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Five Essential Data Tools Every Publisher Can Afford

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PUBLISHED FEBRUARY 2016

by Kristen McLean, Director of New Business Development, Nielsen Book


Kristen McLean

Because you don’t have to be “big” to be “smart.”

Running your business without good information about your market is a little like driving without road signs—you know you’re going somewhere, but you have no idea where that is.

Gathering this information by investing in meaningful data tools presents some challenges.

When I talk with publishers about this (which I do frequently), I always hear one of three things:

  1. I can’t afford it.
  2. There are too many tools out there, and I can’t figure out which ones to use, so I’m just sticking with my own reports for now.
  3. I have too much data and I don’t know how to use it.

And really when it comes down to it, it’s not only about the data, it’s about getting the meaning out of it, so that it can help you make good decisions that boost your bottom line.

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to hire a dedicated data analyst to help you, and you don’t have to break the bank either. You will have to invest a little time into learning new tools, but that’s something you can afford. The five tools below are all less than $100 a month (several are free). All of them will pay for themselves hundreds of times over if you build them into your business.

Remember, when it comes to making good use of data, it is quality, not quantity, that matters. Below each tool, I’ve listed one power move you can do that can really work to your advantage, and I’ve included the best resource to use to learn more.


1. BookScan via IBPA

(ibpa-online.org/nielsen-bookscan)

Monthly Cost: $100 per month

Best Power Move: Mapping the strongest potential markets for your new book, so you can target your marketing and publicity.

While it’s true I work for Nielsen, that’s not the reason BookScan tops this list. BookScan is the backbone of the publishing industry—with it you can jump on content trends, project print-runs based on past sales, research authors, and so much more. But my favorite thing to do with it is to uncover the best potential markets for an upcoming title based on a sales index of a comparable book so you can market smarter. This underappreciated gem of a function can be found in the basic “Title Report” in the drop-down menu on the right. You can use an export of this information with the PowerMaps application (see next spread) to see your marketing map in glorious 3-D. And even the smallest publishers can get an affordable (read: hugely discounted) subscription via membership in the Independent Book Publishers Association. For digital publishers, that deep discount is also available for Nielsen’s newer PubTrack Digital service.

DMA BS Index View JPEG

Figure 1—Use BookScan’s DMA Index feature to determine the best markets for an upcoming title based on a comparable title currently in the market. The Index numbers are read as percentage above 100. For instance, buyers in Burlington,Vermont, are 74 percent more likely than the average book consumer to buy this book or your book if it’s got a similar audience.

Best Resource: nielsn.co/dfszyn

Best Resource for Learning about Mapping: nielsn.co/CjowY3


2. Facebook Audience Insights

(facebook.com/business/news/audience-insights)

Monthly Cost: Free, but you need to set up an ad account (also free).

Best Power Move: Discovering a treasure trove of information on your target reader/buyer.

Some of you who regularly buy ads on Facebook might be using this tool, but in my experience, very few people have discovered the amazing demographic research possibilities of the Facebook Audience Analytics dashboard. It’s fantastic for basic research. You get to it from the Tools drop-down in the Ad Manager, and it allows you to set a wide variety of filters and return some excellent charts on the demographics and behaviors of just about any type of customer you can think of. It even allows you to plug in keywords (such as a book series or a genre). You can slice and dice to get pretty specific on the household profiles, brand affinities, and likelihood to click through ads, so you can check if your targets are going to be receptive to your efforts. The best part—it’s totally free.

Figure 2—A view of the Facebook Audience Insights interface. This robust tool is a fantastic research resource, even if you never use it to create ads. Set a wide range of filters and see exactly what fans of a particular genre, brand, age, or demographic profile are liking, clicking on, and using to get online.

Figure 2—A view of the Facebook Audience Insights interface. This robust tool is a fantastic research resource, even if you never use it to create ads. Set a wide range of filters and see exactly what fans of a particular genre, brand, age, or demographic profile are liking, clicking on, and using to get online.

Best Resource: blog.hubspot.com/marketing/facebook-audience-insights-guide


3. Fanpage Karma

(fanpagekarma.com)

Monthly Cost: Test for free; starts at $69.90

Best Power Move: Figuring out how to connect with your competitors’ fans.

If you want to take your strategic exploration of the Facebook universe one step further, this great tool allows you to pick apart the mechanics of any Facebook page—yours, your author’s, or your competitor’s—to discover exactly what content is getting the most attention, who the most influential fans are, and how well the site is performing. It even has the capability to track multiple pages side by side. And, if you want to spring for a more expensive package, you can look at all of your social media this way. Good use of this tool will make your team better marketers, and it will grow your audience.

Fanoage Karma

Figure 3—Fanpage Karma lifts the curtain on everything from top influencers to what types of content are getting attention, when to post to maximum effect, and much more. You can use it for your own pages or to look at your competitors.

Best Resource: blog.fanpagekarma.com/2014/07/01/social-media-kpis-explained


4. Excel PowerMaps

Monthly Cost: Included with Microsoft 360 subscription

Best Power Move: Looking for patterns in your existing customer base (and other cool stuff!). It used to be that if you wanted to do fancy mapping of a dataset, you had to spring for an expensive software program or settle for the limited visual look of Google Maps. Not so anymore! The good folks at Microsoft are now bundling a pretty great mapping tool into Excel, and it gives you the ability to make very nice maps of any geographic dataset you can think of. That DMA Index we talked about from BookScan? Yes! You can also use this tool to overlay the hottest markets for two books and see how they compare. Or you can map an author’s D2C list against book sales to figure out the best route for a publicity tour. When you map data dimensionally, you get a whole new view, and sometimes you can see things that you missed in an ordinary chart. And everyone can do it with a few minutes’ practice.

Best Resource for Getting Started: support.office.com/en-us/article/Get-started-with-Power-Map-88a28df6-8258-40aa-b5cc-577873fb0f4a

Figure 4—The PowerMap plugin for Excel can generate robust maps for any set of geographic data you’ve got. This map shows the top markets for sales (blue bars) of Alice Hoffman’s The Marriage of Opposites against a green index of the cities where there is a higher frequency of purchases of this book per capita. Cities with big green spots and tall towers are good targets for any follow up by the author or launching a comp title. Look at Florida, for instance.

Figure 4—The PowerMap plugin for Excel can generate robust maps for any set of geographic data you’ve got. This map shows the top markets for sales (blue bars) of Alice Hoffman’s The Marriage of Opposites against a green index of the cities where there is a higher frequency of purchases of this book per capita. Cities with big green spots and tall towers are good targets for any follow up by the author or launching a comp title. Look at Florida, for instance.

Best Resource for Using Powermaps with BookScan data: nielsn.co/CjowY3


5. Leadin

(leadin.hubspot.com)

Monthly Cost: Free from HubSpot

Best Power Move: Creating a quick and easy inbound lead collector to start directly collecting visitor information and building a direct-to-consumer newsletter or promo program. It even includes a contact management system at no cost.

There you have it: five tools that every publisher can afford. What are you waiting for? No matter if you try one or all of these tools, your business will be the better for it, and you will be one step closer to unleashing the data ninja within.


Kristen McLean is the director of new business development at Nielsen Book, a part of Nielsen Entertainment, where she is responsible for developing new lines of revenue from existing products, as well as the creation of new initiatives that expand Nielsen’s value to its publishing clients. McLean is a 22-year veteran of the book publishing market, a serial entrepreneur, and an industry thought leader. She is deeply interested in the confluence of consumer behavior, technology, and global publishing, and she loves to help publishers figure out how to work smarter. Find her on Twitter @NielKristen.

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