The Evolving World of Publishing: What authors must know to succeed

by | Jan 18, 2013 | Book Marketing Basics

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Big ideas in publishing!









I was just at Digital Book World in New York; this year’s event was fantastic. It’s tough to do a single, cohesive, and complete wrap-up because there was just so much information to absorb. Instead I thought I’d highlight a few tweets that really got my attention. Along with these tweets, I’ve elaborated on how I feel this matters to you, the author/publisher and how you can make this knowledge work for you. One thing that was mentioned over and over again was the term “discoverability,” that’s really something that publishing is looking to. First a reader must discover an author, then and only then can a sale occur:

@DigiBookWorld: 3 of 4 literary agents on the panel have hired new staff to help self-published authors put their work online. 

First, the agent’s panel was fantastic and it’s showing that many savvy agents are turning their agencies into purveyors of content. I have said for a long time that agents know the market perhaps even better than the publishers do because agents touch a lot of publishers and (potentially) a lot of genres. What this means is that if you are an author with a savvy agent, they may be able to help you push a market online. Several stats at this conference showed that a lot of authors are dividing their attention between the self-publishing and traditional publishing markets.

@Bookgirl96: Only 10% of book discovery comes from analog (traditional) publicity. Yikes.

No surprise here, we’ve known this for a long time. What does this mean to you? It means that if you’re just chasing traditional media you’re potentially missing a huge market online. Yes, we all want to be on a major show, but does it help discovery? Not so much.

@KellyLeonard: Consumer distractibility a major challenge for book discoverability

No surprise here, either but it was interesting to see this brought up several times during the sessions. Consumers are distracted so that means that the typical marketing rule of seven (meaning that a consumer needs to see something seven times before they will decide to buy) is probably the rule of 14 or 20. You need to be out there, using the various social media platforms, to get in front of your reader.

Romance & Fantasy readers read endlessly.

This was on several Twitter streams. Here’s what this means for you: if you’ve written romance or fantasy you need to be writing, putting out content, releasing new books. I talked to one author who was writing a book a month (romance) and selling an average of 12,000 books a month and sometimes more.

@LucaLashesLLC: “Traditional Categories are not working online”

This is really interesting because it also dialed into the metadata, or lack thereof at sites like Amazon. Many publishers don’t pay that much attention to this site in particular or the metadata that can drive significant sales of a book. So, if traditional categories aren’t working, what is? I predict lots of major niche categories will help drive discoverability of books. So, you want a paranormal romance that involves a love affair between an alien and human. Guess what? There’s a category for that. The more niched these categories get, the more readers can find the exact books they want. I predict that Amazon will jump on this. They have already to a great extent, but I think they will go even deeper. This is great news for authors and publishers because they could segment their books into dozens of micro-niches thereby gaining new readers that may not have otherwise found their book.

Digital books big in personal recommendations.

One of the biggest ways readers found books was through personal recommendations. Readers, bloggers, all of these folks are book influencers and have a tight grip on readers’ buy impulses. We’ll identify more of this in a minute because this topic was brought up several times.

@RonCharles: Amazon accounts for 25% of all book sales, and 92% of all the ill will.

It’s unreal how many publishers still hate Amazon. Get over it and move on. I agree that Amazon and their cone of silence brought some of this on themselves. But let’s focus on some of these exciting new opportunities and new markets. All of this will shake out in the end.

@LucaLashesLLC: “Sampling works really well in the book industry” — Carolyn Pittis from Harper

This is a great thing for authors who control their book. What this means is that giving away chapters is a great idea. Readers love to sample and readers love eBooks. There was someone there from Goodreads who said that their free book giveaways show huge spikes in sales of a book and reader goodwill. Two big factors when it comes to getting noticed.

@HarperCollins: Have ongoing relationships w/ influencers in categories; do your research to understand targeting opportunities — Allison Underwood

Listen up: you need to be networking with bloggers in your market and you should spend time getting to know them. Take time to visit their blogs, send them a note, comment on the reviews or blog postings they do. Network! Don’t wait till your book is out, do it now!

@Porter_Anderson: Discovery @PatrickRBrown: “If you’re ready to market to an adult list” without certain influential bloggers, “you’re way behind.”

This tweet emphasizes this again: You can’t start networking when your book is out. You must start early. I have tons of posts on this so I won’t belabor the how-to of this, just know that you should. Find those bloggers, even if you only network with 10. Ten influential voices talking about your book is a huge deal. Truly.

@bookavore: @matthewbaldacci making the point that industry needs more influential reviewers to replace missing booksellers.

Here’s an interesting thought. Matthew Baldacci of St. Martin’s Press said that the lack of publishers placing ads in book review sections of newspapers really helped push the demise of book review departments in newspapers and magazines. Sad, when you think about the voices that were lost as review departments closed up. Now, readers depend on other recommendations. More on that in the next tweet.

@NYUPublishing: Are bloggers the new booksellers? Close online relationships with bloggers lead to targeted recommendations for public.

Consider this: review departments dwindled, but book buyers could still get recommendations from bookstores. Now that bookstores are dying out, where will readers find good books? Bloggers. Book bloggers are crucial for authors/publishers and readers.

@bookbusinessmag: @carolynpittis: Facebook is the biggest bookstore that’s not a bookstore. All the authors and readers are on Facebook.

Wait. You’re not on Facebook? Or you are but you aren’t really spending a ton of time on your profile. Big mistake. Facebook is a great online store. Well, not store in the sense that readers can buy (yet) but they do search, and with the new search feature Facebook is implementing, this will become even more key.

@hhharlow: Common theme – Find your audience & empower them. Readers are our strongest advocates. (ie word-of-mouth STILL best marketing there is)

There it is. We heard this over and over. Give to your readers. Give your readers what they want and they will give you what you want. Seriously. Empower your readers and really important: stay in touch with them. Communicate with them.

@Porter_Anderson: Editors @bensevier says “There are 42 people who have to touch a book to get it published.” (He’s at @DuttonBooks.)

This is crazy, no? This is probably why traditional publishers are struggling. Forty-two people to touch one book? That’s crazy. Though I get it, I mean they have systems and it’s hard to change them, but this is also why self-publishing will experience another big surge because, essentially, you don’t need that many people involved in the process. The fewer people the more streamlined and the quicker to market. I think that quick to market will be so key as we move through more of these changes. Self-publishing will eclipse traditional publishing in a number of areas, speed being one of the major ones. And consider this: as quickly as things move in sectors like technology, why can’t we have that same speed in publishing? We can and we should, self-publishing is the answer.

@LucaLashesLLC: “There is future employment for curating content in the publishing industry.”

Interesting and I think true. Content curators are going to become a huge piece of the industry. Allison from @openroadmedia mentioned during her talk that their team spends a lot of time putting out great content to get readers to their paid content (books). If you’re a good content creator, maybe you have a future in publishing. Or, you could just keep creating your own great stuff…

@JenTalty: Need good keywords for searches, not author name, book. RT @Bookgirl96: Only 4% of books are discovered via the author’s website.

Seriously. If you’re trying to rank by your name don’t bother. Unless you are a brand no one will find you using your name. I get authors all the time who say “I rank for my name!” So what? Essentially it doesn’t matter. You need to rank for your keywords. And yes, 4% of books are discovered via the author’s website, but you still need one. Trust me.

@DigiBookWorld: “research shows that frequent book buyers visit sites like Pinterest & Goodreads regularly” – @laurahazardowen

Wait. You’re not on Goodreads and you’re not sure how Pinterest works? You should immediately stop reading this article and hop on both of those sites. Look, you want to be discovered, right? Then you’ll need to go to where the readers are: Facebook, Goodreads, Pinterest, and though it wasn’t mentioned today, Library Thing. Engage with your readers. Get to know them. Build your sales one fan at a time.

What’s the wrap up from this day? Here are the biggest takeaways in my view:

  •  You will rock out your sales if you can rock out your discoverability. You can do this by:
  • Starting early. Earlier than you think.
  • Get on the right social media sites. Facebook, Goodreads, Library Thing, Pinterest. No one mentioned Twitter but it’s a great communication tool (as evidenced by these tweets). If it’s relevant to your market, hop on there, too.
  • Readers matter. Maybe more than you originally thought. Make sure to find ways to communicate with readers.
  • If you’ve written romance or fantasy keep pushing out a lot of content. The readers plow through these titles faster than you can imagine. Candidly, if you’re written any genre-fiction I’d recommend keeping the content churning. Readers want new books, give them what they want.
  • Discoverability is visibility for your keywords, not your name. Your keywords/category is important to being found, but also the niches and micro-niches will really rule online so be sure you’re utilizing all of your keywords. Don’t just stuff your book in contemporary romance, find a smaller niche and get your books some visibility there.
  • How’s your metadata on Amazon? We return here again to the importance of sub-categories and keywords. One publisher stated that using the names of bestselling authors in your genre can also help to drive sales to your book. Got an erotic romance book? What about using the term EL James or someone else dominating that market? No pun intended.
  • Get to know bloggers. As time progresses it will become even more crucial. Bloggers are the voices for your book. In many cases they’ve replaced print reviewers and bookstore recommendations. They could be key to your success.






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  1. Mary L. Ball

    Really liked the info. Lots of good comments. Yes, social is very important.
    Inspirational Romantic Suspense
    “Escape to Big Fork Lake.”

    • Paula

      Thanks Mary! We’re so glad you stopped by our blog.



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