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Voice-First Future

Google’s “Talk To Books” Might Have Just Changed Everything

A version of this blog post first appeared on the Digital Book World site. Bradley Metrock produced the iBooks Author Conference from 2015 through 2017, before Score Publishing acquired Digital Book World, and has authored many articles on the state of the publishing industry and recent trends.

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Startup Snapshot: Squirl

Jef Van der Avoort is co-founder of Squirl, the first location-based book discovery app. Previously he helped brands like LEGO, Philips and Hasbro to create engaging experiences on the border between the analog and digital world.

1) What exactly is Squirl?

Squirl is a location-based book discovery app that lets you bump into the real-world settings from books (e.g. The Plaza Hotel in the Great Gatsby). You can read the excerpt that takes place right where you are standing and check in to the literary location. You may also click through to buy the book. In essence, we are building an augmented story layer on top of the world.

2) What problem does it solve?

Book discovery is the number one issue for authors and publishers. We want to level the playing field by turning the whole world into a bookstore. The places you pass by become portals into different worlds, no matter if it is from a book by a first-time indie author or a bestselling superstar. It is a new, engaging and serendipitous way to discover your next read.

3) Who is your target market?

The casual reader is very important to us. These are people who read 2 or 3 books a year and are mostly overlooked when it comes to publishing tech. Discovering new books is not on top of their list, but they are interested in stories that are relevant to them. Through this geographic relevance we can excite these readers to buy a book they might not have discovered in any other way.

4) What results do you hope to see over the next few years?

Our first tangible goal is to see a book rise to the New York Times bestseller list because it was discovered through Squirl. On a more macro-level, we would like authors and publishers to see Squirl next to social marketing platforms like Twitter and Goodreads.

5) What will be next for Squirl?

We are very excited with the positive reception we are receiving and we already have some Squirl fans. We are currently raising a seed round to build some great features and advance Squirl to continue to enhance the experience for both readers and authors.

Why small publishers sell more books with Nielsen Book2Look

ralph-moellersSmall independent publishers and self-published authors need to maximize the impact of their books and ensure they are easily found on the Internet. Ralph Möllers, the founder of a children’s publisher based in German decided to develop his own book widget, Book2Look, that would enable book buyers, both trade and consumer, to look inside the book before they purchase. The Internet makes content readily available for free. Ralph felt by offering easily digestible free content as a hook would encourage readers to want to read on and most importantly to click ‘buy’. Making the point of discovery the point of purchase.

As a starting point before any book campaign, publishers should think about whom their current readers are and what is happening in the marketplace. Here are some of Ralph Möllers’ latest observations, together with how this led to the development and continuing enhancement of the Book2Look widget.

Your Readers are web savvy

According to BBC research, young people now spend an average of three hours online a day. This seems quite a conservative estimate really, and professionals must spend more than double this amount. Tech savvy millenials are wise to advertising and many use ad blockers to protect them from the ‘lure’ of online shopping ads, which are becoming increasingly sophisticated. According to eMarketer, about a quarter of all U.S. internet users, nearly 70 million people will use technology to block online ads in 2016. Publishers therefore need to develop respectful ways of promoting to these readers, as a result of this.  Nielsen Book2Look is therefore an ideal option that lets you share sample content, video, audio clips and other promotional material via the internet on social media sites, on your own site, author site or with retailers, bloggers and reviewers.  Each version can be tailored to meet your audience needs.

Shelf space is decreasing

Despite books such as the Cursed Child by JK Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, which achieve huge sales, shelf space for the average book in traditional book stores has been decreasing and this makes discoverability of new books extremely difficult for publishers. Author James Patterson launched an admirable initiative to help indie bookshops survive and thrive – however, in the UK in 2014, almost twice as many bookshops closed down as new ones opened. Between 2009 and 2016*, the number of independent booksellers in the UK and Ireland, has fallen by 25%. With fewer options to browse books in-stores, publishers need to replicate the ability to browse books online, and that’s where Nielsen Book2Look can help you reach a wider audience for your books.

The social media frenzy continues

Trends in Social Media usage are changing. Many Facebook users have migrated to Instagram or Twitter away from parental observation. Groups of friends prefer to communicate via closed groups on Path or What’s App. Professional networks such as Yammer give work colleagues a valid reason to chat online. Nothing remains constant but the one thing all forms of social media have in common is that they give their users the opportunity to share. Nielsen Book2Look lets your readers share sample content. It gives them a valid reason to communicate on their preferred social channels, and you can add a link to your preferred retailer, ensuring that you achieve sales.

Nielsen Book2Look is a tool that encourages readers to share and spread the word about the books they like. A tool that supports your local retailer by offering customised sample content. And lastly but not least, it’s a tool that gives you great analytical data about the performance of your book content that can be connected to your existing Google analytics account.

Conclusion

Today Nielsen Book2Look is helping thousands of publishers of all sizes worldwide to promote and sell their books. Nielsen Book2Look has achieved millions of book views, last year the figure was 20m, and we expect that to increase this year.  Ralph Möllers says: “As a developer and as a publisher I am really proud of this contribution to our industry and I am delighted that so many publishers around the world can take advantage of this remarkable book widget. Even better news is that Nielsen Book has launched its new ISBN Store which enables publishers not only to purchase their ISBNs online but the Book2Look widget too – what could be simpler than that?”

*2016 is seeing a number of new independent bookshops starting up, which might lead to a resurgence of high street retailing, but this is still a hugely competitive market with customers being offered a huge of point of purchase.

book2look

 

Here’s what book publishers can learn from the podcast model

Did you make the same mistake I did and assume podcasts are yesterday’s platform, that interest in them has plateaued (at best) and they’re not worth thinking about today? If so, here’s a short article that might help you re-think your stance. If you’re still not convinced have a look at the infographic in this article, paying close attention to the chart showing how podcast listening is on the rise.

What seemed like a fad that’s dying off is actually showing nice growth. I’m contributing to that growth as I now listen to a variety of podcasts during my daily work commute. As I leverage this medium I’m realising it offers some very important lessons for book publishers:

1) Simple, easy subscriptions

When I discover a new podcast I’m interested in I literally click once to subscribe and the content stream comes to me. What could be easier? More importantly, what’s the analogy in the book publishing world? How do I “subscribe” to an author, series or topic? We all have our favorite authors. Wouldn’t it be terrific if a single click could initiate a subscription to everything they write in the future? That includes having samples of their new books delivered automatically to your preferred reading app/device.

2) Steady rhythm

Your favorite podcasts are usually delivered on a predictable schedule. Some are daily while others are weekly. This rhythm leads to anticipation, knowing that today’s edition will be loaded on your device at the usual time. This is another concept that’s totally foreign to book publishers. Books are released according to seemingly random schedules and some publishers are still even locked into the old “season” model. If you’re going to enable readers to subscribe to an author or topic as described above, be sure to produce a steady, engaging stream of valuable content for your audience.

3) Discovery

This remains one of the hot topics, always on the minds of book publishers. If you’re focused on discovery think about this question: How well do each of your products enable discovery of your other, related products? Some publishers still rely on back-of-book ads, even in ebooks. How about automatically delivering other, related content to your audience? A good example is how NPR promotes new podcasts. Yes, they advertise by plugging new ones in old, established podcasts. But recently I noticed they took the bold step of automatically downloading the first segment of a new podcast onto my device. I don’t recall opting in to that and it might irritate anyone keeping a close eye on their data plans but it’s a novel concept. I wasn’t going to seek that new podcast out and now all I have to do is click “play” to try it out, yet another example of one-click access and engagement.

If you haven’t been paying attention to the podcast marketplace it’s time to take a closer look. Subscribe to two or three that look interesting and see what other lessons can be learned.

Joe WikertJoe 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.

 

book discovery

Startup snapshot: iAuthor

iauthorFeatured in The Bookseller, Digital Book World and GalleyCat, Adam Kolczynski is best known for iAuthor, the London-based startup. In tackling the perennial problem of book discoverability, Kolczynski has straddled both ends of the publishing spectrum: first as an author, then as a publisher with Polybius Books. Here we interviewed him to catch-up with iAuthor developments.

1) What exactly is iAuthor?

iAuthor is a book discovery platform for a new breed of bibliophile. Think ‘Pinterest for books’. Through a theme-driven and intensely visual approach, iAuthor connects readers to authors; and vice versa. All content is author-generated. No editor’s picks. The result is a true democracy of opportunity. Authors have equal access to readers, regardless of their route to publication.

2) What problem does it solve?

Gabriel Zaid’s 2003 observation is both piquant and prophetic: “The reading of books is growing arithmetically; the writing of books is growing exponentially.” Fast-forward 13 years, and we’re witnessing an alarming asymmetry between reader growth and book numbers. Across key formats, the number of new books released per year is not matched by a commensurate increase in readers. The result? More books are competing for fewer reader eyeballs. Readers feel swamped by digital noise, creating a paradox of choice. Authors are deafened by this same noise, widening the gap between talent and opportunity. Millions of books are left undiscovered. Both ends of the publishing spectrum suffer.

If an overabundance of books weren’t enough, other factors have exacerbated this discoverability problem:

a) A scarcity of attention

Mobile and tablet readers are more time-squeezed than ever, so unknown authors have less time to capture and maintain reader interest.

b) Saturated genre categories

Many book categories have a surplus of books on every topic, particularly in the case of non-fiction. The resulting overlap makes it harder for individual books to stand out.

c) Poor user-experience

Annoying file downloads, restrictive DRM and awkward page navigation deters many readers from sampling books online. Unless readers can try before they buy, the likelihood of an impulse purchase drops significantly.

iAuthor overcomes these obstacles through a unique combination of crowdsourced book themes and user-generated book samples.

3) Who is your target market?

From the book discovery angle: digital-first readers. Voracious book buyers, reviewers, bloggers, book clubs, and more. All those looking to stumble upon their next read with a splurge of serendipity.

From the book promotion angle: authors, publishers and book PR agencies. On hitting 2.2 million page-views and 1.2 million engaged minutes since launch, iAuthor rolled out a signature feature called 7dayAds. Native advertising has been on the rise on social media sites. Sponsored tweets, promotional product pins and Facebook ads have made users both the journey and the destination. With this in mind, 7dayAds targets users who are already “soaked” in iAuthor’s ecosystem, letting them upgrade free book profiles to premium adverts for short promotional bursts.

4) What results do you hope to see over the next few years?

iAuthor’s mission is to make books not only searchable but genuinely discoverable. Amazon-style metadata will make a book searchable in seconds…if the buyer already knew of its existence. But what if they didn’t? What if the buyer chanced upon the book? That’s where iAuthor’s ‘serendipitous discovery’ comes in. With well-aimed funding and sustainable scaling, iAuthor can become the marquee platform for book discovery and author brand-building. With 12 New York Times bestselling authors and 16 USA Today bestselling authors aboard iAuthor, the once quixotic notion of top-tier authors sharing promotional space with edgy indies is real and manifest.

5) What will be next for iAuthor after this?

Eric Ries’ lean startup methodology calls for products to be built iteratively, with customer validation at every milestone. By extension, iAuthor is only as robust as its last iteration; and only as ambitious as its next one! In the coming months, we aim to expand our book analytics suite to incorporate stats from readers’ sampling habits, while simultaneously streamlining the inline comments in LitSampler, iAuthor’s proprietary book sampler. iAuthor is proving both ‘sticky’ and habit-forming; an eclectic user-base with genuine discovery intent, not just gratuitous self-promotion. The proposed enhancements will deepen that engagement on all levels.

It’s a Brand New World

This is a guest post from Kathy MeisKathy Meis, who is founder and president of Bublish, a social book discovery platform that is revolutionizing how writers share their stories and readers find books they’ll love. 

In the world of business journalism, where I come from, the idea of a publishing brand, is common. Forbes, Financial Times, and The Economist are all household names. Book publishing, however, evolved quite differently, primarily because of its distribution and monetization models. Book publishers haven’t traditionally sold directly to their customers nor have they had to worry about making money through advertising, which requires a strong brand and an intimate understanding of one’s readership.

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BookMachine Weekly BookWrap: publishing stories from around the web

This week on the site, our Monday column argued that sometimes Your Innovation Ain’t All That. We then saw The elderly get techy with iPads, and Thomas Pynchon’s back catalogue digitised at last, while dreaming up puns as Publishing goes to the dogs in early Christmas slate announcements (barking up the wrong tree?).

Our big news was the announcement of BookMachine Oxford (hosted by Osprey Group). We hope to see all you Oxford folks there on 28th June.

Elsewhere on the web, there’s lots going on for you self-publishing types out there: are you Not writing? There’s an app for that: Write or Die. There’s More on the economics of the self-published book, some reading on Booktango and the Future of DIY E-book Publishing and there’s the suggestion that Amazon’s markup of digital delivery to indie authors is ~129,000%.

Are you an editor? This week The Guardian has been big on The importance of good editing, and what do you think, Should Editors Get Credited in Books?

Meanwhile, here’s Jane Friedman on marketing and building an author platform and the Anatomy of Book Discovery: A Case Study.

These posts look at How ‘Fifty Shades’ Is Changing the Face of Publishing and Why the ebook you want isn’t for sale in your country.

And, to wrap up this week, here’s a Summer Reading List 2012: 10 Essential Books for Cognitive Sunshine.

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