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A New Tool for Today’s Book Marketers

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by Mike Shatzkin, Founder & CEO, The Idea Logical Company

Mike Shatzkin

The core principles and workflows for marketing books not only require change in the digital age; they may require more radical change than many people thought. The time-honored process was to somehow communicate knowledge of what was inside a book to book reviewers and bookstore buyers so they could decide whether the book was suitable for their audience or their customers. In other words, intimate knowledge of what the book said was presented by the publisher to professional intermediaries who would get word of the book, and copies of the books, to the purchasing public.

The copy was B2B, and the critical requirement for creating it was knowledge of the book’s content.

In the digital world we live in now, none of this is true any longer. A core purpose of marketing efforts for books today is to get them “discovered.” That largely means having them show up high on the lists that relevant searches return.

With discovery as the objective, the key knowledge required is not so much what’s in the book as what search terms the most likely customers will use to ask a question or express a desire the book is a right answer or a good fit for. And in the world of digital information, the primary intermediaries are search engines, not reviewers or bookstore buyers.

As a result, the copy a publisher creates and puts into digital play will almost certainly be seen more often by potential customers for the book than by industry professionals.

So the copy today must be B2C, intended for consumers, and the core requirement to create it is knowledge of the book’s audiences, where they are found online, and the language they use to discuss the book’s topic. And gaining that knowledge almost always requires research.

One of the longstanding tools of the trade for book marketers has been the Title Information Sheet. Everybody who has worked in trade publishing over the past several decades is familiar with this form. The TIS contains the beginning and then eventually the ultimate core metadata for the book as well as copy that describes the book’s content, its author, and some ideas about its market.

Focusing on the need for a different standard tool, my colleagues Peter McCarthy and Jess Johns at Logical Marketing have now created a form we call the Audience Information Sheet, or AIS.

At this writing, two pretty substantial publishers have started using the AIS and one took some seminars with us, had us write a manual, and is now implementing AIS into its workflow. Also, after we beta-tested the AIS with a very big publisher whose digital marketing is constantly innovative, that company decided to try incorporating the latest version of our new AIS into its workflow.

These publishers see what we see. The TIS was the core information book marketers needed before the rise of Google and its competitors. The AIS has the core information book marketers—including people responsible for sales and publicity—need now.

What’s in the AIS

Here are the components of an Audience Information Sheet.

  • A high-level audience profile describing the book’s audience in very general terms. For example:

Married moms who range in age from their twenties to their early fifties.

His audience associates him with his work around obesity, healthy eating, and nutrition.

The high-level audience profile might also include mentions of other authors the audience might consider comparable.

  • Demographic insights into the audiences. By mining social media and search results with appropriate tools, it is possible to analyze the characteristics of targeted markets and learn members’ age, marital status, gender, income level, and so on.
  • Behavior and lifestyle insights. This information should include the personal interests of the audience, their occupations/professions, and their spending/purchasing habits.
  • Geographic insights. These insights are gained by studying both social media activity and search results. We look for geographical areas that “over-index” for interest in a book’s subject, genre, or settings, or that over-index for audiences with the right characteristics.
  • Audience segmentation and targeting. This section of the AIS examines each of a book’s major audience segments (Moms, say, or Natural/whole/organic food community or Popular science) that logically emerge from the research. Also, it tells where to find them (geographically and/or institutionally), what brands they like, what topics they talk about, and what platforms they frequent.

The number of audience segments broken out this way varies from book to book, of course, but three to six such segments are typical.

  • Keywords, topics, phrases, and influencers. These four lists are the key pieces of information to employ for all marketing efforts.

The keywords list presents the search terms that are important for surfacing a given book’s audience, including how many times each term is searched each month in the United States (and in other countries that use our alphabet, as appropriate).

The topics and phrases lists present hashtagged subjects with the number of tweets in the past month and the number of Instagram posts that have occurred (measuring the amount of “chatter” around a book and the form it takes).

The key influencers list includes information on their Twitter accounts, and, as deduced from those, on the sites, blogs, and other accounts they use.

Every component of the AIS is designed to give marketers useable data. And that data can do more than fuel consumer marketing online. As it happens, stronger consumer-directed copy usually ends up being stronger and more effective influencer-directed copy as well, so the data will also help with old-fashioned publicity efforts and direct sales activity.

Mike Shatzkin, founder and CEO of The Idea Logical Company, has been an industry consultant for nearly four decades. His blog, The Shatzkin Files (idealog.com/blog), is the source of this article.

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