With conference season in full force around the world, NetGalley France’s Astrid Pourbaix attended Livre Paris, or Paris Book Fair. In its 39th year, Livre Paris gives visitors a grasp on global book trends. 1,200 exhibitors from 45 countries displayed their services, products, and titles. The 160,000 attendees could sit in on one of 800 conference sessions or wait in line for an author signing from one of the 3,000 authors in attendance.
Whereas London Book Fair focused on the Indonesian book market, Livre Paris honored several different global regions. Primarily, the festival focused on Europe as a whole. Speakers including Livre Paris director Sébastien Fresneau discussed Europe’s rich and diverse cultural history as well as issues that affect the whole continent’s book market, such as the EU copyright directive legislation. Additionally, both Bratislava – the capital of Slovakia – and Oman were invited as special honorees.
A major takeaway from Livre Paris, like London Book Fair, was the growingchildren’s market. School visits to the fair have increased, and Livre Paris has responded by providing more programming designed for younger readers. Students, young influencers, and authors of children’s and YA books appeared on panels and in programs.
One challenge noted during the fair is that young readers’ attention is volatile. Publishing needs to do more to enliven young reading communities and keep them engaged.
Like the US market, we are seeing the power of self-publishing in France. Both Amazon Direct Publishing and Books on Demand presented at the fair, indicating that self-publishing is an established part of the French book industry. Attendees also saw the Gutenberg One robot, a print-on-demand solution that can print books in less than 5 minutes. A recent survey saw that 80% of French people enjoy writing and 53% already wrote or would like to write a book one day, indicating that self-publishing is likely to keep growing in the French market. Check out our coverage of London Book Fair, as well as recent events from BIGNY and the Future of Media. And, keep up with NetGalley Insights conference coverage by signing up for our weekly newsletter!
Julie Yip Williams, author of The Unwinding of the Miracle, knew she would never see whether readers liked her book. The Unwinding of the Miracle shares Yip Williams’s experiences and thoughts as she approached her death from colon cancer. Through the book she wonders about what the lives of her husband and daughters will look like, and finds the miraculous in the most universal human experience — death. Published posthumously on Feb. 5 by Random House, The Unwinding of the Miracle is a New York Times bestseller.
The team at Random House helped raise the memoir’s profile through a unique audio strategy. Beyond typical plans to advertise on podcasts, they decided to take it a step further for the release of The Unwinding of the Miracle. In collaboration with Pineapple Street Media, Random House created a 4-episode companion podcast, Julie: The Unwinding of the Miracle.
The podcast featured audio interviews with Yip Williams as well as audio from some of the last visits her family had with her before her death. Listeners could hear Yip Williams talking about how she decorated her bedroom so that she’d have somewhere beautiful to die and making plans to haunt her family members. In the final episode, the surviving family members and friends talk about the ways that they feel Yip Williams’s presence after her death.
As of February 27, 2 weeks after the final episode was released, the podcast ranks number 51 for all Health podcasts on iTunes, with over 600 reviews and an average of 4.5 stars. The podcast was featured on Call Yr Girlfriend through a sponsorship from Pineapple Street Media and on All Things Considered.
Investing in a collaboration with expert podcasters resulted in a well-paced and compelling narrative with high production values. Pineapple Street Media is a well-established podcasting company. They produce, among other shows, Still Processing from the New York Timesand were behind the chart-topping Missing Richard Simmons. Julie: The Unwinding of the Miracle’s producer Eleanor Kagan comes from a well-established audio background, having worked previously for both NPR and Buzzfeed.
We chatted with Leigh Marchant, Director of Marketing & Business Development at Random House about Julie: The Unwinding of the Miracle and their companion audio strategy.
How did you decide to create a podcast for The Unwinding of the Miracle?
Our Random House Editor-in-Chief, Andy Ward, and I had been talking about doing a podcast with our mutual contact, Max Linsky, from Pineapple Street Media. As all great projects start, we pitched him a few ideas over lunch and decided that Julie’s story would make for an incredibly compelling podcast. We thought having Julie’s story told in both book form and via podcast would be a really interesting project—that instead of being restricted by only telling this story in one format, we could have them complement and inform each other.
What kinds of audiences were you hoping to access with the podcast?
We think that podcast listeners are readers, and readers are podcast listeners. We have seen some consumer insights reports that show media affinities for some of our authors and titles, and podcasts are definitely included in there. Of course, certain podcasts appear more frequently in our data than others but we do think there is listener/reader overlap.
So we were hoping to draw attention to the book through the podcast audience – and vice versa. The two projects – the podcast and the book – are meant to be complementary. In other words, if you read the book, you will want to hear more from Julie and her family and friends through the podcast. And if you listen to the podcast, you’ll want more in the book. Both the podcast and the reading experience deliver in such a strong way. The content of the two projects is actually different but together provides an incredible understanding of what Julie and those who are terminally ill are grappling with.
How is that audience different from — or the same as — the audience you were connecting with through other parts of the campaign?
We are always looking to reach readers through our campaigns and one of the ways we do that is actually via podcast advertising! So creating the podcast was a great way to reach some of our target audience. We were hoping to reach readers of books like When Breath Becomes Air, The Middle Place and The Bright Hour. Also we targeted readers of medical memoirs, followers of Julie’s blog, as well as parents.
But of course the goal for any book is to reach the right readers and we knew that if we could capture an expanded audience via the podcast, they would likely be interested in the book as well.
How did you balance creating a rich and emotionally resonant podcast with leaving enough unanswered for the listener so that they would want to read the memoir?
That was a main concern at the start of the project. We didn’t want to cannibalize either project so we were careful to keep the content different enough, yet complementary. In the podcast, you hear from Julie’s family and friends. The book is just Julie’s words and thoughts. The two forms work so well together though. Each project is so powerful, so moving, so compelling. But together they offer such a complete portrait of Julie’s incredible life and, later, her battle with cancer.
How does companion audio fit into your strategies for other titles?
We are always looking for new ways to reach readers – on whatever platform they are consuming content. Podcasts are a great way to do that and we will continue to explore opportunities in that space – when it makes sense. We have a number of other podcasts through our corporate group coming. But we’re also exploring other multi-media platforms, as well. We also just launched an Alexa Skill called Good Vibes. Our goal is to connect readers (and listeners) to great books via the platforms where they are already consuming content.
Upcoming conferences, panels, webinars, and networking opportunities
There is always a wide variety of programming available to help publishing professionals connect with one another, grow their skill-sets, and stay abreast of changing trends and emerging strategies. On NetGalley Insights, we’ll be sharing the events we’re most excited for on a monthly basis.
“The past 20 years have ushered in considerable changes in the
world of publishing. Today, publishers and writers face urgent questions
about how to create connections with readers and how to authentically
represent the full range of human experience.
Kickstarter and Fireside invite the many stakeholders in the
world of publishing to contemplate these big questions and begin to
consider what the next decade of publishing will look like. This
pioneering digital conference will be streamed live for free so anyone
with an internet connection can watch and join the conversation about
how to create a more inclusive and vibrant publishing landscape.
Panel topics will include:
Connecting the Future: Technology and Publishing
Radically Inclusive Publishing
Cultivating Community in Publishing
Paying the Way: Economic Sustainability in Publishing”
“Humor + Cocktails (or Mocktails) + Friends = Fun! We all need a good laugh right about now, so come out and have lots of them as 8 amazing authors/comedians take the stage for a rare WMG evening event in support of our fellowship/scholarship program. The night starts with a networking cocktail hour that includes 2 drinks and delicious passed hors d’oeuvres. Then we’ll sit back in a room to ourselves and enjoy tons of fresh comedy from [a] super lit line-up…”
“For the past year, BISG has worked with the University of Michigan, the University of North Texas, and Knowledge Unlatched to explore ways to improve what we know about the specification and use of open-access monographs. The project was sponsored by the Mellon Foundation and included a summit held in December 2018. This webinar provides an update on the project and an introduction to a white paper published by BISG.”
“Your metadata is the message you send to consumers. With radical changes happening in the Christian retail marketplace, your metadata is becoming even more important than before. Join Joshua Tallent, the metadata master at Firebrand Technologies, as he talks about the metadata revolution, and how the Eloquence on Demand system can help you solve modern publishing problems.”
“Shaping the Status Quo: Global Perspectives in Scholarly Publishing. The Society for Scholarly Publishing heads back to the west coast for its 41st Annual Meeting. Looking out into the vast Pacific in San Diego will be a good opportunity to reflect on the (literal) wide world of publishing. Scholarly publishing is flourishing in new and exciting ways across the world, including Asia, India, and the Global South. As we move together into new eras of sharing research, it is important to make efforts to shrink the distance among stakeholders in publishing, enabling coordinated discussion and problem solving.”
“Publishing industry’s leading trade event, where Booksellers, Librarians, Publishers and Tastemakers gather to discover the latest titles, authors, distribution channels, technology and trends. At BookExpo you can get an edge in your business by attending cutting edge education sessions, and making new connections to help you grow your business.”
“Transform your career with this one-day hands-on practical course which will guide you through designing, creating and editing flyers, leaflets, posters and other sales and marketing materials in Adobe InDesign. There is no prior experience of InDesign assumed. The professional techniques taught during the day also serve as an ideal introduction to confidently working with book files.”
“Publishing has a problem with tech. Everyone is talking about it and many want to learn to code, but if you don’t know what you don’t know, you can’t do it, right? Well, we’re here to help. A panel of tech champions will explain exactly what different terms are and how you can get started with them. They’ll boost your tech literacy by explaining:
Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) – what they are and how they can make ebooks more beautiful.
Ruby – not just a sparkling jewel but also the perfect first step into coding.
Apps – where to start and what not to worry about.
Want to be a tech-savvy publisher? Then this is the event for you.”
“Do you want to be an ebook expert? Do you want to thoroughly understand the market? Plus have the practical skills to code your own books? Join industry expert Ken Jones for this two-part one-day course.”
While many publishers and authors are already using social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads, Reddit should also be on your list of go-to social media platforms for connecting with enthusiastic readers.
Reddit, the self-described front page of the internet, is a website where members submit all sorts of content, from aggregated news to kitten videos. It operates by using subreddits. Subreddits are communities within Reddit for members to share information or discuss news and opinions related to that subreddit. Content is up-voted, and the most popular content makes it to r/all, which is one of the early places for content to appear before it goes viral.
Reddit’s most vibrant book conversations happen around personal recommendations. Subreddits like r/SuggestMeABook concentrate explicitly on personal recommendations rather than formal reviews (although a recommendation is, in part, a review). Book clubs are also a strong organizing principle for book talk on Reddit. Some subreddits are specifically designed as book clubs (like r/The Betterment Book Club) and some have a book club component (like r/Urban Fantasy).
Unlike many other popular social media platforms, including the ones with the strongest bookish presences, Reddit skews male. According to Pew, approximately 67% of Redditors are male.
For more demographic insight, the subreddit moderators for r/Fantasy have been running a census of their members for the past few years. You can see census results here. Included are self-reports from Reddit fantasy readers about where they buy books, how much they spend on books annually, plus other genres they read in.
Like any other reading community, the moderators on Reddit want to learn more about their communities so that they can provide content that their community will be most excited for. For r/Fantasy, some of this content takes the form of AMAs (“Ask Me Anything”), Writer of the Day, Group Reads, and Book Bingo. All subreddit moderators are listed on the right-hand side of a subreddit’s homescreen.
NetGalley member and moderator of r/Fantasy, MikeOfThePalace describes the origins of r/Fantasy’s Writer of the Day program. “The self-publishing boom is one of the best things to happen to publishing in decades, and finding those hidden gems is always amazing (plus hipster bragging rights for reading someone before they were cool, of course). [So] we have our Writer of the Day program specifically for the not-yet-famous. The community knows that Writer of the Day is someone they won’t have heard of, and generally approach them with an attitude of looking for something new and supporting aspiring authors.”
MikeOfThePalace told NetGalley Insights that he and his fellow moderators are already being pitched new authors and titles from publicists across sci-fi publishing to increase visibility for their newest books.
While engaging with Redditors is a bit more convoluted than simply asking for a review, Reddit engagement has the capacity to reach new audiences and to filter up to a much broader audience through up-voting. Publishers could consider submitting their authors for an AMA, sending relevant subreddit mods a NetGalley widget or collaborating on unique ways to boost visibility for their titles for an eager audience.
We hope more publishers will keep Reddit on their radar in the future for social media influencer outreach.
For more on industry best practices, subscribe to our weekly newsletter. And, stay tuned for more Reddit coverage. We’ll be talking about the most powerful tool for publishers and authors on Reddit, the AMA.
Each year, Booknet Canada hosts Tech Forum, the largest tech-focused professional development event in the Canadian publishing industry. Like the other conferences and industry events we’ve been attending, panelists were thinking about diversity, inclusion, data, and collaboration. Here are some of our takeaways from Tech Forum 2019’s speakers discussing top-of-mind challenges and trends.
Moving from Diversity to Inclusion
The Canadian publishing industry is no stranger to the conversation around diversity and inclusion in the book world. Tech Forum’s keynote speaker Ritu Bhasin of bhasin consulting inc., addressed this in her presentation, “Disrupting Bias: Overcoming our Discomfort with Differences.”
Diversity, she said, is only one step toward inclusion. Despite best intentions, diversity is a numbers game – counting how many different “kinds” of people are in an institution. Diversity doesn’t ensure that individuals who have been marginalized in the publishing industry and elsewhere are encouraged to be their authentic selves or given the same opportunities as others. For example, diversity means advertising that a certain percentage of a publisher’s list is written by women or POC authors. Inclusion means ensuring that a publisher spends equal resources (or greater resources) to market its diverse list to give those books a better shot in the market.
Bhasin also mentioned that in 15 years Canada’s population is projected to be 35-40% POC and 6% indigenous. So, not only is it an ethical and social imperative to make a more inclusive industry, it is also best business practices.
We also saw questions of inclusion and diversity addressed at London Book Fair. Read our recap here.
Tools for Data-Driven Decisions
Jordyn Martinez, sales representative at Simon & Schuster Canada, explained how to use data to encourage more book sales in her talk, “Finding the Kernel: Data Driven Sales Tactics to Really Sell Your Book.”
She suggested that publishers use Google Trends, which analyzes the top search queries across customizable topics or categories. This useful tool can be used to discover data that can have a major impact on the marketing of your book, especially when it comes to advertising.
Take, for example, regional trends. If you’re hoping to sell your summer beach read, you can use Google Trends to discover which state or province is most likely to be searching for this term. This can help you hone in on how to spend your advertising dollars and get the most bang for your buck. With Google Trends, you can learn that Floridians are much more likely to be searching for beach reads than people living in Alaska, making it a far more sensible decision to start a beach-focused ad campaign in Florida.
Google Trends can also help you pick the optimal publication date for a title, as well. If you’re wondering when you should publish a steamy romance, Google Trends can tell you that the week after Valentine’s Day is the most popular for these types of searches.
Building Bridges Between Publishers and Booksellers
While publishers and booksellers are aligned in goal, we learned during “Building Bridges, Not Walls: Successful Publishing & Retailing Collaborations,” that they do run into issues executing their shared goal of helping books find their audiences.
Laura Ash from Another Story Bookshop told us that as a bookseller, she sometimes has a hard time restocking bestsellers, causing a critical gap between when the book is at its most popular and when they actually have it in stock. If books are out of stock, today’s readers aren’t willing to wait until the bookstore has it again. Instead, they’ll turn to Amazon or a convenient big box store.
Chris Hall of McNally Robinson said that he’s finding it more and more difficult to spot best sellers. But, he noted that for him, a bookseller’s job to generate their own bestsellers. He suggested using engaging displays, interesting newsletters, and targeting the local demographic to set a book up for success. For example, at his own branch in The Forks in Winnipeg, which has a rich history as an early Aboriginal settlement, they’ve worked extra hard to devote shelf space and hand-sell titles by local indigenous authors.
The revelation about how Facebook users’ data was used without their consent inspired Christa Angelios to put together a panel of publishing industry experts who deal in big data to reflect on how we as an industry use the data we are collecting. As publishing is becoming more data-driven, we need to ask ourselves how to balance the increasing pressure to reach out to readers in a crowded marketplace with concerns about privacy and tracking.
Moderator Jim Lichtenberg of Lightspeed LLC, who was writing about Big Data in publishing when it was just a trend on the horizon, asked the panelists questions about their own data strategies and how those strategies are changing with the rise of GDPR, consumer concerns about privacy, and more.
Erika Seyfried, Director of Content Services in Advertising and Promotion for Random House Publishing Group, described how data insights like the ones Miller provided earlier in the program are driving how she allocates marketing effort and dollars. Because backlist titles have been performing well, Seyfried has started to concentrate more on search marketing. If consumers are reading older titles, it’s likely because they are looking for a specific topic and aren’t too picky whether or not it came out in the past few months.
Christina Stanley, Associate Director of Client Training and Development at PRH Publishing Services also talked about search marketing. She advocated for a robust use of keywords, often found in consumer reviews. (We’re big fans of this approach! Check out our intro to metadata for some tips from our colleagues at Firebrand. Firebrand also provides an audience analysis and keyword generation service, Keywords. Read more about it, including case studies!) She advocated for a keyword strategy that is both broad and hyperspecific. By using broad (in her words, boring) keywords as well as specific ones, publishers can access consumers who are both casually browsing and looking for something very specific. And she noted that the way to get these keywords is to look at reader reviews. Readers are telling you what’s important about your books in these reviews. While it might be time-intensive to wade through the non-aggregated reviews, ultimately it will help your title stand out.
Seyfried told us that she is concentrating more of her social media influencer dollars on nano- and micro-influencers, rather than the mega-influencers. Influencers with smaller follower counts, but better engagement, have a higher ROI for her work. While getting your title on a major Instagram account will certainly give it a lot of eyeballs and likely some sales, Seyfried argued that followers of smaller accounts have a more personal relationship with the influencer and are more likely to take their recommendations.
After describing their current strategies based on the best data available to them, Seyfried and Stanley talked about some of the challenges publishing is facing with new data restrictions. Stanley said that while she and her team are acting as though GDPR is a global rule, it’s still a challenge to build a structure to better address security and privacy, rather than ad-hoc solutions as needed.
Seyfried told us that her targeting strategy has changed, not just because of legal rules but because of public perception. Consumers know that they are being targeted, and many are skeptical about how companies are using their information. So, with data privacy front-of-mind for consumers, she is focusing less on website cookies and more on search marketing.
Even with concerns about data usage and privacy, there was still plenty of data shared during the program. Michial Miller, account manager at the NPD Group (formerly Nielsen). He charted trends across the book market from 2018, drawing out themes that publishers should be paying attention to.
One of the most influential trends borne out in different data points is the increasing consolidation at the top of sales lists. This means that smaller numbers of books comprise larger numbers of sales. According to BookScan information, which covers 85% of retail sales, (but does not as of yet take into account audio or self-published titles) hardcover titles have overtaken ebooks in terms of unit sales. Miller noted that this might be due to the buzzy political nonfiction titles that dominated the year. Over the holidays, the top 100 titles saw a 23% increase in sales, while the midlist suffered. The kind of book buyers who are casual books-as-gifts buyers are most likely to buy the books that they’ve been hearing about all year. Surprisingly, backlist titles have been strong. In 2018, 61% of the market went to backlist titles.
Adult nonfiction and children’s titles also saw growth in 2018, with some surprising insights within each of those categories. Miller noted that adult nonfiction growth was due, in large part, to both political titles and to domestic titles about cooking and tidying. The data suggests to him that readers are both trying to keep up with the newest political revelations, and then trying to find some kind of domestic joy in the midst of political whiplash. For children’s titles, 1 in 4 books are branded licensing, meaning that smaller indie children’s books tend to have a harder time standing out.
The Book Industry Guild of New York is a member-operated professional organization composed of individuals from every aspect of the book publishing and book manufacturing industries. It sponsors educational seminars and trips, holds monthly informational programs, and helps raise money to support literacy programs. Check out their upcoming events.
The London Book Fair is one of the largest annual gatherings for the book industry, particularly for agents and publishers looking to trade in international rights. Between March 12 – March 14, attendees who were not sitting in the Rights Hall or dashing to meetings sat in on seminars, strolled the booths, and met colleagues from around the globe who also made the trip to Olympia London.
Where the Book World Comes to Meet
Each year, the London Book Fair focuses on a particular market from around the world. This year the spotlight was on Indonesia. Made up of thousands of islands and religiously diverse, Indonesia was able to showcase their books and culture to a global audience. The Indonesian book market is as diverse as its many thousands of islands, titles are produced in many different languages, and few are translated into English. Theirs is a growing market, with an increasing international presence. Fiction – short stories, in particular – are popular in Indonesia. Indonesian readers read across a broad number of topics, but myths, spirituality and beliefs seem to be at the forefront of Indonesian publishing.
Throughout the Fair, we found that the most prevalent theme was inclusivity. Genres and formats that are growing in the industry are the ones best able to connect with a diverse audience. By making the publishing industry more diverse, it takes steps to become more inclusive.
Diversity refers to the different kinds of people who are involved in an industry, or the different kinds of stories that are told. Inclusion refers to an overall atmosphere that is welcoming to different kinds of people, including those who have been traditionally marginalized within the industry.
One of the biggest aims of the publishing industry over the last few years has been that of creating books with more diverse characters, written by more diverse authors. Whilst the industry is heading towards having greater diversity, there is more that needs to be done. Actor, author, and TV presenter Cerrie Burnell highlighted, during the Diversity: Where’s the Issue panel, that diversity within books, children’s books in particular, needs to be more normalized. She said it should be as “normal as observing it when living and walking around London.” Author and illustrator Rose Robins took a similar stance, suggesting that neurodiverse characters should be included more in literature, rather than treated as plot devices. (That’s one of the reasons we loved The Kiss Quotient – check out our recent case study here!)
To connect with audiences from different backgrounds, the publishing industry needs to become more diverse as a profession, in addition to publishing more books with more diverse characters. Speakers from HarperCollins, SAGE Publishing, and EW Group touched on this in their panel on building a more diverse and inclusive industry. Efforts to make publishing houses more diverse need to start from the recruitment stage to keep the industry vibrant.
At LBF19, we saw that poetry is on the rise.Poetry sales in January 2019 were at an all-time high, growing by 12% according to Nielsen Bookscan. The recent success of poetry has been attributed to its being more inclusive and diverse than other book genres, with more young people than ever buying and engaging with poetry. The success of Rupi Kaur, writing about her experience as a woman and as a daughter of immigrants, as well as Charly Cox, indicates that there is a huge audience eager to see themselves reflected in the books that they read. And with platforms like Instagram, poets have new ways of reaching younger, digitally engaged audiences. More traditional forms have also found a new audience, with Robin Robertson’s The Long Take the first work of poetry to be nominated for the Man Booker Prize. Sales of poetry have been building for the past few years, and it looks like 2019 will continue to see an upsurge of interest in the popularity of poetry.
Unsurprisingly, of all the formats discussed at the London Book Fair audiobooks continues to be on everyone’s radar. According to Nielsen figures the sales of audiobooks have increased by 87% in the UK since 2014. The popularity of audiobooks has been linked to the trend of podcasts and engaging young men in particular with a different format of reading. But audiobooks have seen a rise overall and the boom seems set to continue for 2019 and onwards. (Check out some of our podcast coverage here.)
Nonfiction is also a hot topic, as both adult and children’s nonfiction sales have increased in the last year. For adult nonfiction, a large proportion of the success comes down to feminist titles and inspiring books such as Slay in Your Lane by Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebenene, Bloody Brilliant Women by Cathy Newman and Dolly Alderton’s Everything I Know About Love. As nonfiction has become more diverse in its scope, it has drawn in new audiences.
We were encouraged to see the book industry slowly moving towards being more inclusive, with publishers and authors having great successes on more diverse books. Different formats and genres are reaching new audiences and encouraging a whole new generation of readers.Keep up with the rest of our conference season coverage by subscribing to NetGalley Insights!
Data-driven discovery and trend predictions, plus what success looks like for books in 2019
On Thursday, March 7, NetGalley attended Centennial College’s Future of Media panel in Toronto. This mini conference features a larger discussion about the media landscape, with a specific panel to focus on publishing. With moderator Manu Vishwanath of Harlequin, the Future of Publishing panelists talked about how to incorporate data into decision-making and how to think about gaining the attention of an audience with limited time and budgets in an oversaturated media landscape. Here are some of the takeaways that we’re bringing with us into the future.
Cory Beatty, Senior Director of Marketing and Publicity at HarperCollins Canada
At NetGalley, discovery is one of our favorite words. Connecting readers with new books and new authors is the name of our game, and the panelists were just as passionate about this topic as we are.
While discovering the “next big thing” has always been a publisher’s dream, the reality of this actually happening seems to be getting slimmer every year. Not only are there more publishers who are publishing more books, there are hundreds of thousands of books being self published, and the global marketplace seems to promise that anyone with a talent for writing can make big on their own under the right circumstances. But publishers and authors need to work extra hard to retain a reader’s attention. The panelists discussed the pressing question: How?
Director of BookNet Canada Noah Genner opened up this conversation with data. He noted that leisure spending has not gone up and neither has the rate of leisure reading. This means that readers are struggling to prioritize enormous amounts of content without the time or money to spend on it.
To combat this, Genner told the audience that it’s more important than ever for publishers to have a voice and a brand that stands above the rest. Whether this means developing a niche, like Second Story Press, whose books with strong female leads and themes of social justice sets them apart, or running a smart and snappy Twitter account like Coach House Books, it’s your brand–not necessarily the next blockbuster book–that keeps readers returning for more.
Kristina Radke, VP of Business Growth and Development here at NetGalley, added that in order to make your book succeed, it’s crucial to not just look at a variety of KPI’s and early data, but to actually make time to understand it. There will always be multiple points of data that can be collected pre-publication–like the information on NetGalley’s Title Feedback Activity Page–but without taking the time to understand that data and change your plans based on what you learned, it’s never going to make an impact on the success of your book.
Focusing on the end users, Senior Director of Merchandising at Kobo Nathan Maharaj said that publishers should focus more clearly on appealing to readers who don’t have time to sit down for focused reading, through audio. Audiobooks can help rope in customers that don’t necessarily have the leisure time, but are still interested in the story format and do have the leisure money to spend on books.
The Future of Book Trends
On a panel predicting the future of publishing, it’s only natural that the conversation steered toward predicting future trends. Léonicka Valcius, Assistant Agent at the Transatlantic Agency, said that books are a cultural artifact that reflects society as a whole, and by reflecting on the events of today we can predict what trends will pop up in the next few years.
Take, for example, the dystopias of yesterday which became popular as the world experienced great political and economic upheaval. Now, we’re seeing a surge of “up-lit”, which emphasizes kindness, empathy, and happy endings. As consumers, we’re now looking for books that show us the light at the end of a long, dark tunnel.
Valcius also praised the data when trying to hone in on the trends of tomorrow. With all of the data that’s available to us digitally, finding what works is the challenge–but also the opportunity. While we may have a book that will only sell 200 copies throughout its lifecycle, with that data we can now predict what type of reader will buy those 200 copies and market accordingly.
The Future of Success
It is, of course, every publisher’s and author’s goal to see their books succeed. However, as Noah Genner was quick to point out, there are different kinds of success, and it’s important for anyone in the publishing industry to evaluate their standard for what success means.
Senior Director of Marketing and Publicity at HarperCollins Canada Cory Beatty said that he regularly needs to set expectations with the authors he works with. Sometimes authors may be frustrated that their books aren’t immediately being buzzed about in major newspapers, and yet the marketing team for said book has been celebrating for weeks at the successes it has seen, whether hitting modest sales goals or generating consumer interest on Goodreads.
Kristina Radke returned to the data conversation, piggy-backing on the ideas about anticipating trends. Modern capabilities are making it easier for new players to join the game. For instance, Wattpad Books is launching a new imprint that will use machine learning to help predict the next hit story and further develop content from their site.
Putting your titles in the hands of librarians is an important part of any book’s success story. Librarians build collections for their library branch, pick titles for their own reading groups, and were the original comp-title recommendation engines before the age of algorithms. Librarians are book advocates in their community and beyond!
In our Ask A Librarian series, we ask librarians on NetGalley about what makes their community special, what they read, and how they stay up to date with the best new titles for their patrons.
Ottawa Public Librarian Charmaine Atrooshi describes her community of patrons who visit North America’s largest English/French bilingual library and use its Homebound Services program. She also gives us an inside look at how she uses NetGalley, and which resources she uses to keep up with new titles that she can recommend to her patrons.
What resources do you use to find new books to recommend, or to add to your library’s collection?
I use NetGalley and BNC Catalist to find new books to recommend to customers, as well as the Loan Stars lists! I love that library staff all over Canada can vote for their favorite upcoming titles, and that these lists are released monthly! I also like to browse our catalogue (BiblioCommons) for items on order, and I try to browse some of the staff lists within for ideas.
In addition, NoveList and Books & Authors [formerly What Do I Read Next?] are great databases to use when looking for read-alikes, reviews, and recommendations.
*BNC Catalist is a NetGalley Partner. If a book is in both systems, the NetGalley link automatically appears in Catalist.
What’s your strategy for finding new books on NetGalley?
I have some favorite publishers and auto approvals so that is often a first place I check when quickly searching for new books. Depending on what mood I am in, or what area of readers’ advisory I am looking to strengthen, I will search by categories for a specific genre and browse the options available.
What catches your eye when you are on the hunt for new books?
The cover and title are certainly something that draw my initial interest. I admit, I am guilty of judging a book by its cover! If looks good I will read the description to see if it is something that would appeal to me or to library customers. The cover of The Smiling Man by Joseph Knox was one that really appealed to me, as well as The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides. I read and really enjoyed both of those and can see why both have such strong appeal!
Even if I don’t end up requesting a title, reading blurbs and looking at covers helps to keep me abreast of trends in publishing, read-alikes, and new releases, which is always helpful!
Tell us about your library’s community, and the patrons who use your services:
My permanent position is in the Homebound Services department of the Ottawa Public Library. We select and deliver library materials to customers who have difficulty accessing a library branch on a regular basis. Our customer base consists primarily of older adults, and customers with disabilities.
Currently, I am working temporarily as the adult librarian at the Nepean Centrepointe (NC) branch. NC is the second largest branch of the Ottawa Public Library, and it is located in the Ben Franklin Complex, which is also home to Centrepointe Theatre, and a City of Ottawa Client Service Centre. It is also just down the street from Algonquin College.
On average, NC sees between 900 and 1,300 customers a day; a mixture of children, teens, adults, and older adults. Nepean Centrepointe offers a large range of programs from book clubs, to storytimes to Dungeons and Dragons evenings! It also houses materials in Arabic, Russian, Chinese, Hindi – in addition to –English and French, which is reflective of the languages of the community (world language collections are based upon census data).
What resources or programs make your library unique?
Homebound Services is unique in the sense that it literally brings the library into your home and provides a team of staff who are well-versed in readers’ advisory and spend the majority of their time in the realm of readers’ advisory and materials selection. One more unique fact is that we talk with the majority of our customers via telephone!
Nepean Centrepointe houses OPL’s Imagine Space where customers can come to create and collaborate using 3D printers, laser cutters, photo/video editing stations, green screens/video gear, as well as various hand and electronic tools. NC also houses the Sunlife Financial Musical Lending Library, along with our main branch. Customers can borrow instruments such as keyboards, guitars, banjos, mandolins, bongos, ukuleles, violins etc.
Fun fact about the Ottawa Public Library– it is the largest bilingual (English/French) library in North America!
Based on what they’re checking out, what kinds of books are your readers most interested in?
Popular areas of interest for Homebound customers are family sagas and mysteries, as well as biographies of ‘the average person’. We get many requests for Danielle Steel, James Patterson, Kristin Hannah, P.D. James and Anne Perry to name a few.
At the NC branch, nonfiction materials circulate the most (more than double general fiction and mysteries put together!). Staff have really great displays in the nonfiction section which make it hard to walk by without grabbing one (or two). Currently, my favorite displays are “Vintage Hollywood,” “Dropping Names,” “faerie tales are Grimm” and the new cookbook display that offers a quick pick option.
What percentage of your patrons check out digital books versus print?
In terms of Homebound customers, the majority are print material users. There is an increase, however, in questions about downloadable materials, with tablet devices such as iPads becoming more popular and customers starting to explore the possibilities within these devices. We have had an increase in requests for assistance in setting up their devices in order to borrow library e-materials.
The Ottawa Public Library offers various online resources for customer use such as Overdrive (e-books and audiobooks), CloudLibrary (express e-books) and RB Digital (magazines and audiobooks). We also offers appointments for customers looking for assistance with downloading library materials.
Based upon a snapshot from this past June at Nepean Centrepointe, approximately 20% of NC customers borrowed digital materials, 70% borrowed print, and 10% borrowed both.
Podcasts are an important part of the cultural criticism and influencer ecosystem for books, and beyond. And because audio is such an intimate medium, with hosts speaking directly into the ears of their audience, podcasts develop particularly dedicated fan bases and engaged communities. In Ask a Podcaster, we hear directly from different book-related podcast hosts to help you learn more about their community, what they are interested in featuring on their podcasts, and how they find their next book picks.
Books & Boba is a book club and podcast dedicated to spotlighting books written by authors of Asian descent. Every month, hosts Marvin Yueh and Reera Yoo pick a book by an Asian or Asian American author to read and discuss on the podcast. In addition to book discussions, they also interview authors and cover publishing news, including book deals and new releases.
What should book publishers know about your audience?
Marvin: They are a diverse group of readers, and not necessarily all Asian-American. Our listeners range from Asians from across the diaspora (including the UK, Oceana, and expats) and non-Asian readers who are interested in different perspectives in the books they read. Those that follow us are generally interested in our focus on Asian authors, representation in media, and own-voices narratives.
How do you pick books and authors to feature on your podcast?
Reera: We have a Goodreads list of books that our audience recommend us. We try our best to alternate genres and feature different representatives of the Asian diaspora experience.
Marvin: We make it pretty clear in our podcast opening that we focus on books written by Asian and Asian diaspora writers. We have been more flexible in terms of the genres we cover and have read both fiction and non-fiction novels, and everything from contemporary thrillers to regent-era historical fantasy.
What do you love best about your audience?
Reera: I love their passion and enthusiasm for Asian and Asian American literature. Many of our listeners are avid readers who have felt frustrated by the lack of diverse representation in publishing. Some are from countries where it is particularly difficult to find books by authors of color. So, it’s always wonderful to see their excitement in learning about upcoming and undiscovered books by Asian and Asian American authors.
Marvin: It’s always great to see new listeners who discover new books through our podcast, but I’m especially excited when our members engage with us on our Goodreads forums. Part of what we want to build at Books & Boba is a community of readers who are excited about the breadth of narratives coming from Asian authors.
What do you think is unique about podcasting as a medium for book lovers and for cultural commentary?
Reera: Reading is often a solitary activity. When you finish a book and feel your outlook on the world shift, it can be disappointing when you don’t have anyone to share your experience with. I think literature podcasts make the reading experience more intimate and less lonely. It’s like being in a book club with your friends, only you don’t have to go through the hassle of scheduling.
Marvin: I think podcasts in general are a great medium because listening can be a passive activity, so our listeners can listen to us discuss books while driving or working on something else, so you can be productive and learn stuff. Podcasts maximize efficiency!
If you use NetGalley, what strategies do you use to find books to request?
Reera: We often look through our list of forthcoming books by authors of Asian descent and search on NetGalley if they are available. We also consult [NetGalley newsletters] to see if there are any new books we might be interested in reading for our book club.
What trends in the book industry are you most excited by?
Reera: We’re very excited by the surge of sci-fi and fantasy novels by marginalized authors. It’s fascinating to see how these authors are injecting their heritage and changing how we see race, gender, and sexuality in sci-fi and fantasy.
Marvin: Like Reera, I’m excited in the emergence of speculative fiction from Asian and other authors from traditionally marginalized communities. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy the classics and family dramas about intergenerational issues and immigrant struggles, but seeing fantasy inspired by the Three Kingdoms era and science fiction that uses Eastern concepts as more than just window dressing will always bring a tear to my eye.
Marvin: In addition to producing several podcasts (including Books & Boba), I also listen to a lot of (too many really) podcasts! Speaking of book clubs, I follow the granddaddy of book club podcasts Sword & Laser, I also listen to pop culture discussion podcasts like Pop Rocket and Pop Culture Happy Hour, comedy podcasts like Hello from the Magic Tavern, and anything from the McElroy family, and of course our fellow podcasts from the Potluck Podcast Collective!