If you're in marketing, kill yourself now

There have been a couple of articles over the last few days voicing a proposition that seaped out of the Book 2 Camp ‘unconference’ (don’t get me started)  that discoverability isn’t a problem for readers, it’s a problem for publishers.

Well D’uh. Quelle surprise mes amis. What you gonna do for your next trick? Knock up a few hundred words on the pope being a catholic? (he is still a catholic right?)

Of course discoverability is a publisher problem not a reader problem.

That doesn’t mean it’s not a problem.

That doesn’t mean publishers - any publishers - can sit back, shrug their shoulders and hope that the great god chance will blow along on the word of mouth wind and gift them a whole bunch of strong selling titles.

If that’s really the way we’re going to go - sack all the marketers, sack all the cover designers, sack all the publicists. Publish your books with plain white covers, slip them onto the bookshelves with the minimum of fuss. Do it now and do it quick. It’ll be kinder in the long run.

Except of course that it’s all nonsense. It makes for a great Bill Hicks style rant but that’s about it. It’s self-indulgent navel gazing. It’s talking shop abstraction for the sake of it.

Discoverability is a problem for publishers precisely because it’s NOT a problem for readers. There are so many books, so many places to buy them, so many routes to the checkout, so many subtle nudges towards choosing a title – the fact is, what remains is that publishers need to find some way of getting their products in front of potential customers.

The problem with the discoverability debate is that it’s often been framed the wrong way around. The real discoverability problem for publishers is how to they can discover their audience, not the other way around.

Once you’ve found your audience you can have as many arguments as you like about the best ways to engage with them. But if you don’t know where they are, how are you even going to begin to strike up a conversation? How are you even going to begin to build that relationship with them?

It’s like walking into an empty bar and offering to buy a drink for someone who isn’t there.

Sure there are always going to be arguments about how we get our products in front of our potential customers but please guys let’s not let this cutesy little sound-bite about discoverability not being an issue get any traction.

It’s taken this long to get to the point where publishers are finally beginning to take discoverability seriously. As an industry we genuinely can’t afford to slide backwards.

Other players are about to enter the market, players who don’t operate in abstracts but operate with huge data sets and an eye for making a buck.

Publishers who aren’t prepared, who haven’t built themselves strategies based around discovering their audiences will be swept away.

If  you don’t take steps to discover your audience, someone else will.

Don’t get distracted people.





Data Por Favor?

Peter Turner's picture

What is the data or reasoning for the assertion that readers don't have a problem with discovery. Of course, it's never been easier to discover books; the question is whether readers are having a harder problem finding books that satisfy them. I offer that saying discover isn't a problem for readers is a little like saying search engine results aren't a problem for search. It's in the quality of the results.


That said, I’d suggest that the channels of discovery of quality books is and will be challenged due to the volume of books being “published” digitally and in print. The oft cited figure of an increase if ISBNs to 33M up from 2.5M just a few years ago doesn’t even take into account the number of self-published eBooks, which largely don’t include ISBNs. It is conjectural, I admit, but it seems pretty clear that the size of the haystack must have some effect on how easy it is to find the needle.

Email marketing helps

Joanna Penn's picture

Discoverability is also an author problem, but the way some of us are dealing with this is collecting emails from people who buy and love our books.

So at the end of each book, it says "If you loved X, you might enjoy the next one coming soon. Sign up here for prelaunch specials and more from this author." A URL takes them to a signup page on the author website. 

Self-published authors with control of their books can do this very easily and it is effective at growing a list over time.

However, I see in some trad pub books a notice at the end asking people to sign up for a generic list at a publisher site, which as a reader I am not inclined to do. When I have signed up for one of these lists before, I have been spammed by the publisher with books of all genres that I am not interested in.

What would be more effective is a segmented list at least for genre and even down to the author level. This will allow publishers to have a relationship with their readers. For new books and authors, they can email people who liked a similar author in the past, and for established authors, they will have a list already. 

OR/ empower (and train) authors to have their own lists and use effective email marketing (which I will be speaking about at the London Book Fair)

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