Creating Demand at Scale: Audience Development Delivers Publisher Success

Posted By: Mary McAveney Leadership,

In considering the importance of consumers, start by thinking about the TAM—Total Addressable Market for books in the US. According to Pew Research, there are 253 million adults in the US, and about three quarters (74%) of them have read a book in the past 12 months. This figure has remained largely unchanged since 2012.

In 2018 total book revenue in the US was $25.8 billion. Of that, $16.19 billion were trade sales and $8.03 billion were purchased via online retail. There are 17 million titles in the market and that market is growing at 1.3 million new books per year.

The number of readers is staying relatively static. How do you attract the attention of readers? The problem is that only a very small percentage of the millions of books in publication are discoverable. Authors need to connect with readers. Consumers want books they’ll love. Marketers do not have the resources to individually promote each book.

The solution is to develop scalable marketing and technology tools to promote discoverability and sales using data that is acquired through the pools of readers and book consumers. Open Road Integrated Media (OR/M) developed the Open Road Ignition program to satisfy readers who want to discover books and authors and publishers who want to attract readers. The OR/M audiences of 2.6 million monthly readers find new books via a proprietary discovery engine.

In its ability to scale, OR/M unlocks the potential of digitally connected audiences. Its core capability is producing scalable sales for authors and partner publishers using proprietary technology, data, and a consumer-obsessed approach.

OR/M readers are voracious—averaging 8 to 12 book purchases per year. The estimated lifetime of the consumers on our lists is more than five years. We serve this audience 20,000 highly rated fiction and non-fiction titles that are in the program. These books are written by iconic authors, and many are bestsellers in all categories. This is a relatively new approach to marketing in which we begin with our customers and maintain a steady focus on them throughout the process.

We expand our audiences through our book-focused content sites. These six sites: The Lineup for true crime, horror and paranormal fans; The Portalist for science fiction and fantasy fans; The Archive for non-fiction, history and science fans; Murder & Mayhem for mystery and thriller fans; A Love So True for romance fans; and Early Bird Books that covers all readers act as funnels that attract readers via their search habits and invite them to subscribe.

Most of our readers subscribe to multiple categories. Whether they are visitors to our sites or signed up for our newsletters tracking their click behavior allows us to optimize their experience in our ecosystem, to gain an understanding of the books they love to read, the authors they are passionate about, the series they can’t get enough of—and the surprise books they don’t know yet but we know they’ll love.

Delivering highly personalized content keeps our community of readers coming back again and again. We keep refining our offerings, not just on the titles but on choices around frequency, timing, messaging, variety, cadence, price point, and retailers, among many variables. As we continue to refine, we are mindful of the fact that consumers now expect you to know who they are, what they want, when they want it, how often they want it, where they want to buy it and how much they want to pay for it. The better you are at identifying and delivering on those expectations the better your retention will be.

Establishing a 1:1 connection with an audience is a primary responsibility. Authors and publishers are entering into a long-term relationship with those consumers. From the initial outreach via search analysis, you begin asking questions that will help you identify the folks most likely to become consumers of your product through their web searches. You then transfer that search [intent] into discovery using best practices in Search Engine Optimization. Ensuring that highly relevant content (Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness) lies at the other end of the search click will largely win the battles for search. Remember that Google is looking for its consumers to have the best possible experience, to find what they are looking for, and to get the answers they need. Aligning your goals with how search works means that your conversion rates will be strong. Your clicks to sign-up, your clicks to retail, your clicks to sponsored posts—will be delivered by providing the right content for the right people. Then, the hard work of retention and advocacy begins as your (hopefully) delighted customers continue to come back for more of your content and share it with their circles.

The new CMO perspective in publishing is consumer-focused, data-driven, tech-based, and results-oriented. This, along with the growing amount of revenue coming via online purchases, means that CMOs are directly responsible for revenue. This consumer-focused marketing approach has direct economic benefits. It drives dramatic increases across titles, it brings new readers to aging franchises and the discoverability provides a halo effect benefitting authors across all formats and titles. The strategic benefits are even greater: as a company you hone highly effective digital marketing skills, and you maximize the value of your catalogs from the hidden gems to the bestsellers.

This article is brought to you through a partnership with Amnet, a technology-led provider of services and solutions, catering to the needs of businesses for content transformation, design, and accessibility. The points of view expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the perspectives of Amnet or of BISG.

Mary McAveney is Chief Marketing Officer at Open Road Integrated Media. With a focus on the strategy and execution of comprehensive digital solutions, McAveney works to grow customer interest and drive revenue for authors and publishers. Across 25 years of experience, McAveney had advanced from managing title-specific marketing, brand building, and team structures to running product marketing and connecting consumer insights across channels to optimize efforts and positioning.

Her previous positions include Vice President Marketing at Simon & Schuster; Vice President Marketing at Zondervan; Director of Marketing at HarperCollins Publishers, as well as numerous consulting positions with media companies, internet start-ups and publishers.