Fragments of Our Imagination

cable TVWe hear a lot these days that the media are becoming more fragmented.   There are more media outlets competing for the attention of smaller and ever more specialized audiences.  In some sense, media fragmentation is really audience fragmentation enabled by new technologies.  For example, cable TV has enabled hundreds of channels vs. a handful of networks, and these cater to very diverse audience interests. 

fragmented kaleidoscope-collageFor a medium like television such fragementation is a relatively recent occurrence.  But book publishers have been dealing with audience fragmentation far longer.  In fact, books represent the original fragmented medium.  The number of books published in the US and UK in 2006 was 190,000 and 130,000 repsectively.  A gauge of the fragmentation is the number of books in the bibliosphere which can be derived from the size of R. R. Bowker’s Books in Print database, which contains over 7.5 million records.  There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of genres and sub genres with more being created every year.

book vendorThis has challenged publishers to find new ways to aggregate small audiences into a market with enough size to make a title profitable.  In this sense, the Internet is an ideal marketing medium.  Here are a few ways the web can be used by publishers to aggregate small adiences.

  • The first place to begin aggregating your audience is during the development of the title.   Using a blog to showcase your work acts as an audience magnet.  You can design your site and your posts to make it more likely to turn up in certain keyword searches.  You can measure the popularity of content (your posts) and determine what might be most effective in a title.  You can also see which sites and searches are referring traffic.  This can form the basis for understanding your audience long before the printed book is released.
  • Do some tag research to see whether your audience perceives your title the same you do.  Make a list of tags that you think best characterizes your book.  Then see what turns up when search for those tags on Amazon, LibraryThing or general bookmarking sites like  Every set of tags has the potential to identify a new audience. 
  • Use your tag smarts to advertise more effectively online with tools like Google AdWords.
  • Take a blog tour (see Blog Touring 101) to sites whose audience and / or topic might be a good match for your book.  You can start with sites that already link to your blog and also use blog search engines to find those high authority, high traffic sites that can give your book broad exposure.  Blog tours are often overlooked.  But once you consider that blogs now represent some of the largest media properties in terms of audience size, you can see the benefits of using this lost cost tactic.
  • Use a book video to draw attention to your title and track who’s downloading it.  Adjust tags on the book video to test which tags attract the most downloads.  More clues to who your audience is and what they are interested in.

It’s nice to dream of publishing a book that sells millions of copies.  But the reality is that over 95 percent of books sells fewer than 100 copies.  This makes it imperative for every publisher to have a strategy for aggregating small markets into larger ones. 

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