A while back I attended an interesting webcast hosted by Digital Book World, titled “How Social Networks and New Media Are Changing the Ways Readers Discover New Books.”
One thing I’ve learned from past webinars is that social media doesn’t really affect book sales. And according to the webcast, publishers only impact 7% of overall awareness about a book per each marketing effort. Their combined efforts–their total marketing plan–only has a 35% impact on consumer awareness in finding books.
But, word of mouth can have a huge impact on sales, and is still the biggest factor in driving a book’s success. According to the webcast, only 49% of U.S. adults buy a book each year, and of those 49%, only 29% are avid book buyers. This means they buy four or more books per month. However, this 29% buys 52% of the total volume of books each year. So, it would seem the best thing a publisher (or indie author) could do is reach out to the 29% who are avid book buyers.
Many avid book buyers become advocates for particular books. So, the most cost-efficient marketing is to find these buyers and engage directly with them, instead of tweeting or posting to the masses.
To help find these book buyers, the webcast broke down consumer insights into four layers: purchase metrics (such as outlet, money spent, and frequency), book detail (such as genre, format, and author), demographics (such as age, gender, and income), and psychometrics (such as awareness, motivation, and influences). By engaging in social media campaigns and segmenting the market, publishers and self-publishers can effectively find influencers who may help sell multiple books. The more segmented and targeted the message, the higher the success rate. This method does take a lot of effort, but it can have a significant impact.
One thing to keep in mind regarding this method is that women tend to buy more books, but men talk about books more on social networks (especially non-fiction).
Bowker has some interesting reports. They did a survey of book buyers and asked questions about their purchases and reasons for purchase. Below are some of their findings, based on data from 40,000 book consumers:
Because marketing dollars are limited, Bowker stressed the importance of understanding who the buyer is. Author websites are good tools for making people aware of books, as well as getting reviews. Obviously you don’t want sock puppetry, but the webcast suggested publicists leaving comments identifying themselves as publicists and putting out evocative questions or comments to get discussions going.
However, word of mouth will always be the best way to sell books. Many people buy books based on what they hear from word of mouth, so the key for marketers will be to refine their efforts to target book buying influencers, who will engage online and spread the word about a book.