Do Publishers Inadvertently Dictate the Demographics of Readers?

In Discussion by Edward Nawotka

By Edward Nawotka

Our lead article today looks at statistics from BookSwim.com which identify high-income suburban women — the proverbial soccer moms — and library users as key demographics of readers. This falls roughly in line with the results from earlier National Endowment for the Arts earlier studies that cited the same two groups as the most avid readers of all.

But the question must be raised, do publishers by following sales patterns inadvertently dictate the the demographics of readers? Since there are so many romance and mystery readers, has the business — like an athlete whose sports inevitably causes them to favor and thus overdevelop certain muscle groups — become disproportionally predisposed to publishing primarily for those readers?

Would the readership among suburban dads or Latino teenagers be higher if there were more and better titles for them? For example, I’ve personally held that the NYC-centric publishing industry does a great job of publishing fiction for itself — those rafts of novels about Manhattanites looking for love and aging Brooklyn hipsters who can’t get their lives together — but doesn’t cater as well to the 290 million people in the country. (And, it could be argued, the industry doesn’t do all that much to pander to the bridge, train, tunnel and highway crowds commuting into the city from Westchester, Connecticut and New Jersey — territory the New Yorker was focused on for so many years).

Is it a chicken or the egg situation?

Let us know what you think in the comments.

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

A widely published critic and essayist, Edward Nawotka serves as a speaker, educator and consultant for institutions and businesses involved in the global publishing and content industries. He was also editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives since the launch of the publication in 2009 until January 2016.