- Written by: AuthorsSchool
- Category: Marketing Blog
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Note: BookPub is in the business to make money from authors and thus, some of the information provided is related to their company and related outlets. With that said, what is written in this blog has some value for authors even if they do not use BookPub or related companies.
February 5, 2020 by DIANA URBAN
Have you been actively promoting your audiobooks? From growing awareness on social media to generating a high volume of sales on audiobook retailers like Chirp (learn how to submit for a Chirp deal here!), there’s a variety of tactics you can use for marketing audiobooks. And audio is an extremely fast-growing segment of the publishing market. According to the Audio Publishers Association, audiobook revenue in 2018 increased 24.5% from 2017 (and unit sales increased 27.3%), totaling $940 million!
Key takeaways from the APA’s 2019 report from BookBub’s partner Findaway.
This audiobook market is ripe for gaining new listeners for your own titles. But how can you best reach these listeners and find new fans? We compiled some examples of fantastic audiobook promotions we’ve seen authors implement, and hope this helps you when brainstorming how to promote your own audiobooks or advising your authors on how to promote theirs!
1. Announce an upcoming audiobook launch
Before an audiobook launch, build buzz by announcing the fact that there will be an audiobook, or even who the narrators will be. Getting an audiobook produced is exciting, so make a big splash with the news!
Author Adam Silvera announced on Twitter who the voice actors would be for What If It’s Us, co-written with Becky Albertalli. He included an eye-catching graphic and a link to a post where readers could learn more.
2. Announce when the audiobook is available
Making sure readers know an audiobook is available is an important step. Even with the rise of audiobook popularity, its availability is inconsistent. And sometimes an audiobook will launch simultaneous to the print and/or ebook editions, while other times, the audiobook comes later. So don’t assume that your readers will know about it!
Jenika Snow created a custom graphic to announce that audio versions of two of her books from The Underground Series were now available. She also included links in the Instagram caption for people to copy and paste.
3. Discount the audiobook and run a Chirp promotion
Just like discounting ebooks, discounting audiobooks is an effective way to quickly generate a high volume of sales and reach new listeners. Authors and publishers can now run audiobook price promotions on Chirp — similar to how BookBub Featured Deals work for ebooks! With Chirp, listeners can sign up for their favorite audiobook genres, and each day they’ll receive an email with a fresh selection of limited-time audiobook deals they can purchase à la carte directly from Chirp. Authors and publishers alike are already driving exciting sales for their audiobook deals!
To be eligible for a Chirp deal, your audiobook needs to be available for sale on Chirp via the Findaway catalog. To learn more about working with Findaway, click here. Once your audiobook is available through Findaway, you can submit it for a Chirp deal from your BookBub Partner Dashboard. If your audiobook is selected for promotion, Chirp sets up the discount for you, making the process super easy!
Dale Mayer ran a $0.99 deal to Chirp’s Mysteries & Thrillers members for the first audiobook in her mystery series, Arsenic in the Azaleas. This promotion generated over 3,300 audiobook sales! And since Dale’s entire series is also on Chirp, listeners could easily purchase the next audiobook to find out what happens next.
Want to submit your audiobook for a Chirp promotion? The submission form is now open to all BookBub partners! Click here to submit an audiobook now!
4. Tell newsletter subscribers about audiobook discounts
If you’re discounting an audiobook, whether it’s a Chirp deal or otherwise, let your newsletter subscribers know about the discount. You might turn some loyal readers into loyal audiobook listeners!
Liliana Hart included a section in one of her newsletters to promote the audiobook discount of Shadows and Silk to $1.99, and included a button linking to the audiobook on Chirp.
5. Add audiobook retailer links to your website
An author website can be a useful sales tool. Many sites include a page listing all of an author’s published books — or an individual page for each book — including links so readers can easily purchase at their preferred retailer. Consider also adding audiobook retailer links to these pages.
M. Louisa Locke has a dedicated page on her website for each of her books, and includes a button to each retailer in each available format (ebook, paperback, and audiobook).
6. Upload audiobook excerpts to SoundCloud
SoundCloud is the world’s biggest open audio platform, letting anyone upload their own music or audio. (On Twitter, it’s common to see “check out my SoundCloud” or “I don’t have a SoundCloud, but…” as a quick promotional follow-up after a tweet blows up). But this isn’t just a platform for musicians! You can also use SoundCloud to host excerpts of your audiobooks and link to the retailer page where listeners can buy the full book.
Author J.F. Penn has uploaded plenty of audiobook excerpts to her SoundCloud. She categorized them under the hashtag #Audiobooks so she can reach relevant readers on SoundCloud.
It’s easy to embed the clip on your website or share it on social media.
Publishers have also been using this strategy for years, for a wide variety of genres!
7. Send newsletter subscribers an audiobook sample
Just like you’d include a one-chapter excerpt of a novel in a newsletter, you can also include an audiobook sample! It’s a great way to get potential listeners hooked.
Marissa Meyer included an audio sample of her book Supernova in her newsletter. We love how she made it look like the audio clip was embedded and playable in the newsletter — it’s actually just a screenshot image that links to the right page on SoundCloud!
BookFunnel recently launched a tool that lets authors share audio excerpts, too!
8. Run BookBub Ads to promote the audiobook
BookBub Ads lets advertisers market any book at any time to BookBub’s millions of power readers — including audiobooks! These ads appear in dedicated spaces in BookBub’s daily emails, on BookBub’s website, and now in Chirp emails. Many authors and publishers have successfully promoted their audiobooks via this platform.
Audiobook targeting for BookBub Ads campaigns isn’t available to all partners yet. Please contact us if you’d like access to this new feature!
Once you have access to target audiobook listeners with your ad campaign, start by selecting Audiobook listeners in the new “Select Reading Format” section of the BookBub Ads set-up form:
The retailer links you enter in the “Click-Through Links” section determine which segment of listeners your ad is targeting and where it is eligible to appear. If you enter a Chirp URL, your ad will target listeners who use Chirp to buy audiobooks, and can appear in Chirp emails, BookBub emails, or on BookBub.com. If you enter URLs for other audiobook retailers (we currently support links for Apple Audiobooks, Audible, Google Play Audiobooks, Kobo Audiobooks, and Nook Audiobooks), your ad will target BookBub members who use those audio retailers, and can appear in BookBub emails or on BookBub.com.
Here are several fantastic examples of the creative authors have designed to promote their audiobooks via BookBub Ads. Some of these ads include a visual indicator that the ad is specifically for an audiobook, using earbud or headphone imagery or even an audio icon next to the call-to-action.
All advertisers will be able to target audiobook listeners with their BookBub Ads campaigns soon, but in the meantime, please contact us to request access to this new feature.
9. Show off the audiobook unboxing
If you receive physical audiobooks from your publisher (or that you’ve self-published), show off an unboxing photo or video on social media! Sharing your excitement can help get fans excited, too.
When A. G. Howard received a box of audiobooks for Stain from her publisher, she shared her excitement in this Instagram post. She also included a link in her bio where followers could listen to a sample.
10. Share a behind-the-scenes look from production
Readers often appreciate a behind-the-scenes look at an author’s writing and publishing process, and that includes the audiobook production process! You can either post sneak peeks during production, or save some photos to use after the audiobook’s release.
Mannette Morgan shared a photo of her recording her own audiobook, with a genuine, heartfelt caption!
11. Create an inventory of audiobook photography
Just like you might stage photos of your hardcover, paperback, or ebook for #bookstagram, consider taking photos of the audiobook. There’s even a hashtag for #audiobookstagram! This can help spread awareness that an audio edition is available, and can appeal to social media followers who’d prefer to listen. You can also use props that clearly represent audio, like a headset, headphone cord, or mic.
Penny Reid posted this gorgeous photo of her audiobook Beard With Me, using the print editions of that title and the rest of her series in the backdrop.
12. Share exciting audiobook accolades
If your audiobook is nominated for or wins any awards, gets a glowing review from a major publication (or from a blogger who tags you), or is featured on a list, share the news with your readers and on social media! It’s a great chance to build hype for the audiobook.
When On the Come Up was featured on a “Best Audiobooks” list, Angie Thomas shared the news on Twitter and included a graphic so the post would stand out in followers’ feeds.
13. Ask readers to request your audiobook at their library
Requesting an audiobook (or a book in any format) at a local library is a great way for people to support their favorite authors, making the audiobook more readily available to a regional audience. So in your next newsletter or on social media, consider asking your fans to request your audiobook at their local library! You can even make it part of your preorder campaign.
Christina June set up an entire “Library Preorder Campaign” where instead of offering a gift in exchange for a preorder, she offered the gift in exchange for a library request. While this wasn’t an audiobook-specific promotion, she mentioned the audiobook format — otherwise readers might not think to request that format, too!
How have you promoted your audiobook to reach new listeners? Share your tips on marketing audiobooks in the comments below!
Diana Urban is the Industry Marketing Manager at BookBub, and was previously the Head of Conversion Marketing at HubSpot. She's an expert in inbound marketing and lead generation. Diana is also an author of dark, twisty thrillers, including All Your Twisted Secrets (HarperTeen, 3/17/2020). Follow her on Twitter at @DianaUrban.
- Written by: AuthorsSchool
- Category: Marketing Blog
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Why should you, as an Indie Author, consider doing a pre-order? Simple - to build the impact of the release of your new book. There are many aspects to consider when doing a pre-sale, and the most important one is getting as many people to know about your new book as you possibly can.
This article will outline the key steps to creating and implementing a Pre-Order Program that helps you to succeed on many levels. This includes:
1 ―Setting a Release Date
2 ― How You Process Pre-Orders
3 ― Advertising the Pre-Order
4 ― Pre-Sale Dates
For you, as an Indie Author, the first and most important one is building a war chest that pays off so you can do more marketing with the least amount of financial impact. Thus, by doing a Pre Order program, you can take your time to create the buzz and hype necessary to build upon your sales; thus, your profit.
Let’s begin with the necessary steps:
1 – Setting a Release Date. Indie Authors tend to rush their book to press and release so they can begin to make money from their investment. This is where 99% of authors fail.
You want to take your time in creating the buzz for your new book. The ideal situation is to get the book done in an ARC (Advance Readers Copy) first. This is done after all the beta testers, and final edits are done. The ARC is what you will use to send out for press reviews, fellow-author reviews, and most importantly to bookstores to get the buzz started on the new book.
The ideal situation is 3 – 6 months before the release date. This should give you enough time to get the reviews back, add them to your new cover and be ready for the release date. Having the reviews will also be critical for readers and bookstores to see the quality of your work and to get excited enough to want to purchase a copy.
Once you have set your release date, move to Step 2
2 - How are You Processing Pre-Orders – Most indie authors want to make as much money as they possibly can. Thus they will process the orders themselves on their website, in person, etc. However, when you do that, you could actually be missing out on the ability to report your sales figures to organizations that matter…Best Seller Lists.
“Oh, I won’t sell enough books to be on that list” is the common response I hear from authors. Ok, so let’s say you don’t sell enough for the NYT or the other big lists. Heck, there have been book releases that haven’t hit those lists when they were first released, but they did months and even years after they were released. While they didn’t hit the big list first, they did hit the local and regional lists which then spurred them on to success and ultimately the big lists.
As an Indie Author, you can’t afford to purchase the membership needed to be able to report to the ‘lists’ but through other organizations, you can then have access to them, plus opportunities you would not otherwise have.
Indie Lector is a member of both the American Booksellers Association (Indie Bookstores) and the Mountain & Plains Indie Bookstores. Between both of these programs, we have the ability to report the numbers for national lists, regional and local. And now, the Indie Authors Top 10 List, which is distributed to Indie Bookstores in Texas. But, in order to qualify for these lists, the Indie Author must have sales processed through the Indie Lector Store.
Step 3 - Advertising the Pre-Order opportunity and what goes into this program.
Yes, we have built a following, small or large, if you have been collecting information from people you meet and have sold some books to, you should have an email list to use, a Facebook following, twitter followers and any other social media outlet you have grown. Each of those people is now a valuable avenue to promote your book and get pre-sales.
Create ad sheets (order one here) that promote the upcoming release of the new book. Make sure a call-to-action (link or web address) is clearly visible, so people can purchase the book with a simple click.
Then give dates that the pre-sale is valid for. During this time, you are also offering something special for the buyers. An autographed copy is the most common, but what about SWAG, or a special gift, or discount that will not be available to anyone else on any site anywhere?
Make this promotion special for one main reason, to create a bigger desire to buy your book. Anyone can buy your book. Anyone can get an autographed copy of the book. But, what can they get that others can’t?
Do you know what SWAG stands for? Sales Will Accelerate with Goodies. These goodies can range from bookmarks, buttons, posters, or anything that you can create and be clever with. But whatever it is, it must be unique to the Pre-Sale only. Don’t give away something during the Pre-Order that will be given away at another time. Make it special in some way.
This step can be done while you are waiting on the reviews. Plan it out and know exactly what you want to give away with the book during Pre-Orders. Then create your ad images that relate to this. You can also create a web page, so people will see what they are getting in the pre-order. But, use SWAG as part of the advertisement program.
You have your SWAG in hand, and you have ordered the special edition copies for the Pre-Order.
Please review other articles about Social Media use and best practices.
Wait, what was that – Special Edition?
Yes, the ARCs are not considered as a general public release copy of the book, so they are not sellable and do not count as your first print. Thus, you want to add something special to the Pre-order by having a First Edition of the book just for the pre-orders.
You should print out 100 copies of the book with your new cover design (reviews added). Then go into the interior of the book and add the line – Second Printing and the month and year you are doing it. Example: Second Printing April 2019 or Second Printing 2019. This simple act now confirms that your first print is exactly that ― a First Edition, limited edition of your book. This book now has more value than any book that is printed after it. You can also cut down the number of first prints to 50 if you want, but 100 is the ideal number. You can then also number the books as you autograph them and sell them so people can see how special their copy of the book is.
Let’s Recap - You have the ARC done, and it is out for circulation. You have your SWAG selected, and your advertising is ready to go. You know the release date of the final copy. Now you need to select the dates for the Pre-Order Sale.
4 – Pre-Sale Dates – Let’s say you have an April 1st release date planned. You sent your ARCs out in January so the reviews should be coming in by March, if not sooner. If those are on time, you now can re-create your cover to include the best reviews. You can also now begin to use the reviews in your advertisements.
If you have tied in with a bookseller to get the pre-sales counted, then they will know how to add the sales into the calculation for the first week of actual general public sales. Thus, you can set the pre-sales to end about two weeks before the general public sales so that those who purchased the books will have a chance to read it, and if all is good, talk about it.
This ‘talk’ is one of the critical aspects of getting additional sales in the first week of release. Combine that will the pre-sales, and you could end up with a huge number that moves you to the Top 10 of some list. This increases your exposure even more. All of this can be that one combination of events and programs that move your book much further ahead than just a simple release.
How long should the Pre-Sale be? I recommend that the sales period should fall over at least two basic pay-days. For example, the 1st or 15th, and two Fridays. This covers the basic pay-days and gives you a greater opportunity for sales. Keep this in mind as you set the dates and still allow for a couple of weeks of reading time for those who pre-order the book.
No book is ever guaranteed success, but when you work the system in the proper way, your chances of success increases. Even if it is not with the first book, the second, sixth or twelfth book can be that break-out book. Dedication, great writing and planning ahead make a world of difference for all successful books.
Once your Pre-Order is done, then make sure you follow through and get the books out to the buyers fast. Don’t delay the delivery. The sooner they get the book and SWAG, the happier they are. Delays only frustrate and can turn them against you. So, you want to have the books on hand by the end of the sales dates, envelopes ready to ship them in, etc. If you planned it out, you should be ready to take advantage of a great opportunity and momentum!
What about other opportunities to help make the Pre-Sales great?
Publishers have the money to do a lot of extra special events and programs. Indie Authors, most of the time, simply can’t afford to compete. Indie Lector, Texas Authors, and Indie Beacon gets that. After all, that is why these programs were created ― to help even out the playing field for Indie Authors.
To that point, Indie Lector is networking with other organizations to create opportunities for Indie Authors to present their books to bookstore buyers. Those listed with the Indie Lector Store will be kept abreast of these opportunities.
One additional item for Pre-Orders done through the Indie Lector Store is the opportunity to have a free Library Notice sent out about the new book. This gives the librarians an opportunity to learn about the book and to be a part of the Pre-Order program. It is another way to increase the ‘talk’ about the book.
As an Indie Author myself, I fully understand the need to watch every penny while trying to get the most out of opportunities for exposure. When I started out with my books in 2006, none of these types of programs were available to me. If they had been, I know my books sales would have been much better, and my income level much higher. Don’t miss out on using these tools as outlined here as a solid way to increase your success!
- Written by: AuthorsSchool
- Category: Marketing Blog
- Hits: 296
It's important for authors to hold themselves in high esteem, by making comparisons of their writing to success stories. That is why I like to sit down with the writers I work with and nail down what the comparative or competitive book titles to their manuscript might be, before making a submission to editors at publishing houses. We in the industry casually refer to this as asking what the "comps" are (short for comparative or competitive book titles). These are books in the current publishing marketplace that are similar and successful. It's not just about simply saying that a book or author is not unique—it's about celebrating how great a potential publication could be...
Why are comp titles important?
A literary agency receiving a query letter or submission from an author, or an editor at a publishing house receiving a pitch and manuscript from a literary agent, will need to know what the comps are. The literary agent and the editor will be trying to figure out where that particular book/author would fit within their list of authors: is it commercial fiction, literary fiction, or upmarket fiction? If it's nonfiction, then which category of nonfiction? A literary agent or book editor will ask themselves where the book/author would be shelved in a bookstore: is it mystery/crime, romance, science fiction & fantasy, or something else? Most important of all, an agent or editor will be asking themselves how well that book/author would perform in the marketplace: will this book go on the become a mega bestseller or garner highly prestigious awards?
In fully comparing apples to apples, a book editor at a publishing house will try to base their potential offer to publish, on the sales performance of the comp titles. They do this by running a profit & loss statement, or what we in the publishing industry call a "P&L" or "P&L sheet." Plugged into the P&L, which also accounts for the costs associated with printing and publishing a book, will be the sales numbers on the comp titles. A publisher can look up the sales numbers of a given comp title on Nielsen BookScan, where some of the most accurate reporting of sales numbers are given, so there's no lack of transparency there. That's why an author is a in a far better position by having their literary agent offer the author's successful comps to the publisher, over allowing the book publisher to come up with accurate comps of their own. This is especially the case if the publisher's comps haven't been all that successful. Then the publisher might not want to publish the book, or they might make a smaller offer.
An author that has assembled a good list of two to three comp titles will be miles ahead in the publishing process. When a book publisher is in the stage of getting their salesforce to place copies of the book among retailers, guess what question the publisher will be asked by the retailer: What are the similar books to this one? Having the comps handy can therefore help the book publisher in the actual publication process, by raising a book retailer's expectations. Maybe the book retailer decides to order more copies of a book for their stores, or they decide to recommend and prominently display the book, if they think the book will be a success.
What's a good comp title?
As much as possible, an author should make literary agents and editors think that their book has a good-looking, smart and athletic "twin" in each of its comps. A good comp title is a bestselling or major award-winning book. It's easy to know if the comp title is one of those two things by simply looking at the cover of a comp. If the cover states, "New York Times bestseller" or "National bestseller" then you know you probably have a bestseller on your hands. The same goes for major awards featured on the cover. If it says, "National Book Award-winner" or "Man Booker Prize-winner," then the same would be true. Looking at the number of reviews on Amazon (hundreds or thousands is impressive), and the overall Amazon sales ranking (the closer to the Top 100 the better), are other ways to know how well the comp title has been performing.
The comps should have been published within the last five years. Outside of five years, book publishing will have been a different industry, with books written and published in different ways. What is popular reading among book lovers also changes quite a bit over the years. Those are a few of the reasons why classic novel comps are not good comparisons, and will often garner eye rolls from editors. When a fantasy author tries to comp to J.R.R. Tolkien, or a mystery/crime writer tries to comp to Edgar Allen Poe, it also begins to look self-aggrandizing.
It's important to keep the comps accurate. We are comparing apples to apples here, rather than apples to oranges. So a comp title should also be of the reading age range and of the book genre. If an author wrote a young adult novel, then they shouldn't go and compare it to an adult romance novel; or if an author of wrote a nonfiction work of history/politics/current affairs then they obviously shouldn't refer to it a science/technology book. At the same time, only books make for good comparisons, since we're trying to figure out where a book belongs in a bookstore, rather than where a movie or a TV show fits on the shelf.
The process of assembling comp titles may seem small or insignificant at first glance, but it is actually a huge part of the publishing process and a key player in a book's success. The comp process ultimately helps readers find their way to an author's book.
Mark Gottlieb has ranked #1 among Literary Agents on Publishers Marketplace in Overall Deals and other individual categories. Using that same initiative and insight for identifying talented writers, he is actively building his own client list of authors of fiction and nonfiction. Mark is excited to work directly with authors, helping to manage and grow their careers with all of the unique resources that are available at book publishing’s leading literary agency, Trident Media Group. Since his time at Trident, he has represented numerous New York Times bestselling authors, as well as award-winning authors, and has optioned and sold numerous books to film and TV production companies. Mark is actively seeking submissions in all categories and genres.
- Written by: AuthorsSchool
- Category: Marketing Blog
- Hits: 342
Many authors join Texas Authors & Indie Beacon and then abruptly leave as they are expecting to see quick results by us selling their books for them. This quick result concept also applies to when an author goes to a book festival. They expect to sell enough books to at least pay for their expenses. Both of these are short-sighted views on marketing books. Texas Authors & Indie Beacon is about the long-term goal of creating a career as an Authorpreneur. Authors are creative people and want to write stories that move people and sell great numbers of copies. To do this is expensive and many authors want to see a return for their investment (ROI) as quickly as possible. Those authors miss the bigger picture of long-term growth. Just like expecting to earn their money back at the book festival, they miss the fact that someone they may have met may be that one person who loves their book so much that they can’t stop talking about it. That one person could in fact be the person that makes the author famous.
Would you go into a job as a new employee and expect to be promoted to the boss’s job immediately? Would you expect to be earning the top wages immediately? No. If your job required training of some sort, you may have gone to college or spent years doing ‘on the job’ training to become great at what you do and to be able to earn the big bucks. It is exactly the same with being an Author.
While you may be able to crank out a manuscript in a few weeks, months or within a year’s time, this doesn’t mean that it will be an instant best seller. Writing that book in today’s world is only 10% of the work. The remainder of the work is still ahead of you and may take years to accomplish. It is this aspect of being an author that Texas Authors was created for.
It seems almost funny for me, of all people to be typing this, as I am one who is impatient and wants to see results quickly. I have learned over the past 7 years to be patient and to work hard to create an organization that will help authors to succeed. I still have a lot of work ahead of me, and I am more than eager to work hard at times, not at all times, but most. I am willing to continue to work 80-100 hours a week to build several organizations that give authors all the tools and possibilities to succeed if they too are willing to work at it.
I have seen many authors take their time and grow with the organization and continue to grow successfully with their books. Some have won awards over the years, some have seen nice increases in book sales and many have been inspired to become the best Authorpreneur they can be.
Texas Authors and I are always eager to hear of new ideas and concepts that will help our programs, events and opportunities to continue to grow and become stronger. I will test things to see if they work and if they don’t. I will share with the membership my thoughts about those items. I do not want the author to reinvent the wheel. I encourage each author to plan to be with us for more than one year, maybe several years so that as we continue to grow and learn new and exciting things in the publishing world, that it too will help you to grow stronger and better as an Authorpreneur.
Don’t fall for those schemes where someone has a person that sold a million copies of their books and now wants to share how you too can do the same. They just want your money, and yes, a million other people bought into that scheme and made that sales person rich. Remember, of the over 1 million authors in the USA, only 10% have sold more then 100,000 copies of their books. That doesn’t mean you can’t do it, but it does mean you have to work at it, just like they did.
Texas Authors continues to become a serious player in the world of publishing, and as a member, that benefits you in more ways then you may know. That’s part of the team work and family of authors that we have created over the years. We welcome you to not only be a part of it but be a family member for the long term. Families grow stronger together, not apart!
- Written by: AuthorsSchool
- Category: Marketing Blog
- Hits: 326
Publishing execs need to give metadata more attention than lip service
By Thad McIlroy | Oct 05, 2018 | Publishers Weekly
Let’s make metadata great again. Okay, perhaps that’s not the best slogan for my new campaign, but you get my drift. I want some enthusiasm, folks. Metadata for e-commerce has been sitting in the doldrums for too long now, confined to some kind of bibliographic hell, saddled with the ever-vague concept of discoverability. “Keywords” has been the cry: find the right keywords and you can rule the online universe. Is that all there is? Seven keywords and you’re off to the races?
Metadata has been vastly undervalued. I’m here to tell you that metadata is the most important part of selling books today. Bar none. Its power should change the way you market books. It can measurably increase your sales; this has been proven. Publishers have to start approaching metadata as a strategic weapon, not as the digital equivalent of an old library card catalogue.
Publishers Weekly started covering metadata 16 years ago (the first article I can find is dated 2002). “Accurate Metadata Sells Books” is the title of a PW article from 2010. Why, in late 2018, am I still trying to convince publishers that metadata sells books?
Editorial is at the heart of book publishing: if all other factors are equal, the better book will sell more copies. Of course, few of the factors are ever equal, and, in publishing, sales and marketing is mostly concerned with trying to tip the precariously balanced scales ever-so-slightly in your direction.
In a bricks-and-mortar world, the marketing process is well defined and easy to understand: take a good book, seek to influence the conversation via book reviews and the author’s presence, and, anticipating some interest, buy your way to prominent retail display, so the book is visible when the educated customer comes calling.
In the online world, publishers and authors still seek influence but, for the most part, can’t buy prominent display space. It’s a Gordian knot. A book appears most prominently on Amazon because it’s selling well despite not appearing prominently on Amazon.
We saw a vivid example of the problem earlier this year, when bad metadata appropriated the buzz of Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House and turned a 2009 book, Fire and Fury: The Allied Bombing of Germany, 1942–1945, into an overnight bestseller.
And so achieving prominence becomes a far more complex challenge than it was in an exclusively bricks-and-mortar world. Relationships are established digitally; metadata is the grease on the wheel of online connections.
Metadata is left-brained, dry, and analytical, and publishing executives are mostly right-brained, creative, and sensitive. They don’t understand how metadata really works, and they’ll settle for the 30,000-foot view. And, truth be told, from 30,000 feet, metadata does look like a library card catalogue. Up close, it looks complicated. Metadata is standards based, and right-brained people don’t like technical standards. Going deep on metadata takes you into the realm of ePub, HTML, SEO, and Onix. What publishing executive wants to go there?
The other damning thing about metadata is that the #1 reason publishers need great metadata is to compete on Amazon. And if there’s one thing that makes a publishing executive cringe more than complex technology, it’s thinking about ways to more effectively compete on Amazon. The game is brutal and complex, the rules change all the time, and self-published authors and Amazon imprints keep winning.
The unpleasant truth is that, though online book pages may appear reminiscent of the bookshop on Main Street, they are in fact located at the bookshop in the city of Amazon. The cover still matters a lot, as do the jacket copy and blurbs.
But there’s so much more that happens on Amazon. There are reader reviews—good ones and bad ones—that signal a book’s quality from a customer’s perspective, rather than from the perspective of a doting friend of the author. There’s a dynamic sales ranking. There are multiple formats on sale side-by-side. Complementary titles are found below the fold. There’s dynamic pricing. On the author’s page are videos and links to community pages on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
The big hurdle for publishers is understanding that all of this online information is based in metadata. Metadata has depth and breadth. Metadata should be verbose but accurate. Metadata should emanate outward, linking, constantly linking, to every online way station that a book buyer might visit.
Preparing this article in mid-September, I dived into the Publishers Weekly Job Zone, searching for jobs that I was certain would demand a familiarity with metadata. To my surprise, I found several ads seeking marketing managers, publicity coordinators, and the like that did not list any metadata-related skills or knowledge in their applicant requirements. If it’s true that metadata sells books, then why do none of these marketing positions require metadata knowledge?
Until management prioritizes its managers’ knowing how to compete with metadata, metadata will be a good housekeeping afterthought. Metadata is great, and the publishers who embrace its strategic value will thrive.
Thad McIlroy is an electronic publishing analyst and author, based on the West Coast and at his website, The Future of Publishing. He is a founding partner of Publishing Technology Partners.
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At the Authors Marketing Event last July, we had the duo team known as the Dallas Geeks attend and video tape any author that wanted to talk about their books. This was a free service that we offered and are happy to do again next year for those joining us in San Antonio
The guys finally worked their magic and edited some of the shows and have scheduled to add the shows to their site. The first show posted is of JoAnn Wagner author of Sir Pigglesworth. Links for the shows are added each we below.
Each week a new author will be added to their website, which allows for the authors to promote the video and add the link to their websites. A great promotional tool we are thrilled to make available to the authors that attended AME.
Here is a list of the authors and the dates their video will appear on the Dallas Geeks website.