Digital Book World 2017

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January 17-19 saw the great and good of publishing world gather in New York for the Digital Book World Conference and Expo. Now in its eighth year, DBW showed that not only has the conference name changed, the publishing world has changed too.

Here’s what we learned:

Indie publishing is a phenomenon

As it requires authors to multitask (write, advertise, market and sell their work), indie publishing has long been regarded as a little leftfield. The message from DBW was that this is no longer the case. Authors have the authentic voice of their readership and can appeal directly. If there is one thing I’ve learned from the #DBW17”, tweeted @TeamSmella23, “it’s that Indie publishing is a force to be reckoned with.”

Stats from Amazon show that it is no longer a niche market either: 43% of eBook purchases and 24% of all book dollars are now going to eBooks without ISBNs; of the 12 million units of African-American fiction sold, for example, 96% were eBooks and 71% were self-published authors with an average sale US$3. It seems that indie publishing is a lucrative market to boot.

@mrmullin tweeted: “71% of African American lit is from indie pubs. Big pubs ignored diverse lit, lost big audience & sales.” Readers are driving the change and digital platforms that aren’t necessarily controlled by publishing houses have the flexibility to be shaped by the audience; an audience that is deciding what it wants to read.

Social influence

Authors are becoming influencers in their own right and, as such, are well placed to draw the reader’s attention to new work.  Keynote speaker and CEO of Macmillan, John Sargent, was quick to point out that there are fewer newspapers reviewing books and their audience, and influence, is shrinking in size. Social media and the authors themselves have become the reviewers. @MeredithJHRich tweeted: “One of the biggest influencers on @goodreads is Roxane Gay. Her reviews drive new readers that blurbs might not reach. #DBW17

It stands to reason that as the way books are published and distributed changes, so too does the audience’s way of finding them. The audience is seeking out peer to peer authenticity.

Traditional ads are over

The importance of keywords in online marketing is not new, letting readers rather than marketers dictate the search terms however, is. During the conference @KrisRad tweeted:Observe how readers talk about books, reviews, social media, hashtags. Look at comps for new books”, and @38enso tweeted: “Use readers’ words for the best keywords.”

Keywords serve a secondary but no less significant role. Speaker Bill Kasdorf, VP and Principal Consultant of Apex Content Solutions, encouraged attendees to really consider the opportunities of the platform and how sales can be targeted. For years, stores have offered smaller, inexpensive items at the point of sale, online stores have an even greater advantage. A book can be suggested at the point of sale in the digital space based on other purchase,  for example @ljndawson tweeted:Keyword optimization helps your book get added to other purchases (search for tiara, throw in a princess book).”

John Sargent noted too, in no uncertain terms, that advertising on the back page of The New York Times to sell eight more books was pointless and costly. Traditional advertising has had its day. Keyword optimization and audience-led marketing is the future.

“Managing metadata is not a job for an intern”

John Sergeant’s warning followed his assertion that traditional advertising was over. How can publishers hope to optimize keywords and make clever use of digital channels without properly gathering and analyzing data from sales?

Significantly, if a publisher doesn’t supply Amazon with keywords, Amazon will choose its own. Given the size and importance of this bookseller, can the publisher really afford to leave this element to chance? In this brave new world of book publishing and distribution, the devil is in the digital details.

Audio is the next big thing

In 2005 there were 2,667 audio titles published; by 2015 that figure had risen to 35,574. Accessibility and the changing reading habits of consumers are driving this unlikely revolution; ‘unlikely’ because audio has always been viewed as an optional extra rather than a main offering. In fact, according to data from Overdrive the number of library users borrowing audiobooks rose 67% in 2016. Downloadable digital audio versions of books are being heralded as a huge growth area; so much so that some publishers are pre-selling audio rights. Clearly publishers should consider offering an audio version alongside print and eBook as standard, if they don’t want to miss out.

Bill Kasdorf summed up the conference well: ”Publishers have never had more options for producing and distributing their books—and making sense of all that is harder than ever.”

If you would like Amnet’s help to make sense of it all, to help make your workflow more efficient, and to meet customers’ format demand and maximize your intellectual property, then get in contact with our team today!