This is a guest post by Anna Cunnane. Anna is Senior Data Executive at Abrams & Chronicle Books. Anna was winner of the Trailblazer Awards 2018, she is part of BookMachine Team Unplugged and was Chair of the Society of Young Publishers (2015-16). Here she reviews a panel she was asked to speak on at The London Book Fair 2018.
Matt Haslum spent 8 years building an award-winning digital creative agency working with big brands, helping them focus on engaging their customers online. He joined Faber & Faber as Marketing Director in 2012, building a list-focussed consumer-facing marketing team along side an award-winning website and Members programme. Since leaving Faber in 2017, Matt has been consulting for publishers and creative agencies on a broad range of topics – from digital development, to list & campaign planning, to marketing and publishing strategy. In March 2018, Matt became UK MD of Chelsea Green Publishing, leading US publisher on the politics and practise of sustainable living.
As you can imagine, getting on page 1 of Amazon’s search results can be very important. Amazon is the world’s largest search engine and your ability to rank for specific keywords related to your book can attract new potential buyers and highly relevant organic traffic to your book page. But the competition can be quite intense for many of the keywords you desire, so it has become increasingly important for authors to adopt advanced sales tactics to get their books to the top pages of Amazon’s search results.
Cory Doctorow is one of my nominations for Hero of the Internet. He’s an author, activist, journalist, and blogger – he’s co-editor of Boing Boing, one of the earliest blogs – and savage opponent of DRM (Digital Rights Management). He famously formulated Doctorow’s First Law: “Any time someone puts a lock on something that belongs to you, and won’t give you a key, they’re not doing it for your benefit.”
Naomi Peel moved from department store retail management to a MA Publishing degree at Kingston University where she developed an interest in data and the business and market analysis area of publishing. Having gone on to work at Nielsen Book Research as a Sales and Account Executive she is now a Sales Analyst for Abrams & Chronicle Books, the European arm of acclaimed publishing houses Abrams, based in New York, and Chronicle Books, based in San Francisco.
8:00 I leave with my current read in hand to start my commute. Thankfully I live a stone’s throw from my local station and on a good day (South West Trains ensure they’re not all good) I get into Waterloo at around 8:30 and walk to the bus stop to get to Farringdon. I’m really not a morning person and I find the orderly, if very long queue for my bus reassuring.
9:00 I get to the office and check my emails for any that have come in from our American publishers overnight. After categorising or filing them accordingly I head to the kitchen to make my first coffee of the day. We are an office of tea drinkers and I’ll likely pick up a round or two later in the day.
9:05-5:00 – LOTS AND LOTS OF EXCEL SPREADSHEETS – details below:
9:05 Coffee made and now firmly ensconced at my desk I start with the first task of the day. Depending on the day of the week my mornings are usually made up of collecting data from a variety of sources to update our internal sales and stock reporting to circulate to sales and our publishers. I’ll analyse the detail of these reports and add jobs to my list accordingly. These can include comparable title gap analyses or delving a little deeper into specific account or sector to compare year on year data.
10:30 My manager, the Director of Finance & Operations, and I meet to discuss what I’ve been working on and any projects he wants me to start. At this time of year there’s lots of budgeting work to be done and I’ve been supporting with that by analysing backlist and frontlist trends as well as seasonal and title level analysis.
12:30/1:00 Lunchtime varies depending on how hungry I am. I try and bring lunch in every day but when I don’t there is a huge range of delicious options near the office. Within a five minute walk we have 2 food markets with every cuisine you can imagine. I’m a big fan of the local Ghanaian curry and plantain or, now that the cold weather is here, Pieminister is another great choice.
1:30-4:30 I tend to use afternoons to get down to bigger projects. I’m always trying to find the most efficient ways to communicate information to the sales teams which can include building a dashboard, or starting a new report from scratch using the tools and formulas available in Excel to pull in the necessary data into one place. Other days I may help find answers to questions that the sales teams have from how average discounts have changed or the impact of branch closures and openings on sales. I also use BookScan to keep an eye on market trends and as I’ve become the resident specialist on our data warehouse software I may show a colleague how to set up and schedule reports.
5:00 The day is over and I set off on my thirty minute walk back to Waterloo. I find walking in the evening a great way to unwind from the day with either music or a podcast. I’m currently listening to My Dad Wrote a Porno and getting some funny looks when I burst out laughing whilst walking down the street, it is totally worth it though!
George Edgeller is a Project Manager at whitefox. He manages whitefox’s self-publishing and selected brand and corporate projects. Here he shares what he has learned about managing metadata:
‘It’s the metadata, stupid.’ Having complete metadata doesn’t guarantee sales, but without it it’s hard to achieve good sales so it’s vital to get it right.
You need to first sort out the basics. Reading Nielsen’s White Paper on the link between metadata and sales is a good place to start.
Nielsen’s BookData Enhanced Service is a huge help ensuring you have rich and thorough metadata.
Get your metadata for a title feeding out as far in advance of publication as possible.
Metadata standards and systems will inevitably change but the principles will remain the same: getting as much information about your titles out there to the people who buy books.
Good metadata is vital in helping discoverability and differentiating your titles from the thousands of other books being published.
We’ve benefited enormously. Our experience has definitely confirmed for us that good data helps sell books.
Ahead of BookMachine Unplugged 2018: Talking Marcomms [SOLD OUT], Norah Myers interviewed Claire Morrison about her marketing career and staying ahead of the curve. Claire oversees the marketing strategy for licensing, children’s and travel books as well as being instrumental in implementing DK’s metadata and video strategies. During her 14 years in book publishing she has worked at Vintage, Headline, Pan Macmillan and Quercus and won numerous awards. She’s currently a mentor for Creative Access. Follow Claire on Twitter: @novelmarketing
Abbie Headon runs Abbie Headon Publishing Services, and offers a range of skills including writing, editing and commissioning, alongside social media, website development and publishing management. She champions fresh approaches to solving the industry’s challenges and can be found mingling at most publishing events. Abbie’s also BookMachine’s Commissioning Editor and sits on the BookMachine Editorial Board.
Publishers recognise that they are facing a huge discoverability problem. While good quality metadata will never replace hand selling it can be a key to growing sales.
Last month Claire Morrison, Senior Marketing Manager at DK, felt passionate enough about our feature Amazon: How to Get Your Book To Appear Alongside the Best Sellers to tweet about it. Here she explains why it evoked such a reaction.
We’re fortunate to have so many book discovery tools and techniques available to us, but leveraging them effectively can be challenging. In this post I’ll share some insights on working strategies, drawn from experience building search and recommendation engines, and from helping publishers connect with readers through keywords.
How are you helping consumers find the perfect book for their needs or interests? If you’re like most publishers, you offer a search function on your site. Visitors simply type in a topic and relevant titles from your catalog are displayed.
This is pretty similar to how search works on Amazon. In both cases, book metadata is used to determine the best matches. So if the search phrase happens to be in a book’s title, description, etc., that title is likely to float to the top of the results.
That’s great, but why not leverage the book contents, not simply its metadata, for the search process. Amazon’s Search Inside feature lets you do this, but only after you’ve selected a particular book. What if you’re a publisher with a deep catalog on religion and someone is looking for the book with the most in-depth coverage of Pope Francis? Metadata-only searches can help, but the full contents are the only way to truly measure topical depth, especially if you want to compare two similar titles to see which one has the most extensive coverage of the search phrase.
Google Book Search (GBS) offers this sort of visibility but most publishers have a cap on the percentage of content visible to GBS users. That’s primarily because publishers want to prevent someone from reading the entire book without buying it.
I believe the solution is to expose all the contents to a search tool and display results that only show snippets, not full pages. That’s exactly what we’re now offering on our bookstore website at Our Sunday Visitor. If you click on the Power Search link at the top of the page you’ll be taken to this new search tool.
If I search for “Pope Francis” I get these results. The top title has 203 hits, so if I click “view 203 results” I can then take a close look at every occurrence of my search phrase in the highest ranked title. Note that this platform takes proximity into consideration, so if you have a multi-word search you can limit the results to just those instances where the words are closest to each other. At any point the user can click on the cover image to read title details or buy the book.
Think about how powerful this tool is for publishers with deep lists on vertical topics (e.g., cooking, math, science, self-help, etc.). Instead of relying exclusively on the book description to make the sale, the contents are fully searchable and comparable across a list of related titles.
We’re in the early experimentation phase with this platform. We’re planning to use a variety of ads that say something like, “find your next great read”; users who click on those ads will be taken to the search landing page where they can explore the full contents of our entire ebook catalog.
This search platform is powered by the outstanding team at MarpX. If you’d like to experiment with this on your site, you’ll find contact info at the bottom of their home page. MarpX has been a wonderful partner for us and I highly recommend you explore their solution as well.
I hope you’ll join us in this effort to move content search and discovery to the next level.
Joe Wikert is director of strategy and business development at Olive Software. This post was originally published on his blog, Joe Wikert’s Digital Content Strategies, where he writes opinion pieces on the rich content future of publishing.
Jane Rowland is the Operations Director of Troubador Publishing. Jane has worked in a variety of roles within the company, including Director of Academic Publishing, Editor of The Self Publishing Magazine and Marketing Manager, before becoming the Operations Director in 2013. Here she shares what she has learned about managing metadata.