How a publisher defines, segments, and prioritizes its audience impacts every decision it makes about every book it acquires, publishes, and markets. As I noted in the new annual report for the Panorama Project, despite the growth in ebooks and audiobooks over the past decade, there are reportedly fewer people reading books today, and fierce competition for their attention and discretionary spending. In the absence of any major consumer research focusing on how book consumption and purchasing behavior has changed over the past five years, there are many unsupported theories attempting to explain why consumer ebook sales plateaued, and then began a gradual decline. Consumer pricing, library lending, and self-publishing are believed to be among the primary factors, while little consideration has been given to the impact of other forms of digital media that have experienced exponential growth—including film, TV, and gaming.
I don't usually engage in conversations about individual books as the topic du jour is almost always something I haven't read yet or have no personal interest in, but the ongoing conversation around American Dirt sucked me in because it was such a glaring symptom of the industry's underlying illness I've raged about many, many, oh so many, times. Against my better judgement, it's dominated my own Twitter feed for nearly two weeks now, and all indications are it's going to remain a hot topic for a while longer—for better and worse. Also against my better judgement, I decided to consolidate my thoughts into this unexpectedly long, but hopefully coherent, post. Apologies in advance!
“Most book marketing advice comes from authors who’ve had commercial success with books but no actual marketing experience. Many are taking advice that isn’t meant for them yet because they're not where they need to be,” explained Kilby Blades, an award-winning indie author and professional marketer, sharing practical insights for effective paid marketing strategies with WDC19 attendees.
"Market research is a very dry, dull topic, but finding and connecting with readers is how we make money." Too often, market research is limited to the basics—high-level demographics (age, gender, income) and/or broad genre interests (science fiction, romance)—leading to target audiences that either don't actually exist, or worse, reflect the researchers' personal interests. To find the right readers for a specific book or author, Amy Collins encourages writers to set aside personal assumptions and dig deeper.
The weirdest Summer of my professional career came to a surreal close this past weekend as I attended the Writer's Digest Annual Conference as a speaker and journalist rather than the publisher and marketing director who curated ~80% of the event before my departure in early July. I'm obviously still biased, but overall, it was an invigorating experience—from the amazing keynotes and insightful presenters, to the mini-reunion with some of my all-time favorite colleagues, all survivors of F+W Media's disastrous bankruptcy process that seems to have ended relatively well... for Writer's Digest, at least.