We live immersed in a world of tracking, measuring and analytics. Whether you have a Facebook, Google or similar account, or even if you play the game of hide an seek from the zillions of data collecting bots lurking in cyberspace, chances are you are being tracked at least for a good part of your day.
Like it or not, we are being tracked. the heinous world depicted by Orwell in 1984 is becoming a reality, and just like in Huxley’s Brave New World, people around us embrace the surveillance and think its for the best, be it security, having a deal or giving businesses the information they need to deliver “exactly” what they need.
Publishing books is a different matter though, first, because the historic evolution of the field has lead to an interesting mix of romantic feel about the touch, smell and feel of the pages and a yearn of the old printing techniques with the excitement of high-tech printing and the and virtual almost eternal lasting of e-books.
Also, the publishing industry has problems collecting or processing information about readers tastes and reasons to purchase. A novel for example has the challenge to be discovered first and then tell the person who came across it, about the benefits of reading the content compared to the thousands of titles around, some of which have huge media support and placement.
For centuries, Publishers had relied in their instincts and experience to predict the most successful route for a book to reach its audience, but what is this “instinct and experience” (also called “gut”) but a very complex collection of processed data turned into information by years of practice in the gestalt consciousness of the profession as well as in the individual life story? How is it possible to fuel this “gut” with the type of data the digital gathering systems generate?
When publishing a book, my major interest is Who and Where is its public? and how to deliver it to the them? I mean, not only how to make them aware of its existence, but also the best way for them to consume it. If there is a community with similar interests, a social club, Facebook page or forum? Do they read printed materials or digital, audiobooks, other?. Thus, I need to establish contact with them, or guide the writer to do it. This is where I find useful that data, to know what they like, what they think, how they read or consume knowledge and entertainment so I can create real expectations and prepare for a big show.
It is agreed, Word of Mouth is the most successful way to promote a book, because it relies on a social web with heavily established bonds and protocols, in fact, it could be assumed that most of the other marketing channels aim towards positioning a book in the word of mouth channel at some point.
So talking to the readers is key. Publishing is about establishing relations, closing writers and audiences, editors and Publics. You cannot lurk in the shadows with a dataset, measuring people from the distance and expecting to surprise them with a product their Gaussian distribution tells me they would like, but of which they have never heard of. As in all great businesses, direct communication is key, and thus, a simple prompt sample or question can work wonders compared to the most detailed dataset. Because in essence, we are getting the specific data we want to know.
How to find the right audience… well that is another matter.