Should Authors Heed eBook Reader Data?

A recent New York Times article discusses how technology is allowing authors of eBooks to see all kinds of reader data:

  • How long does it take readers to read your book?
  • Do readers finish your book?
  • Do readers skip chapters? If so, which ones?
  • Do readers linger over certain scenes?

Some critics argue that having this kind of information will make authors more like pushers of product rather than creators of art, catering to the whims of a fickle consumer. They argue the information interferes with the creative process. Personally, I think the notion of authors writing to the market’s needs/wants is not something new. I have author-friends who have been “persuaded” by agents and publishing houses to write about topics that are “selling” or “hot now.” This kind of nudge or coercion, if you can call it that, is now coming directly from the consumer, rather than the publishing industry and, perhaps, has never been at this micro-level before, although you can argue that it has.

Is this kind of stuff good for authors to know? Sure, why not. Information is good. When I attend book clubs, readers tell me all the time what they’d like to see happen in the sequel to Baby Grand, and I always listen — readers have been very passionate about the book’s characters, which is so cool. But the truth is I already know in my heart how the next book will go, and I don’t think anything anyone says will change that.

I guess that’s the key. It’s like parenting. You listen to what’s being said. You read the information that’s out there. The reviews. You consider the suggestions. But then you do what you think is right. If authors feel strongly about their characters and their books, nothing should sway them from the book they set out to write, whatever the reader data says.

Do you agree? What say you, authors? Would you like to have this kind of reader information? Would it change the way you write?

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