Trends in Book Discovery

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What is publishing all about these days?

  • Writing?
  • Editing?
  • Packaging?
  • Posting an ebook?

Nope. None of the above.

It’s about FINDING READERS!

The loss of retail, magazines, religion sections in newspapers… the discoverability factor has greatly decreased. Which is why publishers are so dependent on authors to find readers (through author tribes) and on their ability to social network their way to a best seller. Which, in case you haven’t already experienced, happens about .01% of the time.

So when I saw some data about my favorite topic—FINDING READERS—I thought you ought to see it.

The following is based on data compiled by the Penguin Random House consumer insights team, which polled more than 40,000 readers about their reading and buying choices.

  • When asked what is most influential to readers when deciding what book to read next, 81% said recommendations from friends and family. Word of mouth, whether about movies, agents, or book sales, is always the key deal.
  • How do readers discover books? 70% said they use Goodreads; 49% said newspaper/magazine reviews; 46% said Facebook; 38% said author interviews/appearances; 37% said blog reviews; 23% said print ads; 15% said Twitter; and 14% said another form of social media. I’m wondering if the 40,000 readers they polled were from Goodreads. Still, this was more eye-opening than I would have guessed.
  • The survey found that as readers age, blogs and social media become less relevant as a way to discover books. Among survey participants under the age of 40, more than 80% use Goodreads and more than 60% read blog or web reviews. This steadily decreases with age; for readers in their 50s, 75% use Goodreads and 40% read blog and web reviews; for those in their 70s, the numbers drop to under 60% for Goodreads and only 20% for blog and web reviews. I guess we realize with age that there isn’t much time to read all of those books we bought but haven’t read, so we don’t need anyone else telling us what to read.
  • Conversely, print reviews and advertisements become more relevant with age. For readers under 40, 40% read newspaper and magazine reviews; for those in their 50s, the number is closer to 60%, and for those over 70, the number who read newspaper and magazine reviews is 70%. Print advertising follows a similar trajectory, with 20% of those under 40 relying on print ads to discover books, as opposed to 30% of those in their 50s and nearly 50% of those in their 70s. It must be the fact that there are pictures and not very many words. Easier on the eyes.
  • When it comes to gender, women are more likely than men to trust recommendations from friends and family (79% of women trust the recommendations, while only 66% of men do). The same is true of recommendations from Goodreads, 70% of which women trust, compared to only 57% of men. Men don’t gravitate toward asking for directions when driving, and evidently on book buying. What’s wrong with us?
  • Men are, however, more likely to read newspaper and magazine reviews; 54% of men trust such reviews, as compared to 49% of women. When it comes to print advertising, 26% of men trust it compared to 23% of women.
  • When asked what most influences them to pick up a book if they are not familiar with the author or series, readers said that they are likely to do so if they like the subject (88%), read a good book review (87%), or get a friend’s recommendation (86%). Slightly less influential are reading an excerpt (76%) or an online review (76%). Least influential are the recommendations of a salesperson (38%); the publisher’s reputation (34%); seeing an ad (30%), recommendation by media/personality (26%); and needing a book for school or work (25%).

As Mark Twain once lamented, “There are lies, damn lies, and statistics.” While I applaud Penguin Random House for spending the money on this survey, some of which was eye-opening, I’m not sure what it all means for authors except they will be even more encouraged to do their own marketing than ever.

Here is the one truth that everyone agrees with when it comes to author marketing: email addresses.

If you have them, you’re golden. How many? 5,000 is nice, 10,000 is better. Time to check out MailChimp, time to offer free stuff, time to really focus your brand and what felt need you’re meeting, and time to become an expert in direct mail to your audience.

How I Discover New Books– Hint, Not in a Bookstore

It’s been said that the reason an author should stick to traditional publishing is book discoverability and distribution by way of a publisher’s marketing budget and sales staff.

bookstore-482970_1280I was fortunate to get a three-book deal with a mid-size Christian publisher who did get behind my book generously with marketing dollars. They even landed me in Sam’s Club with my first two books in hundreds of stores nationwide.

Just, why, didn’t I hit the bestseller lists? I think the books are good. Proof and Poison got starred reviews from Library Journal. Both were nominated (though never won) for awards. Lots of favorable reviews.

In fact, I might even say that landing in Sam’s Club hurt me a little. Why? The issue with Sam’s club is it’s a BIG order. It’s a risk for the publisher. If you’re not a well-known name who can move those novels many are going to get returned and your royalty report is going to look like a defaulted home loan and the bank is knocking on your door.

I began to analyze how I discover books, and does it match with the way a traditional publisher markets novels?

Sure, your best chance of getting into a bookstore is partnering with a traditional publisher but how often are you going to bookstores anymore? I used to go weekly, when they were close. There aren’t any close ones anymore. The one at the mall I would stop in while shopping for other things . . . gone . . . both of them. The closest bookstore is a 15-20 minute drive. And as NYT’s bestselling author Jamie McGuire blogs here— even she wasn’t seeing her novels in bookstores during release week.

Here is a list of how I now discover books.

1. Goodreads Reviews. Goodreads is the place for people who LOVE books and where book lovers leave reviews. I find I have more Goodreads reviews than Amazon reviews. I have close to 2,500 friends on Goodreads. Every day, I get an e-mail of their reviews. I’ve come to know whose reading tastes are similar to mine. A good review of a book will cause me to look further on Amazon. Plus, since I’m friends with so many, I get exposed to a wide variety of books outside my general reading genre (suspense) that I probably wouldn’t have heard about– even browsing bookstore aisles.

2. Amazon Lists. Amazon lists are fun to browse. Of course, there is always the 100 top paid and free Kindle lists but I also look at genre specific top 100 lists. I also pay attention to novels getting a crazy number of reviews and try and read those to see what is catching the reader’s eye. So, from my first two examples, I don’t think any author can say that reviews don’t matter . . . they do.

3. Advertising Lists. There are a couple of advertising lists that I belong to– BookBub and Inspired Reads. On these sites, you can narrow down the types of e-mails you receive to genres you like. Every day you’ll get an e-mail about books that are on sale. Bookbub lists are the primary way I’m buying books. If I see an interesting book cover then I click the buy link for Amazon and check out reviews. Based on the number of reviews, I make a decision about whether or not to buy the novel. BookBub has a very good reputation among authors that though pricey– is generally a good investment of your marketing dollars. I think the same is true with Inspired Reads for their reach/price ratio.

4. Word of Mouth. I’m like every other human being. If a good friend says, “You must read this book.” it will climb up to the top of my TBR list. The more people that say it– the more likely I am to read it. One author I’d almost given up on until a good friend said, “Just read this one. If you don’t like it, I give you permission to never read this author again.” Reading that novel changed my opinion of the author and their work.

What I find is that I’m rarely in a bookstore anymore but I’m discovering a lot more books because these things are available to me every day.

For my fall release, this is how I’m spending my marketing money. I’ll likely not be arranging bookstore book signings, but that’s a topic for another time.

How are you discovering books? Does that determine your marketing plan?

How to Maximize Your Social Media Time

Early in my wanting-to-pursue-publication journey, I heard a woman give a talk about maximizing your time. She said, “Nothing you do should go to waste. If I see a movie, I’ll figure out a way to use it in my writing. I’ll write something about it.”

Social media conceptHonestly, at first, I did kind of give a big eye roll. Really? Nothing could be sacred, private, and free? Couldn’t my mind ever just have a void where I didn’t have to think about marketing?

Now, I might have changed my opinion on that somewhat.

Marketing is hard work. Author Richard Mabry once said to me, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.” And this is the truth. When your book releases, there is usually a flurry of activity to launch your baby. But, there comes a time when you need to begin to focus on the next book while still keeping your other marketing activities going. This may be less about your book and more about growing your platform and social media presence.

Consider all your activities: can they aid in growing your social media? Can they give you a blog topic? Can something you do for fun give you a possible return on your time investment?

I recently read the book Fear Nothing, by Lisa Gardner. I wanted to read this book. Lisa is a favorite author of mine so I put most other books aside to enjoy her new releases.

On the marketing side, this is how I used my leisure time to help my social media.

1. I wrote a Goodreads review on the novel. This is good for authors. It gives people an example of your writing style and can help readers find you. After all, you likely write what you like to read.

2. I pinned it to Pinterest. Some readers/followers are more visual and I do find people repinning books from my boards.

3. I blogged about it– in two different places. My main blog is Redwood’s Medical Edge and it deals with medical accuracy in fiction. Fear Nothing had a character with congenital insensitivity to pain so not only did I blog about this particular medical disorder but I also did a post that was a review of the novel and some of its medical aspects. And now, I’m here blogging about how to use one activity to foster multiple marketing efforts. So, I guess that’s three blog posts.

Your activities should become the ultimate wardrobe, where all pieces can be mixed with one another. Ultimately, a book I read for fun ended up being used to build my platform (a medical nerd who writes suspense novels) and, hopefully, keep up interest in my social media.

What about you? In what ways have you used fun activities to maximize marketing efforts?

Goodreads for Writers (Build a Social Media Platform)

Goodreads for writersDo you daydream about a massive virtual library where lovers of books rub shoulders and authors receive free privileges and promotional opportunities? Well, dream no more. Such a site exists. Surprisingly, many writers ignore Goodreads.

A basic membership affords even unpublished writers the opportunity to include a photo and profile information, make friends with readers and other writers, share book recommendations and reviews, create their own virtual bookshelves. and join groups and forums (including groups of readers who love books in their genres).

Published authors can add the following privileges:

Author Page

It’s likely you will find your book by title in the site’s database. If you don’t find it, it’s not too difficult to add it using the “Find Books” tab. Once you locate your book, you will find a link that asks whether you’re the writer of the book. Click that and follow instructions to set up your Author Page.

Bio

On your author page, you can include a biography and list your books, link to your website and blog, indicate your genre(s), and upload a picture. Take pains with this information, since visitors to your page will notice it before they scroll down to read anything else.

Blog

You can blog right in Goodreads or automatically feed updates from external blogs to your page and into the news feeds of your friends and fans. The whole post won’t appear, but just the first few paragraphs with a link to your blog site. This is one way to lead readers back to your website and expose them to purchase information for your book.

Events

You can list events like your release date, blog tour stops, or book signing schedule to keep your friends and fans informed.

Videos

Set book videos, author interviews, book readings, or other promotional videos from YouTube or another online video service to display right on your Author Page.

Writing Samples

If you have an author page, you can include samples of your writing and reviews of your books for others to read. 

Quotes

You can share favorite quotes from books you love, including your own! Give readers a taste of your writing and they may just purchase your book and keep on reading.

Fans

Your Author Page includes a place where readers can sign up to be your fans. You will then appear in the “Favorite Authors” section of their profiles and they will receive updates from your Author Page. 

Status Updates

Goodreads has a status update box that allows you 240 characters to comment on topics of your choice. Your update will show up in the newsfeeds of your friends and fans. Starting a discussion about an author who writes books similar to yours is a great way to engage with readers who might also enjoy your books. The update box is a little difficult to find. In the top menu bar, click “home,” and then look in the right sidebar for the text link entitled “general update” under the “what are you reading” header. Click the link and an update box should appear. 

Groups and Forums

Join reader groups and enter into their discussions to connect with readers within your genre. Remember, though, not to push your books. Engage readers by joining in the discussions at hand and they may click on your name link to go to your Author Page and find out all about you and your books.

Giveaways

If it’s still within six-months after your book’s release date, you can set up a giveaway of your book through the “First Reads” program. This gives you the opportunity to put a brief synopsis in front of those who participate.

Special Strategies

The way Goodreads is set up yields intelligence data for authors. For instance, you can find a book similar to your own, click on its title, and learn which of your friends and fans have read it. You can search for a similar book and find active discussions about it in reader groups.

Homework

If you don’t have a Goodreads account, sign up for one, upload a photo and fill out your profile information. If you are a published author, apply for your author page and schedule some time to set it up.

I’ve touched on some of the strategies available to writers who use Goodreads. Do you have more ideas? How do you use Goodreads?

Consider the Source: How Reviews Reflect Our Experience

I recently read an account of a celebrity and her young daughter which captured the concept of feedback from a unique perspective. Having completed a Google search, the daughter was troubled to find that strangers were saying all kinds of things about her famous mother, both positive and negative. The mother told her daughter that when people make those kind of comments, the feedback is based on their own individual experiences. Therefore, when people provide comments, they are typically talking about themselves, whether they realize it or not.

What an epiphany, and what a great way to see feedback (like reviews) in a completely different light. People are a product of their own experiences, strung together like pearls over the course of a lifetime. If art imitates life, then reviews of art imitate the reviewer‘s life. Reviewers respond to reading material based on their own individual experiences. When people read books, they view them through their own filters which have been carefully created over their entire lives. These filters can be likened to stained glass windows. The color of the light shining through a stained glass window is contingent upon the color of the glass.  The light is reflected through the filter of their own experience.

Reviews heart book

If you are a writer, reviews are vital to your career. Although positive, warm, glowing reviews are wonderful and make us feel good, constructive feedback is helpful. Of course, no one is thrilled to get a bad review, but most people are actually quite gracious. They are typically honest, genuine and simply expressing the opinion of their own experience. The good news is that people who write scathing reviews are few and far between. However, even bad reviews can yield good things. Having a disparate personality review your material gives you a 360 degree glance that you may never have considered. If a review says that a book skims over the best parts; that means the parts they found most interesting. Do they have a point? Are they right? Is there a way to take that feedback, take it to heart and learn for the next time? Probably.

Let’s say you have a book available on Amazon and Goodreads. You may find that you have very different reviews on those websites. The Goodreads reviewers may have higher expectations as a literary community. If you feel a bit down about a review, check out some of the feedback for many of the classics (The Sun Also Rises, Catcher In the Rye, To Kill A Mockingbird, The Great Gatsby, to name a few). These works that have been part of the literary canon for years are still subject to scrutiny – and that’s okay. There are books out there that some will say are too controversial, and that others will say are not controversial enough. You can’t win over all of them, but you can still learn from all of them.

Pay attention to the words in the reviews: “I found this book to be a bit slow.” “I thought this book was going to be funny, but it’s not my kind of humor.” “I prefer stories that take place in present day as opposed to historical fiction.” This is why finding the appropriate audience for your work is so important. The audience will automatically be more open and enthusiastic to the material if their filter resonates with your own. 

In conclusion, when a person writes a review, they are often writing about themselves and their own life experiences. Keeping that in mind may make all the difference for your own development, as well as remind you to maintain some perspective about your next constructive review.

What are your thoughts on book reviews and reviewers?

Goodreads

Here is some Social Media just for authors and just for readers. You are probably thinking, “Am I dreaming?”

No! It does exist, and it is an amazing place to devote time and energy. This little heaven for authors is called Goodreads. Goodreads has approximately 4.6 million users. While it may not seem to be as grand as Facebook’s 800 million users, these 4.6 million users are just on Goodreads as readers!

Goodreads is a place people go to only to think about reading. What an awesome concept. There are no random pictures of kids, like on Facebook, pictures of things you can’t afford like on Pinterest. Instead, there are readers, some virtual books shelves, and people talking about BOOKS!  Think about this as Facebook just for authors and their audience.

What are some of the things that you can do on Goodreads?  You can create an author page that “fans” can share with others.  Within Goodreads, you can also start pages specifically for your book. ( I do not encourage people to start book pages on Facebook, just fan pages.  But on Goodreads, you can have both, and they link back to your author page.)  It’s designed just for you, the author. You can easily chat with your readers, add video clips, and link it to your Facebook and/or Twitter pages.

I recommend to authors that they spend money on Facebook, programming a page with their books, so it directs them to buy the author’s books. If you are an author with many books, start a store on your fan page. Goodreads does this for you! (Score!) If your book is on Amazon or Barnes and Noble, it is automatically connected to Goodreads.

Goodreads is super user friendly and very intuitive.  When you sign in, there are tips and tricks that are posted on their pages everyday.  It will give you more ideas and walk you through the site.  This makes it very easy to learn and be more adept in controlling the site. Have fun with this site, and don’t just put your books on it, but really get involved. Dialogue with friends, readers, and other authors.

These were my three tips from Goodreads when I signed in today.

My personal favorite thing on Goodreads is their quote section.  You can add quotes from your book or quotes from your favorite author. I love to search the quotes by words and topics. There are no ads with these quotes, and it is such a great resource for writing. Quotes are also a good way to promote yourself!

Goodreads is definitely a top social networking site for authors.

Go here to start your adventure as a Goodreads author. Also, here is some great information about how to effectively utilize all that Goodreads has to offer: Using Goodreads to Promote Your Books

Have you been using Goodreads to promote your writing? How so?