Tag: WHSmith

Self-employed in publishing

Observing the audience: how reader analytics are influencing the industry

Reader analytics are garnering huge attention at the moment and there are at least four major talks at this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair discussing how and why publishers and authors can collect data on their readers. But with reader analytics taking the spotlight in publishing, the debate over the ethics of data harvesting and its uses has been brought to our doorstep.

Consensual data is happy data

The big issues around data harvesting are not just what information businesses and official organisations are collecting about us, it’s whether or not they’re doing it with our consent. For once, however, publishing is ahead of the curve on getting this one right.

Although big boys like Amazon remain the mysterious bastions of data collection they’ve always been, smaller companies specialising in reader analytics are proving to be honest, open and respectful about harvesting data. For example, Jellybooks use “reading campaigns” for as-yet unreleased books to provide information to publishers, in a similar way that a screen test would for a film studio. Jellybooks gathers data from readers who have volunteered to be monitored and received a free digital copy of the campaign book, which is clearly marked, so that the reader remembers they’re being observed.

What’s more, while Jellybooks have said that “though in principle [non-anonymised] data could be provided to the author or publisher” they do not give it. Despite some rumours, Jellybooks also does not gather data by measuring eye-movement, but by observing how the reader interacts with their app as they read. Jellybooks, and most reader analytics collectors, are more interested in the time of day consumers read, how long they read for, when they highlight or perform searches on text, and the operating system, device or browser being used. These are added to information the reader voluntarily provides, such as gender and age.

When working with companies like Jellybooks, publishers don’t need to feel compromised about using this data: it’s not an invasion, it’s a gift!

Data driven decisions

But why is data such hot property in the first place? Some have wondered – both in horror and hope – that reader analytics might effect the editorial process, but Jellybooks has said that this misunderstands how people read and the kind of data reader analytics can collect: “Readers judge a book as a whole based on storyline, language, characters, plot, etc. and not on individual chapters.” Though the data can be utilised in this way, knowing that “x” number of people dropped off at page 57 is not necessarily helpful to an author or a publisher.

Excitingly, what reader analytics can provide are evidence-based assessments of how a book is likely to perform in the market. Data on completion rates and recommendations gathered during the commissioning stage, for example, can help reduce the risk inherent in signing new books by indicating whether or not a book might be popular.

Later in the publishing process, analytics can also help marketing departments figure out how much budget to assign to their titles, what their audience looks like and how to find them – are they young or old, male or female? Do they binge-read on beach holidays, meaning you should get WHSmith Travel on board, or do they dip in on their on their commute to work, meaning you can grab them with a poster on the tube?

Best of all, this data is available via third-party companies like Jellybooks, meaning that although publishers have to pay fees for their data, they don’t need to make the huge investments in building platforms and software that was previously required. This information is more easily available to publishers than ever before.

Scratching the surface

Reader analytics still clearly has its limits and they may never become a magic wand for book sales, but the truth is that the possibilities for using this data are only just starting to be explored. Moreover, the software for collecting this data are still in its – albeit impressive – infancy. Looking ahead there is talk of Jellybooks developing some kind of “FitBit for books,” which will take retail copies of books into account as well as the pre-sales titles currently available. Others claim that one day soon we will be able to use data to predict the next big bestseller.

There can be no arguing that data harvesting is here to stay. The only, opportunity-filled question remains: how else are we going to use it?

 

The Zoella Book Club: interview with Amy Alward

Earlier this month WHSmith launched Zoella’s Book Club in partnership with blogger and vlogger Zoe. Here Norah Myers interviews Amy Alward, one of the eight authors to be included in the Summer 2016 collection.

1. Why was it important for Zoe to start a book club in partnership with WHSmith?

Zoe’s always been passionate about reading, and the WHSmith book club is the perfect way to share that passion with her viewers.

2. The sales of the books Zoe chose increased exponentially right away. What does that say about the power and influence of YouTube?

It’s incredible! I think those in industries who have worked with major YouTubers before, like fashion and beauty, will find it no surprise to see the uplift in sales. They’ve known the power of social media stars for a long time. But, for books, this is something completely new. For so long, YA publishers have been debating the best ways to reach real teens in the UK and beyond, without the benefit of a movie or TV show. Zoe is putting reading back on the teen radar in a BIG way.

3. Does Zoe plan to stick to YA recommendations or will she branch into other genres?

I’m not sure! I’m very excited to see what she picks in upcoming book clubs – her taste so far has been spot on and even I’ve discovered some recommendations that have gone straight on my TBR pile.

4. Where do you and Zoe see the book club going through the rest of 2016 and beyond this year?

So far, it’s been amazing seeing the reaction to the book club and the level of interaction during the online events. I hope that continues right the way through September, when the vote for the ‘favourite book’ is counted. As for beyond, I hope that the book club continues to shine a light on authors that otherwise would not be getting the attention they deserve, introducing more awesome and diverse authors to new readers. There is so little coverage of children’s books in general in the UK, especially not in places that will be seen by teenagers. This is an amazing opportunity to spread a love of reading far and wide!

5. Congratulations on being chosen as part of Zoe’s first eight picks. What does this mean for you as an author and where do you see it taking you in terms of your own writing?

Thank you so much. For me – of course, I’m blown away by seeing the jump in sales and by the hundreds of messages I’ve received from new readers discovering the series. All I know is that I have many more stories and adventures for Sam Kemi to go on, so I hope it gives me the opportunity to write even more books in The Potion Diaries series!

Amy Alward is a Canadian author and freelance editor who divides her time between the UK and Canada. In 2013, she was listed as one of The Bookseller’s Rising Stars. Her debut fantasy adventure novel, The Oathbreaker’s Shadow, was published in 2013 under the name Amy McCulloch and was longlisted for the 2014 Branford Boase Award for best UK debut children’s book. Her first book written as Amy Alward, The Potion Diaries, was an international success and the second novel in the series, The Potion Diaries: Royal Tour will be published in August 2016. She is currently travelling the world, researching more extraordinary settings and intriguing potions for the third book in the series. She lives life in a continual search for adventure, coffee, and really great books. Visit her at AmyAlward.co.uk or on Twitter @Amy_Alward.

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