In a recent post on TheBookseller.com, Roger Warner discusses an interesting twist that seems to be occurring in the evolution of reading: readers aren’t clamouring for ever-more digital experiences of reading despite a growing range of formats and devices. If anything, they are rediscovering their love of familiar formats. Warner notes, “eBook sales are down 13%, audiobooks are up 38% … and – according to most analysts – sales of regular books are back in the black.” STAGING EDIT
At the same time as print books are gaining ground again, readers are indicating that the factors that enhance their reading experience are quite traditional. Warner cites Squiz research on what readers are looking for today:
“Firstly, they wish to feel closer to their authors; secondly, they want access to more content that’s related to their books; and thirdly, they need more books.”
Warner argues that it is publishers who are best placed to create connections to authors and to expand the experience of book-lovers:
“Think about it. Content is something that Amazon can’t do so well. Publishers can. You own the stuff. The book is the end game, whether it’s hardback, paperback or eBook (and whether it’s purchased online or in-store). You can use content to influence what happens before and after a reading experience in amazing new ways.”
Making books easier for readers to discover and creating book-related content that drives reader engagement and purchasing has never been more important. Relatedly, there’s an exciting range of strategies that can be leveraged on the web to:
- Satisfy readers as they move around in the digital world looking for books and ways to connect with authors;
- Generate more revenues from a book by expanding the notion of how to price and add value to a book and a publishing program.
Here are some ideas to spur further thinking around these opportunities in 2017.
1. Build your subscriber base and create great content
Building a strong social media following is essential, of course, but it is not enough. Email is still the killer app and you need subscribers who have opted in with email addresses to be able to maintain a regular flow of communication (often via newsletters) about new books, discounts, contests, and events. Smart email marketing (e.g., not too often and not too pushy, packed with amazing content, and even personalized) also offers readers more opportunities to get to know your authors and to feel part of your community.
Among many other features that encourage visitors to become true fans, ReaderBound sites make room for strong calls-to-action that encourage readers to opt in with their email addresses, providing a direct pipeline to readers who are already interested in what you are doing.
Determining the right perks and content to offer subscribers stems from investigating what they like and want. Part of this investigation will take the form of ambient listening – for example, monitoring social media activity and keeping conversations going and expanding about a certain book or author. And part of it will involve analytics, some of which ReaderBound can provide,* and some of which other analytical tools will generate (e.g., Facebook Insights, Google Analytics, etc.)
How can rich analytical data inform the content you create? Here are just a few ideas to get you thinking:
The Scenario: Several subscribers have recently bought and raved about an author’s book.
A Potential Strategy: Offer those subscribers one of the author’s previous books at half-price.
The Result: Readers become more connected to the author, and they become aware that your site delivers benefits, driving repeat visits to the site.
The Scenario: A new book in a popular series is being launched and many subscribers have already shown interest in the previous book in the series.
A Potential Strategy: Post a video of – or interview with – the author speaking about the new book and thanking fans for their response to the last book in the series. Include the link to the video or interview in the monthly newsletter.
The Result: Fans feel like they are part of the club around that particular author, and they share the link with other friends who they know are also fans.
The Scenario: Insights from last month’s newsletter show that subscribers were particularly interested in a new cookbook release.
A Potential Strategy: Post a video of the chef creating one of the recipes in a step-by-step format. Link to this in the next newsletter, and include a recipe excerpt at the same time.
The Result: Serious fan engagement, and return visits to your site.
The Scenario: There is growing interest and chatter around a new book.
A Potential Strategy: Include and promote an excerpt from the book (if this has not already been done), and perhaps adapt the homepage to place the book front and centre in response to the growing conversation around it.
The Result: The strategic presentation of a book with legs makes it more likely it will take off even more. Without analytics, understanding a book’s traction and responding to it quickly is much more difficult.
2. Offer readers more options and increase revenue potential
The ideas presented above (under #1) are opportunities commonly available to publishers who know how to work well with analytical insights. But over the past couple of years, there has also been an exciting discussion around the idea that most publishers recover a relatively small portion of the potential demand for their books and authors via the traditional publishing model.
Beginning around 2011, digital strategist Richard Nash began delivering a series of conference presentations around the world premised on the idea that books are not normal commodities and so demand a unique marketing model. He contends that there is a far greater range of value that publishers can offer to readers and thus more revenue potential for a book and/or publishing program.
Different kinds of readers, Nash explains, attach different values to books. One reader may consider $5 too much to spend on a book, while at the other extreme, another reader might pay $1000 or more for an autographed copy of a favourite book. That there remains a norm in which publishers offer books at certain fixed price points despite that heterogeneity among their potential reading audience doesn’t make sense. Publishers may be missing an audience that would buy a book at a lower price and losing revenue by not identifying readers who would pay more for a book with enhancements (e.g., autographed, wrapped in a limited-edition cover, invited to an exclusive luncheon with the author, etc.)
Here are some ideas – based on Nash’s presentations and slidedecks – for recovering more value from across the demand curve:
- Trade in scarcity. Copies of a given edition of a given title are undifferentiated from each another, and – with some exceptions of course – demand will almost never exceed supply. This abundance problem tends to drive down book prices. One way to counter this, especially in cases where reader/fan engagement is strong, is to understand what can be sold at premium prices. The low end of the spectrum here, cost and effort-wise, would be autographed copies of the book. On the higher end, you could step that up by selling special limited editions (say a hardcover edition of a paperback book with a special binding).
- Play with price. Give price-sensitive readers a way in at a very low price. For example, sell chapters for a $1 per to allow readers to sample more extensively and create a serialized experience of the book. Or offer a basic e-book at a very low price for a limited time.
- Create derivative products. Remembering the serialized idea, you could have the author read the book as a serialized podcast/audiobook. Or create a special commemorative, limited-edition print for fans at a premium price. Merchandise branded w/ the book or author is another possibility.
- Make it an event. Sell tickets to a limited-seating Q&A/discussion/reading/performance with the author. Host an online class taught by the author – again, a paid-for class. The list goes on.
3. Encourage scale
Obviously, the more subscribers share your content, the better. We’ve written a post that looks at easy ways publishers can make their content likely to be shared.
Building communities and book worlds
Harry Potter will be studied forevermore for a million good reasons. Among these will be J.K. Rowling’s keen sense of what readers wanted from the book. An amazing story. Another world. A community of like-minded fans. An incredible connection with the author. A sense of being valued and listened to. All sorts of ways to extend the experience, such as Pottermore. All of these were crucial to the book’s becoming legendary and spinning off so much additional revenue. They bear thinking about today when considering how best to meet readers where they are with amazing digital content.
*Every ReaderBound site comes complete with a comprehensive analytics setup so that key conversion points (email opt-ins, purchases, etc.) can be easily monitored in one place. We apply the same approach to all steps in the add-to-cart and checkout processes so that you can get rich insights into consumer behaviour on your own site.