By Brian Howard | for Book Business

“If you came here looking for a map, good luck,” joked Perseus Book Group’s Rick Joyce, noting that figuring out the new world of discoverbility is “not about map following, but about map building.”

While the metaphor might seem extreme, when it comes to marketing and discoverability in the Internet age, publishers really are, like the early explorers, in uncharted territory. This was the theme of the opening keynote delivered by Joyce, Perseus‘s Chief Marketing Officer, to the gathered publishing professionals at New York’s Metropolitan Pavilion for the first Digital Book World Marketing and Discoverability conference.

Joyce’s table-setting address stressed the need for new tools—particularly social listening programs—to monitor the way customers and potential customers talk about ideas and discover products.

Joyce nodded to the importance of metadata (while noting, poignantly, that “‘metadata’ is like the word ‘plastics’ in the film The Graduate”: Lots of people use the word without understanding what it means). Context, he said, is one of the most important factors in the new world of discoverability, espousing the need for new types of recommendation engines. Referencing Arthur C. Clarke ’s Three Laws of Prediction (No. 3: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”), he explained that publishers should focus less on what other customers have purchased and more on what the individual consumer wants and needs, helping them to discover not only the books they want, but the books they didn’t know they wanted.

In the morning’s second keynote, Bowker’s Vice President of Publishing Services, Kelly Gallagherdelivered a data-rich presentation on the fractured discoverability landscape in the wake of the e-book and e-reading device surge we’ve experienced in the last 12 months. Myriad types of readers (delineated by various combinations of gender, age, genre, format and purchasing channel) discover books in myriad ways, with physical stores, media, and print bestseller lists remaining big drivers (to varying degrees among varying segments, of course), but other factors, like online excerpts, author blogs and social media gaining traction (again, depending on the market segment).

Some key statistics:

  • 92 percent of book consumers used email or instant messaging, 87 percent surfed the web, but only 18 percent said they visited some type of book social network.
  • In a survey of all book buyers of how they became aware of a book or their reason for buying a book, 23 percent said they like the author, and coming in second at 19 percent was an in-store display.

Gallagher’s full presentation will be available at bookconsumer.com in the coming days. You can read more about Gallagher’s results at Digital Book World.

Other highlights of the morning included Marshall Simmonds talk on tools that help promote authors, including:

  • The rel=author tag, which helps authors gain prominence in Google search results (he says he’s seen it increase click-through from 30-400 percent)
  • The Yoast SEO plug-in for WordPress
  • Followerwonk, an SEOmoz app that helps you understand your followers’ behavior (and the best time to reach them)
  • and Clinton Kabler  of Book Riot’s session on Creating Landing Pages That Don’t Suck (replete with Corona and limes as participation incentive).

More to come …