The idea for me to write this essay comes from a discussion I had in my Master of Publishing class about Amazon. The discussion went from,  “Amazon is this evil entity that is crushing innocent publishers” to me saying, “Even the big five publishers HAD the power to crush Amazon from the very beginning, but they chose not to.” Truth to be said, Amazon wouldn’t have “crushed” the battle if only publishers cared more about their audience. In order to care more about their audience, they should know their audience and better yet, how to reach them. And that is what Amazon is doing and they are not slowing down.

Quick disclaimer: this is not an essay about Amazon and why they are a “publisher crusher”.

To begin my argument, I would like to share a personal experience coming from a book project I’m currently doing in my graduate class. Coming from a business background, I’ve been constantly told that nothing is more important than your customer aka your target market aka your audience. It does not matter if you have innovative, out of this world product if you can’t sell it to anyone. It does not matter if you have strong and highly experienced team if you can’t sell your product to anyone. It does not matter if your strategy, corporate culture and budgeting are nearly perfect if you can’t sell your product to anyone. In short, if everything around you is doing well but your product does not reach your audience, there will be no profit for you. That is exactly what happens in this book project I’m currently in. Me and my team (and I’m pretty sure other teams do this too) spend A LOT of time garnishing our company specs, our mission statement, our titles and our authors but we failed to spend even a DECENT amount of time to get to know our audience. We know about them, but we don’t exactly give a f*ck about them. It’s like knowing the friend of a friend that we barely see on Sunday brunch. They are there, we know they are there, but we just don’t care.

And it gets worse. We had a lesson about persona marketing but nothing from that lesson is implemented in our marketing strategy.

I double checked our syllabus. I was right.

Please all of you in MPub 2017 cohort and my beloved instructors, don’t hate me for saying this, but we sell our books to ghost.

I have to back up my points here with some numbers and real-life survey otherwise whoever reads this essay will just be saying that my points are not justified. So here goes.

These data I am showing you is provided by an agency in the UK called Agent Hunter. From the chart above, we can see that nearly 50% of published authors said that we, publishers, are doing a pretty good job on our editorial side. In fact, less than 5% of them said that we are doing nothing at all.


Again, more than 70% published authors said that their publishers are doing an excellent & good job on copyediting their books. Only 1% of them said that they did not receive any copyediting or proofreading.

Praise the design team! More than half published authors said that they are highly satisfied with their book cover, and less than 5% of them said they are not.

We are doing a great job so far, aren’t we. Unfortunately, happy endings do not exist in real world. Let me drop the bomb.

These numbers are well distributed, but it pains me to say that one of the highest number falls to authors saying that “My publisher did not seem to have ANY marketing plan.” Not convinced yet?

My question is simple : why? Why is the majority of published authors here said that “I felt my books weren’t really marketed at all.” It is not only that we often neglect the authors’ skills, passions and networks, but we also forget that some of them are already strong in their digital presence and we do not make use of it.

This brings me back to the point that most publishers do not know their audience and how to market to them. Pete McCarthy, co-founder of The Logical Marketing Agency, said that unique research into the audiences is needed for every book and every author to better understanding on how to reach and sell to those audiences. It is a constant process of segmenting, researching, tweaking, analyzing and doing all of that in repeat. Publishers should also throw the effort to examine the market for each book they might publish before they bid on it. Publishers also need to have the ability to quickly segment and analyze the audiences.

SOVRN’s CEO, Walter Knapp, also said that the value in an audience lies in knowing who they are. “It’s about understanding who those people are – are they a man or are they a woman, are they married or are they not married, do they have kids, what’s their income level, where do they live, what devices to they use?” He also said that greater understanding of the audience helps to generate more money. Publishers need to know if their reader is planning to buy a new house or even deciding where to go for the next vacation. “Those are all sorts of things that you have to know to intimately understand the people that are engaging with your work. Once you understand that, on an individual basis, that’s when you can start to make money.” Knapp also said that in order to monetize the audience, publishers need to tie in what people want, how to get it and when to get it. It requires a ‘holistic’ understanding of the audience. “We think about in terms of these three pillars. How do I understand who’s engaging with my work, how do I get distribution for it and then, how do I make money from it?” Moreover, in 2013, there were roughly 2.9 billion people on the internet, increasing to 3.2 billion in 2014. Knapp pointed out that those billions of people don’t tend to just go to one place to get news or entertainment. Knapp believes that publishers need to think beyond their “online presence” but to also think about how they can infiltrate their work to the other distribution channels where the audiences are already in. “It’s also important to understand the people who are interacting and engaging with you there so you can bring that back to produce better content .. to learn for your readership and how people are enganging and how they are interacting.”

Furthermore, how we market the books are also changing. We have now replaced “knowledge of the book” with “research into the audience”. It was then a process to communicate the knowledge of what was inside a book to reviewers and buyers so they could deicde whether it was suitable for their audience or their customers. They were the professional intermediaries we wanted to tackle; those who would get word of the book and sell the copies of the book to the market. Unfortunately, in the digital world we live in now, none of that applies any longer. Title Information Sheet or TIS is no longer urgent. Writing a descriptive copy without knowledge of the potential audiences, their intention, their language, their preferences, is not going to achieve the desired results for discovery, no matter how accurately the books content is described and passed along. The TIS was the core information needed by book marketers before Google. But now we have Google. Fortunately, I found a solution for us.

Two months ago, The Logical Marketing founders ­– Peter McCarthy and Jess Johns – came up with a new tool that will be substantial to publishers to determine their audience and how to reach them. It is called Audience Information Sheet or AIS and here are the components :

  1. A high-level audience profile which essentially describes the book’s audience in very general terms, such as “Single women who range in age from their early twenties to late thirties.” This description might also include other authors the audience might consider to be “comps”.
  2. Demographic insights into the audience to analyze the characteristics of the people and to learn their age, marital status, gender and income level.
  3. Behavior and lifestyle insights which points to personal interests, occupations and purchasing habits of the audience.
  4. Geographic insights gained from “search trends” and “social trends” to determine the interest in the book’s subject, genre and settings.
  5. Audience segmentation and targeting examines each of the major audience segments (“Single women”, “Pop culture”) and tells you where to find them (geographically or institutionally), their interests, the platforms they use and frequent (Facebook, Instagram).

Every components of the AIS give marketers usable data to better understanding their audiences, specific to each books they are publishing. AIS is the new era in publishing; it has been beta-tested in the Big Five clients and they are all agree that AIS will be somewhat deeper and more sophisticated than the ones they have already created that are only “right-sized”, in restriction to the publisher’s capabilities and resources, especially in marketing and sales.

Now we know the answer to our audience problem. Now we also have the way to reach our greatest potential. The question is, are we willing to do so?



Kamdar, Sachin. June 24, 2017. “The top five things digital publishers need to know about audience loyalty.” Accessed November 10, 2017.


Moses, Lucia. June 14, 2017. “As audience development grows, publishers question who should own it.” Accessed November 10, 2017.


D’Cruz, Matt. May 12, 2016. “Publishers, how well do you know your audience? What are you doing to maximize its value?” Accessed November 10, 2017.


TheMediaBriefing. May 10, 2016. “SOVRN CEO Walter Knapp on why publishers need to understand their audiences.” Accessed November 10, 2017.


Shatzkin, Mike. August 31, 2015. “The Audience Information Sheet is more useful than the Title Information Sheet for marketers (and for publicity and sales too).” Accessed November 10, 2017.


Shatzkin, Mike. March 2, 2015. “Better book marketing in the future depends a bit on unlearning the best practices of the past.” Accessed November 10, 2017.


AgentHunter. February 10, 2015. “Published authors data.” Accessed November 10, 2017.­­