Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Personalized Discovery: The Next Publishing Evolution

I'm a bit of a nut about discovery being aided by technology. This consumer demand has to be answered by the industry not individual authors. The significant capital and resource investment required to fund and adopt discovery-technology places it beyond the scope of authors.

Authors should focus on the two things with guaranteed ROI: write the next book and -- as Jeffe and James mentioned earlier -- make strategic "boots on the ground" personal connections.

Using technology reach individual consumers? That's the purview of industry. I say "industry" instead of "publishers" because the answer can be supplied by publishers, retailers, or a new third party. As long as an industry-standard is applied, authors and consumers win.
The good news on the discovery front is that marketplace competition has finally put the issue on the corporate agenda. I was equally hopeful and horrified when I spotted this little gem summarizing BEA (BookExpo America) 2012:
"Publishers are realizing that to compete with Amazon they have to be able to sell directly to consumers. One way they can do that is by making their books more discoverable." -- L.H. Owen "5 Things the Book Industry Will Be Talking About Next Week"   

~checks calendar~

Okay. I admit to being disappointed that the industry is a good fifteen years behind the power curve regarding discovery. From the looks of things, publishers didn't want to be in the retailing business, but that pesky retailer-cum-publisher (aka competitor) Amazon is now forcing their hand. That's good for teams Authors and Readers. Amazon started as a book retailer (you remember that, right?).  Amazon figured out how to take the community-model of discovery and make it profitable. 

distributor inventory + consumer-provided reviews + technology-provided recommendations = sales

GoodReads has taken the Amazon discovery model and added more community elements to make it personalized. For GoodReads, retail isn't their primary business. They consider themselves a consumer-review site with referrals to retailers. Their formula is more:

consumer-provided reviews + consumer wishlists + publisher inventory 
= technology-provided recommendations

If you want to know the CEO of GoodReads's suggestions for authors regarding discovery, check out his piece in Publishing Perspectives: Winning the Battle of Book Discovery.

I'm looking forward to dawning of a personalized bookstore. In this virtual shop, there are no limitations to what is available to me nor am I overwhelmed by the selection. Recommendations are shown to me based on what I own, what I've noted as favorites, what I wish I owned, and what readers with tastes like mine have enjoyed. Like any consumer, I want one-click convenience with a competitive price and instant delivery.

Personalized Discovery: The Next Publishing Evolution

I can easily see the day, perhaps in FY 2013, when ebooks surface a final page of "Thank you for reading 'Rogue's Pawn' by Jeffe Kennedy. Here are links to three more of her books. Other readers who enjoyed 'Rogue's Pawn' purchased these sexy contemporary fantasy books by other authors."

If I can trust the industry to recommend a book to me -- me the individual -- as much as I would trust a neighbor to recommend a book, then the last barrier to purchase is removed. As a consumer, I have a constantly updated list of purchases waiting for me to click "buy now." As an author, I have confidence that the magic of logarithms and word-of-virtual-mouth is working for me ...waiting on me to finish that next book.


  1. ~checks calendar~ <-- I *love* this! I feel like I'm forever checking the calendar with some of these legacy industry types. Astonishing to me that they've taken so long to catch up!

    And thanks for the convenient plug!:D

    1. LOL. I've begun wondering how much of the sluggish change is due to short-term leadership vision (e.g. no CEO wants to invest in infrastructure changes because of high cost and low visibility) versus not viewing retailers as competitors due to long-standing contracts.