Discoverability, Not Discovery, Is Publishing’s Next Big Challenge
Discovery has been and continues to be a regular buzzword at publishing conferences. Sadly, we saw no breakthroughs in 2013. Instead we saw the acquisition of Goodreads by Amazon and the very sad demise of Small Demons.
The reality is that there is no discovery “pain” for readers. Most readers have e-readers or tablets full of ebooks not yet read (and many ebooks bought in a knock-down sale might never be read) or a pile of unread books of the trusted printed variety sitting next to their bed. Many of us have both—I certainly do.
There is always plenty to read, and while we love those moments where we discover that magical new read that we hadn’t been looking for, we are amply entertained by what we find or stumble upon or are recommended by friends.
On the other hand, discoverability is becoming a bigger problem for authors and publishers. More books than ever are being published. Last year it was somewhere between half a million and a million new titles that were published in the United States alone. Self-publishing—mostly in the form of ebooks without a corresponding print edition (digital first)—has greatly added to that abundance.
Ebooks have added to this overwhelming choice in another way, too. Books don’t go “out of print” any longer. They now remain available as ebooks basically forever. Thus the total catalog of books available to readers for purchase or download has swelled dramatically and may now be around the ten or twenty million mark (exact numbers are surprisingly difficult to come by).
Discovery might be dead, but what about discoverability?
Let’s think in terms of the classical marketing funnel of Awareness -> Interest -> Desire -> Action for a moment. It’s that very first step of how to make readers aware that a title even exists that we need to solve, and that is essentially the challenge of discoverability, namely creating awareness among readers. If readers don’t come to us, then we have to bring the book to readers.
Search, be it via Google, Amazon, Barnes & Noble or Kobo, is not the answer. Most readers search by title or author, which implies they are already aware of the book, meaning they have already “discovered” it and are not on the path to interest -> desire -> action (searching by category is the exception to the rule here and the one segment where search plays a discovery function).
Last March, I talked briefly about the “Five Shades of Discovery,” and at the upcoming DBW conference the organizers are devoting a whole workshop to finding and building an audience. The three-hour workshop on “Finding an Audience: Discovery & Discoverability” will cover topics of what an author or publisher can do to find an audience and engage that audience. We will cover some practices in social marketing from Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook and dive into the “secret” weapon that is email marketing.
We will take a look at building author platforms, the importance of getting readers to sample a book, the use of social media mark-up, enticing readers to talk about books and other tools of the trade.
Of course, there will also be a book recommendation list so you can discover great books relevant to book discovery and discoverability.
Please use the comment section below if you are interested in a particular area to be covered at the workshop or in a future DBW blog post, or if you know of great discovery and discoverability examples that should be highlighted to others.
Happy 2013, and hopefully see you at the Digital Book World Conference in New York City next week. I will be there, swapping rainy London for icy NYC.