Make it Personal, Online

PubTech Connect – Book Lovers on the Internet: Connecting with Readers in Digital Ways

In partnership with Publishers Weekly, NYU’s Center for Publishing hosted a night of discussion about online book communities and communications as part of their PubTech Connect series. These diverse panelists all agreed on one thing: When talking about books, they are all far more interested in personal, affective responses to books rather than in sweeping generalizations about whether a book is Good or Bad.

Panelists

Even though the panelists all represent different ways of engaging with online book discussions and different reading communities. They – and their audiences – are each looking for stories about how books influence us, how books help us relate to their own lives or to current events, and how books can foster a sense of interpersonal connection. As Jess Zimmerman of Electric Lit put it, they are all moving from focusing on whether a book is good or bad to how a book is functioning and with whom it is resonating.

NYU PubTech Connect Publishing Emma Straub Jess Zimmerman
Emma Straub (left) and Jess Zimmerman

They shared some of their digital content strategies with this personal touch in mind. For authors and publishers, knowing what kind of content is resonating online can help you to make stronger pitches to media outlets, and to produce the content yourselves that will help you connect directly with your audience.

Personal essays

Cristina Arreola, Senior Books Editor at Bustle told the audience that personal essays are always top performers for Bustle. Essays like “I Re-Read Big Little Lies Amid the #MeToo Movement – And It Changed the Novel Entirely for Me” and “I Grew Up in a Fundamentalist Evangelical Community. How I ‘Rewired’ My Brain with Poetry” resonate with readers because they demonstrate the emotional pull that books have, the ways that they can shape us and stay with us, and can help us understand our current cultural moments.

Jess Zimmerman also publishes personal essays. She noted Electric Lit readers respond positively to personal pronouns in headlines. For example, titles like “The Book That Defined my Teen Anxiety Turned Out To Be a Lie” or “The Book That Made Me a Feminst Was Written by an Abuser” promote identification with the author of the essay. Even if the readers don’t share these particular, unique experiences, the framing around “I” gives them a reason to click. And the personal focus of the essays resonate with readers who have also been shaped by their reading experiences, even if those experiences aren’t the same as the ones being written about.

Quizzes

We all click on quizzes more than we’d like to admit. It’s not that we really need to know what our taste in donuts says about our innermost souls, it’s that we like to see ourselves reflected. That’s why Jane K. Lee of Epic Reads gives her YA-loving audience plenty of quizzes. Some of them are about specific books, and some are about creating personalized recommendations. Lee uses quizzes to help her audience connect with themes of a book by placing them in it – by seeing which character they are most similar to or seeing how well they would fare in a dystopian future.

Bookish Executive Editor, Kelly Gallucci agrees about the importance of quizzes. She told NetGalley Insights, “Bookish quizzes all put the reader in control. In a way, our quizzes are like a choose your own adventure for book recs! With the reader at the helm, the results feel more personal and curated because their choices (whether its their Hogwarts house or favorite dessert) led them to the book in the results. It results in a recommendation process that’s surprising, fun, and engaging for both us and our readers.”

Faces (or hands!)

Emma Straub, co-owner of Brooklyn’s Books are Magic noted that the bookstore’s Instagram followers want to see people. They love seeing authors, employees, and everyday readers in their feed. Through social media, audiences have increased access to authors, celebrities, and popular store owners. By showcasing the people behind the magic, and the ones who are enjoying it, Straub and her team create a feeling of intimacy online. That way, when people walk in to Books are Magic for the first time after following them online, they can already feel at home.

Moderator M. J. Franklin jumped in to agree that showing the person behind the online persona is crucial, but that he is often loathe to take a photo with his face in it. Instead he’ll show his hands in a photo so that readers know that there’s a flesh and blood person posting, but he doesn’t have to worry about catching his face at the perfect angle.

Through meaningful personal digital content marketing, you can help your audience connect with you at a deeper level. Audiences are hungry to know the people bringing them the books they love – whether those people are authors, publishers, booksellers, influencers, or reviewers.

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Twitch – an untapped opportunity to connect with fervent fans

At NetGalley Insights, we have our eyes on internet platforms where we see community, enthusiasm, and fandom. In addition to coverage of YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram, we’ve explored Wattpad and Reddit. Today, we’re looking at Twitch and its possible use for publishers.

Twitch is the premier platform for video gamers. Primarily, Twitch users stream live videos of themselves playing video games. Then, other Twitch users watch those streams and chat with each other in the sidebar.  

While most of Twitch is devoted to gaming, there are categories on Twitch for non-gaming content. And its non-gaming community is growing. As of late 2018, Twitch created new content categories to better meet the needs of its non-gaming streamers. Twitch streamers can now upload videos or livestream in categories like Food & Drink, Sports & Fitness, and Talk Shows & Podcasts.

Like Reddit, Twitch skews both millennial and male. According to internal Twitch data, 81.5% of Twitch users are male, with 55% between the ages of 18-34.

81.5% of Twitch users are male, with 55% between the ages of 18-34

Twitch is full of opportunities for publishers and authors to connect to a massive community of pop culture and nerd culture enthusiasts. If your author loves connecting directly with readers, Twitch is a great platform to speak to them.

Some Twitch streamers are already using their accounts to talk about books in their livestream. Often, these videos will end up categorized under Talk Shows & Podcasts, but can also be searched for using keywords in the search bar.

The format of a livestream makes it easier for streamers to connect to their audiences and to foster a real-time conversation. LegendofLorie, NetGalley member and Twitch streamer, told NetGalley Insights that she values “the fact that it is primarily a live platform, so you can quickly interact with your community instead of responding to comments after the fact. You can really incorporate your community into the discussion instead of focusing on one topic of a prerecorded video like YouTube.”

Affiliate links for ChrisChanTor’s Twitch book club

The most popular genres tend to be Science Fiction and Fantasy, which is unsurprising given the fantastical nature of many popular video games. But streamers are not exclusively interested in speculative or fantastical genres. For example, Twitch streamer ChrisChanTor hosts a book club on his channel that has included The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F***, Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike, and more.

Bexyish, a Twitch streamer and NetGalley member, mostly uses Twitch for gaming, but does also incorporate book reviews into her stream. She told NetGalley Insights that she tends to stream herself talking about recent reads over a morning coffee. And her followers are paying attention. After hearing her talk about The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James, one of her followers picked it up. He’s since gone on to read another Lauren James book, The Quiet at the End of the World. Her viewers have also told her that her endorsement of V. E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic encouraged them to start reading the trilogy.

Twitch streamers are also interested in growing book content on the site.

Vesper Dreams, another Twitch streamer, fantasy fan, and NetGalley member, already uses her Twitch channel to talk about books, but wants to do more.

“I’m hoping to find a way to bring bookworms into the Twitch community and open a way to be able to have live discussions, book clubs, and interviews with authors through social media marketing. I really think it’s time for readers to be able to find a place that they can go to and talk live with people who have the same interests in the same genre as them. I haven’t had a chance to interview any authors yet, but I’m really hoping to find a way to set that up especially live on Twitch instead of the usual text interviews or recorded interviews.”  

In addition to providing publishers with an enthusiastic influencer community, Twitch also offers the chance for creative collaboration and building brand awareness. For instance, publishers could work with streamers to host author interviews, organize readathons, or preview unreleased new content from a hotly-awaited title. Or, if an author is a gamer, publishers could consider working with a streamer to have the author as a “guest star” on their stream, playing one of their favorite games while talking about their next book.  

Gamers are happy to support sponsored content like this, or streamers partnering with companies. According to a 2017 Momentum WorldWide We Know Gamers study, the world of gaming and the world of Twitch is open to influencers partnering with companies. 82% of survey respondents said that sponsorships were good for the industry.

To find Twitch streamers who might be interested in reviewing your books or working with your authors, use keyword searches to see which Twitch streamers are already interested in or talking about relevant genres on their streams. Most streamers have contact info easily visible in their account, including links to social media, if you want to get in touch directly. And if you have a specific kind of game you’d like your author to play as a guest stream, browse the categories to find influential streamers who play that specific game. Books are a growing category on Twitch, and so finding the right partnerships will take some creativity in these early stages, but it’s clear that many streamers are looking to better integrate books into their channel.

Twitch isn’t a platform for every book or every genre. But for the books that intersect with gamer or geek culture, or will resonate with millennial male readers, it is rapidly becoming a powerful resource for finding devoted fans.  

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Case Study: The Kiss Quotient

How Berkley turned a debut novel into a smash hit using social influencer marketing

On NetGalley Insights, we highlight the successes of NetGalley publishers and authors, and share some of their strategies. Today, we’re talking with Jessica Brock, Senior Publicist & Digital Media Strategist at Berkley about The Kiss Quotient.

Published in May 2018, this modern romance featuring a heroine with Aspergers has been both well-reviewed and enthusiastically embraced by readers. And, it even has a movie deal!

One place that The Kiss Quotient really resonated was on social media. BookTubers posted video reviews and Bookstagrammers placed it in aesthetically pleasing shots. Jessica knew that putting The Kiss Quotient into the hands of social media influencers was going to be an important part of building its buzz. And, she even used the campaign as an opportunity to build her network of social media influencers! Learn more about her strategy in the interview below.

Tell us about your strategy for getting influencers excited about The Kiss Quotient.

Immediately upon finishing The Kiss Quotient I knew it was going to be something special. The first step for me was determining how to shout “READ THIS BOOK!” to the widest audience possible. This story isn’t just for traditional romance readers and I wanted to make sure people knew that. The campaign began with a cover reveal and excerpt on Bustle, hitting a key, younger female demographic. The cover popped, Helen’s personal stake in the story intrigued readers, and the excitement began.

After that, my main goal was growing steady interest in the book among bloggers, Bookstagrammers, and bookish influencers. Providing early galleys and e-galleys was a big part of that, as well as continual coverage on Berkley Romance’s social media platforms. This is a perfect example of “Oh, I’ve seen that!” publicity awareness. In my outreach to influencers, I talked about The Kiss Quotient like I would with a friend, with delighted squeals, OMG’s, and BAE’s included. I also specifically asked that they “help me tell the world about this book” via Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, and Facebook. I didn’t have a platform preference because I wanted to reach as many readers as possible. I do think that Bookstagram played a major part though as the cover is quite ‘grammable. On a visually driven platform, The Kiss Quotient stands out beautifully.

How do you build relationships with influencers as a publisher?

One of my main responsibilities at Berkley is communicating and cultivating relationships with media contacts and influencers, in particular those who focus on romance. Romance bloggers are the backbone of the online romancelandia community and I absolutely love working with them. I send out two curated monthly newsletters to romance-focused bloggers and media contacts, chat with people on Twitter and Facebook, and generally try to keep up with what folks are reading, because romance bloggers are ravenous readers. We do our best to get them galleys as early as possible with the hope they will read and love our books and ultimately share reviews around the release dates.

Instagram – @book_junkee

How did you let influencers know about The Kiss Quotient and how did you give them access to read it? What was your balance between proactive outreach and responding to requests?

I sent pre-approved NetGalley widgets to a large list of media contacts and influencers. [Widget invites accounted for 26% of all members with access on NetGalley, so this strategy was highly effective!]. I also sent out a number of print galleys in fun packaging (I love color coordinating!) that I hoped would encourage them to share images immediately on their social platforms, mainly Instagram as it is so visual. I knew the “Look how pretty” appreciation at the beginning would morph into the “Omg this book is amazing” attention as soon as they began reading and that they would share those thoughts on their social media as well.


Custom eblasts sent to NetGalley and BookishFirst members drew requests on NetGalley and previews on BookishFirst.

I also dedicated a lot of time to responding to requests for the book. There were numerous BookTubers and reviewers who requested The Kiss Quotient that I had never worked with before. Granting them access to the book and getting to know their channels and sites has been a great way to start successful working relationships with many of them. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the benefit of some light internet stalking! If someone posted about The Kiss Quotient on Instagram, I would check the comments to see if they were from other influencers that I could also approach for review or feature coverage and I did the same with Goodreads. Twitter searches also proved very useful as the title of this book is pretty unique so I could easily see who was talking about it without having to filter through a lot of non-book related posts.

Aside from working with social media influencers, what other strategies did you employ for The Kiss Quotient?

I secured a lot of mainstream media attention, including The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, and Buzzfeed, which piqued other outlets’ interest in the book and Helen’s personal story. I highlighted The Kiss Quotient’s strengths, joined the excited conversations with early reviewers, and reached out to other authors whom I thought would love Helen’s book as much as I did. Support from fellow authors can make a significant difference in reader awareness and publicity opportunities.

Jessica is a Senior Publicist and Digital Media Strategist at Berkley who manages the romance social media accounts and works with authors like Helen Hoang, Jasmine Guillory, Alexa Martin, Samantha Young, Uzma Jalaluddin, and more. A self-proclaimed Slytherpuffenclaw, she loves to read YA as well as romance and dark-and-twisty thrillers.


Interviews have been edited for clarity and length.

Check out the rest of our case studies here!

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