Book Discovery Guide

The Beginner’s Guide to the Book Discovery Process

Ah, book discovery…

The Economist, in an article called “Authorpreneurship”, wrote: “writing a book is just a prologue to more work.” The “more work” comes in the form of book marketing.

Here at Storiad, we work with lots of authors as they go about getting their books discovered. It can be a tricky business, this book discovery process. It requires many skills that may (or may not) be readily available to authors.

In our assessment, the most critical skill is the ability and desire to learn about the process of getting traction in a crowded and competitive book marketplace. “Getting traction” is a fancy way of saying “getting the book discovered”, but we like the word “traction” because it gets to the very heart of the book discovery process – the journey the book takes from being unknown to being known, reviewed, recommended, and, of course, bought.

We also know that many authors aren’t necessarily thinking in terms of “process”. That is to say, they aren’t thinking in terms of starting at Point A and moving steadily (inexorably!) to Point Z. In this Point A to Point Z continuum, the author and the book are going to go from book anonymity (Point A) to generating the kinds of sales the author has set as a goal (Point Z).

And setting goals is one of the keys to the book discovery process.

Now, goal-setting can mean different things to different authors. It could mean, for example, maximizing book sales and revenues, say 25,000 units in a two-year period. Perhaps it could mean the validation of the author’s expertise in a particular field as part of a strategy to generate demand for particular speaking or consulting services. Or perhaps the goal is to build a dedicated reading audience for forthcoming books in the series. 

Regardless, once the goal has been set, Point Z is known. The author can now concentrate on getting there.

So it’s back to Point A. At this point, the author is going to get organized. And the ONLY way to get organized is by having a plan. And by “having a plan” we mean having a comprehensive and practical blueprint of what needs to get done and how it will get done.

By “comprehensive”, we mean a plan that addresses every facet of building and running the book discovery process (the what needs to get done):

  1. Organization
  2. Research
  3. Marketing
  4. Publicity
  5. Money management
  6. Continual learning

By “practical”, we mean a plan that not only explains what actions are needed, by why those actions are needed and how they can be accomplished. The what/why/how troika is at the very heart of genuinely understanding the book discovery process. It is what separates the author who is willing (and able) to dedicate the time to internalize the mechanics and business necessity of the book discovery process from those who simply can’t, won’t, or don’t. It probably goes without saying that the former will reach their goals. The latter won’t.

In this vein, the book discovery process is a learning process. And a continual one at that. Whereas we’re not advocating that authors need to know everything about getting books discovered, reviewed, recommended, and bought, dedicated authors are going to get pretty darned close. It’s neither art nor science. It’s more a comfort level with what the book is about, who will want to read it, how to find them, and what to say to them.

Okay! So far, so good. We’ve explored the theoretical underpinnings of the book discovery process. And it’s pretty straightforward. The only variables are:

  1. Desire to learn about the book discovery process
  2. Time commitment to learn about the book discovery process
  3. Application of what is learned  

Now, let’s talk about getting the process underway.

Building Book Discovery Assets

The very first thing the book discovery plan will address is getting the author’s various marketing and publicity assets organized. What do we mean by “assets”?

By way of definition, “an asset is a resource with economic value that an individual… owns or controls with the expectation that it will provide a future benefit.”(1) Every asset deployed in the book discovery process relates to the author and the book. As such, authors have three distinct assets at their disposal:

  1. The book itself
  2. Author-related assets
  3. Book-related assets

Let’s look at each category of assets in turn.

1. The Book Itself

To state the obvious, the book itself is the author’s most valuable asset. It is written and published with the expectation that it will return some sort of economic value. As we discussed in our section on goals, that economic value depends on the financial expectations the author has set for the book.

Here at Storiad, we are often asked: “how much is my book worth?” That is a great question with multiple answers:

  1. If the book sells thousands of units a year, the book will be worth quite a bit.
  2. If the book sells a few hundred units a year, the book will not be worth as much.

That may seem obvious, but too often authors don’t think of their book as an economic asset. Nor do they focus as much as they should on maximizing their return on investment (the book – the asset – being the investment).

2. Author-Related Assets

If the book is the product, then the author is the brand: “the marketing practice of creating a name, symbol or design that identifies and differentiates a product from other products.” As such, author-related assets support the development of the author’s brand.

It is a fact that readers are as interested in learning about the authors as they are in learning about their books. The authors themselves are creating economic value by building and cultivating a reputation, an image, a brand. In particular, it is imperative for the author to answer the following questions: 

  1. Who is the author?
  2. What do they look like?
  3. What do they sound like?
  4. What do they write?
  5. How do they write?
  6. What have they written?
  7. Do they have something important to say?
  8. Why should give them my time, attention, and money?
  9. How can what they have to say help me? (What “need” are they fulfilling?)
  10. Are they accessible? Can I communicate with them?
  11. What else? There’s always more to add!

Give readers all this information, and more if needed. Authors are selling themselves as much as they are selling their books. Fiction or nonfiction, the author is at the very forefront of the book discovery process. From J.K. Rowling to Malcolm Gladwell, the author is the spokesperson of their books. This is especially true if authors are looking to leverage a particular book to generate speaking fees or building an audience for a book series. Ask any successful author and they will tell you that readers oftentimes build attachments to people more readily than to any given book.

3. Book-Related Assets

Book-related assets are the marketing assets authors use to get their book discovered, reviewed, recommended, and bought. “A marketing asset may include … brochures, email campaigns, and other promotional items used to promote products or services. Marketing assets are customized content.”

Now, by “customized content” we mean unique book marketing and publicity assets that make getting to know the book an easy and enjoyable experience. This “customized content” can include:

  1. Book synopsis
  2. Cover art
  3. Book metadata
  4. Book excerpts
  5. Book trailers
  6. Author videos
  7. Blogging
  8. Reviews
  9. Live video author events
  10. Social media accessibility
  11. Social media messaging
  12. Surveys
  13. Buying options
  14. Discount codes
  15. Giveaways
  16. Merchandise
  17. Ads
  18. Email messaging
  19. Networking platform
  20. Marketing platform 
  21. What else? There’s always more to add!

These book-related assets distinguish those authors who find bookselling success from those authors who don’t. And the empirical evidence shows that the review/recommend/buy decision favors those authors with the most compelling book marketing & publicity assets. 

The Media Kit

Once author-and-book-related assets have been developed, it is time to put together an attractive package. We will be blunt here: poorly designed packaging doesn’t resonate, resulting in poor book sales. As such, it is imperative for authors to take the time and effort to arrange their author- and book-related assets in a compelling and engaging package that screams “you’re going to love this book and here’s why!” The goal here is to make the review/recommend/buy decision as easy as possible. And that package is called the Media Kit.

The Media Kit can be a PDF or it can be a live webpage. Here at Storiad, being a tech company and all, we’re partial to the webpage Media Kit: 

  1. It’s more versatile
  2. It’s interactive
  3. It’s customizable to different audiences
  4. It’s easier to edit and update (especially as more reviews come in)
  5. It’s easier to share/embed

Regardless of which option the author chooses (PDF or webpage), the Media Kit serves as the backbone of the book discovery process. For design ideas, there are countless examples of both Media Kit versions online.

Executing a Book Discovery Plan

As much as we hate to say it, any given book is a product competing against many other products in the book market. It goes without saying that there are many books out there all looking for readers.

From a “buy” perspective, a prospective reader has x dollars to spend on a book at any given moment and is shopping in a market (again) teeming with a cornucopia of tempting products, each vying for attention and dollars. From a “review/recommend” perspective”, the prospective reader is looking for compelling and value-adding content to share with their readers. The decision to “review/recommend” is a purely business one, i.e., what will bring traffic and generate revenue.  

With that in mind, authors need to ask two fundamental questions: 

  1. Why should a reader decide to review, recommend, and/or buy any given book?  
  2. How can the author’s book discovery process influence/facilitate the reader’s decision? 

The answer to “Why should a reader decide to review, recommend, and/or buy any given book” is threefold: 

  1. The reader is aware of the book
  2. It fulfills whatever need the reader is looking to address
  3. It creates a need the reader did not know existed

The answer to “How can the author’s book discovery process influence/facilitate the reader’s book-buying decision” is likewise threefold:

  1. Find the book’s target audience 
  2. Provide entertaining, informative, interactive “stuff” for them to get to know the book
  3. Make it easy to review, recommend, and/or buy the book. 

In the Doing phase of the book discovery process, the author’s objective is to get the Media Kit into the hands of (read: onto the screens of) those people most likely to want to read, review, recommend, and buy the book. The first task is to understand the book’s target market:

  1. Who is most likely to want to read, review, recommend, and buy the book?
  2. Where can they be found?
  3. How can they be reached?
  4. What should be said to them?

Who & Where

Every book has a market. The author’s market research centers around finding the centers of populations that will “naturally” gravitate towards a particular book. For example, a sci-fi book club or review blog will attract other like-minded sci-fi fans. Obviously, anyone could be the target market for every book – a sci-fi fan could also like romance books, a civil war history buff could also like gardening books. However, by initially focusing on those centralized, self-selecting groups like the book club and review blog mentioned, the author is in a better position to identify where “genre fans” like to congregate and reach the greatest amount of people with the least amount of difficulty. Once those “self-selecting” groups have been identified, market research can then be expanded to find more “decentralized” grouping of target readers. 

To state the obvious: this market research is conducted via Internet search engine to collect and organize the following information:

  • Entity name
  • Entity description
  • Contact name
  • Method(s) of online contact

How & What

We will pause here to draw an important distinction between marketing and publicity:

  • Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.” (2)
  • Publicity is the process of creating public awareness of your business, brand, products, or services through media coverage and other forms of communication.” (3)
  • Contrasted, “Marketing involves communicating specific benefits and emotions to potential customers in order to persuade them to make a purchase. Publicity, by contrast, is designed to make a product or brand more visible.” (4)

As such, when authors are pursuing their publicity outreach by contacting various media outlets, they are aiming for mentions, reviews, or recommendations by those media outlets to their respective audiences. Here are a few examples of media outlets authors contact during their publicity outreach:

  • Bloggers
  • Vloggers
  • Reviewers
  • Magazines
  • Newspapers
  • Newsletters
  • Radio
  • Television
  • And many, many more

Authors contact their target media outlets via email, contact form, and/or social media feed using a professional introductory note and attaching their Media Kit to request a mention consideration- a basic quid pro quo business proposition: “Here is why I feel your audiences would benefit from knowing about my book.”

From a straightforward marketing perspective, the author is selling directly to authors or groups of authors:

  • Book clubs
  • Reading groups
  • Libraries
  • Bookstores
  • Associations
  • And many more

Once again, the author is using a professional introductory note and attached Media Kit to request consideration for a sale. There is a lot of leeway in marketing outreach for creativity, especially when looking for individual readers, such as hosting live video author events to connect with audiences all across the Internet. It’s the same as a bookstore event, but at a more powerful and cost-effective level.

Money Matters

We would be remiss if we didn’t add a few words about the importance of managing book discovery process finances… it’s important! It is the only way to measure the effectiveness of the book discovery outreach process. For example, by using a title profit & loss statement, authors can track the effectiveness of their work. In addition, authors can use the title profit & loss statement as a way to optimize their budgets and plan for the future.

Decision Time

If you decide this book discovery approach is for you, we suggest taking the time to expand on what has been discussed in this introductory blog post. 

As luck would have it, Storiad offers free access to our Learning Management System (LMS) designed to walk you through every facet of building and running a practical book discovery campaign – from getting book discovery process campaigns organized to building media kits to publicity research to building title profit & loss statements (Storiad even provides a free, “ready-to-use” title profit & loss spreadsheet). 

Gaining access to the Storiad LMS is an easy two-step process:

  1. Click here to create a Basic Storiad account. 
  2. Once inside, click on the “Guidance” tab and learn away!

We hope this has been helpful. We are always available to answer any book discovery process questions you may have. Just chirp at us on Twitter.