Home » Big Publishing, Disruptive Innovation, Ebooks » The Noise of Data

The Noise of Data

31 July 2012

From FutureBook:

How will the industry use the reader data it will eventually get when e-booksellers such as Kobo and Barnes & Noble begin sharing it?

. . . .

In short, what do you do when you know that 50% of readers only get half-way through a book written by one of your top authors? Do you tell them? Do you suggest ways they change future titles? Do you fret over whether future books will sell, and cancel all contracts? Do you do nothing?

. . . .

Of course publishers are already anticipating this transition: Anthony Forbes Watson has said the industry will shift towards “science graduates who can write a paragraph”, while Richard Charkin has talked of algorithms displacing alcorithms.

We have been here before too. When BookScan (known then as BookTrack) first emerged, bringing with it real sales data for the first time, there was at times a painful transition as authors and publishers discovered that what went out of the warehouse, was not necessarily related to what was sold through tills. What then emerged was a clash between those who wanted to publish based on intuition, and those who wanted to use sales data to inform these decisions: and sometimes block them.

Link to the rest at FutureBook

Big Publishing, Disruptive Innovation, Ebooks

20 Comments to “The Noise of Data”

  1. I must say, it’s very interesting to me to watch sales… See, I wrote a duology. (It was going to be a single book, ending at the point the first one ended at, but all my beta-readers threatened me with screaming if I didn’t keep writing. They acted like it was some kind of cliffhanger or something. *sigh*) So I tend to see people buy the first, and then, a day or three later, there’s the second sale. So far, there’s at least a 75% “continuing” rate. (And about 3% returns for the first, this month, and 1.5% returns for the second.)

    I guess this means a lot of people are reading it after they buy.

  2. “How will the industry use the reader data it will eventually get when e-booksellers such as Kobo and Barnes & Noble begin sharing it?”

    Interesting tidbit of information. Let me quote the Kobo email I got yesterday

    “Also, at this time, we are not tracking stats on free titles.”

    You put your book for free at Kobo and neither you nor they have a flying clue how many have been downloaded. How’s that for data gathering?

    • Poor. You can’t tell what your ratio of free-to-paid is.

      • I seem to remember one of the authors who was beta testing the new platform saying that free download numbers are on the road map.

        • Hey David–
          I have one free book via the Kobo platform–as a test run–and my dashboard shows zero. The ranking of the book never budges either, so as far as I can tell, nobody ever downloads it. Nobody likes free books in Canada?

          Then again, Kobo’s search engine is so bad I can barely find my own books, so how can I expect anyone else to?

  3. This whole article was so old school. Nothing about the author response to data, only the publisher. And this question:

    Do publishers TELL their authors about the data?

    …made me go see red, and caused steam to come out of both ears.

    No, you should protect your authors because they are children who need to be controlled. Pat them on the head, tell them to go back to writing, and give them a lollipop when they’re done.

    Fortunately, I predict these questions won’t be relevent in a year or two. It will be written into contracts that all data is shared with authors, and authors will demand and receive direct access to the data without publishers anyway.

    Thank goodness.

  4. I’m not sure I get the assumption that publishers, traditional or not, will have access to such data. The data would be collected by retailers. Whether or not they want to share is something else.

    I bet such data influences the Amazon imprints greatly. Everyone else? Meh.

    And I would *kill* for access to that kind of data, btw, but I’d make a big bet no retailer will ever share it. I mean, it has real value, and it’s proprietary. I can see a retailer maybe selling access to certain snippets of data, but probably not to self-publishers.

    • That was my exact thought. Retailers giving this data away for free (or at all)? Not going to happen.

      • One other thing. I remember the head of Kobo saying something interesting (but not completely surprising) – that indie writers were far, far hungrier for data than publishers.

        • Publishers are busy drinking their own Kool-Aid. They don’t want good data.

          And Book Scan isn’t good data, btw, so the article missed that.

        • Of course. If the publisher is concerned with the entire supply chain, then they will want all of the supply chain’s data. But if they are only focusing on a small segment of that chain, then they are not going to worry about anything else. That is the difference between them and indie authors – the indie author is focused on the entire supply chain – from writing to distribution to final sale, hence why the numbers matter.

    • I was about to say this same thing. Is the data there? Most likely. Will most of us providing content ever see it? Not likely.

      If we don’t have access to the data, then its not going to do any good for those producing the content.

  5. David Gaughran has it nailed. Companies adept at collating marketing data make a great deal of money. I consult for one on an obscure market, which supports my novel writing habit. When I finish these next two interconnected novels, I will see what I might make of my amazon sales and GoDaddy statistics while perusing parts of an interesting marketing research data base. T’is not easy.

  6. You don’t need to be a science major to understand data. I was an English major (and have written the first draft of a novel) and I worked for a large data company and can write SQL. It’s pretty easy to understand analytics if you have training–and it certainly doesn’t need to be a specialized four-year degree.

    That said, I don’t see the retailers sharing data. It’s almost impossible to get people to share data WITHIN companies where it would make total sense for their company’s bottom line.

    • The sharing of the data will not impact the company’s bottom line as much as you think. It will cost to PRODUCE the data, but I doubt that sharing will have a negative impact – the reason I say this is because this is basic supply chain 101 – the better the data available in the supply chain, the more accurate it will be to forecast, understand consumer behaviour and work with supply and demand. Until the publishers get an understanding that the supply chain from the writer to the consumer is a single entity, you won’t see too much movement here. Practical example – Amazon shares info with publishing house that consumers are reading shorter books, or want shorter chapters. Relay this back to the writer, who will produce books to meet the changing customer demand, which will translate into better sales for writer, publisher and Amazon as well.

  7. In short, what do you do when you know that 50% of readers only get half-way through a book written by one of your top authors?

    Save money by not editing the last half?

    • That’s one approach. Another is to use it as yet another excuse not to give the top author that next contract.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.