Lessons from ECPA PubU

Last week, NetGalley joined 230 other attendees from 90 companies in Nashville to attend ECPA PubU. It’s a chance for members of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association to learn from one another, to think creatively about how to market their titles, and to brainstorm ways to expand their audiences. Many publishers and authors who use NetGalley are also members of the ECPA, so we at NetGalley Insights were grateful for the opportunity to hear more about the attendees’ unique needs, goals, and challenges.

Over and over, we heard attendees talking about how publishers and authors can put their readers first: By making it easier for readers to find the books they are looking for in a keyword search, by being experimental and responsive with the implementation of new platforms, by curating content for them in an overstuffed marketplace, and by making sure that marketing emails provide information of real interest and value.

Here are some of the ideas and lessons we’re taking away with us from ECPA PubU:

Better cross-departmental communication is key to making the most out of your metadata

During his talk about metadata, Firebrand Director of Sales & Marketing Joshua Tallent made the case that marketing and data departments should be working together much more closely. He suggested not only that there should be cross-training, but that in an ideal world, these departments would share staff. Metadata is fundamentally a marketing tool, helping with algorithmic discovery. As you might expect, titles with basic metadata (author, title, ISBN) have 75% higher sales than titles without that information. It only stands to reason that data and marketing should be more closely linked at an institutional level. For example, data teams can use keywords to see how audiences are searching for your books and then marketing departments can include that in their copy and as keywords in the metadata feeds that they are sending out to retailers. This way, data insights are made actionable during a book’s lifecycle. Publishers across the industry know that they need to incorporate data into their decision-making process, and creating better cross-departmental collaboration is a great place to start.

Experiment as you implement new channels and platforms

When the Rabbit Room began in 2007, it was a blog for Christian writers, pastors, musicians, and fans to gather together. Now, in 2018 it is a conference, a publishing house, a live music series, and a podcasting network. In his talk, “Building a Community of Readers,” Pete Peterson, Executive Director of the Rabbit Room and Managing Editor of Rabbit Room Press, described how Rabbit Room experimented with different ways to connect with their community as it grew and changed. One of those ways was podcasting. At first, they just had The Rabbit Room Podcast, but realized that they were better served by hosting multiple podcasts that could better target the specific interests of their community. They are currently in the process of building the Rabbit Room podcast network with multiple programs geared towards specific interests. This lesson reminded us that when publishers and authors are finding new ways to engage their audience, it’s ok to experiment and pivot to best suit your needs.

Curation is crucial for publishers and retailers of all sizes

In her opening remarks about the future of faith and the future of retail, NPD’s Kristen McLean suggested that the future of retail is a mix of high-touch and convenience. Brands (including publishers and retailers) will have to be both personable and easily accessible if they are going to succeed. Several panelists during the conference described their successes with curation as a strategy for becoming high-touch, but without coming across as overtly sales-y. Stacy Kennedy of Red Bird Social noted the success of Patsy Clairmont’s Patsy Box as a way to connect authentically with fans. David Barker of Readerlink highlighted how Amazon is getting into the curation game as well. Amazon is now offering a podcast full of personalized picks from the Amazon staff, to put a warm human face behind the convenience and the algorithm. Curation is something that can be implemented at an author level (what would your protagonist put on a Spotify playlist?) or at a company level (here’s what our team is reading).

Encourage authors to create around their book topic

Authors need to get the word out about their titles around pub date, but it isn’t effective to just blast out “pre-order/buy my book” emails or social posts. Instead, authors should create content that’s related to their book or to the writing process to build excitement. This should all be done in order to provide something of real value to the audience. For example, author of the Left Behind series Jerry Jenkins described the Facebook group he runs for aspiring writers. He is able to connect authentically with an audience by providing value in the form of writing advice. Then, when he has a book coming out, he has an audience that’s actively engaged with him both as a person and as a writer. He also noted that, as a writer, he’s not inclined towards self-promotion, but this writing group on Facebook feels authentic rather than gimmicky. Additionally, outside of the ECPA ecosystem, Ling Ma did a terrific job with this strategy by writing about crying at work for Buzzfeed News before her novel Severance pubbed.

NetGalley is proud to partner with and support the ECPA and its members. Reach out at insights@netgalley.com for more information about how we work with ECPA publishers.

Don’t forget to subscribe to NetGalley Insights to stay up to date with industry news and conference coverage.

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Lessons from the Firebrand Community Conference

In late September, Firebrand (NetGalley’s parent company) hosted its bi-annual community conference in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The community conference is an opportunity to bring our clients together from across the industry to swap stories and strategies. And, it’s a chance for us at Firebrand and NetGalley to learn about our clients’ needs. After an intimate conference full of long-time attendees, we’re still mulling over the conversations we had. Here’s what’s still on our mind:

Learn to fail or fail to learn

The conference opened with Firebrand President, Doug Lessing, showing SpaceX’s video of failed attempts to land orbital rocket boosters. Entertaining as it was to watch a bunch of technical fails and explosions, the message was clear; organizations that aren’t afraid to fail will ultimately be the ones to innovate. Experimenting, and learning from those experiments, will help us think ourselves into the future. The publishing landscape is always shifting, and most publishers are still trying to catch up to new audiences, new platforms, and new technologies. It’s only by being open to experimentation (which necessitates failures), that we will be able to meet these new challenges.

It’s not just about getting data, it’s about how you use it

It’s no news to the publishing industry that we need to embrace data more fully as a decision-making tool. But, sometimes it’s hard to know exactly where to get started and how to implement it into our already busy schedules. Fran Toolan, Firebrand’s Chief Igniter, introduced the DIKW framework for thinking about how to integrate data into decision-making. Conference attendees practiced the DIKW process together by examining lists of most popular books from multiple sources during a group session. By looking at different data sets – evaluating what information we can glean from it, what information is missing, and what other data points we might want to correlate – we were learning about how to structure data collection, analysis, and implementation.

New technology doesn’t replace the old

Michele Cobb, Executive Director of the Audio Publishers Association, brought up a surprising fact during her talk on growth in the audiobook market. She said that despite the popularity of digital media consumption and the rise of podcasting, audiobooks on CD don’t appear to be going anywhere. As new tech emerges, such as smartphones with streaming capabilities, old tech does not just go gentle into that good night. In the case of CDs and audiobooks, they are still useful for libraries, car travelers, parts of the world with spotty Internet infrastructure, and more. Additionally, self-published audiobooks can be printed on demand on CD, allowing for more audiobooks to come from more sources. It’s a welcome reminder that the newest and shiniest tool or technology doesn’t necessarily mean the death knell of traditional tools and tech. Ideally, it just means more choice and more access.

Collaboration across industry is key to survival

Publishers are all feeling the effects of a crowded industry. There seem to be infinite books, authors, platforms, publishers, imprints, and content delivery systems, all hoping to get the attention of what can feel like a dwindling market. But, as BISG Executive Director Brian O’Leary reminded us during his keynote, it’s by working collaboratively that we can make real improvements to the industry that will set us up for collective success in the future. By developing shared standards and workflow, we can ensure a more streamlined process throughout the life cycle of book publishing. Doug Lessing’s talk on blockchain brought this message home. He described one potential use of blockchain technology: developing an industry standard, secure platform for all aspects of the supply chain. While this would certainly require a lot of cross-industry conversation and planning, a secure standard platform for all supply chain transactions would streamline the day to day operations across the industry. And it’s only through that planning that all industry players could reap the benefits.

The Firebrand Community Conference is an opportunity for us to come together with our clients to think about how to best prepare for the future of publishing. At both Firebrand and NetGalley, client input, like the conversations we have at the conference, is a leading factor in how our services evolve. We value this opportunity to connect with our clients to better learn what their needs are, and how we can continue to help them reach their goals in a changing industry. We’ll see you all at the next Community Conference!

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Social Sharing on NetGalley is Buzzing!

Make the most of NetGalley’s social integrations

Word-of-mouth is one of the most effective ways to increase book sales. Whether this chatter happens face-to-face with friends, or digitally through online reviews or social media shares, the earlier audiences are talking about your book, the better! In order to facilitate this digital word-of-mouth, NetGalley introduced simplified social sharing in November 2017, to allow NetGalley members to connect their NetGalley profile with their Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and LinkedIn accounts to share their reviews with just one click.

This is great news for your titles! Reviews of your books are being seen on more platforms by broader audiences. You can track where reviews are being shared by checking the book’s Feedback Report in NetGalley. Plus, it’s easier than ever for publishers to encourage more cross-posting and successfully leverage the buzz. Here are some ideas and best practices we’ve observed in action:

Incorporate hashtags: Publishers can add a custom hashtag for any title on NetGalley. This helps to focus the buzz around a title, and can make members feel like they are joining a rich conversation online. Ask members to share their reviews on social media with the hashtags when you follow-up with them, and then use those hashtags to identify your most vocal pre-publication advocates. Retweet them, favorite them, and consider auto-approving those members in NetGalley! For more information about including hashtags in your NetGalley marketing plan, check out this 2-minute video.

Share the shares: If NetGalley members are sharing reviews on Facebook, Twitter, and elsewhere, consider using those reviews in your own social strategy. Retweet or re-post the reviews you see, and be sure to thank the member. Everyone loves a shoutout! Use screenshots or quotes of these shared reviews to demonstrate the word-of-mouth energy behind your titles and include them in sales presentations. They are visible proof of early consumer interest.

Learn more about your audience: In addition to watching your hashtags, you can use your NetGalley Feedback Report to see who has shared their reviews online. Digging into your data, including the social media presence of members who are talking about your book online, can give you some powerful demographic information about your audience. Are they mostly millennials who post on Instagram? Are they primarily baby boomers who use Facebook to stay in touch with their friends and family? Use this insight to guide your marketing messages and to determine which platforms are worth your investment of time or advertising dollars.

How have you successfully leveraged social media sharing in your marketing campaigns? We love to feature case studies from our community of publishers and authors.

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