Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Readers Need Purpose

You may have already seen this video elsewhere. If not, I recommend that you watch it and then come back and we’ll talk about it.

The basic premise of the video is that while money is a motivator, people are also motivated by purpose. Give people enough money that they don’t need to be concerned about money and they will turn their attention to those things that seem to have purpose, when we’re talking about something that requires cognitive skills. While that may not be immediately obvious, I think it makes sense if we consider the logic carefully. Our first priority is survival. Without money we fear we won’t survive, but once that is taken care of we are free to consider other things.

Applying This to Books

From the standpoint of authors and writing, the application is obvious. We write, not because of money, but because of some greater purpose that we see in writing. We want money for our writing so we can write without concern about money. But what about for the book buyer? What is needed to motivate a book buyer to buy a book?

Some of the same concepts apply. For example, money is only a motivator to a limited extent. If books are overpriced, people won’t buy them, but reducing the price of a book doesn’t always translate into more sales. In fact, reduce the price too much and people may assume there is something wrong with it. People buy non-fiction with a purpose in mind, usually to learn something so they can accomplish some higher purpose. Fiction may be for pure entertainment, but people may still have a higher purpose in the back of their minds. They may buy it so they can review it on their blog. They may buy it because they want to read the book with their book club. They may buy it because they’ve been hearing about it and they want to be knowledgeable enough to discuss the book competently. People want to become better at something. One of the things people can become better at is in the knowledge of a particular author. These people will purchase every book that particular author writes, just to increase their knowledge.

So for those people who want to become an expert in us, we need a means of informing them when a new book comes out and we need to do things like book signings and speaking events to give them additional insider information. For those people who are looking for entertainment, we need to know what other authors have a similar style to our own and try to reach their fans, maybe working together with the other authors so that we all can benefit. For book clubs, it might be helpful to have discussion questions. Whatever we can do to help people achieve their purpose is what we need to do.