Authors Only Have 20-50 Pages to Hook a Male Reader

(reblogged from DigitalBookWorld)


According to The Reading Room, the summary of this survey is this: Men are quicker to judge a book they’re reading than women are, according to Jellybooks, a reading analytics startup. The company's studies show that men and women abandon books at equal rates - but that men do so earlier on.


The study shows no notable difference in the completion rates of most types of books. In other words, women and men were equally likely to toss a book aside before finishing it - but men made that decision having read fewer pages. This suggests that in addition to being quick to decide they dislike a book, men may also be quicker to decide whether or not they love it: after a steep initial drop-off, men abandoned books at a lower rate. 


One way of looking at this is to say that women give books more of a chance than men. On the flip side, it also means that men are more likely to stick by a book once they’re a certain portion of the way through it.


The quick decision patterns of male readers presents a unique challenge for writers. In Jellybooks founder Andrew Rhomberg’s analysis, writers have “only 20 to 50 pages to capture [male readers’] attention.”


All of these conclusions apply more or less equally to all types of books - with the notable exception of what Rhomberg calls “books that deal with feelings,” which include “books about emotions like grief, loss and love, but also books about relationships in general and romance in particular.” On these books, mens' completion rates dipped below womens'. The gender of the author doesn’t seem to matter - only that of the reader.


Audience + Insight


The recent decline in ebook sales has led many pundits to pronounce that the digital revolution is over. Admittedly, this is indeed the end, but merely the end of the beginning of how ebooks will affect publishing. We are now in the next wave of publishing’s digital transformation—one that is based on the use of data that is collected digitally and allows us to develop unique insights into audiences.


This is the fifth post in my exploration of data-smart publishing, and it explores whether gender and other demographic factors actually affect reading.


Over the past couple months, Jellybooks has tested hundreds of books by embedding a piece of Javascript software called candy.js into ebook files. Readers received the ebooks free of charge in exchange for sharing their reading data with us and the publisher. The software recorded their reading data both online and off, and when the user clicked a button at the end of the chapter the data was uploaded.


When users claimed their free ebook as part of the test reading trial, we asked them for their age and gender; this allowed us to examine whether these traits influenced their reading behavior.


When it came to participating in the trials, far more women signed up than men. This is not a surprise: women account for more book purchases and books read than men do. In general, we recorded 20/80 male/female splits across test groups, though some books were noticeably more likely to be picked by men than others (up to five times more likely, in fact).


What was more interesting to us, though, was whether the sub-group of men that read a book had the same completion rate as women. If a man decides to read a book, is he less likely or more likely than a woman to finish it? In other words, is the completion rate of a book at all gender-specific?


In general, the result was a firm no. In most cases, the likelihood that a reader will finish a book is not correlated with gender; both sexes have an equal probability of finishing a book. Issues such as writing style, strength of characters, topic and other factors have a bigger influence on the completion rate.


This holds true across non-fiction and literary fiction, including genre fiction like fantasy, science fiction and crime. Below is an example of a book by a Canadian author (Jellybooks test title #1048) that shows how men and women complete the book at near-equal rates (27 percent for male readers and 28 percent for female readers, which is not a statistically significant difference for sample of 400 test readers).


Men and Women


There is one noticeable gender-specific difference in reading across most books, however, which is well-illustrated in the above example: men decide much faster than women do if they like a book or not. The initial decline during which most readers are lost is much sharper and earlier for men than it is for women, and this is a behavior that we observe for the majority of books (the above title also loses readers in the middle of the book, which is a rather rare occurrence).


So put another way, men give up on a book much sooner than women do. Given the identical completion rates, we take this to mean that men either have more foresight in this regard or that women continue reading even if they already know that the book is not to their liking. We suspect the latter, but cannot prove it at this point.


Read the rest of the article here.