Count the ways

The third section of Book: A Futurist's Manifesto includes a chapter, "How do books get discovered?", co-authored by Patrick Brown, Kyusik Chung, and Otis Chandler, all of Goodreads. In it, they use data gathered on the Goodreads platform to identify the several different ways that readers find and choose books.

At the outset, the authors note:

"What we found is that readers discover books in several different ways. While this may not seem surprising, it should serve as a reminder to authors and publishers that no one promotion or marketing technique is enough. To successfully promote a book, you have to reach out to readers in a variety of ways."

According to Brown, Chung and Chandler, readers who use Goodreads (maybe we can call them Goodreaders) often search for the book that they want. The site's recommendation engine has also proved to be an effective tool for promoting mid-list titles.

So, too, are friends, though (at least to this point) social-media platforms Twitter and Facebook appear to be less effective. Media venues like NPR and The Daily Show can create positive spikes, but continued strength after an appearance depends on persistent word-of-mouth recommendations.

For both publishers and authors, Goodreads has found a few strategies that seem to work well:

  • Establish a core fan base for an author
  • Authors with a following must promote heavily, both to their own base and followers of similar authors
  • Promote tools that make it easy for readers to follow an author or become a fan
  • Consider give-aways to build a base and create awareness

While these ideas have been "in the mix" for a while, the Goodreads analysis and Peter Collingridge's contribution, "The surprising power of little data", provide some useful data to help direct publishers and authors in promoting books.

About Manifesto: You can now read the Goodreads chapter online, where it is hosted on the PressBooks site. The complete book can also be purchased in print, digital and bundled formats through O'Reilly Media and in print and digital formats at major book retailing sites. I've noted earlier that the royalties for the book are being used to fund the development of PressBooks, and for that reason I encourage you to consider buying the book.

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.