Goodreads Blog

7 Useful Insights for Savvy Book Marketers from Digital Book World 2017

Posted by Suzanne on January 23, 2017
Last week, more than 650 publishing professionals and authors gathered in New York to learn about the latest trends in publishing and book marketing at Digital Book World. The Goodreads team was there typing furiously to capture as many interesting notes as possible. Here’s a taste of what was covered:

1. Who Are Your Readers?

You’ve written an amazing book, but how do you find readers for it? Several presenters at DBW said the first question to answer is: who are your readers? Are they women age 20 - 25, living in cities, who love a great thriller with a strong feminist lead character? Or are they men age 45 - 60 who are interested in reading military stories set in WWII? The more specific you can get, the better you will be at writing a book description to appeal to them (one of the most important parts of your marketing), deciding how and where to find them, and engaging them with content they’ll like and share on social media channels. There’s a lot to dig into here so it’s worth looking at these blogs: Jane Friedman, Joanna Penn, Penny Sansevieri, and Smith Publicity to learn more about author marketing.

2. Where Do Your Readers Buy Their Books?

The next question to ask is where are your readers buying their books. The Data Guy from Author Earnings presented at DBW and revealed that his data showed 69% of all book sales (print, ebook, and audiobook) in the U.S. were made online in 2016, with adult fiction even higher at 77% of unit sales online.

As you can see from the slide above, the further over to the right, the more a category has sales online. Adult Nonfiction has more online sales than Juvenile Nonfiction. (And the size of the bubbles represents the number of total sales.) You can see the whole presentation by The Data Guy here - there are some slides which show which categories are more likely to have online sales towards the end.

The more likely your book is to be sold online, the more you will want to dedicate your budget and time to online marketing tactics. Kristin Fassler, Director of Marketing at Random House / Ballantine Bantam Dell, gave an excellent case study of all the marketing that helped Lilac Girls become a bestseller. When they looked at pre-publication orders, they saw they were 70% digital so the team knew early on that the book was going to be primarily ebook sales. They realized they needed to focus on online discoverability and shifted their whole advertising spend to online.

3. How Important is Price?

Peter Hildick-Smith, CEO of the research firm, The Codex Group, shared that readers need to come across a book on average at least two times before thinking about whether to buy it. For books priced $25, they need to hear about a book 3.1 times so you need to work harder to get readers to discover higher-priced books again and again before they’ll think about buying them.

Once readers see a book that looks interesting, they’ll use these factors to decide whether to buy it:

  • Book Message: The copy, title, and the way it’s presented - everything that answers the question: “what is it?” Hildick-Smith says the book message is the most important starting point in the conversion-to-purchase journey. (Remember what we said above about knowing who your readers are? Understanding this and creating your book message to resonate with them is key to getting people to buy your book.)
  • Author/Series/Characters: Do I know the author, the series, or the characters?
  • Recommendations: Who recommends this book? Are they people I trust? Higher priced books need more recommendations.
  • Special Price/Discount: The lower the price, the faster readers decide to buy it.
  • Reader Reviews: Knowing what other readers think about a book is important
  • News Reviews/Interviews

Price is also the number one factor in the way readers “source” books:

  • Never Pay Full Price: 26% of readers (buy a lot of used books)
  • eBook Fan: 16% of readers (smallest segment; strongest in Romantic Suspense; fastest to buy once they discover a book they like)
  • Save When I Can: 18% of readers (love those daily deals and other price promotions)
  • See It - Get It: 22% of readers
  • Read for Free: 18% of readers (stronger in Christian Fiction and Romance; get it from the library, borrow from friends)

4. Readers Love A Personal Connection With Authors

Just when you thought writing a book was the hardest part of your journey as an author, here comes your next assignment: creating and sharing content with readers so you can build a personal connection with them. This is a long term strategy, but it’s one that many authors have found can pay off in delightful ways.

In a panel session about influencer marketing, Goodreads’ head of author marketing, Patrick Brown, shared that one of the best ways to connect with readers is to share your own book recommendations. An easy way of doing that is writing reviews of books you’ve read and loved on Goodreads. Check out how Roxane Gay, Rick Riordan, and Maggie Stiefvater keep the connection going with fans in between their own books by posting reviews of what they are reading.

Sharing different kinds of content on social media also allows you to test what resonates with readers. For Lilac Girls, Kristin Fassler and her team used a number of marketing initiatives to promote the book, but they realized that one of their priorities should be helping the author, Martha Hall Kelly, build a relationship with readers.

This was a debut novel so Kelly didn’t have an existing fan base. On her website, you can see that there is content about the inspiration for the book, illustrated maps, videos, and a special section for book clubs with menus and an invitation to have Kelly join your book club via Skype. Fassler and her team ran small tests to see which messages and content got the most engagement and shares and they then doubled down on the ones that got the best results.

In her presentation, Fassler also said, “I want to give a shout out to Goodreads which was instrumental in making this book a success.” To learn more about how Goodreads helped this debut novel, read our case study here.

5. The Power of Reader Reviews

Reader reviews were mentioned by several presenters as being influential in driving awareness and book sales. One of the best ways to do this is with the Goodreads Giveaways program. Remember that you’re not limited to running a single giveaway for a book! You can run multiple giveaways, both pre- and post-publication.

Also, look for a way to make a personal connection. Margarite Joly from Ullstein Publishing in Germany recommends adding a handwritten note to print books you are sending to giveaway winners to help make them stand out.

6. One Thing to Avoid on Social Media

Of course you want people to know about your own book, but it’s important to remember that social media is indeed social. It’s about the kinds of interactions you’d have with people you’d meet at parties, having a coffee with friends, or even at conferences. If you’re looking to advertise your book - the hard sell - then it’s better to pay for advertising. Social media requires a different mindset and content.

7. Trends in Publishing

Kristen McLean from Nielsen BookScan gave a presentation on “Separating Trends from Fads - Practical Strategies for Identifying Real Growth Opportunities”. She sees Self Help as one of the most promising nonfiction growth trends at the moment with several successful sales stories, including You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero. And related to the general zeitgeist, there is increasing interest in Self Help books that help people deal with anxiety. Overall, her predictions for publishing trends that are showing signs for sales growth in 2017 are:

  • Graphic Novels
  • Self Help
  • Christian Fiction/Nonfiction
  • Holidays & Celebrations
  • Audio & Podcasts
  • Mystery/Thriller/Occult/Psychological
  • “Active Nonfiction” for Kids
  • Comfort & Peace
  • Family Time
  • “Entertain & Distract Me"

And In Conclusion

For us, Peter McCarthy, Chief Product Officer, Optiqly, summarized how best to think about all of this advice: “The most important thing for successful marketing is the right mindset. You can’t be rigid. Think of your marketing tactics as a bag of tools and then be willing to use them anytime in any combination. It’s not about having one tool that you’re really good at using.”

Next: The Essential Guide to Promoting Nonfiction Books on Goodreads

You might also like: Getting the Most of Native Ads on Goodreads

Goodreads Authors can subscribe to the Monthly Author Newsletter by editing their account settings under the 'emails' tab!

Comments Showing 1-18 of 18 (18 new)

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message 1: by Cecelia (new)

Cecelia Mecca Thanks for sharing!

message 2: by Rohvannyn (new)

Rohvannyn Shaw Great article! I especially appreciated the "trends" portion.

message 3: by Ty (new)

Ty Mitchell I will be using this for next book! Thank you.

message 4: by David (new)

David Healey Did you read my mind? I happen to write WWII thrillers for men ages 45-60 for your first paragraph grabbed me! I'd been thinking about attending Digital Book World, and this great summary convinces me that I had better start saving up to attend next year! Thank you for sharing.

message 5: by Toni (new)

Toni Mariani David wrote: "Did you read my mind? I happen to write WWII thrillers for men ages 45-60 for your first paragraph grabbed me! I'd been thinking about attending Digital Book World, and this great summary convinces..."

But David, they will go and bring us back the information, so use those dollars you'll save, in advertising your next book!

message 6: by Clare (new)

Clare O'Beara Thanks, trends are useful.

message 7: by Clare (new)

Clare O'Beara The less you pay for a book, the more books you can buy or read.

message 8: by Toni (new)

Toni Mariani One thing I just learned, as a new self published author is about the book release party. Don't go out buying gifts for it! Have it first, by advertising wherever, with the ideas of what you have to offer, and say; depending on how many people are going, the fancier the prizes! And, don't ship large things out of the country! More expensive for postage, and you have to fill out a form for the border folks, about what's in the package, and how much each item weighs and cost! I wanted to pull my hair out at the post office yesterday. It cost me more to send than the prize! But, I had to stand by my words and send it!--Toni.

message 9: by Clare (new)

Clare O'Beara Party? Gift? No, I'd just write the next book. Having one out is no use, so don't even start your marketing that soon. Wait until people can read one and move on to the next.

message 10: by Toni (new)

Toni Mariani Clare wrote: "Party? Gift? No, I'd just write the next book. Having one out is no use, so don't even start your marketing that soon. Wait until people can read one and move on to the next."

Well, it was for the last one in the series. To close that series out, and let everyone see all three together.

message 11: by Clare (new)

Clare O'Beara That makes sense then! Sorry, it sounded as though it was your first book.

message 12: by M.C. (new)

M.C. Glan Great article - very helpful!

message 13: by Toni (new)

Toni Mariani Clare wrote: "That makes sense then! Sorry, it sounded as though it was your first book."

I set up another giveaway, this time through Amazon. It's to give away my latest release, MaDea's Plantation Cookbook. Recipes from the Old South! 2 digital copies will be given away through tomorrow. Find the link on my Facebook page at Toni Hopkins.

message 14: by Tora (new)

Tora Moon Great article! Thanks for sharing. Since I write adult fiction, it was interesting to see that focusing on online sales is a good fit for me. It also hit home for me that although I'd like to just write in my little cave, readers want a personal connection with me so I have to reach out and give that to them.

message 15: by Grace (new)

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As an authorpreneur it is Important to have the latest marketing tips
Thank you for the detailed research.


message 16: by MaryAnn (new)

MaryAnn Pride Thank you! Your article was very informative.

message 17: by Crystalopedia (new)

Crystalopedia Thanks for sharing thoughts, I am also looking for digital marketing services and coach for sales for my own business. In order to ensure continuous results and success, we help companies excel in all areas relating to sales and marketing. Whether you’re a startup or a well-established large company

message 18: by Saad (new)

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