Title performance monitoring to ensure ongoing success in the marketplace
On May 15, Firebrand Technologies announced the launch of Eloquence on Alert. This new service helps publishers confidently and proactively ensure their catalog’s ongoing success through deep data about any changes to their title information across multiple retail sites.
NetGalley and Firebrand Technologies* are dedicated to helping publishers harness data that can be used to help shape decision-making, innovate proactively, and streamline workflows.
Using proprietary data gathering services, EoA helps publishers keep track of critical factors, such as fluctuating sale price, missing product pages, third-party seller activity, mysterious buy button takeovers, and more.
These data points are available to publishers in a dedicated interface, with customizable alerts, as well as search and classification tools to help publishers address problems and leverage opportunities earlier and more efficiently than ever before.
Eloquence on Alert beta testers Dan Fingerman and Anna Patota (Guilford Press) noted, “You work hard to get all the data right, then days, months, or even years later, there’s a wrench in the works. And it could be on a bestseller! Handling this work manually is impossible, but with the right alerts, EoA can point out problems so you can fix them, and quickly.”
With Eloquence on Alert, publishers can
Set an alert to warn them when a third party seller takes over the buy box.
Watch for spikes in their sales rank so their marketing team can ride the wave.
Respond quickly to products with low customer ratings.
Determine if recent List Price changes have been posted on key sites
“Eloquence on Alert helps publishers identify issues and trends that would be very difficult to discern otherwise, saving them time and money and allowing for the reallocation of resources to new or different projects,” said Catherine Toolan, Firebrand’s Director of Eloquence Services.
Melissa Wade, Digital Sales Manager of Our Daily Bread Ministries, has also been using Eloquence on Alert in beta. “With hundreds of products (both print and digital), it is impossible to keep track of every piece of metadata for each product. EOA allows me to set alerts to monitor when a piece of that metadata changes so I can know if I need to update that distributor’s metadata. It allows me to know if one of our titles is not included on a particular marketplace. I can learn when I lose the Buy Box on a marketplace. It is an invaluable resource for me to use when we have hundreds of product to oversee in the digital world.”
Eloquence on Alert and NetGalley Advanced are just two of the deliberate steps that Firebrand and NetGalley are taking toward our goal to help publishers harness their data for powerful and actionable insights.
By: Kristina Radke, VP Business Growth & Engagement
“Innovation” was the theme during last month’s Book Industry Study Group (BISG) Annual Meeting, an inspiring day of conversation where panelists discussed everything from metadata to sales, to rights, and fostering innovation as a company culture. It was validating to hear about all the ways publishers, distributors, agents and suppliers approach technology and data—especially in simplifying workflows and driving decision-making.
At NetGalley, it has been our mission to be innovative in the way we help publishers collect early data about their titles. NetGalley Advanced is our latest step in that mission. I’m proud that this premier service is at the cutting edge of what publishers seek. Let me share a few examples:
“Transparency focuses attention”
During the “Innovations in Workflow” panel, moderator Carolyn Pittis (Managing Director at Welman Digital) remarked, “transparency focuses attention.” She was referring to how on-site dashboards keep actionable data top-of-mind by combining historical trends and real-time information. NetGalley Advanced offers publishers a new data-driven dashboard, including a number of charts designed to increase transparency so publicists and marketers can focus their attention on strategies that are successful.
Transparency of activity and use:
Activity by Member Type chart – understand which members you engage with the most
Top Performers list– see your top-performing titles based on various metrics and within specific categories
Your Promotions – identify your NetGalley promotions and see resulting activity
Title Activity chart – correlate engagement generated from promotions and understand trends in activity
Custom Title Summary Report – gain knowledge from detailed information about a specific set of titles that you choose
Types of Access charts (total and over time) – pinpoint successful strategies
New Titles Added chart – discern seasonal fluctuations and recognize when new content should be added
Company Admin Dashboard – assess NetGalley use across various imprints
NetGalley Advanced offers publishers even more data as early and efficiently as possible, to help you shape strategic decision-making.
Michelle Vu (Director of Business Operations at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) reminded the BISG audience that automation is designed to reduce painful manual efforts and create space for us to do more meaningful work. She is experimenting with ways to automate data collection to free up her colleagues for more strategic work, overcoming trepidation about automation.
With NetGalley Advanced, we’ve introduced automated delivery of title-activity data, in addition to new ways to cut down on the effort needed to execute strategies. Our goal is to help you use these tools and data to refine your strategies so they’re as effective as possible.
Title Timeline – pre-schedule title availability, including multiple phases to encompass your title’s lifecycle on NetGalley
Read Now limits – implement a cap on the number of downloads, or limit access by time
Marketing promotions – added to your Timeline by NetGalley’s marketing team, with pre-scheduled relevant availability
Automatic delivery of title reports – receive important reports to your inbox at the right time, to the right people
“Innovation means trend-setting between business and technology”
In the panel “The Innovative Workforce,”Maja Thomas (Chief Innovation Officer at Hachette Livre) said, “Innovation means trend-setting between business and technology.” Initiating a trend is no easy task; however, armed with data, and with a willingness to be experimental and agile with your strategies, you will discover that the technology and information that you use can drive your business. NetGalley Advanced helps marketers and publicists draw a line between the work that they do and the results they see.
How else we can facilitate innovation for YOU? Please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
LEARN MORE! NetGalley Advanced is designed to help you innovate—to give you the tools to be data-driven and create effective strategies backed up by real results. Come learn more about this premier service, see these features in action, and let us know how you’d like NetGalley to continue evolving to meet your needs.
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.”
Andrews McMeel Publishing is a major player in poetry’s resurgence with a new generation of readers. Their list includes bestselling poets like Rupi Kaur and amanda lovelace (whose most recent title, the mermaid’s voice returns in this one has over 400 reviews on NetGalley). With a focus on young, digitally-engaged poets from all over the world drawing upon their diverse backgrounds and experiences, they connect with audiences who may never have seen themselves reflected in poetry before.
In honor of National Poetry Month, we sat down with Kirsty Melville, President & Publisher of Andrews McMeel. In this interview, she tells us what she thinks is behind poetry’s current boom, where she’s looking for new voices, and what trends she sees on the horizon. She describes how the publishing industry is becoming more responsive to what readers are looking for, and how booksellers can use poetry to engage with new customers.
What do you think accounts for some of the popularity behind popular poetry from a diverse group of poets, especially among millennials?
The impact of technology, really. The ease of being able to connect and communicate online has opened up sharing. The ability for people to share their work online, and to share their books. And then for the books to be available at retail so that [readers are] having an experience online and then able to buy a physical book. Poetry lends itself to the experience of reading in short form online. You have that short, shareable mechanism that something like an Instagram distribution platform provides. It also provides building awareness. People want to read poetry privately and it’s a form of reflection, so you see them purchase the same poetry in a book so they can experience the same work.
One of the things that I’ve found most exciting about the poets that we publish is that it’s a global phenomenon. Lang Leav was this poet we published. She was born in a Thai refugee camp — she’s Cambodian originally, raised in Australia. She started posting her work on Tumblr. I saw that she had this fan base in Asia; young women in Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines were reading her work. I saw this community of young women who were totally involved and interested in what Lang had to say.
Young women see themselves reflected in [these] poets. So, you have someone like Rupi who is Punjabi-Canadian and she’s a brown woman. So suddenly brown women are seeing themselves reflected in the work of poets and spoken word artists. And then you have someone like K.Y. Robinson who’s from Houston and who’s African-American. She’s writing work and young women are seeing themselves reflected in her work. Or you have Upile Chisala who’s from Malawi; she’s speaking to African women. I think what’s happening is that the internet is facilitating young people seeing themselves reflected in the writers of today and responding to that.
People can finally have poets who are not dead white men writing about things that are relevant to them. Poetry has always been the form of talking about the meaning of life and expressing emotions around life and loss and trauma and understanding the world. All that’s happened is that the Internet’s facilitated that sharing.
Where are some of the places that you and your team are looking to keep up with emerging voices, emerging trends, or communities that you hadn’t known about before?
I think because I’m Australian, I’ve always had a global outlook. Last year I went to the Sharjah International Book Fair in the United Arab Emirates. One of our authors, Najwa Zebian, who is Lebanese, was on the panel there. I was fascinated to see the Arab world responding to poetry. Rupi had been there 2 or 3 years ago and had a similar response.
I was in Sydney in Australia and we are publishing a young aboriginal boy who is 13 years old who won the Australian Poetry Slam a year ago called Solli Raphael. And he writes about some of the issues that he, as an aboriginal and indigenous young man growing up in Australia [deals with]. Environmentalism, for example.
I think a lot of young people see the world as a place they communicate, so I’m looking everywhere. And I’m looking in communities who haven’t had their worlds expressed. amanda lovelace, the author of the princess saves herself in this one, she has a strong feminist orientation and LGBTQ fan base.
What’s your strategy for moving poetry away from its reputation of being intentionally oblique or rarified, broadening the perception of poetry as something that is for a lot of different kinds of people?
This resurgence in poetry is providing an awareness of the power of poetry in people’s lives. I actually think that we as a culture are committed to poetry as a genre. At Foyles in London you can see Rupi Kaur next to John Keats in the poetry section. It’s bringing more people to poetry, bringing them more to discovery. Once you’ve read one type of poetry it can lead you to another.
Rupi recently wrote an introduction to a Kahil Gibran edition of The Prophetthat Penguin Random House is publishing. [Young people are] interested in the genre and people want to write poetry. So there’s this great canon. [But] there’s room for everyone.
What trends do you see emerging in poetry for the rest of 2019 and beyond?
I think a lot of the themes that we’ve seen around feminism and self care and personal expression and identity and immigration.
We’re publishing a book next year with Ahmed Badr who was a refugee who started a platform called Narratio, which is about helping refugees write poetry about their experiences. He’s worked with the United Nations and so he’s been working with refugees to help them express their experiences through poetry. He was an Iraqi refugee who wrote a poem about the experience of having a bomb dropped on his house. He read it at the United Nations. He’s a student at Wesleyan, actually. He had launched this website in part because he wanted to be able to help others write about [the refugee] experience.
Greenpeace has enlisted Solli Raphael to be a spokesperson for their latest video. It’s pretty amazing how young people are embracing spoken word poetry as a means of communicating.
Anything else you’d like more people to know about poetry publishing?
One of the things that I have always been passionate about advocating for is booksellers to bring poetry out front. Young people are going into bookstores and buying poetry. So, poetry in the front. Put it on the cash rack. Have a display! It’s National Poetry Month now, so there probably is. But make poetry relevant again. Bring it back. I think it’s a way of bringing more young people into the stores.
It sounds like what you’re saying is that it’s less about booksellers making poetry relevant, but booksellers realizing that poetry is relevant and that it is what the next generation wants.
Yes, exactly. Poetry has always been there but for some reason gets a bad rap. But if all booksellers could treat poetry the way they treat fiction bestsellers… Put the poetry up front and see what happens! They might sell more than they realize. I think a lot of people are looking to break away from their digital lives and poetry is a form of self-care. I think that the things a lot of people are looking for are for nurturing and reflection and time for themselves. And reading a book of poetry is the way to do that. To be more human again.
Bio: Founding publisher of Simon & Schuster Australia, Kirsty moved to the U.S. in 1994 as Vice President and Publisher for Ten Speed Press and led in its transformation from a niche publisher into an internationally recognized, award-winning company. She subsequently departed Ten Speed to work as Publisher for San Francisco’s University Games, was appointed Publisher and Executive Vice President of Andrews McMeel Publishing in 2005, ultimately being named President and Publisher in 2009.
Known for best-selling humor, poetry, inspiration, entertainment and children’s books, Andrews McMeel is home to an extraordinary and vibrant selection of writers, artists, poets and comic storytellers. A global, independent, and integrated media partner, Andrew McMeel distributes creator content through global syndication; book, calendar and greeting card publishing; digital consumer experiences; and entertainment licensing. Under her leadership, Andrews McMeel has published many #1 New York Times bestsellers including Milk and Honey and The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur, with more than 7 million copies sold, How to Tell if Your Cat is Plotting to Kill You by Matthew Inman, more than 1 million copies sold, the Big Nate children’s series by Lincoln Peirce, over 5 million copies sold, and Posh puzzle and coloring book program with more than 10 million copies sold. Since 2013 she has been at the forefront of changing the way poetry is perceived and marketed, helping grow and expand the poetry category for readers worldwide.
How Authors, Publishers and Agents are Developing New Revenue Streams
To help their authors make a splash and to stay financially viable, publishers are on the hunt for additional revenue streams. They’re launching ad-supported podcasts with authors as experts, teaching online courses, partnering with brands, and more. And last week in Penguin Random House’s Maya Angelou Auditorium, Women’s Media Group gathered several heavy hitters who have track records helping authors in this arena. The panelists discussed developing content that audiences want while maintaining an authentic feeling of connection. Here’s a taste of what they covered:
Pay attention to your audience at all stages
Christy Fletcher, founder of Fletcher & Company, described her approach to creating new revenue streams for her author clients as creating a “noisy, robust launch while listening closely to the audience.” This means paying attention to what platforms they are using, what questions they are asking, and what other media they are consuming. Then, she is better able to amplify the work her authors are already doing and give that audience new material that they will enjoy.
Kathy Doyle, VP of Podcasts at Macmillan rigorously researches before committing seriously to a new venture. Before she started working with Ellen Hendricksen on what would become The Savvy Psychologist, Doyle and her team had already conducted a study to determine that psychology was of interest to their pre-existing audience. With that audience insight in place, she was able to confidently launch a new project with the assurance that there was an audience waiting for that content.
But the research doesn’t stop there. Doyle advised the audience to keep track of podcast appearances or online tutorials in a marketing and publicity calendar so that when publishers see a spike of interest, they can better trace it back to specific timing and strategy and replicate it in future efforts.
During the Q&A, audience member Leah Siepel, founder of Leah Siepel Courses asked the panel about scaling intimacy with larger online courses. She told the audience that in her own work building online courses for clients, courses with higher degrees of contact between the educator and the audience led to higher course completion rates. She wanted to know how to build bigger audiences without sacrificing the personal attention that leads to greater end-user satisfaction. The panelists all agreed that this is a challenge when growing audiences, and that successful online courses must be more engaging than a video of someone talking for 30 minutes.
Christy Fletcher described how she and Gretchen Rubin tackled this issue for The Happiness Project Experience, an immensely popular year-long course with a waiting list. They created smaller groups of participants within the wider course, using a cohort-based model with monthly modules and live call-ins to help members feel more connected to each other and to Rubin. Moderator Stephanie Bowen suggested filming lessons in front of a live audience to help viewers feel more like a part of an active learning community. Bowes suggested working with a company like Creative Live. Joan O’Neil, Vice President at Skillsoft Books, incorporates visuals to give online courses more of a Ted Talk feel. With options like live call-ins, production companies creating live lessons, and more, it’s possible to create truly dynamic and engaging online courses that resonate with viewers.
Podcast revenue model changes
Kathy Doyle described the changes that are happening in podcast advertising. Currently, most podcasts use live-read ads where hosts read ad copy for a product. This method capitalizes on the intimacy that podcast listeners feel when they hear a host speaking directly into their ears. Ads read by hosts feel like recommendations from a friend. However, as Doyle noted, the process of matching podcasts to products to create natural-sounding ads is both highly manual and highly time-consuming. Plus, podcast listeners are quick to recognize when an ad doesn’t sound natural or doesn’t fit with the host’s brand. Podcasts are beginning to go the way of digital advertising more broadly, which is to say programmatic. Increasingly, brands will be able to buy podcast audiences rather than listeners to a specific show. Programmatic advertising is show-agnostic, meaning that it will be able to, for example, target young urban parents who are likely to purchase a meal kit subscription rather than all listeners of The Racist Sandwich.
With any effort to build in new revenue streams or platforms for authors, the key is to listen to what their audience wants and to provide an engaging and authentic experience.
Moderator: Stephanie Bowen, Senior Manager, Publishing Development & Author Platforms, Penguin Random House
Women’s Media Group, founded in 1973, is a New York-based nonprofit association of women who have achieved prominence in many fields of media. Their 250-plus members, drawn from book, magazine, and newspaper publishing; film, television, online and other digital media, meet, collaborate, inform and support one another as well as mentor young women interested in publishing careers. They seek to advance the position of all women through the power of communication and media. Find out about their upcoming events here.
NetGalley Insights chats with writer and publishing professional Preeti Chhibber on her career path, her mentors, and the other people making publishing a more inclusive industry.
There’s a lot of talk in the publishing industry about efforts to address diversity and inclusivity. We’ve listened to panels all year long from Tech Forum to London Book Fair. Preeti Chhibber is one of the people doing the work to make it happen.
Frankly, she does it all! She points out where the publishing industry is falling short in terms of representation, both at a systemic level and in the titles that are being published. She produces content to make the industry more diverse, like her contribution toA Thousand Beginnings and Endingsand her podcast Strong Female Characters. And with her Marginalized Authors & Illustrators database, she is giving publishers no excuse for a lack of diverse hires.
She spoke with NetGalley Insights recently about how her career path evolved, her mentors and collaborators, and the other players who are making publishing a more inclusive and dynamic industry.
Tell us about your career trajectory: What was your path from children’s publishing to being a professional cultural critic and enthusiast, a podcaster, and all-around advocate for a more inclusive pop culture?
It wasn’t so much a path as it was something that happened side by side. My work in children’s publishing inspired my advocacy because I was noticing a trend of our kid lit to be very monochromatic. It was rare to see books by and about people of color. Then I started realizing that we work in an industry where we can affect what is and isn’t published, and if I was going to be vocal about books, why not look at the rest of the media landscape as well? I had a vested interest, after all. In terms of the criticism and podcasting, I’ve always written about pop culture on my own time – I grew up on the internet and in the era of blogging and WordPress, so when I realized I could get paid to do this, I had a portfolio ready to go when I started pitching.
What brought you to book publishing and what were your early days in the publishing industry like? What piqued your interest? What challenges did you face?
Book publishing sort of happened by accident. I don’t mean that in a “I fell into this job” kind of way but rather “I can’t believe this is a real job.” I was, as so many young South Asian American students are, pre-med when I was in undergrad. And I was struggling because I am terrible at math and science. I’ve always been more of a reader. My brother was in New York at the time, and he met a woman who worked at Tor and he facilitated a phone call between us where she told me about her work, and I was flabbergasted. This isn’t an industry discussed in the Indian community at all. We get doctors, lawyers, engineers. Publishing? What is that. But as soon as I realized that I could be a part of something that got books into readers’ hands… that’s all I wanted.
Early days were interesting. I got my start in kid lit at Scholastic in 2008, and it was just when the industry was starting to think about how we were being impacted by the Internet. I saw the rise and fall of several e-readers and e-reading apps in the span of four or five years. It was so frustrating to watch as an entry level position without the power to say anything!
It’s always a challenge in publishing to disrupt the status quo. The industry is so old and so slow to change, but it needs to change. When I started, it was so difficult to get noticed without knowing someone (I only got my job by meeting someone at NYU who put my resume in for her position when she left). Publishing is not an equitable industry, and it’s something that needs to be addressed. The pay is low, the work is intense, and you have to come from some kind of privilege to be able to afford to work. I heard an HR rep on a panel once brag about an entry level assistant who had to work an extra job in addition to her work at the publishing house in order to afford to live in the city. I’m… still mad about it.
Who were mentors and colleagues who inspired and encouraged you along the way? How did they help you find your path?
In 2015 I started working for a woman named Ann Marie Wong, who was the boss that I think people dream about. She was so supportive and encouraged new ideas – together, we started the We Need Diverse Books (WNDB) partnership with Scholastic Book Clubs as well as a Young Adult initiative. I also want to shout out Sona Charaipotra, who co-founded Cake Literary, a book packager for commercial, diverse children’s literature. She, as a fellow desi woman in publishing, has always been available for conversations about new jobs, or negotiating, or in my case, quitting the industry to write full time for a year. It can be difficult to navigate the business side of some of these old companies, and having women of color around who have done the Thing and can use their experience to help guide you is invaluable.
What has it been like to go from working on behalf of other people’s books to being a writer yourself? Was this always the goal or was it something that developed along the way?
Writing is definitely a goal that developed along the way. It was just so far out of my understanding as something that I could do. Growing up, I had Arundhati Roy or Jhumpa Lahiri as examples of Indian women who were writing for a living. And… I am not either of those women, who are literary bastions of excellence. Early on in my career, an executive said that it was so important to understand the line between Writer and Publisher, and knowing what side you stood on. I know now what a ridiculous thing that is to say, especially considering how many of my colleagues are incredible writers… but when I heard it at the time, it stuck with me for years.
But, as I started noticing what books were being published, I thought I had something to say, a book to write for the kid I’d been. The kind of stories I wished I’d had. So here we are.
It’s been an interesting experience, because I know the publishing side so well, but I’m not as familiar with being a writer… and none of those writerly insecurities are stymied by knowing what’s going on behind the scenes. They might actually be exacerbated by the fact? Like, I can imagine what the meetings are like discussing a book which is not helpful, ha!
We know that moving forward is a collective effort–who have been your biggest supporters? Who are some others that are doing important work to make publishing more inclusive?
I already mentioned Ann Marie Wong and Sona Charaipotra above—but I’ll add women like Dhonielle Clayton, Ellen Oh (who were our colleagues on the side of WNDB when we launched the SBC partnership). In terms of who is doing good work right now to make the industry more inclusive? Patrice Caldwell and her People of Color in Publishing organization, Alvina Ling was an inspiration when she started the diversity committee at Little Brown. And honestly, every single publishing professional who speaks up about the inequity of the industry, many of whom I’ve had the privilege to work alongside like Kait Feldman, Celia Lee, Cassandra Pelham, Trevor Ingerson, Eric Smith, Jennifer Ung, Cheryl Klein, Nancy Mercado, Namrata Tripathi, Zareen Jaffrey. And so many writers (including the aforementioned Ellen, Dhonielle, and Sona) who won’t let publishing coast, like Daniel José Older, Justine Larbalestier, Laurie Halse Anderson, Heidi Heilig, Kayla Whaley—I could go on and on and on, this list is by no means exhaustive, but there are so many incredible people doing the work. We’d be here for hours!
Tell us about the efforts you have made to create communities in publishing, like your Marginalized Authors/Illustrators Database.
Yes! I created the marginalized authors/illustrated database because there is a thing in publishing called IP (intellectual property) – where the publisher will come up with an idea and then hire an author to write the book. I was noticing that editors tended to keep going back to the same list of cis, straight, white authors and I wanted to do what I could to equalize the playing field as much as I could… so I created a resource for editors to find a more diverse group of possible creators. It throws the excuse of “Well, I just can’t find any” out the window. Here! They found themselves for you!
[To request access to the database, fill out this form!]
Bio: Preeti Chhibber is a YA author, speaker, and freelance writer. She works as a publishing professional. She has written for SYFY, BookRiot, BookRiot Comics, The Nerds of Color, and The Mary Sue, among others. Her short story, “Girls Who Twirl and Other Dangers” was published in the anthology A Thousand Beginnings and Endings (HarperCollins, 2018), and her first book, Peter and Ned’s Ultimate Travel Journal comes out this year (Marvel Press, June 2019). You can find her co-hosting the podcasts Desi Geek Girls and Strong Female Characters (SYFYWire). She’s appeared on several panels at New York Comic Con, San Diego Comic Con, and on screen on the SYFY Network. Honestly, you probably recognize her from one of several BuzzFeed “look at these tweets” Twitter lists. She usually spends her time reading a ridiculous amount of Young Adult but is also ready to jump into most fandoms at a moment’s notice. You can follow her on Twitter @runwithskizzers or learn more at PreetiChhibber.com.
Interviews have been edited for clarity and length.
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.
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!
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!