On the Idea Logical blog, Mike Shatzkin discusses a new marketing idea for books his company has originated, and why it was necessary. In the old days, he explains, books were sold strictly business-to-business, publisher to distributor to bookstore, and so reviewers and bookstore buyers needed a Title Information Sheet that would tell them about what was in a book so they could decide if it was right for their audience or customers. But the digital revolution has brought changes, and suddenly publishers have to start thinking about consumers themselves.

Now books have to be “discoverable,” which means they have to pop up in search engines when customers enter specific search terms. That means it’s no longer as important for businesses to make up information sheets about the contents of the books. Now they have to concentrate on what search terms consumers will use, and which consumers are most likely to want to buy that book.

Two months ago, Shatzkin writes, the brain trust behind his marketing company came up with a new information sheet, the “Audience Information Sheet,” that Shatzkin believes can and should become the new marketing standard for book publishing. So far, two publishers—one large but not Big Five, and one Big Five publisher who is “constantly innovating in digital marketing”—are trying it out.

Shatzkin breaks down the components of an Audience Information Sheet. The list is too long to go into full detail, and will mean more to marketers than to me, but it includes a high-level audience profile, demographic insights, behavior and lifestyle insights, and geographic insights into that audience, audience segmentation and targeting, and keywords, topics, phrases, and influencers.

Shatzkin concludes:

Every component of the AIS gives marketers useable data. Beyond consumer marketing online, the data informs old-fashioned publicity efforts and can direct sales activity as well. As marketing opportunities present themselves during the course of a book’s life, those responsible for pitching the book will find useful guidance in the AIS over and over again. Only time will tell, but it sure feels to us like we’ve created a tool that, once used, will be very hard to do without.

The interesting thing to me about all this is that it shows publishers are actually starting to take the changing times seriously. We’ve been carrying stories for years about publishing industry executives and analysts such as Brett Sandusky who felt that publishers needed to shift focus from the old-style B2B (business-to-business) toward a more Internet-appropriate B2C (business-to-consumer) marketing strategy.

Now, it looks as if they really are. Of course, they probably already have been for some time—it’s not incumbent on them to let us know everything about their internal strategies—but it’s nice to see a little proof now and then.


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