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miércoles, 22 de febrero de 2012

How do books get discovered? A guide for publishers and authors who want their books to find an audience




How do books get discovered? A guide for publishers and authors who want their books to find an audience

Posted by Patrick on February 17, 2012 175283

We've all fallen under the spell of a truly great book. But where did we originally hear about it? How did we come to choose that particular book from among the literally millions of books in the world? Did a friend hand it to us and say, "You have to read this!" Or did we hear about it on NPR's "Fresh Air"? Or was it a Goodreads Recommendation that convinced us to give it a try?

From the publisher's perspective, discovery has always been shrouded in mystery, a sort of alchemical process through which readers find books they love. With a community of more than 7 million people and 250 million books shelved, Goodreads is uniquely equipped to shed some light on this eternal question. On Wednesday, our CEO Otis Chandler gave a talk at the Tools of Changeconference in New York City presenting some data that helps get at one of the most pressing questions facing the publishing industry today—how do readers discover books?

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.

Below is a pie chart of the various methods Goodreads members use to find books on the site:

One of the biggest things we learned—or should we say confirmed—is the power of word of mouth. Searching for titles on Goodreads is the top way people find books for their to-read shelves. That means they first heard of it elsewhere—likely from friends or the media. Search represented the method of discovery with the widest distribution of titles, from the very popular to the very obscure.

Some of the methods for finding books, such as the registration process for Goodreads, favor very popular books. We want to make sure you see something familiar when signing up, so we show books that many readers have liked. But other methods of discovery, such as updates from your friends and searching for specific books and authors, are better for finding more obscure books.

Our Goodreads Recommendation Engine has been incredibly successful since we launched it last September. It was designed to show you interesting mid-list books (books that are neither best-sellers nor completely unknown titles) that you may not have heard of. As shown in the graph below, we succeeded. This makes sense, as nobody needs an algorithm to tell them about a best-seller. It's also worth pointing out that on the lower end our recommendation engine has a minimum threshold of several hundred ratings so we know enough about a book to be statistically comfortable recommending it. So authors, if you know of a strong comparable title to your book and you are able to market your book to those readers—and they respond by adding your book to their Goodreads account—our recommendation engine will notice this correlation and be even more likely to suggest your book to the right readers.

To find out more about where people initially hear about the books they read, we ran a survey of more than 3,200 Goodreads members, asking them how they discovered books. The results were somewhat surprising.

As you can see, most Goodreads members get book recommendations from their friends, either on Goodreads or off. Conversely, very few Goodreads members rely on Twitter and Facebook to hear about new books.

And, as we've shown previously, an appearance on a popular NPR program or The Daily Show can give any book a "pop" on Goodreads. It's worth noting, though, that maintaining that level of interest in the book relies on word of mouth. (In the graph below, the blue line shows the number of times A Slave in the White House was added after a member searched for it, and the brown curve shows the number of times the book was added because a member had seen a mention of the book in a friend's update.)

Discovery happens in a multitude of ways, and a successful marketing campaign should take that into account. But there are a few strategies that seem to work well.

Our best advice is to work hard to establish your core fan base. The more momentum on Goodreads you get, the more it will build. Encourage your readers to rate and review your book on Goodreads. This will not only help generate word-of-mouth buzz, which is essential for a sustained promotion, but also help get your books onto the appropriate book lists and onto the Goodreads Recommendation engine. Our Listopia lists are a great source of discovery for our members, including lots of mid-list titles. They tend to be specific, such as World War II Fiction or Pacific Northwest Books, so having your book on the right list can make a huge difference.

If you're an author who already has a following, be sure to promote your book heavily to your existing fans and fans of similar authors. Add a Goodreads badge or widget to your Web site or blog and encourage your readers to add your books and become your fan. If you're just starting out, reach the right readers with an advance giveaway.

For more interesting data on how readers discover their books, be sure to explore the full slideshow below. We look forward to bringing you more of this kind of in-depth information that could only come from the world's largest site for readers and book recommendations.

Happy reading!
Otis, Kyusik, and Patrick

Comments (showing 1-11 of 11) (11 new)

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message 1: by Trina (new)
TrinaNice article. So glad I found this site.
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message 2: by James (new)
James JacksonFantastic read !!!
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message 3: by Emelie (new)
EmelieReally interesting! But I was surprised about the best-sellers doesn't get recommended. People can miss those books too!
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message 4: by Alexie (new)
Alexie AaronBrilliant! Lots of great information. Spurred on a lively debate in my living room this morning.
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message 5: by Margayle65 (new)
Margayle65I read quite a few book blogs and reviews by people whose choice I respect (especially on NPR, where I've discovered some of my favorite authors). Book club friends' recommendations and reviews are another great source, as well as my sister's book club choices.
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message 6: by Emmly (new)
Emmly JaneVery informative article. Thank you for sharing.

I admit I still judge a book by its cover. Even being a 95-98% digital reader only, if the cover and/or title does not grab me, I will not even click on the description. I scan covers and titles in Amazon's top 100 lists (both paid and free). If it is someone I have never heard of, I will get the free sample before making a purchase though.

Many blessings,
ej (emmlyjane.wordpress.com)
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message 7: by Bridget (new)
Bridget BowersVery cool. Thanks for sharing the information. I know that I often get my next book by friends or family recommendations. It is nice to see how other people find their next read.
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message 8: by Nancy (new)
NancyIf I'm in the mood for a particular type of book, I'll look at the 4 and 5 star books on the appropriate shelves of my goodreads friends. I search out friends on goodreads with similar tastes (love that compare books feature) who have read a lot of books and have a lot of personalized shelves.
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message 9: by Hope (new)
HopeI agree that this is an interesting article(!), but I wish there had been more emphasis on the role that librarians and public libraries play in promoting both individual books and reading in general. According to the bar graph in this presentation, 54% of people discover books at their library. I know from working in a public library that people of all ages discover books via library displays and booklists, and through in-person conversations with library staff and with each other at the library. Also, many people's only access to the Internet (i.e., to GoodReads, to authors' websites, and to online stores) is at their public library. I love what someone told me recently: "Libraries don't milk the publishing industry, they fuel it."
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message 10: by Anne (new)
AnneI think you left an important source for discovery off your list: book reviews. I read newspaper reviews, NYTimes Book Review, Booklist, and others for my main source of information about new books and titles I might like to read. I rarely like any recommendations from friends (or online recommendations) as reading tastes vary widely.
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message 11: by Petra X (last edited 21 de Feb 13:01) (new)
Petra XThe (very enjoyable) article should be renamed, "How do books get discovered? A guide for publishers and authors who want their books to find an audience with Goodreads members" for accuracy. Surveying your own audience and applying the conclusions across the board really isn't cricket.

I know very many older people who do not use computers for much, if at all, who mostly find books from their libraries and from newspaper and public radio reviews. Perhaps with the push towards electronic media this audience just isn't sexy enough and is difficult to survey, but they are a market increasingly important to publishers as they actually buy print books on a regular basis.

Again, not fitting in with the push towards electronic media, there is the Luddite breed of independent bookseller. Last year 9% of all the books sold in my shop were hand-sold, recommended by my staff or myself to customers we had got to know. Its all very well pushing electronic media to people, but a recommendation engine that doesn't recommend books unless they have had hundreds of ratings isn't going to find
Bronze Age Economics: The First Political Economies or
A Society Without Fathers or Husbands: The Na of China or the absolutely amazing
Civilizations : Culture, Ambition, and the Transformation of Nature, all of which books I hand-sold this morning.

The comment from tourists I hear most in my bookshop after, "Do you sell postcards?" (no) and "Do you have a bathroom? (yes but only for customers), is that I have an amazing selection of unusual books and they'd never expected to find a place like this in the Caribbean. These are the people I hand-sell books to, books they've never heard of but that are, after a few minutes chat, ones I can see they would be interested in.

Your article doesn't consider these at all, because you are are an online company, but libraries, bookshops, print books and niche authors deserve some consideration, no? Or perhaps no, perhaps the view that if the public doesn't buy something then they don't want it (even if they didn't know about it and might have wanted it if they had known) that the market will decide is the only view that counts in a society where the most important economic activity is online companies selling data to companies that place ads. and the more homogenous, the more mid-range the audience, the easier it is to market to them.

Rant over!
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