In advance of the launch of The Writing Platform, we have been surveying the digital needs of writers; this article highlights some of our findings.
We had over 500 respondents; 67% female, 33% male; 45% between the ages of 35 and 55; 75% of respondents live in the UK, 9% in the US, 5% in Australia, 3% in Canada, and the rest spread around the world, including the Philippines, Lithuania and Venezuela.
35% are aspiring writers, 33% traditionally published writers, 15% both traditionally and self-published; and 9% self-published only.
By far the greatest number of people agree with the statement ‘I want my work to be read by lots of people’ (39%), with only 20% agreeing that the statement that most accurately describes their aspirations as a writer is ‘I want to make money from my writing’.
We had a good mix of genre and non-genre writers, and 74% of writers said they have a website or blog. 52% of respondents said they actively keep abreast of developments and new opportunities in writing and publishing, while 41% of people said they try to keep abreast, but find it difficult because the landscape changes so rapidly.
Digital transformation affects all writers and readers; the pace of it can be bewildering, and this is part of the reason we wanted to set up The Writing Platform, and hope that it will become a place you return to for clear and neutral information about how our industries are changing.
Another interesting trend revealed by the survey is that while 85% of writers find out about developments and opportunities in writing and publishing via a large range of websites, less than 10% state that they get this kind of information from their publishers, while 7% get this information from their agents.
This reflects a current disconnect between some publishers and writers on the digital front; while publishers focus on digital workflows, ebooks, and digital marketing, some need to work further with writers to develop what digital transformation might offer to writers and readers. Agents also need to continue to think about new opportunities for their writers, beyond the crucial, but seemingly endless, arguments about ebook rights and royalties.
As we moved on to questions regarding how writers publish and promote their work online, we found that 41% of respondents showcase their work on Good Reads, with the rest spread across a large range of platforms, including blogging platforms like Wattpad, Authonomy, WordPress and Tumblr.
Facebook and Twitter were the most popular social media sites with ‘connecting with other writers and relevant organisations’ listed by 77% as one of the main reasons for using social media. Not surprisingly, when surveying those who have self-published their work, 52% had done so via Amazon, with 19% using Smashwords.
When it comes to thinking about how digital platforms can afford new possibilities for writers, we asked ‘Have you worked on any multimedia or cross-platform projects?’ 42% of respondents said they hadn’t done any work of this kind but would like to, while 27% admitted they didn’t know what the question meant. However, 22% told us they were already involved in projects of this nature, and 19% of these writers citing their main aspiration is ‘to push the boundaries of creative practice i.e. to experiment with new forms’.
68% of all respondents said they were interested in working collaboratively. These figures show us that a new type of writer, a hybrid who works across multiple platforms, formats, and genres, is emerging.
The survey has given us a good idea of what kinds of information writers are looking for currently, and we’ll be doing our best to find ways to address the broad range of concerns and issues raised. Thanks to everyone who took the time to complete it. We’ll be keeping the survey running and will reassess the needs of writers as we go along.
Writers can fill in the survey here.