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How Publishers can Increase Discovery and Sell-through this Holiday Season

Q4 2020 Book Marketing and Sales Trends

Yes, 2020 is different. There will be unique challenges this holiday season. But at the same time, some things have remained the same. Many of the tactics that will find publishers being successful this upcoming holiday season may not be as different as one might expect.

Let’s Talk About 2020

George may not have left us with a great Game of Thrones ending. But there is hope for your book sales to increase through the end this year. This will be a plot twist worth tracking.

4 Trends Likely to Define Q4 Book Sales

    1. Continued disruption in the brick-and-mortar supply chain 

    Expect readers to continue to purchase books through online retailers. Consumers rush to online retailers in Q2 and Q3 does not look to have slowed, despite some openings in the brick-and-mortar space. It is always difficult to determine the permanent behavior of consumers, but one can be fairly certain that Q4 2020 will find consumers online in higher numbers than usual.


    2. Uncertainty and unpredictability in consumer behavior 

    Many young students are learning virtually throughout the United States, adults who are working have odd hours, are working from home offices, and generally experiencing ongoing disruptions in their behaviors, revealing an increase in engagement with streaming media, social media, video conferencing, etc. The near to long term effect on leisure reading is unclear (so far, fairly flat). But genre trends going forward will likely remain unpredictable and change quickly.

    3. Frontlist impact 

    There is going to be hyper competition over the next three months. Many 2020 frontlists were delayed to Q3 and Q4 and are publishing right now. With more readers online being presented with more titles in a “flat space” of search and minimal merchandising, your frontlist titles are in a more crowded environment than ever. And, with the rise of backlist as a percentage of overall sales, your frontlist will also be competing with backlist titles too – your own and other publishers’. The disruption in supply chain and printing materials may cause delays this fall and lead to a negative impact on your frontlist as well. Monitoring availability at all times will be critical.

    4. Fatigue, distraction, best laid plans 

    You may be teaching your small children at home. Your yearly marketing strategy may not have gone as planned. The patterns and way you have interacted with others may have changed too. Tools that cut through the noise and make prioritization easy will be important.


Okay, those four points probably feel gloomy. Through slight changes and agility on your part, these trends can lead to a positive impact on your book sales this holiday season.

But not everything is upside down! Q4 2020 is also a time when some of what we’re used to will likely look the same as it does during “normal” years.

What Defines Every Q4 on the Internet

Every year there are spikes in search volume online for “books” and associated keywords and phrases. This Google Trends data shows the search volume spikes over the past 5 years.

Yellow = Holidays

Orange = Back to School

Red = Pandemic Baseline

What you won’t see for 2020 is the trough after the back to school spike like you see in years past. Readers have continued to buy books through the year forming a higher baseline. So, we may well see a higher peak this holiday season.

Over the past 12 months, Amazon search volume for “best books” and related 275 terms has sustained a 21% increase. The May 2020 search volume matched a typical holiday season’s search volume.

The Real Challenge This Fall

Increased competition due to the increase of frontlist titles being pushed back
+
More readers entering the online book buying process
=
Incredibly challenging discovery (for consumers and publishers alike!)

Readers are going to have a hard time finding the best book for the topic they desire. As publishers, you are going to have a challenge getting your books in front of the right readers.

Authority, timeliness and relevance are going to be key.

Data and technology will help you be agile and unlock creativity through your marketing in a time like this.

Marketing Insights Exists for This Reason

This is a big data tool that is all about consumers finding your books online and providing you with the insights and suggestions you need to prioritize actions to remove the friction during your buyer’s discovery and purchase journeys.

We know these things to be true:

  1. People look for and buy things online.

  2. (Most if not all) assets owned by publishers are underperforming on the internet at all times.

  3. Any list can be optimized to improve discovery and conversion.

  4. We can monitor buying signals with technology.

  5. Taking action to reduce friction will produce real gains.

So, what does success look like through the use of Marketing Insights?

This is a graph coming directly from Marketing Insights. What you see is a title’s bestseller rank. As consumers find and purchase the title it rises and falls throughout the ranking continuum until late July.

The title’s bestseller rank begins to rise rapidly as the publisher takes action:

  • Metadata improvements

  • Adjusting the price, if it’s an ebook

  • Running advertisements on Amazon or other social platforms

  • Writing a blog post and linking through to the book page

When you align your marketing efforts to remove consumer friction you establish a new baseline. These onetime efforts prove to result in long lasting success.

This strategy proves valuable for frontlist and backlist titles as online search and social media algorithms take hold.

Where does the true success lie? 

Incremental improvements across your list of titles over time.

The incremental improvements can happen in a lot of different ways and it’s difficult to know which improvements to make and at what time.

You could be asking yourself:

  • Am I advertising on the right platform?

  • Why isn’t my title performing better?

  • How do I know which title needs a keyword update?

  • How do I find which titles have errors and mistakes?

  • Why am I losing the Amazon Buy Box?

Take this as an example, Marketing Insights gathers data from key online channels to analyze signals to help you prioritize and take action on all the titles across your list. The platform will identify opportunities based on consumer demand and activity to provide actionable recommendations for each of your titles.

Gain greater, more frequent, and fast insight into your titles this holiday season with Marketing Insights by Ingram to ensure you never miss a sale.

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