Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.
At Jellybooks, a start-up focused on exploring, sampling and sharing books, we are always thinking about how readers discover and share new books.
Recently, I had an online debate with others around the question “what is discoverability?” Here some personal thoughts from that discussion:
I would define this as the process by which a reader, especially a frequent reader, finds a great book, something they didn’t search for, because they had no awareness of the title or author.
Discovery can happen through a friend’s recommendation, a chance review, a mention on a radio program and increasingly through a tweet, a Facebook like, a pin on Pinterest, etc. Overall, serendipity is a major part of the process. If you study network theory, then you find that connections outside your “inner circle” of friends are critical to this process.
Today, if one already knows the author or title of a book, then it is trivial to find a copy, whether digital or printed (Google, Amazon, etc.) and there is essentially no “discovery” involved with the search process. It is just fulfillment, facilitated by accurate metadata and metatags. Catering to the demand from readers who already know what they want to read is essentially search engine optimization.
By the same token, buying the new book form an author one already knows is more a matter of awareness (that a new book is out) than discovery, because you already have “discovered” the author.
At Jellybooks, we define the process of discovery optimization by which publishers aim to make their books discoverable so that that potential readers with an interest in the subject, genre, etc become aware of them.
This involves getting the book in front of the readers through word-of mouth, co-op programs, reviews, etc. Marketing is key to create basic awareness and marketing involves increasingly social media, blogs and new services, like Small Demons, Readmill, Goodreads, Librarything and well – ahem – Jellybooks. (Shameless plug, but you knew it was coming! :))
Going With the Masses
That’s the reader who buys off the New York Times best-seller list or Amazon’s popularity list. An awful lot of irregular or low frequency reader’s fall into this group. They go with what is “safe”, what the “herd” is reading. The key to getting a book onto one of the lists is to bet on:
1. An established author
2. A big marketing campaign
3. Strategic pricing experiments/promotions (getting the book first onto the popularity list and from there into the bestseller list)
This is pretty much the traditional mass-market approach which increasingly is dominated through and through by Amazon. There is really not too much discovery or discoverability involved in this process.
But what about stimulating serendipity? That’s what we try to do at Jellybooks: to channel, encourage and amplify social discussions.
For instance, including the first 10% of an ebook with your tweet, pin or email sells a book like nothing else. Why 10%? In user studies, we found that readers attached disproportional value to 10%. It was not too little to be trivial and no too much to “give the plot away”.
Just one of the things we’re trying to help readers discover books (and help publishers sell more books online).
Come hear me speak at the IDPF Digital Conference in NYC on Monday about why we’re breaking ten common rules for selling books online. Talk titled “F*** the rules”
Learn much more about discoverability and marketing at the Digital Book World Discoverability and Marketing Conference in New York on September 24 and 25.