Reader analytics can be a boon to publishers, fine-tuning marketing and consumer understanding, according to specialists at CONTEC Mexico.
By Adam Critchley & Porter Anderson for Publishing Perspective Published in June 28, 2018
‘An Aladdin’s Lamp for Publishers’
The analysis of reader emotion and sentiment can allow publishers to build strategies based on readers’ profiles, observe tastes and trends, and discover niche markets, while facilitating greater precision for book launches.
“Analysis is fundamental for publishers’ marketing departments to know who their readers are, and for discovering their tastes,” says Myriam Vidriales, director of communications and marketing in Mexico for Spain’s Grupo Planeta.
Vidriales spoke at CONTEC Mexico on innovation in publishing earlier this month, saying “Knowledge gleaned from data about readership, can also encourage a publisher to make riskier launches.
“To know the reader of each book is like having an Aladdin’s lamp. Each book is a special product, it’s unique. We’re not selling shampoo,” she says.
“And reader categories have multiplied. Young adult has divided into various groups, and there are age groups that defy simple classification. But while technology helps us identify those niches, the big challenge is understanding those values and how to apply them to marketing strategies.”
Vidriales says however that many publishers resist engaging in big data because it is seen as a purely commercial device, and that the size and complexity of each company determine how that data is used.
“One thing is to have big data, the other is to know how to analyze it. Publishers need to understand their readership. Beyond selling books, it’s all about using data to better serve readers,” Vidriales says.
‘Data Helps You Plan and Predict’
Having access to such data is comparable to meeting readers in person, according to Álvaro Jasso, CEO of the Mexican ebook publisher Malaletra. Jasso says he equates readership data analytics to traveling the country in a camper van and meeting readers face-to-face.
“Data helps you to plan and predict, and without knowing reader reaction or behavior,” he says, “you can’t see the way forward.”
But Jasso also points to the need for smaller publishers to be able to access that data, rather than having it be exclusively available to the bigger houses.
Data analysis in Mexico has been aided by the arrival of Nielsen’s BookScan and bestseller lists in 2017. David Peman, territory manager at Nielsen Mexico, says these metrics can reveal sales trends that help in publishers’ distribution decisions.
And according to Planeta’s Vidriales, “Publishers know a market intuitively, but only in a fragmentary way, and data can even influence a book’s title,” citing as an example the use of ‘guide’ over ‘manual’, given book buyers’ preferences for the former.
Using what Planeta’s Spanish-language platform Oh! Libro describes as its “magic” algorithm, this book recommendation website allows users to find reading suggestions based on their profile and preferences.
The site highlights books recommended by readers, thus acting as a walk-in bookstore, while making recommendations according to specific users’ tastes, gauged from their opinions expressed on the site.
‘The Goldmine of Successful Publishing’
Based on Barcelona, Spain, tech company Tekstum also relies on data and artificial intelligence to help publishers interpret readers’ preferences. Tekstum analyzes social media content and generates “sentiment reports” that can help publishers better understand how readers feel about particular books, genres, and more.
The company’s founding CEO Marc Santandreu says that gauging readers’ opinions is “the goldmine of successful publishing.”
Launched in 2015, Tekstum’s analysis of emotion and sentiment creates a “sentiment cloud” that tracks reader feedback, inspired by Robert Plutchik’s theories of emotion, and whose “wheel of emotions” tracks the prevalence and overlapping of various sentiments. “Algorithms will not replace publishers, booksellers, or librarians, but they will facilitate their work, allowing them to make better decisions, and make personal and more precise recommendations”Marc Santandreu
Santandreu tells Publishing Perspectives, “Knowing readers’ predominant emotions is a qualitative way of knowing their tastes,” Santandreu says, “and data helps publishers make better decisions. Culture needs to rely on technology to improve its dissemination. “Algorithms are capable of automatically analyzing thousands of opinions to find patterns within reader behavior and achieve a radiography of reactions.”
Santandreu acknowledges that the Spanish publishing industry initially has been resistant to the arrival of this and other technology.
“Publishing used to work on intuition,” he says, “but with technology, publishers can become much more efficient, and technology and culture need to walk hand-in-hand and create more of a demand-based business model. A multitude of tools can allow us to improve discoverability and sales.”
He acknowledges that there’s a margin of error when analyzing data gleaned from readers’ opinions, given the proliferation of false reviews on sites such as Amazon. “We always say the first 10 reviews on Amazon are written by authors’ relatives and friends,” he says.
But he adds that the credibility of reader sentiment also depends on the number of reviews, as a handful of negative reviews weigh little against thousands of positive ones. Nevertheless, “Five percent of data has to be taken with a level of prudence,” Santandreu says. “But if many people are saying a book is addictive, it probably is.”
He describes the publishing sector as “very conservative and traditional” and slow to embrace market research, unlike many other sectors, which constantly analyze product demand.
“Spain’s publishing sector is little-by-little increasing its use of data,” he says. “Algorithms will not replace publishers, booksellers, or librarians, but they will facilitate their work, allowing them to make better decisions, and make personal and more precise recommendations,” says Marc Santandreu. “And that ultimately helps readers.”
I grew up using the library and for several years I supported a local library secondary program in local community in Texas. The library has always provided a way to explore, travel, Imagine, and learn with resources galore. It helped shape my deciding to be an author. The Internet has changed some of the use cases, however the library as an institution is still an invaluable resource for all ages.
Big conventions for technology, security, sales conferences, and fun have been a part of my adult life as both an attendee and a vendor. The ginormous ALA 2018, with 16,000 registered attendees and half of the New Orleans Convention Center, was not what I imagined or expected. However we learned that many attendees were representing other affiliated libraries and we even met a nice lady who was from her group of affiliates from Cairo Egypt! A little of the insight I learned might be useful for other authors considering this event in the future.
Booths at the event were of all sizes and shapes with various activities to capture the mindshare of the attendees. They included publishers, book signings, many authors, and giveaways. The size alone made known early on that you had 20-30 seconds with a participant before they moved on. Any thoughts that they might return to visit or claim a prize was foolish optimism. Too much too see, giveaways everywhere, and lots of fish in the sea of vendors of all sizes, shapes, and ideas.
First, the badges of every attendee are color banded. Knowing the meaning of the colors helps clarify who to focus efforts on in discussions. We had created a one-sheet with information on us, our stories, contact information, and some branding. It turned out that this item was key and upon reflection I wish we had brought more. A great elevator or 15 second why should I stop marketing message.
Second, the badge contained a QR code, but without the +/- $500 application fee the registered user information was not easily obtainable. This forced the discussion to be compelling enough to let the user write the information. We used a drawing, pulled every 30 minutes for a book and be on a subscription list as the hook. Only about 10% of the winners returned for their books. We also used a really great bookmark which Nathan at EBG247 designed that helped them retain the information on us even if they did not return.
Third, we took books expecting to sell some with the first in the series discounted to capture attention. We quickly realized that this was a marketing event not a sales event. We shifted into a marketer persona and held drawings for free books every half hour. Nobody left without a bookmark but we missed our chance of handing out free giveaways branded to our series. Additionally, most people signed up for the mailing list but really became enthusiastic when they learned they were speaking with the authors not just “booth babes”. Discussions and branding should be your motivation for shows like this. Your goal, like ours, should be to capture mindshare, which is get a book into their hands and hope after a read or review the mindshare would help them do a library recommendations to add our books to their collection. In this arena, like most arenas, it is a numbers game; out of every 1000 attendees you need to speak with 100 people and of that expect 10 or less to recall your pitch so your giveaways must define you and your product. With that we should have taken many books to giveaway to folks who had interest and not expected an immediate ROI with onsite sales.
Realistic Potential Value to a Texas Author
1-Great exposure to a different type of audience
2-Giveaway ebook cards with moo stickers rather than heavy books if asked.
3-Grab email addresses for personalized thank you notes
4-More one-sheet type of exposure because knowing about an author can help increase that mindshare
5-Track uptick on sales to libraries over 6-12 months.
6-Monitor your book website for visit upticks after the show to gage your giveaways, elevator pitches, and overall branding efforts.
June 6, 2018 by DIANA URBAN ORIGIANLLY PUBLISHED ON BOOKBUB BLOG
At last week’s BookExpo 2018 — the biggest annual publishing conference in the US — several sessions and panels covered book marketing and sales topics. We gathered tips from experts at the leading publishers, literary agencies, and publishing or marketing vendors, and we’re excited to share them with our readers!
From audience engagement to keyword optimization, publishers and marketers were buzzing about boosting preorder sales, authenticity on social media, and running personalized promotions.
Here were our top nine takeaways from BookExpo 2018:
1. Authenticity fosters reader loyalty
Panelists repeatedly mentioned that authors should focus on the marketing tactics and social media channels that match their personalities, and for which they’re truly enthusiastic. Readers can sense when an author is being authentic vs. when they’re forcing participation. And simply sharing links to their own books on social media — which some authors still commonly do — comes off as spammy.
When deciding which social media channel to focus on, the panelists from Media Connect recommended thinking about what drives you — if you’re an avid Facebook user, your posts will be more authentic and engaging than if you’re trying to be a Facebook user. If you’re going to invest time into growing a following on any social channel, you want to be fully committed since it’s a long-term investment. It could take 1-2 years to develop the following you’re looking for.
Also, follower count isn’t everything. It’s better to have 1K engaged followers than 1M unengaged followers. In fact, 1K followers can be enough for some authors — it depends on their niche and target audience.
2. Personalization is the way to your audience’s hearts (and wallets)
Just as they did last year, panelists recommended personalizing your marketing — it’s important to find, understand, and tailor promotions to your unique audience. The panelists from Media Connect emphasized that book marketers should be thoughtful about each book’s target audience, where those readers are looking for content, and on which channels to reach them — something that seems obvious, but is still often overlooked. And once you nail down your targeting, catering your messaging to that audience will help you close the sale.
When engaging with readers on social media…
Learn what kind of content readers prefer seeing from you on each social channel — your audience’s tastes may differ from Facebook to Twitter to Instagram.
Bestselling author Sylvia Day recommended authors analyze their engagement data on each social channel to determine what content users engage with most. For example, your fans on Facebook may be interested in seeing updates about your writing process, whereas your Twitter followers might prefer reading your commentary on TV shows they also enjoy. If you engage with fans authentically with content they care about seeing, they’ll be excited to learn more about your newest books when you announce them.
When running advertising campaigns…
Katie Donelan from BookBub recommended targeting readers who are most likely to be interested in the book you’re promoting — fans of the author and comparable authors — and catering the messaging and design of the ad to that audience. Tools like BookBub Ads make it easy to target fans of a specific author. Many advertisers run campaigns specifically targeting fans of one comp author with creative that includes of the name of that author, aiming to quickly grab readers’ attention (example: “If you like [comp author], you’ll love [author of the book you’re promoting].”)
When reaching out to the press…
When pitching the media in order to secure coverage for a book, personalize the pitch to each reporter. Deborah Kohan, Senior Vice President at Media Connect, recommended mentioning a reporter’s previous coverage to show you understand what they write about. Here’s how she recommended structuring the pitch:
- • Subject line: 5-7 words to entice someone to open the email
- Headline (in the email): What would you want a reporter to say about you?
- A short intro: Personalize and include what makes you/your book different
- A few bullet points: Support the headline
3. Preorder campaigns can help you optimize a book’s positioning
During a panel on the secrets of a good preorder campaign, marketing pros from HarperCollins, Ballantine Books (PRH), Macmillan Kids, and Kensington all agreed that preorder marketing campaigns can give you data to determine whether the positioning and messaging for a book is resonating with readers. Tobly McSmith from HarperCollins equated preorders to a “canary in a coal mine” — if a preorder flops, perhaps the marketing direction, description copy, metadata, or cover design needs to be revised or redone entirely. Being responsive to early preorder trends will allow you to shift a book’s positioning before it’s too late.
Kristin Fassler from Ballantine Books provided a great example: When her team first created the positioning for Need to Know by Karen Cleveland, they thought the Russian spy plot would set the book apart. However, during the preorder period, they learned that readers were more interested in the domestic suspense angle — a mother in crisis trying to save her family. They adjusted the book’s positioning, which led to an increase in preorder sales, and the book ultimately landed on the New York Times bestseller list.
4. Stack promotions to build and maintain preorder buzz
Marketing a preorder isn’t a one and done deal — it takes multiple campaigns over a variety of channels to get the word out. Stacking promotions has been an effective way for authors and publishers to drive preorder sales and buzz. Penguin Press’s preorder promotions for Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere entailed a multi-pronged media outreach plan, giveaways, paid advertising, social media promotions, and more. Matthew Boyd, Associate Publisher and Marketing Director at Penguin Press, noted that sales aren’t the only important success metric to look at — measurable engagement online on book discovery and social media sites indicates reader excitement, and is also incredibly important.
When theSkimm announced the cover reveal for Karin Slaughter’s The Good Daughter, HarperCollins ran a BookBub Ads campaign on the same day. This helped them drive more buzz and sales for the book. While the span and frequency of promotions depends on each individual book, Tobly McSmith from HarperCollins recommended spacing out promotions, but not so much that it could kill momentum; if you only have a few levers to pull for a book, you don’t want to space them out over the course of six months.
5. Author familiarity is one of the primary ways readers decide what to read next
In a recent BookBub survey, according to Katie Donelan, 84% of readers choose new books to read because they’re by an author they already like. In fact, it’s the most popular factor in deciding which book to read next (followed by 72% of readers choosing a book because it’s next in a series they like, and 67% buying based on plot).
Because author familiarity is such a key factor in readers’ book purchasing decisions, BookBub provides readers with easy ways to stay on top of what’s going on with authors they love. Readers can follow authors on BookBub to get email notifications when that author has an update — e.g. when they have a new book, preorder, or deal available on one of their titles, or when they’ve posted a book recommendation on BookBub.com. Sylvia Day echoed this sentiment during her panel, when she revealed that when she announces a new book to fans on social media, she no longer includes buy links. Instead, she’s developed such an authentic (non-spammy!) brand and loyal audience of readers that when her fans are interested in her newest book, they’ll find that book themselves.
6. Fine-tune keywords to make books more discoverable
Adding keyword metadata to a book helps make it more discoverable and can help increase sales on online retailers. You’d think this would be obvious, yet only 38% of books have keywords attached to them.
The panelists from the Book Industry Study Group recommended adding as many keyword variations as possible to a book, where a “keyword” can either be a single word or a multi-word phrase. They advised sticking to a 500-character limit, but because there is no standard character or phrase limit for all retailers, you should order the keywords based on priority.
Since readers search using keywords or phrases to find books, it’s important to use natural language as opposed to standardized classifications publishers might typically use. There could be many variations of a phrase readers might be searching for. For example, for a World War II nonfiction title, keywords could include: World War 2, World War II, Second World War, WWII, WW2, etc.
7. Create a PR outreach plan early
According to panelists from Media Connect, PR is more than just about giving away free books, tweeting, making videos, or blasting out a press release — it’s about strategically reaching out to influencers and getting media coverage to grow an author or book’s brand.
But lead times for getting media or influencer coverage are getting longer and longer. Publishers and agents are notorious for missing deadlines, but it’s crucial to get a book to the media by their deadline so they have time to provide coverage. Deborah Kohan, Senior Vice President at Media Connect recommended starting to reach out to journalists 4-6 months before a book’s launch. Here was the timeline that Media Connect recommended for soliciting media coverage for a new book:
6 months prior to launch:
- Create a website (or add a book page to your existing site)
- Brainstorm ideas and craft a marketing plan
5 months prior to launch:
- Develop a press kit/media pitches
- Pull together your advanced review copy (ARC) media list
- Start to solicit testimonials/blurbs
4 months prior to launch:
- Compile a list of media connections you plan to approach
- Send out your ARCs to long-lead media (those that need more advanced notice)
- Select/schedule book signings and appearances
3 months prior to launch:
- Follow up on ARC pitches to media
- Continue to query bookstores and speaking opportunities
2 months prior to launch:
- Contact non-book reviewer media (such as relevant talk shows or feature story reporters)
- Approach online reviewers
- Reach out to local media (or arrange a book tour)
1 month prior to launch:
- Schedule radio and TV interviews
- Finish ARC follow-up
- Contact more online reviewers
- Add on bloggers and websites for outreach
- Hit daily newspapers, newswires, and weekly publications
Planning early can be critical in other areas as well. Kristin Fassler of Ballantine Books gave an example of a book launch campaign that started two years before the on-sale date! Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly became a major bestseller when it launched, but the team started building toward this well in advance. The author built up a social media following from scratch by talking about World War II history, and Penguin Random House assisted via numerous marketing channels of their own.
8. Tie books into cultural events whenever possible
Piggybacking onto current events, holidays, or trends in pop culture can help drive buzz for a book. David Hahn, Managing Director at Media Connect, recommended looking for holidays that tie in to your book. There’s a holiday for everything now — even things like National Cupcake Day. Promoting a book around a relevant, buzzy event can help drive exposure for a book to an audience that’s already paying attention to that event.
9. Audiobook sales are on the rise
According to Markus Dohle, CEO of Penguin Random House, audiobook sales saw 30% growth in the past year. Audiobooks are appealing to two different kinds of readers: those who’d enjoy sitting around a campfire listening to people tell stories, and those who multitask and listen to audiobooks while doing other things. He also revealed that demographics for audiobooks consumption aren’t skewed toward one demographic — people across all age groups, genders, genre preferences, etc. are listening.