HarperCollins, Goodreads & PRH on How the Book Discoverability Game Has Changed
Building buzz for a book used to be a pretty straightforward endeavor. Finagle a book review at a leading mass media outlet like The New York Times and the title was sure to be a bestseller. As media has moved to digital, though, discoverability of books has become much more fragmented. While a review in NYT is nothing to sniff at today, there are other players that book marketers should be targeting.
"We have moved from mass media to mini-influencers," said Goodreads founder Otis Chandler at IDPF's Digital Book Conference during a panel discussion on discoverability. "They are the ground zero for getting buzz for a book."
These mini-influencers Chandler mentioned run the gamut. They could be celebrities like Bill Gates, who recently released his summer reading list, authors recommending other titles, or book bloggers. All three have avid followings and their recommendations can create a sort of domino effect of word-of-mouth marketing. Goodreads, Chandler added, has made itself home to all three influencer types, allowing them to share their recommendations to a user base that recently topped 40 million.
Targeting Purchase Intent
While the influencers can help spread the word, publishers need to collect more data about readers, and in particular their purchase intent. "It's important for us to look at the entire purchasing funnel," said Angela Tribelli, CMO at HarperCollins and also a panelist during this session. "The most valuable consumer for us is the one who has the highest intent of purchase." Marketing to people who you know already want to buy a book -- perhaps they purchased the first book in a series, and the next installment was just released -- is something publishers have done well traditionally but must move to digital platforms.
The other part of the funnel Tribelli is interested in is consumers that are the furthest from a purchasing intent. "These are the people you aren't typically trying to reach in book marketing campaigns," said Tribelli. "I'm excited about the ability to leverage other audiences that we might not be reaching on a day-to-day basis." HarperCollins' partnership with JetBlue -- featuring free ebook samples on in-flight WiFi with options to purchase -- and Chipotle -- the publisher featured stories from their authors on Chipotle cups and containers -- are a few examples of that.
Market to the Non-readers
Peter McCarthy, co-founder of consultancy firm Logical Marketing, argued that marketing efforts must include those high-funnel potential readers. "Hard core readers are a narrow casting that publishers are pretty good at reaching at this point. It's the other people out there who are just living their lives, not looking for their next book to read that publishers need to reach." One thing to consider in this pursuit of the non-reader or occasional reader, added McCarthy, is what people do when they aren't reading. Are they avid travelers, politicians, entrepreneurs? There are books out there that can provide value to these folks.
And What About Free?
Often advocated by services like BitLit, giving away ebooks for free does not always sit well with book publishers. Panelists were asked what they thought about the practice, and overwhelmingly they cautioned to go into a free ebook promotion with a specific goal in mind. Amanda Close, SVP and director of marketing and development & operations group at Penguin Random House said "Free doesn't take you very far unless you are doing some sort of engagement program." At PRH, Close will offer free titles and early access to certain users in order to get book reviews. The reviews will live on book description pages on Goodreads or Amazon. And regardless of whether they are positive or negative reviews, they actually boost conversion, said Close.
Ultimately, the panel hit home for me a truth we've discussed here quite a bit on Book Business -- reader data is crucial for solving problems of discoverability. Publishers can collect that data in a number of ways but by far the most effective is creating a direct channel to interact with the reader, ie. through a newsletter, website, social platform, or ecommerce shop. HarperCollins has experimented with a number of new platforms, from its ebook discount newsletter Bookperk to specialized ecommerce sites. And Tribelli actually spoke with Book Business about those initiatives in our Data Issue last winter. It's a worthwhile read and I believe offers a glimpse into the future of book marketing and provides a number of solutions for the digital discoverability problem.