Book Marketing Tactic: Engage readers in a survey

One of the things sales and marketing folks know is that getting a potential customer engaged on ANY level is a win. If you can get someone to accept a free sample, it’s a starting point. Even getting someone to open an envelope to check out a coupon is one step forward, because once they have taken the time to do that, they will want to make good on that investment and use the coupon. Sometimes it’s as simple as asking them a question.

Which door will you choose?
Using a survey to engage potential readers

Imagine for a moment that someone walks by you in the bookstore. You say, “Hey, buddy, you looking for a good book?”

His eyes light up a little, and he nods. “Got any recommendations?”

“What kind of story do you like? Adventure, romance, mystery?”

“Adventure!” he says.

“Okay,” you reply, leaning closer. “Adventure on the high seas, or above the clouds in an airship? Outer space or on horseback?”

He stares into the distance for a moment. “Airship.”

“You’ve got it!” You pull a stack of books out and say, “One last question: Stand alone book or a trilogy?”

He grabs the stack of three with the matching cover designs and BAM. You’ve made a sale.

A real-life example from Orbit books


I get emails from Orbit, a science fiction and fantasy imprint of Hachette Book Group, and one of them was an invitation to take this survey. It is short, fun and to the point. You answer just 3-4 questions and it selects a book to recommend to you. For the impatient, the “Show me everything” button leads to a list of all the books available (not nearly as fun as taking the survey, but it’s good way to cater to other personality types rather than losing them completely).

During the survey you may experience the following feelings, as a consumer:

  • Enjoyment of the entertaining questions and answers (they are fun, not boring)
  • Delighted surprise as you consider questions you may not have even thought to ask yourself (“How much world-building do you enjoy?”)
  • A sense of control over your own destiny
  • Anticipation and curiosity as you wait to see what will be recommended (why would they ask, “Are you afraid of heights?”)

Why it works

What makes this survey an effective book marketing tactic?

The positive emotional experience during the survey offers the potential reader a subliminal promise: “You will enjoy the book, too!” You invited them, they accepted, and they enjoyed themselves. They begin to trust you as a reliable source for entertainment.


What better time for someone to read your book blurb and decide to buy? They are already mildly stimulated and happy from the mini-adventure of selecting the sort of story they want to experience. If they need a little extra push, there are some more fun promises on the results page, hints about the type of story and what the reader may expect to enjoy. In the example above, there’s a strong female protagonist, a high body count, some magic, demons and fresh themes for the genre.

Check out the survey yourself. Imagine partnering with a select group of other authors whose books provide enough variety (within the overall umbrella of speculative fiction) that you could provide some fun questions and help readers pick something they’re in the mood for. Or, if the books you have authored are of sufficient variety and numbers, you could populate the recommendations entirely with your own work.

Have you seen other fun book marketing tactics that you’d like to try? Tell us about them in the comments!