Where’s Waldo the Reader? Book Discovery Tactics from IDPF

In English Language by Erin L. Cox

IDPF Conference 2015 at BookExpo America

IDPF Conference at BookExpo America

Executives from Goodreads, HarperCollins, and Penguin Random House shared book discovery tactics in the age of overload at BEA’s IDPF conference on Tuesday.

By Erin L. Cox and Edward Nawotka

IDPF 2015When we talk about discoverability in sales meetings and publishing conferences, we speculate about how readers “discover” books, but, in actuality, readers are discovering, discovering, discovering all day.

A message that has been repeated throughout today’s IDPF conference is that readers are overwhelmed with content and media that they discover (just think of your last YouTube wormhole or the hours lost on Twitter/Facebook reading articles you didn’t know you would be interested in that were posted by friends), and books are no different. What publishers need to drill deeper into when they talk about discoverability is what Porter Anderson, Futurebook editor and moderator of “The Fracturing Book Discovery Landscape: How to Find Your Readers,” said, “[publishers] need readers to discover what we NEED them to discover.”

But, how and where and when do publishers do that to be effective? There doesn’t seem to be one answer to those questions. Instead, it depends on the book, the publisher, the budget, and the readers.

Amanda Close, Senior VP and Director, Consumer Marketing and Development & Operations Group, Penguin Random House said that publishers pick avenues to meet the reader either in a space where they might be thinking about reading or perhaps where they are not thinking about reading, depending on the book. “We really want to meet readers where they live and where they spend time and are thinking about other things. I think we are all thinking about how to get to readers and connect them with the brands, books and authors they really want to engage in,” she said.

Angela Tribelli, CMO, HarperCollins, said, “The most immediately valuable consumer for us has the highest intent to purchase. We need to know when to borrow audience, engage with the one that already is there, or whether to build our own. We might to think we are very close to that purchase intent. We want to reach all people who are reachable through traditional marketing channels. I’m interested in leveraging audience that we can reach on a day-t0-day basis.” As an example, HarperCollins created a partnership with the fast food chain Chipotle to feature quotes from more literary or philosophical writers such as Paulo Coelho, Barbara Kingsolver, and Amy Tan on the packaging of their food and also the partnership with JetBlue to feature their samples of their bestselling ebooks for free on the airline’s Fly-Fi Hub.

With the glut of content out there, curation is necessary for discovery, whether that be publishers working with a bookseller, media, or an individual reader recommending books to a friend.

GoodreadsOtis Chandler, CEO of Goodreads, best described the title of the panel — fracturing of the book discovery landscape — Goodreads now boasts 40 million users with 14 million books being marked as “to read” each month, many through recommendations from friends.

The focus for the company — which is owned by Amazon — going forward, will be focused on mobile. “What we are seeing now is ‘half-mobile.’ I have a challenge to try and never let a good recommendation get lost in the ether. We did a survey of our avid readers and found 48% are reading are reading on their mobile devices, and 80% were women. 1/3rd are using their mobile device as a backup device. That really opens up opportunities for marketers on how to drive into books.”

Publishers successfully tap into this audience of engaged, influential readers through print and ebook giveaways (though ebook giveaways tend to be less successful) and encouraging authors to share their recommendations. Chandler noted that authors are not leveraging their platforms enough. The core question is whether “people are people talking about books,” he said.

Can you define the quintessential influencers: micro-celebrities, authors, book bloggers and power users who have big influence in their respective genres. So, on the first ones, Bill Gates just released his summer reading list, “which is really interesting to our readers,” said Chandler, who also called out the work of Brian Johnson, an entrepreneur, who offers daily tidbits and tips on self-development from various books and other sources.

Much of what publishers tend to do is to tap into existing readers, but what of the “potential reader?” Peter McCarthy, Co-founder, Logical Marketing, advised publishers to look at the way people view their lives when they are not reading. Seeing that entirety of their lives will help define what books might be of interest to them that reading data points alone would not necessarily point to. “Reaching hardcore readers is more narrow-casting than broadcasting,” he said. “Digital media is about seeing the influence of the niche influencer — they have a big bat and when they swing, they swing hard. Look at something like programmatic advertising and other consumer goods and you find audiences who want what you have as soon as you publish it.”

The personal connection — whether that be through the recommendation by a friend or providing desired content in a space and format that a reader wants it — continues to be the best way to get readers to discover books.

About the Author

Erin L. Cox

Erin L. Cox is the Business Development Director for Publishing Perspectives and a Senior Associate at Rob Weisbach Creative Management, where she represents writers and handles publicity and advertising clients.