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 email@example.com for more information about how we work with ECPA publishers.