By Andrés Delgado Darnalt
Books seem to be somewhat invisible on the Internet. Except, perhaps, when they appear in well-positioned online retailers and open source encyclopedias. Look for any topic on a search engine and you’ll see that few if any of of the top results come from publishers, libraries or similar book repositories. It’s only when you add the word “books” that the top results come from e-retailers, Wikipedia and book review sites.
Although this is a given for web surfers, the downside for authors and publishers is that they have almost no control over how their titles are displayed by these third parties online. Furthermore, they also lack the access to useful web analytics that could help them fine-tune their online marketing strategies through a clearer view of their potential readers. Mylibreto, an online marketing tool for books, seeks to help publishers monitor the digital lives of their titles on the Internet and provide this clearer view of readers.
Fernando Fominaya, CEO of Spanish digital marketing consultancy Noergia, came up with the idea after noticing that he was reading less books than before, in an era when anything you need to know is just one click away on a search engine. After giving it some thought he concluded that books were simply not finding a straight way to readers on the Internet because their web presence cannot be identified as content-rich, separate digital records. Quite the opposite: they only appear as book covers and reviews scattered across the Internet.
His experience with digital marketing had shown him that social media and blogs were the ideal place for books on the web. There, people chat, search and comment on their favorite authors and decide on books to purchase. The answer was to create, in Fominaya’s words, a “digital book representative that moves freely on the Internet and goes viral with the help of these social platforms.” This representative is a widget called “libreto,” the Spanish word for script.
Titles signing for Mylibreto are given a set of code, a libreto, which works as their online record, which publishers can embed on their websites and viralize on social media and blogs. As the widgets are shared and published on the Internet, search engines recognize their presence as providers of incoming links and content-rich features — book trailers, reviews, book samples and front covers — and include them on their organic search results. Readers who want to purchase the book can also access e-retailers from the widget.
Publishers can also source valuable data from libretos. By asking bloggers to embed the widgets on their websites, publishers can track the blogs where the potential readers for their titles spend their time. “If you create, for example, a libreto for your historical mystery novel, you can ask bloggers from both niche communities (mystery and historical) to place it on their blogs. An analysis of data collected from the widgets will tell you if your potential readers come from the mystery novel or from the historical novel community.”
The basic plan is free and offers one libreto and unlimited code embedding; however it provides neither analytics nor links for sales in e-retailers. The professional plan ups the benefits to three librettos and offers unlimited code embedding, sales links and analytics. For those who don’t have the time for promote their books with blogs and social media Noergia offers the premium plan. “For this plan we need to hire people to promote the book on social media, contact bloggers and reach agreements with websites.”
Fominaya believes that blogs are key allies in spreading the word for Mylibreto and ultimately promoting book sales. For this reason Noergia approaches key book blogs on subjects related to their catalogue and offers them a series of libretos related to the blog’s subject, which are embedded on the website and link directly to the book’s e-retailer. With this affiliate marketing strategy blogs benefit from the widgets on two sides: they earn a percentage of the book´s sale for every sale done from the libretos; and also improve their organic positioning in search engines.
It may seem like a money-making scheme. However, just posting code on your website will not make it a successful book referral website overnight. “Blogs work only when they offer content that prepare the reading experience. If you just simply paste a libreto on an empty webpage nothing happens, whereas if you write an article on the subject of the book announced by the libreto and publish it below, the impact increases. It´s all about preparing the field for the reader: you first have to spark the interest of the reader with your blog post and then lead him to read the libreto and buy the book.”
Data from widgets collected by Noergia — covering works by independent authors and small Spanish publishers — reveal that nonfiction sells better on the internet than fiction. “I think this is because nonfiction is easier to find on the internet. For example, right now we have a libreto for a book on arthroscopy; people who search for books on the subject find it very easily on search engines and therefore buy it. On the contrary it´s more difficult to find a romance novel because you can search it with different words on search engines and there are also lots of writers on this genre. I think that fiction titles are more suited to the dynamics of social media.”
Presently Mylibreto is only available in Spanish. “The tool is not completely automatized at the moment but we’re working on a new version of the platform that will allow users to build their own libretos without our assistance. Once we get to this point we will roll out our English version.” For the moment their users are based mainly in Spanish-speaking countries, with the majority in Spain and Mexico. “We are confident that our tool will be very well received by the Anglo-Saxon market, we see that publishers and authors there are very knowledgeable on working with the Internet.” The tool is also planned to have German and French versions.
Minor tweaks on the libretos are underway. In order to make them more “sticky” the space for book samples will be replaced by micro-blogs where authors will be able to post content related to the book; this will add new, continuous content to the widgets and therefore get the attention of spiders from search engines. Also, Noergia is working on a virtual meeting platform for publishers on the professional plan and affiliated blogs, where bloggers will have the chance to request books from publishers for review. As for plans on a book valuation scheme, these are still not clear: “A 5-star grading scheme works only in filtered platforms like in Amazon where only those who’ve purchased can vote. We would like to include one but we haven’t figured it out yet.”
Fominaya sees a future where book prescription will be carried heavily on digital channels and where those who gather key prescriptors from literary magazines, blogs and media will be at the forefront of book selling. “In the traditional world, magazines like Babelia, published by El País newspaper, are key reference tools for readers and publishers, but these are on the wane now and they’re migrating to the Internet. There are lots of people writing about books on the Internet and these will dredge up eventually and overcome traditional prescribers.”