saying they are “less likely” to buy a self-published book from an author who is unknown to them.
— Fifty-three percent of readers say they are “somewhat” swayed by reviews, and when asked which reviews are most important to them, 50% chose reviews posted by other readers to retail sites.
— When asked what book review publication they subscribe to, (including major newspapers), 81% said none, and 76% replied not applicable when asked if those publications had influenced their decision to buy a book.
— Sixty percent say blurbs or endorsements from bestselling authors do not influence their buying decisions.
— Free books enticed 35% of readers to sample a new author for the first time, with 21% finding a new author through free books more than 10 times. If readers liked what they read in the free book, the survey found 85% were extremely likely to buy another book from that author.

The survey also looked at the influence of social media in the marketing of books to readers.

— When asked about where they get their information about authors, readers indicated Facebook (62%) and author websites (63%) were the places they were most likely to go for information. Readers could choose all options that applied.
— When it comes to finding information about books, 18% listed Facebook as their primary source, followed by retail sites at 17%, Goodreads at 13% and author websites at 13%.
— Sixty percent of those surveyed said they do not follow their favorite authors on Twitter, whereas 87% say they follow their favorite authors on Facebook.

“One of the more interesting conclusions was the Facebook vs. Twitter divide,” Force said. “I’ve long suspected that Facebook was more effective than Twitter in reaching larger numbers of readers. Thanks to the survey results, we have conclusive evidence that is, in fact, the case.”

Results from the complete survey can be found here and

About Marie Force
Marie Force is the New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling, award-winning author of more than 25 contemporary romances, including The McCarthys of Gansett Island Series, the Fatal Series, the Treading Water Series and numerous stand-alone books. All You Need is Love, book 1 in her new Green Mountain Series, is out on Feb. 4, 2014. Subscribe to updates from Marie about new books and other news at Follow her on Twitter @marieforce and on Facebook at

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