The Future of Book Discoverability is Cloudy with a Chance of Rain

I recently attended the Discoverability and Marketing Conference, graciously organized by the good folks over at Digital Book World. Notably, this conference was established with the lofty objective of teaching  publishing industry professionals how to “make the leap from serendipity to discoverability”, by creating interactive, social, and reader-generated marketing that offers solid, measurable returns on their investments. The event promised to help attendees increase their discoverability, learn can’t miss audience development strategies, convert website visitors to customers, and discover the customer retention tactics that really work.

Upon evaluating the list of speakers I became intrigued. The dais was loaded with heavy hitters, from Kelly Gallagher, VP, Publishing Services, R.R. Bowker to Jon Fine, Director of Author & Publisher Relationships, Amazon; with plenty of great speakers in-between and beyond. Here is a full list of speakers and topics covered. So, I registered, paid my $415 and prepared for an information download!

It’s been a minute since I attended a live industry event, although I did go to Steve Harrison’s Publicity Workshop in July, and it was good to be among publishing influencers again. As always, it’s a great opportunity to benchmark where TPC is in our book marketing/social media engagement efforts and get a sense for where things might be headed.

The only question is, did they deliver the goods?

Well, yes and no. There were plenty of juicy tips and tricks of book marketing doled out. Two highlights were the presentation on FB’s Edgerank algorithm by Dennis Yu, CEO, BlitzMetrics and the prezi by Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit. Still, as an experienced book marketing professional who has grown up in this new digital book world, I attended this event to get a glimpse of the future of discoverability and marketing, not the present. What I took away was that the tactics TPC and many indies have been applying to get found, grab readers’ attention, close the deal, and keep them coming back for more (e-mail marketing, Amazon page optimization, social media engagement, reading community interaction, online advertising, and customer insight mining) are finally being cosigned by the industry experts.

Unfortunately, the conference was largely focused on information that has been written about on many publishing blogs, books, and author websites for the better part of the past two years. There was little new or groundbreaking for those of us out in front trailblazing. But don’t take my word for it, here are the day 1 and day 2 recaps.

So, was attending this conference a waste of time and money? Not hardly. Strategic validation is always important. It verifies that past instinct was correct which means that future decisions have a good probability of success.

There were some cool new ideas that are just underway. From Ativist to Small Demons to ToGather to Bublish, there are folks out there on the bleeding edge of marketing in 2012. It was refreshing to learn more of these innovative approaches to content and engagement. I have to thank DBW for giving them some air time as well.

I also had a great time tweetcasting on day 2. Search on twitter, #DBWDM, to see the conversation as it unfolded over the course of the conference. I made some new friends, earned some heavyweight followers, and even got a RT from @WritersDigest!

Now, if I were to make predictions on the future of discoverability and marketing (as depicted by this conference) it would read:

  • Ereader growth is still forecasted in the double digits for the next 3-5 years, so good enhanced/engaging content in ebooks and on ereaders is key
  • Offering high quality free content will continue to be key in helping you get found
  • Good e-mail marketing will remain relevant as long as the moving target of the social media newstream/feed exists
  • Mobile will become increasingly important in discoverability. Apps, mobile advertising, and mobile e-mail marketing are keys to consider in any book marketing strategy
  • Pinterest will be a valuable discoverability tool because “pins” are not moving targets and visual content gets much more engagement than text across the web
  • Unless FB changes it’s Edge Rank Algorithm (not likely), you are going to have to pay to play and get your content seen
  • Search engine relevance (Google) may be supplanted by better search/engagement tools being rolled out  by online retailers (Amazon/BN.com/Apple)
  • As Search Engine relevance declines for books, so does the importance of SEO unless google becomes a major online retailer
  • Amazon plans to add even more resources for authors like integration with FB and enhanced customer service which could boost discoverability
  • Curated customer reviews (like those found on sites like goodreads and LibraryThing) can and will supplant editorial reviews as the go to sources for what readers should be buying/discovering
  • Traditional Publishers will have to do a better job to understand customer buying habits, collect valuable customer contact information, and create their own platforms to attract readers for their authors
  • As more publishing professionals figure this discoverability stuff out, it will become that much harder to get found via these methods, so new innovations/approaches will be needed to give an edge to the early adopters
  • Ultimately, books will continue to compete with all other forms of media so enhancements/advancements to “the book” will be important to keep books and reading relevant

If you were hoping for a solution or ray of light that would change the way we market and get found in 2012, it wasn’t on display at this conference. So for the foreseeable future, the forecast for discoverability and marketing in the digital age is cloudy with a chance of rain. Knowledge and hard work will remain the umbrellas for those of us toiling to, in the words of Day 1 keynote speaker Rick Joyce, Chief Marketing Officer, Perseus Book Group, “Connect, collect, assist, compete, accrue, share, get recognized and give bargains.”

Part owner of Independent Publishing Venture, The Pantheon Collective. Award-winning, bestselling author of One Blood (under pseudonym Qwantu Amaru). Book marketing expert and social media marketing consultant.

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Posted in Book Discovery, Book Marketing

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