It has been rumored that publishers have a very low hit rate with the titles they publish – 10% or less. Most books are not profitable. This has a lot to do with the traditional publishing model. The selection of titles is often based upon guesswork or the relationships of agents or acquisition editors, or copying what has worked before. The effectiveness of tradtional book marketing techniques have been difficult to measure. And hard sales data on which to base selection and marketing decisions has been sketchy.
But things are changing. Blog to book development strategies are available for the creation and testing of authors and their works. Publishers can determine whether there is an audience, who they are and what they like before committing resources to the production and marketing of a title.
The response to new web based PR and marketing tools – book trailers, podcasts, virtual blog tours, pay-per-click campaigns – can be more precisely measured with less lag time than through traditional venues. On the sales end, Book Scan data is supplanting reliance on the more opaque dynamics of best seller lists. Book Scan provides detailed sales data from over 6,500 locations including bookstores, online sales and mass merchandisers such as Target and Costco. Real sales data can have a humbling effect on both writers and publishers. This data can have strong predictive value for publishers as demonstrated by Tim O’Reilly in his post on using BookScan to track technology trends that were important for his future books sales.
Analytics could make a huge difference to publishers. Imagine changing the ratio of profitable titles from 10% to 90%.