How Sourcebooks used data from NetGalley & BookishFirst campaigns to land this debut novel on “Best of 2018” lists
When Sourcebooks brought Stuart Turton’s The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle to the U.S., they knew they would have to make a splash with early readers to get this debut novel the attention it deserved.
On NetGalley Insights, we highlight the successes of our publishers and share some of their strategies with you in case studies. Today, we’re bringing you an inside peek at how one of the most data-centric publishers uses early metrics to turn their books into successes, first on NetGalley and then in the market. By using data to activate an advanced-reading audience, Sourcebooks turned 7 ½ Deaths into one of the most successful titles on NetGalley in all of 2018 in addition to landingit on multiple year-end lists. It’s due out in paperback on May 7.
Valerie Pierce, Marketing Director at Sourcebooks, shares her strategies below:
The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is a debut novel. How did that factor into your overall marketing strategy?
Because The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle was a debut, we knew that we needed to launch this title in a very visible way, and we needed to do it very early on. The book came out in September , and as many of us know, that is a very busy month with lots of book releases! Our plan hinged around breaking through the noise by building excitement amongst the industry (media, booksellers, librarians, and bloggers) as well as creating direct-to-consumer engagement. We were able to use strategic trade and consumer advertising campaigns that drove people to sign up for the galley (digital and/or print), and this really helped us create a database of people who were interested in the book. We were able to then go back and retarget those people.
We were very fortunate with this debut because we had an intriguing title, an incredibly unique premise, and an amazing cover. We were conscious of using all of those elements in every piece of marketing. When you ask any reader if they’re interested in an Agatha Christie mystery, with a Groundhog Day loop and a dash of Quantum Leap, you get the reader’s attention 99.9% of the time!
The most important element of a marketing campaign is ensuring that your messaging is on pointe. We did start with great messaging, but we also tested a variety of other options, and then constantly looked back to see what performed at the highest level. Honing in on what worked and dropping what didn’t work was key to helping us create success for The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle.
Which metrics were most important to you and your team, and why?
We have a few key lists that we look at to determine how the pre-publication promotions for a book are performing:
- Number of leads we capture from advertising campaigns
- Number of clicks our ads receive
- Number of NetGalley requests
- Number of NetGalley cover votes
- Number of Goodreads to-reads
- Number of Edelweiss downloads
- Number of reviews
- Indies: Indie Next nominations
- Libraries: LibraryReads nominations
Advertising early on is really important because it shows us how much interest the publishing industry and consumers have. We set a goal for the total number of clicks and number of leads we hope to get from each ad. Once the ad has deployed, and we have our results, we compare them to:
- Our goals for the book
- Past performance of our in-house comp titles
- The average CTRs the advertiser generally receives for specific ad spots
If the number is low, we know we have to stop what we’re doing and completely re-strategize. If the number is average, then we look at ways that we can improve them. And if the number is higher than we anticipate, then it not only means that we’ve got a winning strategy – it also means that this might be a title to pour additional resources into. This could include going back to the sales team and asking them to go back out to their accounts, reallocating budget money so that we can fund more advertising, and going back out to media.
How did you use NetGalley reporting during and after the campaign for 7 ½ Deaths? How did you engage with members who requested access?
We love using NetGalley reporting as an early indicator for the success of titles! First off, when you see a really high number of NetGalley requests, you know that you’ve captured the readers’ attention, which is always the first hurdle. The second metric you look at is the number of downloads vs. the number of reviews, Once people downloaded the book, did they actually go and read it? Did they feel compelled to leave a review? And how much time elapsed between the initial download and the review?
The next thing we do is we look at the language that people use in their reviews. If there are terms that are being used by multiple reviewers, then we look at incorporating that into our marketing messaging.
We absolutely engage with members who requested access. For booksellers and librarians, if we’ve noticed that they have downloaded the galley but not reviewed it, we’ll send them a quick email with all of the great blurbs/reviews we already have and ask them if they’ve had a chance to read the book yet.
For consumers who submitted positive reviews, we’ll ask them to post their reviews anywhere and everywhere they can around pub day.
Which segments of the NetGalley community have been most important to you and why? How do you go about reaching them?
Honestly, I think each segment is important, but each book and each campaign is just a little bit different. Depending on the campaign you’re running, the segment that will have the most impact might change. For The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, booksellers and librarians were a huge part of the initial push. We always include NetGalley links in all of our B2B newsletters. It’s absolutely vital that we give bookseller and librarians an opportunity to click over and download a galley right away.
We put this eGalley up extremely early so that we could reach them first, and use their amazing reviews to go back out to media and consumers.
How did your NetGalley marketing strategy differ from other marketing or advertising efforts you put forward?
The biggest difference is the way that NetGalley is structured. They have a list of dedicated readers, and they have an online platform that allows those readers to easily download a digital galley and then review it. A lot of our other marketing and advertising efforts involve driving readers to a landing page that we’ve created, or a page that the advertiser created.
NetGalley is also great because you can see an immediate result once you’ve sent out any advertising through them. Either you significantly increased your number of downloads, or you didn’t!
You ran a raffle on BookishFirst for The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. What insights did you learn from or about the consumers who participated in that raffle?
I did learn that there were definitely some librarians on that list, which is great! I had a couple of librarians approach me at a trade show and tell me that they’d tried to get a copy of 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle through the raffle, and that they were disappointed when they didn’t win. It’s great to see how excited readers are to win a book through this offering.
Overall, I think the raffle is really brilliant. Since readers have to read an excerpt of the book before they request to enter the raffle, you know that you’re reaching the right reader for your book. The raffle is also especially helpful because BookishFirst really makes sure that the people who receive the books go and send in a review, which we love.
The reporting we received from BookishFirst was very helpful. It was great to know that more than half of the people who participated bought more than 20 print books per year, which tells you that BookishFirst has tapped into avid readers. And most avid readers are mini-influencers; they tend to be the people who tell their friends what books to read next, For this book in particular, a lot of readers had a very strong interest in YA, which is not something we would have thought about on our end. It’s always fantastic to learn information that can help you target a new audience.
Interviews have been edited for clarity and length.
Read the rest of our case studies here for more successful strategies.
Bio: Valerie Pierce is the marketing director, retail marketing and creative services, at Sourcebooks, an independent publishing company. For the past 8 years she has helped lead the Sourcebooks marketing team, doubled the size of the retail marketing staff, worked directly with Indie booksellers, initialized email marketing campaigns, helped relaunch imprints, created trade show strategies, and managed title plans across all imprints. She has worked on bestsellers and Indie Next Picks such as The Readers of Broken Wheel, The Paris Architect, The Only Woman in the Room, and The Radium Girls. When she is not promoting books, Valerie can most likely be found reading them.