Connecting Readers and Writers

Mary Tod

(Mary Tod has more fascinating analysis of this survey at her Writer of History blog, and Sarah Johnson discusses readers’ favourite historical novelists, per survey).
In a recently conducted historical fiction survey, 562 people listed favourite reading oriented websites, blogs and social media sites. The winners in connecting readers with books share three attributes:

  • thoughtful, trustworthy information about books,
  • opportunities for dialogue and an exchange of ideas, and
  • a community of like-minded readers.




  • Goodreads, historical fiction blogs and small book review blogs are the top three by a wide margin.
  • Goodreads is the dominant site for book recommendations with 41% of readers listing it is a favourite.
  • Adding Library Thing and Shelfari to the Goodreads number brings the category of interactive reader communities to 49.8%.
  • Readers mentioned more than 150 book blogs run by individuals or small groups.
  • Top historical fiction blogs are Reading the Past, Historical Novel Society, Historical Tapestry, Historical Novel Review and Passages to the Past.
  • Only 13% of respondents said they did not use online sites.
  • Most participants mentioned three or more sources for recommendations.
  • Beyond Goodreads, Library Thing and Shelfari, Facebook (71), Twitter (21), other social media (13) accounted for 18.6%.
  • With only 89 mentions, Amazon does not fare well.
  • Big book review sites like Fantastic Fiction, Book Browse, Abe Books, Fresh Fiction, ACFW, London Review of Books merited 35 mentions.


*      small book review blogs are blogs written by one or two individuals, author blogs and sites include sites dedicated to deceased authors, genre sites include those dedicated to mystery, crime, fantasy etc.


How can we interpret the data?


Elsewhere in the survey, participants said that they choose books based on time period (27.2%) and on genre (30.3%). Only 18.3% choose based on author while the remaining 24.2% choose at random. Based on these percentages, it’s not surprising that historical fiction readers seek help to find stories from the time periods and genres they favour.

The responses concerning favourite online sources indicate that readers connect to others readers in order to find books they will enjoy. Taking a look at some of these blogs as well as Goodreads, it seems clear that readers like to build small online interactive communities with people they can trust – people with shared interests.

The diagram attempts to portray different connections between readers and online sources. Thick arrows connect the top three reader choices.  These arrows are double-headed to indicate two-way or group dialogue. Author sites and blogs find support amongst readers but offer less dialogue. Other interactive communities like Facebook or Twitter are multi-purpose and hence a dotted line to signify that the connection for reading purposes is not quite as strong. Broadcast sites like online newspapers and publishing houses offer primarily one-way flows of information signified by a single-headed arrow. Similarly, sites like Amazon and large book chains that are mainly focused on purchasing are shown with a single-headed arrow. Notice that these lines are thinly dotted to demonstrate their lack of intimacy.

The data suggest a number of conclusions:

  • Historical fiction readers love to share their book reading experiences with others. Many create blogs as a venue for sharing.
  • Readers are proactive in their pursuit of good books.
  • Reading is a social event; readers like to talk to other readers about books.
  • Readers prefer to rely on trusted communities for recommendations.
  • Though readers buy online in large numbers, they prefer other sources for recommendations.
  • Big book review sites are not intimate enough for readers.
  • Readers do not identify with publishing houses.

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