What Do You Read – A Poll

Over on Facebook, I’ve been discussing super agent Rachelle Gardner’s recent blog post, “Book Genres And Book Stats,” in which she discusses the results of a recent poll she ran.

Part of her findings and musings have to do with speculative fiction. Here are two significant quotes from her post:

When the numbers first started coming in, I immediately noticed the large percentage who checked fantasy/sci-fi, and I wondered whether there might be a disproportionate number of writers in that genre vs. readers.

Then the conclusion:

While 26% of those voting report writing fantasy or sci-fi, sampling from two recent months suggests only 6% of book deals were done in those genres. That’s not a minor discrepancy…it’s a significant difference.

What do you make of this?

So I thought it might be interesting to run a readers’ poll here. I don’t expect to get as large a sampling as Rachelle received, but still, it might be interesting.

With one exception, I’ll use the same categories she used (which oddly separates supernatural from science fiction and fantasy — I’m under the impression this is the way book deals are reported to Publishers’ Weekly). The exception is the last choice which I’ve added – None of these.

      Fantasy or sci-fi
      General/other (non-genre fiction)
      Historical (romance or not)
      Mystery/suspense
      Romance
      Supernatural or paranormal
      Women’s fiction
      None of these – I prefer non-fiction

Never fear, these choices will be randomized in the poll (here they appear in alphabetical order, except for the last one). The question is, Of these genres, which do you prefer as a reader?

I personally like to read in a variety of genres, though I’ve concentrated a lot more on speculative fiction since becoming a writer. But if I were to answer this question, I’d think of having someone hand me two books by authors I’ve never heard of, one in genre A and the other in genre X. Which, then, would I be most apt to read first? That’s what I’d consider my “preferred genre.”

If you’re so inclined, please share this link/poll with your friends (Facebook or other 😉 ) The greater the sampling, the clearer the picture about reading preferences, I think. Thanks for participating. I’ll post the results in the middle of May.

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27 Comments

  1. I honestly–honestly–read across ALL genres and have no inherent preference.

    I am a mood reader and choose the type and style of novel to the mood I’m in at the time I sit down to read. My Currently Reading folder on the Kindle has 7 books in it.

    I think many authors prefer Fantasy because it’s the least challenging to read in terms of critique (how can you quibble with another person’s imaginary world and its own rules?). It’s also the least likely to challenge the author’s own voice.

    Most readers have a dislike for fantasy for the same reason. It takes extra steps to imagine an alternate reality, which I would guess might be exhausting and unenjoyable for the average leisure reader.

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  2. I mostly balance between fiction that is not listed in the poll (general) and non-fiction. I also do enjoy science fiction. I’ve never been able to get excited about fantasy or supernatural fiction–I like what I read to be something rooted in fact and things I can easily relate to.

    Lee
    Tossing It Out

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  3. Speculative fiction, Christian fantasy/science fiction, and devotionals is what I love to read 🙂 Oh and art and horse books. Fun and great post Becky!

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  4. I’m not a fan of fantasy/science fiction never have been, not even as a child—always seemed boring.
    I try and alternate between reading fiction and non-fiction. I also alternate between reading Christian and secular.
    I love the Bible, biographies, history, historical fiction, devotional books, Christian living, Bible studies, military, war, poetry, commentaries, Shakespeare, classic literature, Chaucer, contemporary fiction, Amish, suspense and mystery.
    I now understand why the Twilight books and other vampire type books have done so well—since they are fantasy type books.
    I now wonder why people seem to prefer the fantasy/science fiction books—-is it because these books offer more of an escape?

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  5. I read across the genres, but if handed two books and one was nonfiction, I’d probably pick the nonfiction. However, I’m much pickier w/ my genres when it comes to nonfiction, preferring history, travel, biography and memoir.

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  6. Multi-genres. It depends on my mood. Some weeks I’ll read nothing but fantasy or science-fiction, then change to business and non-fiction. Fantasy is still my favorite; and humorous fantasy my very favorite genre.

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  7. I pretty much read fantasy and science fiction to the exclusion of other genres, though I’ll dabble from time to time if the concept of the book piques my interest.

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  8. I read fantasy and historical stuff. I’m also a closet Tom Clancy fan (although his later books were too risque for me and I havent read them). I also like Michael Crichton’s stuff, so I guess I like specific author’s who write contemporary sci-fi. Not a big outer space/alien fan though. I don’t read any romance, but I’ll dabble in a good mystery or suspense if it grabs me right away.

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  9. Historical non-romance. But it’s usually never broken out separately (I wish it were).

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  10. I’ve read Dostoevsky, Orwell’s famous 1984, Frank Peretti(great Christian author), Case of Jekyll and Hyde, and now working on Shelly’s famous Frankenstein. If it’s interesting, I’ll read it. I’m honestly trying to get back into the pattern of daily reading by reading articles from Townhall and LA and NY Times.

    I have read some interesting works in English, which have come to resonate in my mind: A Long Way Gone, Lord of the Flies, Brave New World, Animal Farm, Frederick Douglass, and some essays from Emerson and Thoreau. My next book after Frankenstein is by Thomas Sowell, and is about American education, which fits perfectly into what I’m writing about on my blog right now. One of the many treasures my dad fishes out of the garage.

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  11. I read them all. Lately, I’ve read more non-fiction, but then all told, I guess I’ve read more historical romance and Sci-Fi. I don’t have a category.

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  12. I like Christian romantic suspense the best and women’s fiction, but I didn’t see it listed that way, so I chose romance and mystery/suspense 🙂 I write Christian romantic suspense. Blessings, Barb

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  13. […] Top Tour Blogger Award (you’ll find links to the articles in the post), and the second is the What Do You Read poll. With this latter, I’d really appreciate it if you shared the link on Facebook, Twitter, […]

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  14. I like it all! 🙂 I read and write mostly YA paranormal/supernatural and I’d love to see the Christian Houses offer more of this.

    As a side note – I often have a hard time differentiating between sci-fi, fantasy, paranormal, supernatural. There are so many books that easily slide into any one of these categories. I wonder if this type of confusion adds to the stated discrepancies. Just a thought.

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  15. This is interesting, Rebecca. It’s worth noting, however, that there are many reasons to buy a book besides its being in my favorite genre. Who would list business books as their favorite genre? And yet people buy business books by the shelf-foot (whether they actually read them or not is another matter). Cookbooks aren’t even close to my favorite genre. But I’ve bought three cookbooks in the last couple of years. And I don’t know how many copies of the Jesus Storybook Bible I’ve bought to give as gifts, even though picture books aren’t in my top five favorite genres. So I’m not exactly shocked to hear that there’s a gap between the percentage of people who say spec fiction is their favorite genre and the percentage of book deals that go to spec fiction writers. That said, perhaps editors should look at closing that gap at least a little bit.

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  16. Good old-fashioned SciFi like the kind C.S.Lewis wrote! Is that what is now called Speculative or does Speculative capture a different market?

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  17. Wait a minute…Rachelle Gardner was asking her audience what they write, not what they read, correct? I thought she was identifying a discrepancy between readers’ demand and what the publishers were supplying. In fact, she was identifying a glut of spec fiction writers…right? Which would make some (though hopefully not all) of my previous comment irrelevant.

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  18. I was going to vote, but the way the categories are divided do not reflect what I read. I am an avid suspense/thriller writer but almost never read mysteries. I stick more with stronger suspense (not so much romantic suspense) and supernatural thrillers, so I wasn’t really sure how to vote. :-/

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  19. I’m really enjoying these comments. It’s enlightening to read the book choices you all make.

    Jonathan, in your second comment you said I thought she was identifying a discrepancy between readers’ demand and what the publishers were supplying. I can see why you thought that. That’s the way I see our culture, so it seems like a natural assumption that an agent would wonder about this.

    Instead, Rachelle is wondering why there is a higher science-fiction/fantasy-writers-to-readers ratio than there is writers to readers in other genres.

    I tend to think that’s an unsubstantiated opinion, one I can’t imagine being accurate. We’re in the age of Harry Potter, Lost, Vampire Diaries, The Event, Narnia movies, Avatar, the soon and coming The Hobbit, and on and on. There seems to be no end to the interest in the speculative.

    It’s as if the lid has come off speculative literature and the culture is drinking it all in — vampires, zompies, remakes like King Kong, new worlds like The Matrix, ghost stories like The Sixth Sense and horror stories like … take your pick.

    How in this environment can someone assume people aren’t reading science fiction and fantasy? 🙄

    Becky

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  20. […] like to read — short stories, novellas, or novels? (Is it time for another poll, before the previous one is not even half way to completion? […]

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  21. I’m finding that I’m reading less SF/F these days though I write it. Aside from that written by people I personally know, I pretty much quit reading Hugo and Nebula winners and their ilk regularly about twenty years ago. I’d like to think this gives my stuff a timeless quality, but more likely it’s just old fashion and cobweb covered.

    What I read is mostly non-fiction, with the occasional foray into mystery (classic fiction, that written before 1960, does show up every couple of months). In order of actual volumes read, the lineup reads like this: history, earth science, applied science, religion, police procedure, language, and a few indeterminate whatevers.

    Embarrassin’ ain’t it?

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  22. Uh, Becky? I’m wondering if it might not be better to say speculative performance art has taken off rather than literature. Totally baseless opinion on my part, but I’m not seeing that many people reading SF/F during my travels (admittedly, the introduction of the ereader is making sampling via checking the covers of what the people around me are reading harder). Mostly what spec fiction I am observing is ghosts, vampires, werewolves, zombies (big time), and a few end times. What I am seeing, in descending order, are mostly mystery, romance, thriller, and the aforementioned spiritual (?) speculative fiction and few readers under thirty. The racks at the drugstore and supermarket pretty much reflect the same. I must caution, though, that this is only a liberal arts study as there’s nothing scientific about it.

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  23. Boy, I guess I’m really in the minority with supernatural/paranormal. But then, I guess “paranormal” is on a parallel, adjacent path compared to normal, but not quite the same! I can live with that. 😉

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  24. […] still to vote in the CSFF Top Tour Blogger Award Poll and in the What do you read poll. Also, have you passed the links along to others in your circle asking them to vote? If you do, […]

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  25. I did not read all of the comments, so someone may have suggested this, but… Could it be that science fiction/fantasy readers might just be more likely to be online/early adopters of technology? Therefore, perhaps they’re more likely to vote in an agent’s poll?

    Just a thought… Spec fic tends to rate pretty high in e-book numbers, too–along with romance and anything YA. But it would appear that still, if you put a paranormal critter of some sort in a love triangle with a teenage girl and another paranormal critter, you pretty much can count on success… (That was only slightly tongue-in-cheek.)

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  26. I could use your logic about being handed two books if only one of them were sci-fi/fantasy or mystery/suspense. Against any other choice, either of those two would win. Between those two…much harder choice! In the end I picked mystery/suspense, but on another day I’d probably flip-flop to the other one.

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  27. […] at my site, I’m running a poll (you still have a week to participate if you haven’t voted already) asking what genre readers […]

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