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jack_ryder

Ticonderoga Online Survey

If you are a reader/writer of science fiction,[info]punkrocker1991wants you to do this survey

Frankly I have problems with the phrasing of some of the questions (exactly how does one subscribe to Antipodean SF? Though I've just noticed they have an RSS feed - shows how long it's been since I've looked at the site.) And I think some of the questions demonstrate the parochial nature of the Aus SF scene (questions about do you buy stuff because your friends are in it? Well, yes and no, I'd be broke if I bought and chased down everything.)

And I couldn't model successfully the fact that the last two genre books I bought were solely because they were by writers I liked.

There were also no questions about accessing Australian SF through libraries (which makes sense if the underlying purpose of the survey is commercial.)

But don't listen to me. Do the survey. Win fabulous prizes. Support the Aus SF scene. Give blood generously.

(edited, slightly, because it's not just Russ's survey - see comments)

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I agree it was oddly twisted, and I was taken aback when I got to the questions(!) about buying books your friends wrote. The implications were that the SF community in Australia is really small and 'incestuous'. Have they seen Galaxy bookshop or the Dymocks SF section? Most SF readers in Australia buy SF, damn the country of origin - and probably have never met an SF author.

I buy Sean Williams+Shane Dix because they've written good books. I've bought 1 novel and maybe 2 anthologies because they had stories written by my friends... and those were good stories. But that's probably out of 20+ books a year, and that's over the last couple of years.

"I agree it was oddly twisted, and I was taken aback when I got to the questions(!) about buying books your friends wrote. The implications were that the SF community in Australia is really small and 'incestuous'. Have they seen Galaxy bookshop or the Dymocks SF section? Most SF readers in Australia buy SF, damn the country of origin - and probably have never met an SF author."

1. There was only one question about buying books that friends wrote (well, one motivator out of 16, listed in two questions);
2. Anything that motivates people to buy is, IMHO, valid, and should be surveyed;
3. I have seen the SF section at Sydney Dymocks, but never managed to visit Galaxy. Have visited genre shops around Australia for the past 10 years.
4. "Most SF readers in Australia buy SF, damn the country of origin" -- do you have a source for this or is it an anecdotal observation? This is what the survey is trying to achieve, in as neutral a way as possible because to date no one has actually surveyed this stuff.

We're not trying to imply anything -- we're trying to get some empirical data to help publishers do their stuff. All surveys are, to a degree and by their very nature, biased, but we have tried to avoid as much bias as possible. We want opinions and answers -- if this was just an exercise to survey what we already believe then I personally wouldn't have bothered putting the work in to make it happen.

Okay, I'd just like to ask one question here-

If this was a survey by a US/UK publisher, would you think they'd include the question in point 1?

As for point 3- (just for your information)

Infinitas (in Parramatta) has a section for local authors.
Galaxy doesn't (but may have shelf cards indicating local authorship - and does indicate Australian authorship in their newsletters)
Dymocks used to (when Leigh Blackmore was manager) but I don't think it does now.

And, yeah, point 4 is a perfect validation for the survey.

I really don't want to give the impression I think the survey is anything less than a great idea. I just think there are ambiguities in the questions that may taint the final results.

I think any small press survey should look at the friends with writer angle, and would probably come up in an overseas survey. A mainstream publisher might not ask the question. Basically we brainstormed every reason we thought someone might buy a book, and it came up.

Consider this year's survey a beta test. Next year, with more time and a better idea, we can iron out some of the issues that have come up this year. If all goes to plan this will be an annual event and be able to provide good relevant info and track trends over time.

I just want to emphasise that this is the first time anyone has done this, so we had nothing to borrow from and nothing to compare with. Small press in Australia is a small industry that has very little knowledge of the market. For it to grow, and expand beyond all parochialism, it needs to know more. The final result will be, despite the ambiguities, at least something to start thinking about.

And thanks for your feedback and for doing the survey.

Ok, most of what you say is fair comment. I'll rephrase my contention as a prediction: The subset of all readers of Sf in Australia that actually know an Australian SF author will be very small, max maybe 5%, probably smaller.

Yes, this is anecdotal; I probably bought SF books for two decades before I ever met my SF writing friends, and it was another decade of SF buying before they published things I could buy.

The other question I guess you're trying to answer is: Do Australian Sf readers buy Australian SF writers a)specifically because they're Australian; b)because they're good SF writers.

And I didn't mean 'biased' when I said 'twisted'. I meant that the information requested seemed like an unusual set of questions for a commersial survey. But of course if you want to see how strong a driver such things as personal knowledge of the author is, you do have to ask those questions. Conceded.

Of course, I also have doubts about the reliability of the internet to provide an appropriate random sample for the servey, hence reliable results. Especially as your survey is being currently promoted by local authors and those who know them. Isn't that bound to skew results?

Not sure what you could do about that without costing $$$. Maybe Galaxy Bookshop and others could add you to their links page?

There's a disconnect between what the survey says it's examining (direct quote from the website: "the first ever Australian research survey of readers of SF") and what Russ has indicated as the focus in his comments - [paraphrase] "readers of small-press Aus SF".

The focus of the questions in this respect make more sense, however it's not what the survey itself says it's testing.

Especially as it's now been linked to by Boing Boing so you'll get more readers of Australian SF who may be unfamiliar with the small-press scene.

It's good to hear it will get more punters.

The survey has been promoted on a number of sites, including VoyagerOnline and BoingBoing. AM in the process of looking for other sites, and when I get a hard copy version will send copies around to a number of places. Have had approximately 300 responses to date from around the world so am certainly hoping to get results outside of local writer sites. If you like you can help by promoting the survey to people you know to get more reliable results.

I'm also hoping to have hardcopies floating around the Freecon in Sydney later this month.

I'd suspect the numer of readers who know/have met writers is a little larger than 5%, but unfortunately this is not being directly surveyed. Might ask that next year.

And thanks for doing the survey.

I'd suspect the numer of readers who know/have met writers is a little larger than 5%, but unfortunately this is not being directly surveyed. Might ask that next year.

Given that the size of the readership is 20,000+ (based on my admittedly secondhand knowledge of Sara Douglass's print runs), 5% would be 1000. Galaxy signings rarely get very large crowds, and mostly for overseas authors, rather than Australian authors, so I'd expect tat 5% to be about right, but it'd be nice to have data. Then again, the data is mostly useful from a small press perspective, rather than wider publishing perspective.

It is certainly a flawed survey. It's the first of its kind, so I had absolutely nothing to model it on. All feedback is therefore gratefully received.

I personally feel that you've given a lot of attention to a very minor part of the survey (and given a large emphasis to 1 out of 16 possible motivators in that question) and put a slant on it that wasn't intended. We're trying to find out as many reasons people buy books: does friendship lead to more sales than an attractive cover or an award nomination? We're hoping to find out. If this proves to be the case, maybe writers will take this on board and try to befriend the whole planet?!?!?!

"And I couldn't model successfully the fact that the last two genre books I bought were solely because they were by writers I liked."

Does this cover it:
Strongly agree with "Familiarity with writers/editors"
and the middle option for the rest on the Last Book purchased question?

I must have missed the "Familiarity with writers/editors" option in the second section - so that's my error.

In other words, yes that would cover it but I didn't think it was terribly intuitive.

Can I also clarify that this isn't just "my" survey. The survey has been put together as a collaborative venture between a number of Australian Small Presses -- I have agreed to host this and put it together but it's a group effort in many ways. I certainly don't intend to keep the results all to myself, either, and will share these with the world.

Good to hear that (or read it). I was going to raise that as an issue, but assumed you would be making the results public.

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