Our proxy in New York City, Meg Vann, has delivered notes from a presentation by Kristen McLean at the BOOK2CAMP (Book Squared) Unconference. There are a few choice quotes within, but I particularly like the sentiment behind the last line. In a rapidly changing environment, we’re all learning.
Magic Eight Ball: Questions about readers/audience/market that we don’t yet have the tools to discover
This discussion was led by Kristen McLean, a book futurist who focuses on disruptive services and products to flatten the publishing market.
‘Discovery’ usually helps consumers find our book, but what if we apply the term more broadly ‑ to authors and publishers? We could use powerful data tools for insights into our audience, and understand the risk factors better by building a tool to measure it.
The publishing chain usually starts with the author at the top – but it’s possible now to test the market and edit the book in response, to know your audience before writing the book, using ‘forward data’ instead of ‘following data’.
But crowd feedback may not allow for the creative leap of putting new, untested material into the cultural consciousness. It’s still an editorial challenge to find fresh and original work.
Aggregating an audience: we can’t scale the location/creation of an independent community around every subject. Trend and market research is often done by transient staff (eg. interns) so the knowledge is lost.
Developers need small iterative testing – publishers and booksellers also need to be able to conduct ‘little tests’ of products and content. [And a publisher in the room jokes: ‘we have it already, it’s called the first print run.’]
There are concerns that the already lengthy lead time on long works of fiction would blow out further using this approach.
Agile development methodologies: discerning between creating an agile workflow and the myth of ‘agile content’.
Kristen is putting a slide in her deck (for tomorrow’s session on agile content) that shows the hundreds of social media sites that publishers can tap into – so many that it’s hard to fit them all on the graph. To create communities around niche subjects takes huge resources and creates a walled garden. We need an integrated platform.
Publishers want metadata about consumer immersion in an experience related to a topic relevant to one of their titles and they need that data as it is happening so they can market ‘in the moment’. No siloing of content searching.
An interesting side note: the main source of browsing and discovery (as distinct from purchase) of books is still with bookstores and libraries.
Every publisher needs to engage in trend research. Publishers need to move from being knowers to being learners.