BookExpo America (BEA) is the big annual publishing tradeshow held in early June where publishers lay out their wares for the coming season. As a publisher at McGraw-Hill during the mid-2000s, I talked up our big titles and took more pitches than a catcher working both ends of a doubleheader. Now, as a publishing and communications consultant, I take a different strategy. This year, I decided to concentrate on seminars and panels so that I can bring the latest intel and trends to our clients.
I especially enjoyed “Reader-Centric Publishing.” Skillfully moderated by Carol Fitzgerald of TheBookReportNetwork.com, the panel all-stars were Random House president Gina Centrello, Simon & Schuster publisher Jonathan Karp, Bronwen Hruska, publisher at Soho Press, and Megan Tingly, publisher of Little-Brown Books for Younger Readers.
The upshot: publishers are transforming their companies to focus on the reader. This may sound obvious, but publishers historically have talked to booksellers about their books, and booksellers marketed to readers. Now publishers need to bypass accounts to discover where readers are, discover what they’re talking about, and engage them in conversations. Discoverability is the key word.
I loved Gina Centrello’s mantra, “fish where the fish are.” She said Random House does this by developing partnerships on platforms where large numbers of reader communities can be found. For example, they have a partnership with Politico.com, where they publish original content and have an online bookstore. Jonathan Karp said Simon & Schuster has devoted lots of content marketing and attention to C-Span’s Book TV where truly passionate nonfiction readers can be found.
How can authors fish where the fish are? First, focus on data and research:
- Explore online brands in your subject area by searching primary concepts in your book to see if they’ve published similar content;
- Take a bestselling comparison book and do Google keyword searches to see where the book is getting visibility;
- If your book will reach a unique, identifiable community, identify highest traffic websites and track popular topics over 6-8 weeks (use Google Alerts);
- Identify, list, and do brief write ups of bloggers speaking to your book’s target audience—an invaluable resource for you, your publisher, or PR team.
Stay tuned for more of my BEA takeaways.