- Author Platform
Not surprising there was a lot of gnashing of teeth at BEA about author discoverability. Many espoused that bookstores were essential as that is how readers have traditionally found authors – by browsing the shelves. Others pointed out that discoverability becomes more difficult online where hundreds of thousands of books make it impossible for readers to find what they are looking for. They made it sound impossible for an author to be found due to the vast number of competing titles.
PubTrack (the consumer market research arm of Bowker) recently released their 2010-2011 Book Buying Report. It collected buying behavior from 40,000 unique U.S. book buying men, women, and teens. The sample represents more than 96,000 unique book purchases and 65,000 shopping occasions. Here is what their study said about how readers become aware of a book:
What I find most remarkable here is that 33% revolves around author loyalty (liked the author or because it was a series). Co-op placement still plays a fairly large role but not nearly as large as the publishers at BEA seemed to indicate. I’m surprised that Word of mouth (friend/relative recommend) didn’t score higher and that Online avenues such as book reviews and online retailer book recommendations also seemed negligible.
Primary reason, is important but I think the buying decision is rather complicated and actually involves many of the above simultaneously. In marketing I learned that it takes multiple exposures of someone’s product to get them to buy. The first time they hear about it, the information goes in one ear and out the other. After three or four mentions they start paying attention, and by six or nine mentions, they actually decide whether to buy or not. So I suspect that seeing a review on a blog, then hearing from a friend that they liked the book, then finally seeing the book in the “also bought” when cruising Amazon for a new read all contribute.
What this tells me is that there are a few things authors have to focus on.
- Writing well – word-of-mouth, like the author, part of a series all come into play only if the story is compelling – those three categories add up to 41% which is almost 60% of all the reported methods.
- Write a series – whether you are doing romance, science fiction, fantasy, thrillers people like reading series. Think about this carefully before you start a single “one-off” book
- You need to “make a name for yourself”. Which again harkens back to multiple books and building a platform. The prolific writer has always, and will always, have an advantage over those that write slowly. If it takes you ten years to put out your first book, this may not be the profession for you.
- If you are published traditionally (sold through book stores) your publisher’s marketing efforts are probably focused on corporate buyers (the people who stock the stores and buy for libraries). If they believe in you enough to give you co-op dollars (providing you a more visible bookstore presence) then you’ll be one of the fortunate few and this should indeed give you a boost.