How St. Martin's Press Doubled Down on the Success of The Nightingale to Take it to Greater HeightsPosted by Patrick Brown on June 6, 2016
Michael Shatzkin, The Idea Logical Company
It's a rare breed of book that flies high enough to make it onto the bestseller lists and stay there for more than a year. With more than 65 weeks on the New York Times Bestsellers List, Kristin Hannah's The Nightingale not only shows no signs of losing steam, but is gaining momentum. You can see from the graph below that more Goodreads members, on average, are adding it to their shelves today than were doing so a year ago when the book was in its key publicity phase. With this kind of traction, The Nightingale has the potential to become 2016's version of The Help, another book that picked up greater momentum in its second year.
Another key point that stands out in this case study is that St Martin's Press did not put all of their eggs in one basket. They undertook a number of marketing tactics - both paid and free - that amplified each other over time. And with each new milestone, they have added more marketing fuel to the fire.
It starts by getting the book into readers' hands
St. Martin’s Press wanted to build a groundswell of reviews before publication. They knew that if they got the book into the hands of enough readers early on, the power of the story in The Nightingale would drive that all-important word-of-mouth buzz that can make a great book take off. They went big and ran giveaways for more than 200 copies of the book on Goodreads before publication.
"Giveaways are a fantastic way of generating early buzz and those crucial early reviews," said Laura Clark, Senior Marketing Director, St Martin’s Press. "What we love the most about giveaways on Goodreads is how when someone enters a giveaway, this also gets shared with their friends and followers in their newsfeed, creating a series of mini alerts about a book and helping more people discover it. Our team knew this book was something special – it became the book everyone wanted to read at the office – so we decided to go bigger than usual and commit to 200 books in giveaways."
The giveaways drove the first bit of sustained interest in the book on Goodreads. But giveaways alone won’t keep the momentum on any book, no matter how good. For that, you need to keep reminding people about a book. And to do that, paid advertising can be a powerful tool.
Using advertising to reach the readers most likely to be interested in your book
Paid advertising on Goodreads can be a very effective means to generate a lot of awareness for a specific book among just the right readers, and build on buzz that you are creating on Goodreads. In the case of The Nightingale, St. Martin's wanted to reach Kristin Hannah's existing fans to let them know that a new book from one of their favorite authors was on the way. This was important as Kristin Hannah hadn’t published a book in nearly two years.
To reach Hannah’s existing fan base, St. Martins used display advertising on Goodreads – targeted to fans of Kristin Hannah. These ads were meant to reach a very specific audience with just the right message for them. In addition to display advertising, St. Martins used a relatively new email ad product called a Personal Selection mailer. The Personal Selection mailer is an advertisement that sends a personal note from the author straight to a reader’s in-box. What makes this so effective is that the author is able to tell the reader about her new book in her own voice. Readers love to hear from an author whose work they have previously enjoyed in this way. Note the incredible spike in people adding the book to their shelves on the day this email was sent.
Staying in touch with readers
It's no coincidence that Kristin Hannah would be so good at providing this personal touch, as she is an author who intuitively gets Goodreads. First, she shelves books that she's read. This gives readers a sense of what her taste is like, both as a reader and an author, and is a way for her to stay in touch with fans in between her own books. She also provides readers with a personal connection by answering questions through Ask the Author. Readers consistently tell us that what they want most from their favorite authors is to have a personal connection with them, and being able to ask questions directly is a key part of this.
At publication in early February 2015, Kristin Hannah was featured in the monthly Goodreads newsletter, which goes to roughly 40 million people worldwide. This was obviously valuable exposure for the book, but it's important to keep in mind that a key factor our editors look at when choosing those interviews is how much a book is resonating with our membership – how many people have added it to their shelves (more than 20,000 people had added The Nightingale to their shelves before it was published), what are the early reviews looking like. This reinforces the need to get your books into the hands of readers early so your book can stand out closer to publication date and start to get traction on Goodreads.
Goodreads Choice Awards take The Nightingale to greater heights
Let's jump to the end of 2015, when we announced the nominees for the annual Goodreads Choice Awards, and The Nightingale was nominated for Best Historical Fiction. This nomination was the result of so many readers finding, highly rating, and discussing the book on Goodreads.
a previous blog post - winning the Goodreads Choice Awards had an enormous impact on the number of people adding it to their Want to Read shelves, even on a bestseller like The Nightingale. For Kristin Hannah, the value of the award was also measured in terms of recognition. "Most year's best lists are compiled by critics who don’t even consider commercial fiction," Hannah said, "So it is so important - and meaningful - to hear what real readers love."
St Martin's adds more fuel to the fire
St. Martin’s understood that the free awareness such an award brings was a major opportunity to double down on the book. They listed more giveaways and booked native newsfeed ads - ads that run in the newsfeed on Goodreads as well as in its mobile apps - to keep it front of mind with readers.
We’re working on more case studies to share with you, including how indie authors have been able to utilize Goodreads book marketing tools to help their books break out. We’ll keep you updated on this - and other interesting news – in the monthly Goodreads Authors newsletter.
Next: Goodreads Marketing Advice from Debut Author Scott Hawkins
You might also like: The Impact of Goodreads Choice Awards for Authors and Publishers
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