Digital Book World held their annual conference on publishing and digital content strategies this week in New York City. For the first time, they hosted an entire track on book marketing, so we gathered many exciting takeaways we wanted to share with our readers.
From building an author’s platform to improving a marketing campaign’s ROI, many sessions were buzzing about audience research, fostering reader relationships, and running iterative marketing campaigns.
Here were our top seven takeaways from DBW 2017:
1. Make data-driven marketing decisions
According to John Sargent, the CEO of Macmillan, every publishing decision can be improved using data — from supply chain and workflows to the editorial acquisitions process and marketing campaigns.
Whether you’re a marketer at a traditional publishing house or a self-published author, you now have things like sales data and click data on your ad campaigns at your fingertips. Strive to gather as much data as possible — about your audience, about individual marketing campaigns, about social media engagement, and so on. With the resource and budget constraints you may be up against, data can help you make the best decisions about which marketing activities are worth your time and money.
2. Set clear goals and measure your results
In order to obtain as much data as possible on each book you’re promoting, it’s important to set goals and measure the results for each of your marketing tactics. This will help you determine which are effective, and which aren’t worth additional time, money, and resources.
According to Kristin Fassler, Director of Marketing at Random House / Ballantine Bantam Dell, her team ascribes a numeric goal to every single marketing activity. For example, one of Random House’s main goals before a book’s publication is to garner reader reviews, since having more reviews helps bolster a book’s search activity when it goes on sale (and makes the book more attractive on retailers). When marketing their new release Lilac Girls, they set review targets ahead of release day. This helped them know to send out 3.5K advanced reader copies in order to hit their aggressive goals.
Random House also published a book trailer for Lilac Girls on YouTube and aimed to garner 4.5K views. They sent the video to book bloggers and reviewers, published it to their social media channels, and used it in their advertising campaigns. They ultimately achieved their goal — the book trailer got nearly 5K views.
Setting measurable goals in advance helped Random House know what marketing activities to plan for in order to reach their goals, and also helped them see along the way which activities were effectively contributing to the goals and which weren’t.
3. Know your target audience
For each book you launch, understand who you’re trying to reach and convert. This will help you determine how to tailor your marketing content to your audience in a way that will resonate with them — from choosing metadata keywords to crafting boosted Facebook posts. For example, Abrams does audience research in order to learn what the readers for each book are searching for online, and uses that insight to write relevant jacket and product description copy that includes those search terms.
According to Peter McCarthy at OptiQly, there are several high-level things you should know about your target audience:
- Demographics: who are they? This includes location, gender, ethnicity, income level, education level, marital status, profession, and family makeup.
- Psychographics: how do they think? This includes what they like, love, and dislike. Do they have strong beliefs, opinions, or causes? How do they describe what they want?
- Behaviors: what do they do? How do they spend their time? With who and where? What books do they read, and what are they searching for?
Open Road Media runs audience insight analysis to develop a deeper understanding of their consumers. Their process includes:
- Identifying their customers accurately. First identify the customers for a book and understand what they do digitally.
- Following the customer. Use consumer behavior data to discover what a consumer wants, what motivates them, then build on that record.
- Using data to look forward. Synthesize data to evolve tactics to serve customers with relevant content.
Read more tips on how to identify a target audience for a book (with tips on how to get this data) here.
4. Use social listening to amplify your marketing
Social media is a big part of many authors’ platforms and a hot book marketing tool. But social media isn’t just another channel on which to publish content — it’s also a way to learn more about your target audience and how you should market a book.
Hachette and Perseus Books Group both use social listening — the practice of listening to the marketplace online to gain insights (not just monitoring your own social media feeds) — to prioritize what marketing activities will make the biggest impact on a book’s sales. Both publishers use Crimson Hexagon for social listening, but there are several other options at a wide range of price points, including Radian6 (from Salesforce), Hootsuite, Klout, and Tweetreach (part of Union Metrics).
Jaimee Callaway from Hachette and Rick Joyce from Perseus recommended using social listening to:
- Hone your target audience. Learn more about a book’s target audience — and find other audiences you should be targeting. For example, when Running Press (a Hachette imprint) saw an unexplained spike in sales for You Are a Badass, they used social listening tools to learn that the spike correlated with a small event the author spoke at run by Beachbody. They capitalized on this information by targeting and catering their marketing messaging to the fitness community.
- Find influencers. Analyze conversations on a particular topic and learn who the most influential voices are. This can help you know who to engage in conversation or send free copies of a book.
- Refine your metadata. Discover what words consumers use — just because an author or editor refers to a genre, book, or topic with certain words doesn’t mean consumers use those same words. It’s important to choose keywords based on what the target audience is talking about and searching for so it’s easy for them to discover the book.
5. Be agile and iterative, and test everything!
You can’t market books in 2017 if you’re rigid — you need to run multifaceted campaigns to discover what works best for a particular book and audience.
For example, Random House creates a repository of content they and the author can push out for a book. They test many different social media images with different messaging and designs to see which get the most engagement. Once they gather the results, they reallocate their marketing budget to the winning variations — making the most of their ad spend.
Random House applies the same methodology to entire marketing channels. When they discovered that their rich media campaigns (interactive ad placements like video or audio) weren’t driving enough engagement when promoting Lilac Girls, they switched all the budget over to their social media campaigns instead. It’s important to have a fluid campaign so you’re using your marketing budget as effectively as possible. Having a multifaceted campaign across many different channels helps ease the burden of switching off one of them if necessary!
6. Garner word-of-mouth (WOM) sales by cultivating relationships
WOM is one of the top drivers for book sales, and in order to encourage readers to spread the word, it’s important for the author (and publisher!) to cultivate a relationship with readers and reviewers.
Build relationships with readers. According to Kristin Fassler at Random House, Martha Hall Kelly (author of Lilac Girls) replies to all the fan messages on her social media channels and engages with her fans frequently. This helps her readers feel validated by talking about the book, which effectively gets her fans more excited to spread the word upon the release of Lilac Girls.
Build relationships with reviewers & influencers. Marguerite Joly at Ullstein Publishing recommended that when you send an ARC or a free copy of a book to a reviewer, add a handwritten note to make the giveaway gift feel more special. This can increase the chances that the recipient will read the book and leave a review. Similarly, influencers want to cultivate relationships with their own readers. Marguerite suggested that when getting influencers to help market a book, let them provide their followers with a discount or free promotion (limited to a certain number of copies) to help them build excitement and provide a sense of exclusivity for their readers.
Build relationships with reporters. To increase your chances of getting a book covered by a major publication, Alexandra Alter at the The New York Times and Tina Jordan at Entertainment Weekly recommended sending a handwritten note along with a galley or free copy of a book explaining why you sent the book. Becoming familiar with a reporter’s interests and sending the most relevant books possible (instead of bombarding them with free copies of any book) will also let you establish trust with that reporter.
7. Discount a book to effectively hook new readers
Running ebook price promotions continues to be a great way to hook new readers and turn them into loyal fans who will go on to buy an authors’ full-priced books. According to Peter Hildick-Smith at Codex-Group, 26% of readers never want to pay full price, and 18% prefer to read their books for free. However, 22% of readers want to get a book as soon as they discover it, regardless of price. According to survey data from BookBub, 77% of bargain book buyers also buy full-priced books, and 63% of readers have purchased other books by an author they discover as part of a price promotion.
Katie Donelan from BookBub shared a couple tips on running ebook price promotions. First, price low to maximize new readers. Purchase rates decline as prices go up.
Next, discount the first book in a series to maximize follow-on sales. Authors see 5x higher sales in other books in a series when the first book is discounted than when a later book is discounted.
For more interesting tips and takeaways, be sure to check out the #DBW17 hashtag on Twitter!
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