In many ways, 2020 is a year that we’re all ready to put in our rear-view mirrors. In spite of the challenges we have all faced, it’s been inspiring to be reminded of the resilience and creativity that imbues our publishing industry. From Big 5 publishers who suddenly found themselves without access to their warehouses, to independent authors who embarked on digital marketing for the first time, we at NetGalley are proud and thankful to be a trusted partner to so many.
Despite the global pandemic, it’s clear that readers continue to turn to books in all formats. NetGalley’s member community grew by 23% in the US (now over 550,000 members!) and 16% in the UK, where we’re on track to break 100k members in 2021. This growth equates to more eyes on your books, which results in even more early Feedback! We are thrilled to report a 30% increase in Feedback/Reviews when compared to last year. Across NetGalley.com and NetGalley.co.uk over 960k Feedback/Reviews were submitted for over 25,000 books and audiobooks.
NetGalley experienced record-breaking traffic and engagement in 2020, especially after the launch of the NetGalley Shelf app and Audiobooks. The NetGalley Shelf app is a simple and streamlined experience for members, making it easier than ever to access the books and audiobooks they’re approved for. In 2021, we will introduce streaming audio to ensure an even more seamless listening experience!
Publishers are approving requests from Librarians and Booksellers at a very high rate–over 90% of requests are approved. This may be because you can easily auto-approve ALA librarians and ABA booksellers from your Settings page. In 2020, these members alone left over 110k Feedback/Reviews!
We know how influential Librarians and Booksellers are, especially when they are nominating books for LibraryReads and Indie Next, in addition to making recommendations to their patrons and customers. If you’re looking for ways to connect with Librarians and Booksellers, consider our monthly Librarian Newsletters or ABA Digital White Box services.
It’s worth noting that the Reviewers on NetGalley have submitted nearly 380k Feedback/Reviews! Reviewers are the largest portion of our community, making the most requests–so even though the approval rate is a little lower than other member types, they are the most significant in terms of overall approvals and Feedback/Reviews.
When approving requests, keep an eye out for members’ individual feedback ratio and remember that you can click through to see all of the reviews they’ve submitted on NetGalley. Here’s more about what you can see in members’ profiles.
In the UK, even though approval rates across both the DRC and audiobook format are extremely similar, it’s clear that UK members (Librarians in particular) are responding very strongly to the audiobook format. Be sure that you are associating your DRC and audiobook formats when both are available on NetGalley! This will ensure that members can request the most relevant format for their interests, and is likely to result in a higher rate of return for Feedback/Reviews.
Using NetGalley tools as a centralized hub for your data
We believe in the power of data. Publishers tell us all the time that they’re looking for more ways to use the data that’s at their fingertips, and we are always happy to work with publishers to help you develop your own unique strategies to use data to target followup, track where reviews are being shared, and to build an even more engaged community on NetGalley. But it’s also important to take a step back and look at the big picture. Early data across titles, imprints, and time can give you real wisdom about what’s working, how you can expect your books to perform, and how to give every book its greatest chance of success.
So, we’re reinforcing that bigger picture–why you should be looking at your early data, plus some ways that you can use both NetGalley Classic and NetGalley Advanced as a centralized hub for data collection and analysis.
Understanding likely results is a crucial part of setting expectations and creating new goals. In NetGalley, you can compare historical data to see how other similar titles have performed in the past, helping you more easily develop those benchmarks and expectations.
“There is never a one-size-fits all marketing plan,” says Kristina Radke, VP, Business Growth at NetGalley. “Publishers have a lot of considerations when building their strategy — genre of book, debut versus established author, marketing budget, pub season, etc. — and they should also be thinking specifically about what they’ve learned from past performances.”
The Title Summary Report shows side-by-side NetGalley activity for a custom group of titles to help you understand standard performance as you’re setting new goals. The report includes Impressions, Requests, Approvals, Downloads, and amount of Feedback, among other data points. You can choose to view a list of titles based on pub date and category, and even narrow based on imprint or whether the books are still active on NetGalley.
For instance: If you’re curious how your Science Fiction titles performed this year compared to last year, use this report to see all of those titles together to understand how that category is trending. Or, if you have a forthcoming book from an established author, you can use this report to find all of your titles from that author in order to see how the previous books performed on NetGalley. This report helps you to more easily set expectations for the new book, or come up with a plan to outperform the previous titles.
One of the important ways that publishers are setting benchmarks is by looking at an author’s previous books or relevant comp titles. The Title Summary Report makes this research easier for you. You can generate NetGalley reports based on specific authors or ISBNs.
This type of reporting centralizes a number of different data points that you can use when planning acquisitions or identifying new market trends. For instance, if activity for a book series is decreasing with each new title, a publisher might consider updating the cover design or re-engaging fans with a promotion. If cookbooks are consistently outperforming expectations, you might bring that information to your acquisitions team looking for the next big thing.
Set your goals before looking at data
Once you have a good understanding of the expectations for a particular type of book, the next step is to clarify your specific goals for the new title. After identifying which metrics are most important to you and what kinds of numbers you’re looking to achieve, you have a better framework for engaging with the data you’ll receive from a new promotion.
Success on NetGalley looks different for different publishers, different authors, different books. It might mean a specific conversion rate from Impressions to Feedback, number of nominations for LibraryReads and Indie Next, or reaching a certain threshold of reviews on retail platforms around the pub date.
Valerie Pierce, marketing director, retail marketing and creative services, at Sourcebooks told NetGalley Insights that when she and her team measure success, they look at a number of different factors. She said, “We have a few key lists that we look at to determine how the pre-publication promotions for a book are performing.” This includes NetGalley requests, cover votes, Indie Next and LibraryReads nominations. She and her team set goals based on past performance of in-house comp titles. “If the number is [below target], we know we have to stop what we’re doing and completely re-strategize. If the number is average, then we look at ways that we can improve them. And if the number is higher than we anticipate, then it not only means that we’ve got a winning strategy – it also means that this might be a title to pour additional resources into. This could include going back to the sales team and asking them to go back out to their accounts, reallocating budget money so that we can fund more advertising, and going back out to media.”
NetGalley reporting provides relevant information for a variety of different metrics and goals to help you get the information you are looking for in a streamlined way.
Measure ROI on marketing and publicity efforts
We know that when you invest time, energy, and marketing dollars into a promotion, you want to know whether that investment was effective. By looking at the Title Activity Chart, you can see spikes in impressions, requests, and other activity, and easily correlate them to campaigns both on and off NetGalley. This line chart visualizes information to show you the impact of your marketing.
“Why wonder, when we can know without a shadow of a doubt, how a campaign performed?” asks Lindsey Lochner, VP, Marketing Engagement at NetGalley. “Having the Open Rate for an eBlast is valuable, but actually seeing the direct result that eBlast had on your book’s overall activity, over the course of its life on NetGalley — that’s powerful. Experimenting with various promotional tools and tracking the results will allow you to determine which efforts are worthwhile for particular types of books and goals.”
Here are some real-life examples of how the Title Activity Chart shows the effects of publishers’ marketing and publicity efforts on and off NetGalley:
Coordinated NetGalley marketing opportunities boosted activity for this Nonfiction book several months after the book initially went live on NetGalley.
The spikes of activity in August for this Fiction book were not coordinated through NetGalley’s email or on-site promotions, showing that the publisher successfully increased activity through their own efforts.
Inclusion in a NetGalley Newsletter boosted activity for this YA book, far exceeding even the initial excitement when it first went live for members to request.
Small spikes of activity throughout this timeline demonstrate consistent successful efforts to drive audiences to this Children’s book on NetGalley.
Be willing to pivot
Data can show you when you should abandon your current path and pivot to something new. If you’re disappointed with the response you’ve gotten, whether that’s a low number of requests, critical feedback about the cover image, or poor reviews of the book, use that information to adjust your strategy.
Look at the Reason for Request section (on the Title Feedback page, or the downloadable Snapshot PDF report) to understand if your book description is effective. This area can also demonstrate if your overall brand and author awareness is high, depending on how many members respond that they “keep hearing about this book.” You might boost your social media efforts, or encourage your author to pitch essays related to their book to news outlets to increase word-of-mouth if the responses are lower than you expected.
Also consider the Cover Ratings on this page to understand how early readers are reacting to the cover art.
We all know the old adage, but it’s impossible to ignore the fact that people DO judge books by their covers. The NetGalley community is overall very positive: when it comes to covers – they rarely click the thumbs down button unless they feel particularly strongly. So if you notice a lot of dislikes on a cover, it’s a good idea to have a conversation with the design team about reworking the art.
Cover Ratings are also an indicator when strategies are working. Brian Ulicky, publicity and marketing director for The New Press uses feedback from the NetGalley community to confirm that he and his design team are on the right path. “Covers are one of the most important pieces of marketing any book gets, and if the NetGalley community loves our designs, we must be doing something right. It’s helpful to have early feedback inform and confirm our very involved, iterative process of designing and choosing covers.”
The Top Performers chart is an easy way to see comparative performance for any active titles on NetGalley, filtered by type of activity and by category. For example, publishers can compare performance across all of their Nonfiction titles, based on which have the highest star ratings. This will help you predict what will happen with these books once they go on sale, or indicate where you need to boost your efforts.
When considering the Top Performers, take note of the conversion rate. First filter to view books with highest Impressions, and then switch to view books with the highest number of Requests. This can be extremelytelling! If you have a book with a lot of Impressions, but comparatively low Requests, you’ll know that members decided against requesting the book after reading the description and looking at the cover. The question then becomes: Why?
You might try to optimize this conversion by revising the book description, or adding any missing information to the title record. If you can identify these necessary changes pre-publication and work to increase the NetGalley conversion rate before pub date, you can expect that the conversion from impression to sale will be easier to get once the book hits shelves.
The NetGalley Advanced Word Cloud can help you identify the strongest ways to talk about your book. Publishers already look at reviews to see what is resonating with readers, but the Word Cloud makes the process less manual and more visual. It’s created from the actual reviews that members submit for that book, making it a powerful tool to quickly identify readers’ sentiment beyond a star rating, and give you a better idea of what words are most relevant for the book’s marketing efforts.
“Audience language has been proven to be the most effective source of keywords for titles,” says Joshua Tallent, Director of Sales and Marketing at Firebrand Technologies. “How your reviewers think about your books, and the language they use when describing them, will correlate well with how new customers search for your books.” The NetGalley Word Cloud is a great way to understand your audience better, supplement your book description for SEO, or add keywords to your metadata. Plus, if you’re looking for even more quality keywords for your books, Firebrand’s Keywords service uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to generate keywords from multiple sources of audience language. (Including NetGalley!)
Understand your audience and how you connect with them
Are you reaching your target audience on NetGalley? If you’re working to connect with librarians or booksellers specifically, the Activity By Member Type chart will show you how well you’re doing. Not only can you see how approvals for these members compare to others, you’ll also see their follow-through, including whether they downloaded the book and if they provided Feedback.
On NetGalley.com in 2019, NetGalley members provided nearly 612,000 Reviews and Feedback! Reviewers provided Feedback for 41% of the titles they were approved to download, while Educators shared Feedback for 30%, Librarians shared for 23%, Booksellers for 20%, and Media for 19%.
It’s natural that Reviewers submit the most Feedback, whereas Educators, Booksellers, and Librarians tend to use NetGalley to consider new books to purchase for their classrooms, stores, or libraries, and Media use NetGalley to prepare for interviews and to be better informed about which new books are forthcoming.
When looking at these charts, remember to consider your benchmarks as you set expectations.Determine how many new Bookseller requests you are hoping to receive, and then look to see if you reached that goal after the promotion. If you didn’t hit your mark, adjust your strategy as necessary.
Early Data in Action
In our case studies, publishers and authors tell us about how they use the early data from their NetGalley accounts to drive their actions.
Jess Bonet from Random House
uses NetGalley reviews to see what is resonating with readers and to
adjust her marketing language accordingly. She said, “The Feedback
Report is the tool we most commonly use. It’s so helpful to see what’s
resonating with readers before a book goes on sale, so we can adjust our
messaging accordingly. Around 3 months before a book goes on sale, our
team will meet and discuss review feedback, largely from NetGalley, and
adjust copy as necessary. We came to realize that readers were really
responding to Taffy’s raw honesty about dating and marriage in the 21st century, so we played that up in our ad copy and our copy feeding to retailers.”
Laura Gianino at Harlequin looks at who is downloading their books so she can pay attention to what types of members are interested, and to drive very targeted follow-ups for reviews and media coverage. She said, “The data was one of the first indications about who was interested in the book.” It helped her to identify the media she pitched, and who followed through to access the book, indicating that they may be planning coverage of this title.
Cynthia Shannon from Chronicle
shared early reviews with her sales team so they could show them to
book buyers and make the case for carrying in-store. She said, “This
helped shed insights into how customers were responding to the book.”
We want to hear which data points are most important to you and how you are using NetGalley to access that data. We’re also always here to help you strategize about developing benchmarks and data-driven goals. Drop us a line at email@example.com.
The lifecycle of a book, taking advantage of Firebrand and NetGalley
In every department in a publishing house, teams are working as hard as they can to publish books that they believe in. But sometimes we can get lost in the day-to-day and lose sight of the big picture. It can be hard to connect your daily work to the work your colleagues are doing, and to see yourselves as fitting into the same overall efforts.
The goal of this workflow is to demonstrate departmental interconnectedness; how acquisitions, production, and promotion are linked — how one informs the other.
Tallent told the audience that he sees clients come to NetGalley and Firebrand to solve specific problems: To help them send metadata more effectively, to get more control over printing specs, to track P&Ls, to build pre-publication buzz. And while NetGalley and Firebrand can certainly provide tools and processes to fix these pain points, focusing on the individual issues can be limiting.
“I’ve seen many clients lose the institutional awareness over time about the many ways we can help them solve new problems. That has led to companies looking at other solutions, not even knowing that the software they’re already using can do what they need.”
Using Simon & Schuster imprint Gallery Books’s The Book Charmer by Karen Hawkins, Radke and Tallent showed how a title might move through Firebrand and NetGalley services most effectively, from acquisition through publication, and even rejuvenate the backlist. Gallery used a number of these tools in their actual launch of The Book Charmer, and graciously allowed us to use their book to demonstrate how all of the Firebrand services can link together. This example includes recommended use of the Firebrand and NetGalley tools.
During the Acquisition phase of a project, Title Management provides publishers with robust tracking functionality, helping them manage submissions and ideas and plan for each project’s success. Title Management can help with budget planning utilizing a powerful Profit & Loss system and production planning templates.
For The Book Charmer, the Gallery team could create contracts and contract templates within Title Management and, once the acquisition was complete, use Title Management to start collecting metadata and assigning tasks across various teams. Getting the details right in Title Management is critical to everything that follows!
Around 5-6 months in advance of pub date, the team could send initial metadata feeds through Eloquence on Demand.
Before the data was sent, Eloquence Verification ensured that the metadata met industry requirements. These metadata feeds ensure that the details consumers see about the book are consistent and correct.
Once the book was a few months away from its pub date, Gallery Books made it active on NetGalley, using metadata sent through Eloquence on Demand. This made title setup a breeze. NetGalley was used to garner early reviews and buzz, and generally raise the visibility of the book before it went on sale. Gallery Books could add NetGalley as a Marketing Campaign in Title Management, too, allowing them to keep track of this among the other efforts they were putting forth for this book.
Once the book was live in NetGalley, Gallery Books received requests and feedback, plus early data. To get the most out of NetGalley, Gallery Books used targeted marketing to drive requests. They made particular efforts to target librarians and booksellers through inclusion in the ABA Digital Whitebox and the Librarian newsletter.
The Gallery team used consumer-facing platform, BookishFirst, to entice avid readers with a First Look at The Book Charmer, building pre-publication excitement through the use of a giveaway and gaining access to in-depth reporting through BookishFirst.
Through the launch process, the Gallery team updated their metadata and their keywords in Title Management, ensuring that the feedback they were receiving through NetGalley and Bookish First was informing the marketing copy.
Both Firebrand’s Keywords service and the NetGalley Advanced Word Cloud allow them to add keywords that repeatedly pop up in reviews on NetGalley and beyond. These keywords are important to discoverability across all retailer platforms, and using real audience-generated words ensures they’re as effective as possible.
At the same time as publicity and marketing teams were promoting The Book Charmer on NetGalley and BookishFirst, feeding the data they learned back into metadata, the production team was hard at work. Using Title Management, they managed printing specs, planned production costs, and handled inventory management, sending out purchase orders to their printer—all very critical details that affect the finished product and the publisher’s bottom line.
As the ebook file approached completion, the production team could load the file into FlightDeck through the Title Management interface. FlightDeck lets publishers check for any lingering issues with their ebook files before they send them to retail partners for fulfillment.
As The Book Charmer grew closer to its pub date, the Gallery team could continue to track marketing promotions, including social media campaigns and printed promotional postcards, within Title Management. They kept track of tasks, specs, and design details.
Once The Book Charmer hit its pub date, the Gallery team could use the contact information they had gathered in the pre-pub phase from NetGalley and BookishFirst to re-engage their audiences on those platforms. Letting people know that the book they reviewed is now on sale is a great way to get these early fans talking about the book and to boost sales and reviews.
Plus, in addition to using Eloquence on Demand to distribute their metadata, Gallery could take advantage of Eloquence on Alert to track changes happening to their titles across retailer sites, including alerts if cover images don’t match across different retailers, if list prices or sale prices change, if a title’s sales rank increases, if the number of reviews or star rankings change, or if they lose their buy button to a third party seller on Amazon.
Through the journey from pub date to the backlist, the Gallery team can continue to update The Book Charmer’s metadata and feed it out to retailers, ensuring that the data is always relevant. They can create new or updated Keywords to see how that might impact sales for a backlist title, and test updated EPUB files in FlightDeck. They can use Express Purchase Orders within Title Management to create a single purchase order for an entire list of reprints. They can re-activate its NetGalley listing for a limited time when they publish a sequel.
Every tool can be used in different parts of the publishing process, and the insights gathered in each stage and through each tool can be used to inform the others.
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.
We all know that data matters. But for publishers looking to become more data-savvy, it can be hard to know where to start, especially when we are often dealing with qualitative data. Which metrics are important? How do you incorporate data collection and analysis into your workflow? Finding yourself with a glut of data and no real way to interpret or incorporate it isn’t much better than no data at all.
Frameworks for data collection and analysis can help. They provide structuring principles to guide publishers who are developing a data strategy. One that we’ve been thinking about since we attended the Firebrand Community Conference is the DIKW model.
DIKW stands for Data, Information, Knowledge, Wisdom. The pyramid structure represents a process of refining raw data into actionable insight.
Data refers to information in its raw form. This broadest and lowest tier of the pyramid represents the whole glut of information that’s available to you. In this system, data has no context, but is readily available. It needs to be interpreted.
Information begins the interpretation process by putting that information in context. This might mean answering the who, what, when, where, and why’s of the data from the first block of the pyramid.
Knowledge puts the information you have in context. It might link the information you’ve already gained earlier in the pyramid to other pieces of information or take into account trends or events that happened around the same time as the pieces of information were gathered. This block of the pyramid looks at how the information you have fits into a more global view of a project or an industry.
Wisdom, at the top of the pyramid, is what you do with the knowledge you have. Wisdom determines the path forward given the ways you have interpreted the data. Ultimately, when publishers say that they want to be data-driven, they mean that they want to get to this point of the pyramid, where their next steps are guided by data insights.
Let’s see this in action with a famous literary example.
Information: This is a date – March 14, 44 BCE
Knowledge: There was a prophecy (at least in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar) to “beware the Ides of March.”
Wisdom: If you’re Caesar, consider calling in sick to the Senate.
Now, let’s put it in terms of the information available to publishers within their NetGalley accounts.
Data: 589, 82018, 2304, 011819
Information: 589 and 2304 are impression counts for two different titles, Title A and Title B. 82018 and 011819 are the dates that each of the titles went live on NetGalley. Title A went live on August 20, 2018 and Title B on January 18, 2019.
Knowledge: Both titles were listed as Nonfiction (Adult) and Biographies & Memoir in NetGalley. The publisher booked an eblast for Title B that went out to all NetGalley members who are interested in the Nonfiction category.
Wisdom: By comparing two similar titles that fared differently on NetGalley, we can see two differences immediately. Title A was put on NetGalley in the end of summer when many members are on vacation, meaning that they might be less likely to be at their computer requesting new titles to read. The publisher might consider putting titles up earlier in the summer so that members can read them on vacations, or later in the fall when business-as-usual has resumed. Additionally, we can see that booking an eblast seems to have had a huge effect on impressions, which can help the publisher determine where to best spend ad dollars in the future.
The DIKW paradigm isn’t the end-all, be-all of data-centered decision making. Some critics have pointed out that the pyramid is too rigid and hierarchical. We certainly see their point, and recognize that flexibility is a crucial aspect to successful decision-making.
DIKW is best thought of a starting point – a structure that can be tweaked. It’s a way to begin to think about what data points you as a publisher need to be collecting, what context will help make those data points meaningful, and how you can take that information with you into the future. For publishers who are in the process of asking themselves what it means to be data-driven, the DIKW pyramid is a great place to start.
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.
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.
Data-driven discovery and trend predictions, plus what success looks like for books in 2019
On Thursday, March 7, NetGalley attended Centennial College’s Future of Media panel in Toronto. This mini conference features a larger discussion about the media landscape, with a specific panel to focus on publishing. With moderator Manu Vishwanath of Harlequin, the Future of Publishing panelists talked about how to incorporate data into decision-making and how to think about gaining the attention of an audience with limited time and budgets in an oversaturated media landscape. Here are some of the takeaways that we’re bringing with us into the future.
Cory Beatty, Senior Director of Marketing and Publicity at HarperCollins Canada
At NetGalley, discovery is one of our favorite words. Connecting readers with new books and new authors is the name of our game, and the panelists were just as passionate about this topic as we are.
While discovering the “next big thing” has always been a publisher’s dream, the reality of this actually happening seems to be getting slimmer every year. Not only are there more publishers who are publishing more books, there are hundreds of thousands of books being self published, and the global marketplace seems to promise that anyone with a talent for writing can make big on their own under the right circumstances. But publishers and authors need to work extra hard to retain a reader’s attention. The panelists discussed the pressing question: How?
Director of BookNet Canada Noah Genner opened up this conversation with data. He noted that leisure spending has not gone up and neither has the rate of leisure reading. This means that readers are struggling to prioritize enormous amounts of content without the time or money to spend on it.
To combat this, Genner told the audience that it’s more important than ever for publishers to have a voice and a brand that stands above the rest. Whether this means developing a niche, like Second Story Press, whose books with strong female leads and themes of social justice sets them apart, or running a smart and snappy Twitter account like Coach House Books, it’s your brand–not necessarily the next blockbuster book–that keeps readers returning for more.
Kristina Radke, VP of Business Growth and Development here at NetGalley, added that in order to make your book succeed, it’s crucial to not just look at a variety of KPI’s and early data, but to actually make time to understand it. There will always be multiple points of data that can be collected pre-publication–like the information on NetGalley’s Title Feedback Activity Page–but without taking the time to understand that data and change your plans based on what you learned, it’s never going to make an impact on the success of your book.
Focusing on the end users, Senior Director of Merchandising at Kobo Nathan Maharaj said that publishers should focus more clearly on appealing to readers who don’t have time to sit down for focused reading, through audio. Audiobooks can help rope in customers that don’t necessarily have the leisure time, but are still interested in the story format and do have the leisure money to spend on books.
The Future of Book Trends
On a panel predicting the future of publishing, it’s only natural that the conversation steered toward predicting future trends. Léonicka Valcius, Assistant Agent at the Transatlantic Agency, said that books are a cultural artifact that reflects society as a whole, and by reflecting on the events of today we can predict what trends will pop up in the next few years.
Take, for example, the dystopias of yesterday which became popular as the world experienced great political and economic upheaval. Now, we’re seeing a surge of “up-lit”, which emphasizes kindness, empathy, and happy endings. As consumers, we’re now looking for books that show us the light at the end of a long, dark tunnel.
Valcius also praised the data when trying to hone in on the trends of tomorrow. With all of the data that’s available to us digitally, finding what works is the challenge–but also the opportunity. While we may have a book that will only sell 200 copies throughout its lifecycle, with that data we can now predict what type of reader will buy those 200 copies and market accordingly.
The Future of Success
It is, of course, every publisher’s and author’s goal to see their books succeed. However, as Noah Genner was quick to point out, there are different kinds of success, and it’s important for anyone in the publishing industry to evaluate their standard for what success means.
Senior Director of Marketing and Publicity at HarperCollins Canada Cory Beatty said that he regularly needs to set expectations with the authors he works with. Sometimes authors may be frustrated that their books aren’t immediately being buzzed about in major newspapers, and yet the marketing team for said book has been celebrating for weeks at the successes it has seen, whether hitting modest sales goals or generating consumer interest on Goodreads.
Kristina Radke returned to the data conversation, piggy-backing on the ideas about anticipating trends. Modern capabilities are making it easier for new players to join the game. For instance, Wattpad Books is launching a new imprint that will use machine learning to help predict the next hit story and further develop content from their site.
In the publishing industry, metadata refers to data about books. This includes the ISBN, keywords, the author name, pub date, BISAC code, reviews, author bios, and more.
Why does metadata matter for book publishing?
At the most basic level, metadata is how people find your books. Say, for example, that I heard an interview with an author about a new sports romance. I might remember a few plot details, but not the title or the author. If I wanted to find that book again, I’d probably Google “sports romance football single mother” and hope to come up with the right title. If the book’s metadata is set up well, those keywords will be enough to help me find the book I’m looking for from that search.
Without important metadata, you might as well be tossing your book into a huge bin of other unrelated books, instead of placing it carefully on a categorized shelf. Because metadata ensures that books are discoverable and searchable, it has a huge impact on book sales. Metadata can also help potential consumers see what other readers are already saying about your book.
What do I need to include in my metadata?
If you want to push metadata about your titles out into the world, here is the minimum information you’d want to include, according to Firebrand’s Director of Sales and Education, Joshua Tallent:
Main Description or Brief Description
Publication Date and/or On-Sale Date
Page Count (for print and ebooks)
Total Runtime (for audiobooks)
Adding a few more fields to your metadata can really improve its quality, which will ultimately help retailers better sell your books. Tallent recommends adding the below:
Table of Contents
Citations (this is where you’ll put professional reviews and endorsements or reviews from industry publications)
Title Relationships (comp titles, the author’s other books)
Age & Grade Ranges
BISAC Merchandising Themes
How do I distribute metadata?
ONIX is the industry standard for distributing metadata.
According to BISG, ONIX is “A standard form that publishers can use to distribute electronic information about their books to wholesale, e-tail and retail booksellers, other publishers, and anyone else involved in the sale of books. ONIX enables book information to be communicated between different organizations even if they have different technical infrastructures and business needs. It isn’t a database, but provides a standard XML template for organizing data storage.”
Essentially, ONIX is a standard format used to share metadata to variou trading partners.It is used to create and update title information on their websites.
Eloquence on Demand, a service owned by Firebrand Technologies (NetGalley’s parent company), is the gold standard for ONIX distribution in the United States. It provides publishers with simple but powerful tools to help them manage their metadata and send it out to trading partners around the world.
How can I use metadata in my marketing strategy?
Providing detailed metadata to your retail partners and updating that metadata consistently will help retailers sell your book and will help consumers find your book. Metadata helps position your titles in a crowded retail marketplace by giving retailers as much information as possible about those titles. The more information retailers have about your book, the better they will be able sell it. For example, retailers will use metadata fields like keywords, BISAC subjects, age ranges, and comp titles, to figure out how to best position titles for their consumers.
One powerful way to make metadata work for you is to keep it updated as new information becomes available. Pre-publication, update your metadata as often as you need. From publication date to 3 months post-publication, update your metadata every few weeks. If the pub date or price changes, make sure to update that in your metadata. And, be sure to update your keywords and add reviews as you start getting more and more feedback. After that, you can update metadata as needed.
You should also be sure to update your Citations field to get the most out of reviews you’re receiving. When you add reviews in to your metadata – from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and elsewhere – you are demonstrating to retailers that people are paying attention to your titles.
It is also important to update your keywords based on early feedback that you receive from NetGalley or BookishFirst. Learn more about Firebrand’s Keywords service, which provides audience analysis and keyword creation here. The ways that early readers are talking about your books are likely the ways that potential consumers will be searching for your books. Pull keywords from that feedback to see what is resonating with your earliest readers and add that to your metadata to help bring in more readers.
Metadata is one of the most powerful ways that books become discoverable in a crowded marketplace. By ensuring detailed and high-quality metadata as part of a standard workflow, publishers and authors give their books the best possible chance at finding a wide and enthusiastic audience.
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.