Discoverability & Marketing Conference: A Diversity of Challenges

Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, DBW Discoverability and Marketing Conference, #DBWDM, Digital Book World, F+W Media

DBW’s Discoverability and Marketing Conference is set at New York’s Metropolitan Pavilion.

Be sure you talk to the king and queen.

That wise word of advice, when Wiley’s David Goehring mentioned it late on Monday, was an echo.

Perseus’ Rick Joyce had opened the day with a keynote address that turned on exploration, a theme Joyce balanced atop the 1899 Columbus Circle monument as elucidated by artist Tatzu Nishi’s new installation.

(Here is Julie Lasky’s story in the Times, A Living Room Suspended Over Columbus Circle, in case you’re unfamiliar with the work.)

Pointing out that Columbus had the backing of Spain’s Isabella and Ferdinand, Joyce convened Digital Book World’s Discoverability and Marketing Conference with a good conquistador’s warning: “Here be monsters!” as cartographers would have noted, in the deepening waters of our Sea of Content.

We need exploration, yes, but marketers sail at their own peril without the executive suite’s blessing today.

And if anything, the first of the two days was a standout for two factors:

  1. As I told F+W Media host Kate Rados, the opening block of four sessions Monday was one of the strongest publishing-conference starters I’ve seen in recent memory.
  2. By day’s end, we had shuttled back and forth between the classy sophistication of conceptual appraisal represented by Joyce’s well-placed metaphor and the banality of SEO techniques and the hidden iterations of a keyword revealed by an “allintitle” search from F+W’s insightful Corey Hartford.
Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, DBW Discoverability and Marketing Conference, #DBWDM, Digital Book World, F+W Media

Digital Book World Discoverability and Marketing Conference attendees mingle during coffee break: “the hallways” in action.

Kelly Gallagher arrived from Bowker with the kind of statistical analysis that, in fact, reflects a thematic element voiced by Brett Sandusky at day’s end.

In Sanduskys phrasing:

Today, we have to look at data and analysis, at numbers, to move forward. This vast amount of data.

Sandusky is saying that our still-young digital-driven capacities to mine “this vast amount of data” compel us to develop, study, and analyze the ingenuity that data might prompt.

Gallagher’s comments bristled with all that data. Here are a few bits from the “Looking Beyond the Book” presentation he gave at the conference Monday:

  • In 2011, almost 50 percent of book consumers said they had changed their book buying habits. Here is the corresponding chart from Gallagher’s presentation, as posted by DBW’s Jeremy Greenfield. As you can see, when respondents say they’ve “changed” their book buying habits, they’re talking about one or more disparate behaviors, such as: buying more used books or exchanging books with others; buying fewer hardbacks and more paperbacks; and/or buying more ebooks to download.
  • 19 percent of those surveyed said that an in-store rack or other display was (still) a key reason for buying a book, something important for those of us focused on the digital dynamic to remember.
  • Impulse buys account for 21 percent of book-buying in-store, but make up only 10 percent of book- buying online.

There’s more from Greenfield on Gallagher’s presentation in the comprehensively headlined report: Book Discovery Landscape Becomes More Complicated as Reader Behavior Fractures.

And that kind of keyword-heavy delivery of Gallagher’s gist in a headline would gladden the eye, I think, of Marshall Simmonds of Define Media Group, whose preso on “Search, Social, and Tools that Promote You and Your Authors” was among the most engaging of the technical-protocol events of the day.

One thing that makes Simmonds a strong advocate for his work is the pleasure the guy takes in it. Every now and then, as in a mention of Reddit, Simmonds’ inner geek shows up with an appealing giggle.

From my tweets on his session:

  • “If you’re not on Page 1” in search results? “You’re in Siberia.”
  • We’re focusing on: Titles, Images, Tech, Community.
  • With 100 million searches per month, “16% of queries typed into @Google daily have never been used before.” (quoting @avinash)
  • Search “engines are very literal…They don’t understand nuance, sarcasm…they (simply) want to see a headline.”
  • “We know that great content comes from great authors.” @Othar_Hansson (@Google): Ranking now includes “who wrote it?”

As the day wore on, we could have used more flashes of fun in other tech-centered presentations. Throughout the day, sessions on conceptual elements of discoverability were mixed with how-to entries and data development from survey work.

The overall arc of the day was useful, not just for individual presentations but for its picture of what Joyce had called at the top of the day, the “Coastline of Context” that makes the new digital dynamic’s marketing so complicated.

“Our ‘maps,'” Joyce said, “are still very crude.” And connection of books to ideas is our challenge.

According to Rob Eagar of Wildfire Marketing, one port in the storm along that coastline of context is an emphasis on consumer motivation (including user emotion):

Successful discoverability starts with psychology rather than technology.

Eagar stresses the “What’s in it for the reader?” question as the element that must lead all marketing steps & stages, from author to publisher to sale.

Others’ comments included:

  • Debra Mastaler of Alliance-Link: “Link popularity” includes “anchor text,” the clickable part of the link. “Don’t get into trouble with @Google.”
  • Clinton Kabler of BookRiot: “What do you anticipate achieving with this landing page?… You’ve got about two seconds of their attention.”
  • Gavin Bishop of @Google — something of a late-day surprise, this round of survey-from-search-land: Some 1.5 billion searches each year related to books.
Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, DBW Discoverability and Marketing Conference, #DBWDM, Digital Book World, F+W Media

Monday’s closing panel at #DBWDM. From left, Laura Hazard Owen, Brett Sandusky, Fauzia Burke, David Goehring.

And in that final day-wrap panel, Fauzia Burke of FSB Associates, a publicity firm, told the conference that things have changed so profoundly in book marketing that she eliminated the use of press releases at her agency — three years ago.

Fifty percent of the time, Burke told moderator Laura Hazard Owen of paidContent, it’s publishers hiring her firm to provide support to their authors and books.

Just to carry the metaphor through — as Rick Joyce did so well in his keynote — that’s the backing of the king and the queen. And maybe not the uncaring, negligent position that some detractors of publishers would expect.

I’ll have more from the conference on Thursday in Writing on the Ether at For now, keep in mind another comment from Burke:

And every person on my staff now is in a social position; they are working social media.

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Another entry in the Expert Publishing Blogs about the first day of the conference is here, from author-publisher Bob Mayer: Digital Book World Discoverability and Marketing Conference Day One Recap.



One thought on “Discoverability & Marketing Conference: A Diversity of Challenges

  1. Laura Dennis

    I’m following this conference with interest. I’m working to ‘rise above the fray,’ as it were, when it comes to ebooks, memoirs specifically. I get it: press releases (out), social media (in). Traditional marketing (great, but not necessarily a great fit for the marketing of books).

    I’m not looking for easy, quick fixes, but I would really LOVE to hear what conference presenters are saying to writers who are looking to do the same thing as me: create honest connections, and, well, sell books.

    Good luck this week!




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