Q: In the many years you've been working with publishers on data analysis, what are some of the trends you've noticed?
Well, it really depends on the publisher. There are quite a few midsize publishers and imprints of larger houses that really embrace data, want more of it, and apply it to marketing and even to editorial decisions. But “data” means a lot of things to a lot of people, and data about book publishing and consumption is notoriously hard to gather–if it exists, it’s proprietary to a retailer (where you left off in your Kindle edition of Dr. Sleep, for example). But we’re a little further down the road than we were in 1995 when I began looking at publisher data seriously.
Q: What are some examples of publishers doing well in terms of data-driven engagement or branding?
I always think of O’Reilly, of course, and Harlequin. They’ve both been leaders for quite some time. There’s Osprey in the UK. These are publishers who know their readers, and who are dedicated to gathering as much data as they can about them.
Q: There is so much to do in the way of D2C relationships and models. If a publisher wants to begin building D2C relationships today, how should they begin?
Again, it all depends on the publisher. For trade publishers who do a mix of titles, it's really hard–readership is diverse and dispersed. For genre publishers or publishers of nonfiction, such as cooking or carpentry, it’s a bit easier. There’s an already-defined audience. It’s just a question of going to where they are and interacting with them, offering them useful information and expertise, demonstrating why they should read your titles.
Q: Recently, you published your own collection of short stories. Part of that project involved making changes to things like the cover or format. It also involved a lot of direct contact with your readership. What has this endeavor taught you about the role of direct-to-consumer relationships from the content creator’s point of view?