Big Data Is Coming to the Publishing Industry

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

data, big data, publishers, books, sales, customers, readersPublishers are increasingly using big data to help them sell their book rights internationally. As the ebook market has grown over the last few years, so has the amount of data available to online retailers and publishers. Traditionally, though, publishers have not been able to get exact user or reader statistics. The digitization of the reading experience is changing this limitation, however, and opening up a new frontier that publishers are starting to use to their advantage.

As we all know, editors and agents are responsible for evaluating each book’s potential. They base these evaluations on their professional understanding of the market fit, as well as sales numbers and reviews. Access to more data won’t substantially change this process, but by making better use of the realm of data that surrounds the reading experience, publishers will most likely be able to sell books’ international rights at a higher premium.

Reader Insights Data

Publishers can improve sales material when selling the rights to include not only print runs, samples of the book, reviews and some author information, but also a detailed description of the book’s target demographic and its reading patterns. The use of what I call “Reader Insights Data” (RID) will provide information on exactly who the target audience is, reducing the risk of buying international rights to books that are not a perfect fit for the publisher.

If you are not in the market for selling your rights internationally but already have a distribution set up, the marketing of the books can adapted to the information you receive through RID.

Luckily, the nature of data you receive is real-time, thereby making it possible for you to act immediately. This also removes the waiting period for consultants to deliver reports and surveys about reading behavior and target audience.

So what kind of RID could prove valuable to publishers? Even the most basic data points can be surprisingly helpful. These include finishing rate, reading time and reader demographics, as well as other books readers are consuming. This data will not only help publishers make better suggestions for improvements to their authors, but more importantly, it will help publishers successfully sell book rights in new markets.

Re-think the Value of Information

The challenge with all this is to structure publishing companies for this type of change. If your publishing company has not done so already, set up a meeting with your retailers and ask them for what further information they can provide you. They know more about your readers than you think.

It’s very possible you run in to a reseller who is not willing to share this data. My experience, though, is that most see a mutual benefit in setting up this arrangement. The reseller is likely already providing this information to other publishers, and now it is up to you to help your publishing company structure the data in a way that you can make use of it.

Learning from Reader Insights Data

It all comes down to getting a better understanding of the product you are selling or buying. Learning from RID will help you be more informed and make the right decisions all the way from content acquisition to marketing. But most of all, this is a process by which your publishing company can become more data-driven, and ultimately put you in a position to make the right decisions and increase profitability in the long run.


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