Cory Verner on the Growth of Audiobooks

BookSmarts Podcast

Get smarter about your books! The BookSmarts podcast features discussions about publishing data and technologies and interviews with industry experts, deep thinkers, and doers, bringing you insights that will help you sell more books.

Episode 24: Cory Verner on the Growth of Audiobooks

Cory Verner is the CEO of ONE Audiobooks, a publisher of audiobooks and a turnkey audio services provider. Cory has been working in the audiobooks industry for over 20 years, and has seen the changes in technology, the changes in focus, and the growth in sales as the format has taken off in the last 6-7 years. Cory and I talk about some of the reasons for that growth, the demographics of listeners, and some specific differences between the Inspirational Books market that he is closely connected to compared to the general audiobooks market.

Transcript available here.

We also talk about how the audiobooks industry has changed over time, including technology changes that have driven much of the recent growth, and we discuss the risks publishers take on when they create their own audiobook program.

You can learn more about ONE Audiobooks at oneaudiobooks.com (corporate site) and oneaudiobooks.app (customer engagement tools).

Joshua Tallent is an acclaimed teacher and guide on the role of data in publishing, and a vocal advocate for high quality book metadata. In his spare time, Joshua enjoys playing complex board games, playing Minecraft, and fiddling with his 3D printer.

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Mark Herschberg How Books Might Escape the Page

BookSmarts Podcast

Get smarter about your books! The BookSmarts podcast features discussions about publishing data and technologies and interviews with industry experts, deep thinkers, and doers, bringing you insights that will help you sell more books.

Episode 23: Mark Herschberg How Books Might Escape the Page

In this episode we are joined by Mark Herschberg, publisher at Cognosco Media, author of The Career Toolkit, Essential Skills for Success That No One Taught You, and the developer of a new app that is attempting to promote a new take on reader interaction with book content.

Transcript available here.

I was a bit skeptical of Mark’s approach from the offset, having seen so many ebook apps and new ideas about digital engagement flame out over the years. However, Mark and I had a great conversation about how the relevant content in a book might be more or less than the actual page count, how so many new technologies are just like sticking a fake horse head on the front of an automobile, and more. Mark shared some of the ideas behind his app, most notably the notifications feature that can help readers recall key points from books they have read.

If you’re interested in learning more, you can check out Mark’s publishing company, Cognosco Media (https://www.cognoscomedia.com) and take a look at both his book and the related app (https://www.thecareertoolkitbook.com).

Joshua Tallent is an acclaimed teacher and guide on the role of data in publishing, and a vocal advocate for high quality book metadata. In his spare time, Joshua enjoys playing complex board games, playing Minecraft, and fiddling with his 3D printer.

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George Slowik, Jr. on the 150th Anniversary of Publishers Weekly

BookSmarts Podcast

Get smarter about your books! The BookSmarts podcast features discussions about publishing data and technologies and interviews with industry experts, deep thinkers, and doers, bringing you insights that will help you sell more books.

Episode 22: George Slowik, Jr. on the 150th Anniversary of Publishers Weekly

In this episode of the BookSmarts Podcast, Joshua interviews George Slowik, Jr., the Chairman and Owner of PWxyz LLC, the parent company of Publishers Weekly, who joins us to discuss the magazine’s history, the digital archive, and more.

Transcript available here.

Publishers Weekly was launched in 1872 as a bibliographic source for all publishers to list forthcoming titles. Over its 150 year history, the magazine has continued to provide news and features about the publishing industry, and has even expanded to provide over 9,000 new book reviews every year.

George gives a brief overview of the magazine’s history, discusses the development of the digital archive, the special anniversary edition to be released in April, and his thoughts about the future of publishing. 
You can learn more about Publishers Weekly and sign up for their free email newsletters, at their website, https://www.publishersweekly.com/.

Joshua Tallent is an acclaimed teacher and guide on the role of data in publishing, and a vocal advocate for high quality book metadata. In his spare time, Joshua enjoys playing complex board games, playing Minecraft, and fiddling with his 3D printer.

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Takeaways and Trends from 2021

We’ve all learned a lot over the past couple of years, and 2021 has taught us some especially interesting things. Here are a few takeaways and trends from 2021 that we’ll carry with us as we continue to grow, evolve, and serve the book publishing industry!

Book publishing is in a period of renewal

Often, the things that challenge us the most also create great opportunities. The world has nearly two years of this pandemic behind it, and many publishers have seen surprising gains as consumers turn to books to fill their hours at home. On the BookSmarts podcast, Michael Cader, Founder of Publishers Lunch and PublishersMarketplace.com had this to say about additional opportunities the industry has at this moment:

“As we go through this COVID transition [we] redefine what work looks like and how work becomes meaningful….In the pandemic, people stopped going to book fairs and they stopped touring authors, and a lot of them stopped sending out [printed] galleys, and cut back on marketing expenses and did all kinds of things, some out of necessity, some because those things just didn’t exist, and some for ease, and some because they wanted to conserve. So, there’s this really interesting chance to rethink: Where are we spending our dollars? How are we spending those dollars consciously? And what’s driving ROI?

“There’s an interesting opportunity to rethink every role within the organization. What have people actually done during COVID, when they’ve been working with less direct supervision more on their own at home? And how has that worked well? And how can we enfranchise people to keep doing more of that, and less of what they didn’t like doing? 

It’s this really interesting reset moment. The good news is that publishing is coming at it from a position of strength.

– Michael Cader, Founder of Publishers Lunch and PublishersMarketplace.com

“We’re also in this interesting moment of the industry finally reckoning with diversity in a more meaningful way. Part of diversity means having an industry that’s not just centered in New York. Only certain types of people can afford to live and work in New York, and New York has all sorts of different people and viewpoints in it, but it’s not the nation at large. 

“I think writ large it’s this really interesting reset moment. The good news is that publishing is coming at it from a position of strength… the sales are there, the readers are there. The retail channels have been resilient… So there’s a really strong foundation to build from. So, where people go from there, I think will determine a lot of what the trajectory of the business looks like, over the next few years.”

Listen to Michael Cader on the BookSmarts podcast.

Book discovery is context agnostic

We know that NetGalley is just one of many ways that readers discover books. According to our 2021 NetGalley Member Survey, Goodreads, Friends/Peers, and Amazon also top their list for finding new books. For audio listeners, the library is also a very important means of discovery.

In the Panorama Project’s Immersive Media & Reading Consumer Survey, Dr. Kathi Inman Berens (Associate Professor of Book Publishing and Digital Humanities, at Portland State University) and Dr. Rachel Noorda (Director of Book Publishing and Assistant Professor in English) conducted a consumer behavior study focused on how book discovery works and how libraries fit into the book discovery ecosystem. In April, they spoke about their work on the BookSmarts podcast.

Dr. Berens notes, “In roughly equal numbers, people find a book online and then buy it in a bookstore, or discover a book in a bookstore and then buy it online. It’s actually far more fluid than just looking at sales data would suggest.

“The diversity of ways that people discover books suggests that there’s no one formula for discovery. We do know that people have multiple touch points… We also know that people are largely unaware of how metadata works, how algorithms and recommendation algorithms work. So a question that would be super hard to capture in self-report data would be: How many times did you encounter this book before you finally decided to open your wallet? Or you finally decided to check it out from the library? That’s hard for consumers to be aware of.”

Immersive Media & Books: Consumer Behavior and Experience with Multiple Media Forms, Portland State University 2021, Published by Panorama Project

Dr. Norda adds, “Our study was a cross-media one, and what we found is that avid readers are also avid media consumers in other categories. They’re gaming, they’re watching TV and movies. And there is a really high discovery rate cross-media. About 60% of people are going from engaging with a book to then finding a new TV series, or movie, or game. 61% are going from TV or movie to then finding a book or a game. Games was the lowest [category for cross-media discovery]—but still, about a third, 33% [are] engaging with a game and then finding other media like a book or TV/movies. Cross-discovery is something I don’t think we engage enough with in the industry, to think about readers as cross media consumers.”

Listen to Dr. Norda and Dr. Berens on the BookSmarts podcast!

Data is only as useful as its context

We at NetGalley firmly believe in giving publishers access to their data about NetGalley activity. Information like early impressions, numbers of requests and, of course, the Reviews and Feedback they receive give marketers and publicists the tools they need to analyze the effectiveness of their strategies. This early data helps build context for not only their NetGalley efforts, but their work as a whole. (Have you read our article, The Importance of Early Data?)

Earlier this year, Guy LeCharles Gonzalez, Chief Content Officer at LibraryPass spoke with the BookSmarts podcast, saying, “My issue with ‘data-driven’ is [that] it’s become kind of a buzzword that’s lost its original meaning. I compare it to the early days of GPS, where if you’re not paying attention, GPS will drive you off a cliff.

“Data is only as useful as the context you’re pulling it into, and the other insights you bring to it. Otherwise it can cause you to make some rather myopic decisions. [If] you’re getting all this sales data that says, 70% of our sales are from Amazon, a data-driven approach might say, ‘All right, we’re gonna put 70% of our resources and effort towards maximizing sales on Amazon.’ And data-informed says, ‘Okay, well, we know Amazon is a transactional point, for a lot of people, but it’s not necessarily the point of discovery. [There are] sites that include links to Amazon, social links…’ 


“Data is only as useful as the context you’re pulling it into, and the other insights you bring to it.“

– Guy LeCharles Gonzalez, Chief Content Officer at LibraryPass

“There’s a lot of reasons people go to buy a book on Amazon, and half of them have nothing to do with Amazon helping them discover that book. So if you decide to shift 70% of your resources towards Amazon advertising, and you’re only prioritizing metadata on Amazon, you potentially are losing all of the other touch points that drove those sales to Amazon and suddenly, your Amazon percentage may stay at 70% but your overall sales may drop. And that, to me, is one of the key differences between we’re data-driven versus data-informed. That’s where you really draw a line.”

Joshua Tallent, Director of Sales and Education at Firebrand Technologies and BookSmarts host, adds, “The amount of data you have and the type of data you’re pulling in…  if you’re only looking at a subset of real information, then you’re only going to have enough information to make a very narrow choice. But when it comes down to the data that publishers receive, a lot of times, they don’t get enough data to really be able to be data-informed in the first place. And so you feel like you have to be data-driven, and just make decisions based on what you’ve got.”

Data informed publishers constantly analyze their raw data from as many sources as they can find—from their own internal databases as well as data from their partners’, even beyond sales data. What data points do you use to inform your strategies?

Listen to Guy LeCharles Gonzalez on the BookSmarts podcast.

Backlist is the backbone

Although most titles available on NetGalley are pre-pub, frontlist books (“galley” is in our name, after all), we often work with publishers to promote backlist as well! Often, a publisher wants to promote an author’s previous works on the cusp of a new release, or an important current event may make an older book suddenly relevant to audiences again.

In his interview with BookSmarts, Michael Cader notes, “It’s sort of extraordinary that the business is doing so well given the depth of the real challenges we’re seeing. One is just the increasing difficulty of selling new books, right? You know, what we’ve seen during the pandemic is the backlist sales continue to rise. Backlist sales have been rising for years, which is in part a function of the increased percentage of book sales online, right? Because an online environment is less conducive to displaying new titles, and stacking them up and putting them in prime real estate [as happens in brick and mortar stores], and more conducive to people browsing or searching, or going to look for the book they want at the price or vendor they want to get it from.”

Chief Marketing Officer at Open Road Integrated Media, Mary McAveney, in a separate interview adds, “Lots of publishers saw great increases in revenue and in sales during that time when people were turning to online search, or browsing [retail sites], but a lot of what was happening is readers were gravitating to books they knew about. They either remembered, or they were classics or somehow the book had an audience.”

Referencing BookNet Canada’s study Aged like a fine wine: What’s the ideal age for a backlist title?, Joshua Tallent says, “When you get into two-to-five years, things really pick up. And so there’s an opportunity there for publishers to take advantage of that—especially with debut authors, or lesser known authors, or those midlist titles that aren’t necessarily the ones that are really going to push a ton of marketing on at the beginning, because they don’t have the time or the energy or the or the money for that. Hitting that middle time period, that two-to-five years, might be just a benefit to go back and say, Hey, let’s just put a little more at this, let’s think about these titles that really haven’t… they’ve kind of been selling a little bit here and there. Let’s put a little bit of effort behind them.”

In a few different conversations, Joshua wants to focus on practicalities. He notes the opportunity and asks, “Where do you think discovery comes from? What do you think that can be doing to really push more discovery?”

Drive discovery by joining communities

Connecting directly with readers has long been at the forefront of publishers’ efforts. Within NetGalley, we see publishers directly invite important media contacts, reviewers and influencers, and use their reports to follow up directly with them. As you can imagine, a number of the people who Joshua interviewed spoke about direct-to-reader efforts as well.

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez says, “A lot of the practicalities come from a direct connection to readership. One of the first things I look at is: if you’ve got a clear vertical that you serve, you’ve got opportunities to capture data beyond just the sales data that gets fed to you from your partners.

“…There is a community for everything on the internet, you can get a pretty clear sense of how big it is and how engaged they are. And you can build a business model around that, if you can develop the right content or services—you know, it’s not just about books—for those communities. But it starts with really understanding those communities. And to do that, you got to be a part of them. So you can’t just go buy, you know, Reddit’s mailing list, or do an ad buy on Reddit, and think you’re engaging with the community, you’re just, you know, shifting traditional marketing approaches to the internet.”


“It’s critical to make sure that you’re thinking about the consumer more than you’re thinking about the book.”

– Mary McAveney, Chief Marketing Officer at Open Road Integrated Media

Mary McAveney adds, “If you have a media hit around a book, it’s like manna from heaven…. but you know, what you have to do is actually build your own verticals, to build your own content sites, because there are people looking for books, and they may only know Dan Brown’s name. They don’t know anybody else in that genre, but they know they like that book. It sounds sort of simplistic, but you want to bring in those people who like that book, and it’s really important to make sure that the [next] book you’re putting in front of them when they’re doing that search is something they’re going to enjoy just as much as that book. 

“Authors spend their lives writing [fantastic books] and they shouldn’t be punished just because the demand isn’t evident. You should be able to build that. But it’s work. It’s really creating your own owned media through funnels and content verticals and articles. And if you can harness those readers and really continue that relationship and build it. If you become like a hand-seller you know what [anyone] likes to read, right? Because they’re clicking pretty consistently on the books that they like to read. And as that reader stays in your system for years, you become even more and more familiar with what they’re looking for. And you can really segment the titles well for them, and so that becomes really critical.”


Presented by NetGalley, We Are Bookish is an editorial blog, presenting an independent voice to highlight books and a bookish lifestyle. Recurring features include: book recommendations, author interviews & guest posts from publishing professionals, cover and stepback reveals, gift guides, book club resources, NetGalley member spotlights, and more.

“I know that so many publishers, of all different sizes, are building mailing lists and really trying to develop that one-to-one relationship with the consumer. And it’s critical, but it’s also critical to make sure that you’re thinking about that consumer more than you’re thinking about the book. You have a book you spent a lot of money on to purchase, and you want to push that book out to every consumer you can think of, but that isn’t necessarily going to win the day at the end. You want to really cultivate those customers.

“It’s not an easy proposition. It’s extremely costly to do that. But the way we [at Open Road] started, is really to start with demand. What are people currently searching for? How does that map to the kinds of books that we have available to put in front of them? It starts there, and then you can use those audiences to build—it becomes sort of a pyramid, you get your base of consumers, and then you use those to build on top of it more, more and more. Whether you’re using social channels, or you’re using external newsletter ads, or you’re using just your content and your search engine optimization, or you’re using search engine marketing, there are a number of tools. And they all require a good amount of expertise to function well.”

Interviews have been edited for clarity and length.

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Robin Whitten on Audiobook Demographics and Quality

BookSmarts Podcast

Ep 18: Robin Whitten on Audiobook Demographics and Quality

In this episode, Robin Whitten, editor & founder of AudioFile Magazine, joins us to discuss audiobook listener demographics and performance quality. Audiobook sales have grown significantly in a short amount of time. With that growth, we have also seen an increase in the number of available audiobooks and a revolution in audiobook production.

Transcript available here.

Robin expounds on some of the major advances in the audiobook world, how the demographics of audiobook listeners are changing, and the genres that are the most popular. She also talks about how important the sound design and narration are to the success of an audiobook, and explains how AudioFile Magazine does its reviews.

Be sure to Check out part two of the NetGalley Listener Survey, which focuses on audiobook reviewers and their listening habits: http://insights.netgalley.com/2021-netgalley-member-survey-part-ii/

Getting started (from the APA): https://www.audiopub.org/industry/getting-started

AudioFile Magazine: https://audiofilemagazine.com

Audiobook Break Podcast: https://audiofilemagazine.com/audiobook-break/

Behind the Mic Podcast: https://audiofilemagazine.com/podcast/

Joshua Tallent is an acclaimed teacher and guide on the role of data in publishing, and a vocal advocate for high quality book metadata. In his spare time, Joshua enjoys playing complex board games, playing Minecraft, and fiddling with his 3D printer.

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Brian O’Leary on the Future of Publishing

BookSmarts Podcast

Get smarter about your books! The BookSmarts podcast features discussions about publishing data and technologies and interviews with industry experts, deep thinkers, and doers, bringing you insights that will help you sell more books.

Ep 2: Brian O’Leary on the Future of Publishing

In this episode of the BookSmarts Podcast, Joshua interviews Brian O’Leary, Executive Director of the Book Industry Study Group (BISG), the US book industry’s trade organization. Brian and Joshua talk about three areas where Brian sees the industry struggling now and with space for continued growth in the future.

Transcript available here.

First, Book Publishing is a small industry, so it is important that we leverage our collective strengths to solve problems and become more forward-thinking, using standards and other technological investments to do so.

Second, we are seeing a growing emphasis on rights sales and information sharing, but there are some large technological limitations that still need to be overcome in that area.

Third, the “last mile” of publishing is shifting, both for retail and for libraries, but the industry does not yet have enough data about how books are found, evaluated, and purchased. We need to better understand our market and the path book readers and consumers take.

Joshua Tallent is an acclaimed teacher and guide on the role of data in publishing, and a vocal advocate for high quality book metadata. In his spare time, Joshua enjoys playing complex board games, playing Minecraft, and fiddling with his 3D printer.

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BookSmarts: A New Podcast from Joshua Tallent

Get smarter about your books! The BookSmarts podcast features discussions about publishing data and technologies and interviews with industry experts, deep thinkers, and doers, bringing you insights that will help you sell more books.

Ep 1: Publishers Are in a Moneyball Situation

In this episode, Joshua discusses how he sees some similarities between the state of the publishing industry and the story of the Oakland A’s baseball team as told in the movie Moneyball. Competition is fierce, and solid data practices can be the key factor between success and failure.

Transcript available here.

Joshua Tallent is an acclaimed teacher and guide on the role of data in publishing, and a vocal advocate for high quality book metadata. In his spare time, Joshua enjoys playing complex board games, playing Minecraft, and fiddling with his 3D printer.

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