A university press publishes a wide range of nonfiction, from interdisciplinary titles to those with more trade appeal. But with such a wide range of subjects, it can be challenging to find the core audience and drive sales for each title. So how does a nonfiction publisher find the readers that are right for their books — and how do they market to those readers?
For NYU Press, one tactic they regularly use is running price promotions for their titles! To gather more insights, we interviewed their marketing team about how they use price promotions to reach readers and boost sales and revenue for ebooks and print. They also offer advice for nonfiction publishers navigating the digital landscape!
How do you decide which book(s) to discount, and when?
Our first two BookBub discounts were really experimental rather than truly focused on a season or a holiday promotion. We wanted to see how our various titles could work with the BookBub readers. The Trans Generation by Ann Travers was getting a lot of publicity in December 2018, so we thought it could be of interest to a more general readership captured in BookBub’s subscribers. What Would Mrs. Astor Do? by Cecelia Tichi is a historical manner’s guide of the Gilded Age elite, drawn from the lifestyle of socialite Caroline Astor. We thought it would be an interesting fit at the end of February to launch Women’s History Month in March.
Once we saw successes with not only moving eBook units but also print sales, we knew that promoting with BookBub had a positive impact on our sales through a variety of channels.
This has fueled a larger conversation in our press as to how to best partner with BookBub to strategize promotions going forward. With it being back-to-school season, we already had a price drop on eBooks planned for August, and knew that one of these titles would definitely be of interest to BookBub subscribers. The editors at BookBub apparently thought so too! Youth Activism in an Era of Education Inequality by Ben Kirshner is not only perfect for any Back to School season, but also sadly necessary in today’s current political climate as we see students rise up in schools and communities (and even on national television) to fight for their rights and for a better democracy.
How do you promote each discount and make your price promotions as successful as possible?
We have yet to specifically promote the BookBub promotion through our other marketing channels, although simultaneously with the BookBub promotion, we will run campaigns promoting the Amazon price drop (along with the other eBook retailers) through eNewsletters, our blog, Amazon ad campaigns, and social media.
How do you measure each promotion’s success?
Our leadership has loved seeing the soaring eBook sales that go along with BookBub promotions, and true to their promise, the rise of eBooks sales has (for us) correlated to an uptick in print sales (through Amazon specifically) on both What Would Mrs. Astor Do and The Trans Generation. This has both amazed and delighted us! With The Trans Generation, our Amazon activity was in such a flurry that the title was ranked first on the LGBTQ list for over a week. Everyone, from the editors to the marketers to the author, was stoked!
What advice would you give to nonfiction book marketers and authors about running price promotions?
The biggest thing to take into consideration when selecting eBooks for any price drop is not cannibalizing your own sales. Simply, don’t select a book that you think readers would buy at full price during your promotion. Also, be prepared to lose money on a promotion. Sometimes you don’t move enough units of an eBook to make up for the cost of the promotion or the time/effort. Luckily, we’ve had more successes than failures, but it always boils down to a numbers game.
What nonfiction trends have you seen in the digital landscape? How do you think publishers and authors should respond?
Perhaps not a nonfiction specific trend, but we have seen the highest engagement rates by making our outreach as specific as possible to each subject. Since a lot of our books are interdisciplinary, it can be challenging to suss out the core audience – but once we do, we’ve had great successes! Tracking engagement metrics and making use of customer data will continue to be important in the future as well, as it further helps give publishers a sense of which readers are interested in which topics.
Authors should respond by having a keen understanding of their intended audience, as well as competing books in their genre (always useful for us!). Publishers should try to segment their audience as much as possible. There are both a lot of books and a lot of readers out there, so matching each reader with the perfect book for them will be a huge step for success moving forward.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
To be successful in the future, publishers should lean into changes in both technology and the industry more broadly rather than attempting to work against them. There are often people who bemoan the death of the publishing industry. Publishing is not dying, it is simply changing, and the best way forward is to harness those changes to our best advantage.
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