by Earl Staggs
For the last several years, I’ve tried hard not to get hooked on new TV shows. I find TV a good way to wind down for the last hour or two at the end of a day, but more than that is adulterating precious writing time.
For the most part, I’ve successfully ignored new shows. It hasn’t been too hard. Many of the new offerings are clones of ones I didn’t like as originals. Many are so-called “reality” shows, feature vampires, zombies and werewolves, or offer loud, gross, offensive slapstick behavior as comedy. Not interested in any of those.
Occasionally, an exception comes along. “Harry’s Law” was one I latched onto when it debuted two seasons ago. Kathy Bates has a charisma that pulls me in no matter what role she plays. Even though the themes of the episodes were often didactic and preachy and the cast was somewhat top heavy, Kathy is always a treat to watch.
I wasn’t alone in adding Kathy to my weekly watch list. More than seven million others joined me, and that’s a respectable number of faithful viewers.
Unfortunately, we were the wrong people.
That’s right. Most of us are over fifty, and the networks and sponsors are only interested in the 18 to 49 demographic. Those are the people, according to their ratings geniuses, who pay attention to the commercials and actually buy the products. The ratings for Harry among people under 50 were very low.
As a result, “Harry’s Law” was canceled.
That got me thinking about the demographic of Mystery novel buyers. Should we aim for the under fifty audience so important to TV networks and sponsors?
Sisters in Crime wondered the same thing and collaborated with R. P. Bowker’s PubTrack division to produce a report called “The Mystery Book Consumer in the Digital Age.” The report came out in January 2011 and I looked it over then. While ruing the loss of Harry, I decided to give it another look.
The report included interesting and useful information about who is buying our books and more. There are sales percentages of print versus ebooks, for instance, and where those purchases are made. While the numbers may have adjusted since the report was published, the philosophies behind them haven’t.
You’ll find the complete report here:
The statistics most interesting to me were:
. . .Baby boomers and matures (people over 45) purchase more than half of all books bought.
. . .In the Mystery category, more than half are sold to people over the age of 55.
(Also interesting: nearly 7 out of 10 Mystery buyers are female.)
I wasn’t terribly surprised by this information. Most Mystery writers I know as well as most people I know who read Mysteries are women in the mature age category. Also, many of the main characters in those books being written and read are older than fifty.
So even though these study results were not terribly surprising, they were reassuring. We who write Mysteries do not have to follow the lead of TV networks and gear our product for the 18 to 49 age group.
As a matter of fact, we most definitely should NOT do that. Those people don’t buy many books.
And that's my rant. Those of you who have read all the way to here are invited to visit my home site at: http://earlwstaggs.wordpress.com where you can:
. . .Read "My Kindergarten Challenge," a report on a presentation on writing I gave to a room full of five-year-olds.
. . .Read Chapter One of MEMORY OF A MURDER.
. . .Read "The Day I Almost Became a Great Writer," a short story some say is the funniest one I've ever written.
. . .Read "White Hats and Happy Trails," a short story about the day I spent with a boyhood idol, Roy Rogers.