March 22, 2018

APAC Earns A+: Audio Industry Still Needs Discovery; Libraries Remain Superstars | BookExpo America 2012

The Audio Publishers Association Conference (APAC), which yesterday kicked-off both the annual June is Audiobook Month celebration and the BookExpo America gathering at Manhattan’s Jacob Javits Center, proved both informative and uplifting. At last year’s APAC, keynoter Bruce Wiseman, CEO of On Target Research, tutored audio publishers on gaining a foothold in the consumer market—the industry’s biggest challenge—through advertising.

Otis Chandler, Goodreads

At this year’s affair, Goodreads CEO and founder Otis Chandler went a step further by informing publishers exactly how to bring attention to their titles on his nine-million-reader-strong site. Anyone marketing any product from cars to cookies knows that positive word of mouth is among the strongest consumer allures, but how to get it?  According to Chandler, it’s all about “discovery.”

Goodreads’ research reveals that there are 1.1 million audiobooks sitting on shelves in his users’ homes with 450,000 of those on their “to-read” shelves. Reviews are of top importance, and goodreads’ members have generated 72,000 audiobook reviews—two audiobooks are discovered every second on goodreads! Audiobooks also have a very long tail. All good news.

Chandler said that giveaways draw extra attention to titles and that goodreads’ members take notice of giveaway titles for future purchase or library borrowing. Also, what happens on goodreads is amplified multifold on Facebook—he partially credits the Fifty Shades of Grey frenzy to the initially slow book’s exploding word of mouth on goodreads.

Publishers and authors should take advantage of the site’s numerous genre bookclubs as well as follow groups and author chats while adhering to the group’s rules and not spamming. Befriending moderators also is a recommended tactic for getting a title noticed and discussed. Endurance also is essential: publishers and authors need to carpet bomb in order to get their titles fixed into consumers’ consciousness (Wiseman advised exactly the same approach last year). “Discovery happens in many ways,” Chandler said, “there’s no magic bullet.”

All the right niches

APA Board President Michele Cobb

Publishing veteran Carol Fitzgerald, now president of and Brian Feinblum, MediaConnect, joined APA Board President Michele Cobb for a discussion of how APA is engaging the public and what it can do to improve that interaction. Cobb outlined some of the campaigns the group has undertaken to increase audiobook awareness, starting with moving its Audiobook Community site to Facebook for greater exposure. APA also again held its Get Caught Listening video contest, which this year garnered slightly fewer but much higher-caliber entries (the winner will be named later). APA additionally asked print readers to switch to audio for June and started a bookclub campaign.

Fitzgerald contends that timing is everything and that APA and the industry needs to be conscious of the time of the week and even the time of day they engage the public as well as being conscious of the “voice, tone, and attitude” of  that interaction. Are they funny, playful, boring?  Although social networking is the rage, she advises only to do what you’re comfortable with and “if it becomes a struggle, stop.” Engage with your audience by commenting on their comments—especially negative ones—quickly to show that it’s a conversation. “Promotion success is about finding ALL the right niches” said Fitzgerald.

Libraries rule

Nora Rawlinson (EarlyWord), Barbara Genco (Library Journal), and Ruth Liebmann (Random House)

Although public libraries were mentioned throughout the day, the paramount role they play in the success of audiobooks was highlighted in a single session featuring a trio of top players. EarlyWord’s Nora Rawlinson, a librarian and former editor of both Publishers Weekly and Library Journal, gave a compelling explanation of why libraries are audiobooks’ greatest champion—at 16,000 facilities nationwide, there are lots of them! By the sheer size of the U.S library network and their often remote locations, libraries are better placed to spread the audio gospel through their staffs and homepages than any other resource. Something as simple as adding audio clips to library websites has the double whammy of making the sites more attractive and informing patrons of audio holdings. Ideally, all audio clips should reside together on their own page.

Librarians have a long tradition of hand-selling titles (which in the 21st century has acquired the upscale handle of “reader’s advisory”) making them powerful allies in promoting audio to their millions of collective patrons. Libraries undoubtedly are the leading outlet for audiobooks across the nation. Rawlinson advised publishers to get to know top librarians and the people on awards committees in order to draw greater attention to their products.

LJ‘s Barbara Genco was all smiles when dispelling untruths about audio users. Her Patron Profiles stats show that audio users are above-average readers and avid book buyers—so the common misconception that library patrons are cheating publishers by borrowing but never buying titles is a myth that is duly busted. Demand from patrons has caused library media spending to grow from 12 percent in 2003 to a current level of 20 percent. Roughly 34 percent of library patrons also borrow in multiple formats. “Audiobook folks just like more,” Genco quipped. Statistics show that YA audio is a very untapped territory, which Genco described as a “sweet spot” where audio publishers could greatly increase their business.

Random House’s Ruth Liebemann added that publishers need to contact libraries to get audio involved in the thousands of library bookclubs that also present a significant growth opportunity.