New Years Resolutions for Publishers

Welcome to 2021! The time has come again for us to reflect on where we are and make goals for where we want to be when the end of this new year rolls around.

As you consider your publishing goals and plans for 2021, we’d like to offer a few suggestions to help you increase sales and build for a better future.

1. Diversify your lineup

When the COVID-19 shutdowns started last March we had no idea that those shutdowns would lead to the changes we saw in book sales over the course of the year. Publishers with a wide array of titles, and especially titles in specific categories, were much more likely to see success in the midst of those changing buying patterns. There is no telling what the future might hold, so diversification of your publishing programs is looking like a solid business decision for many publishers. If you have the ability to spread out your list into some of the better-selling categories this year, that might be a worthy goal.

2. Enhance your metadata to drive more online sales

The percentage of book sales that were transacted online last year compared to in-store could be as high as 85%, and numerous research reports over the last few years have proven that online sales are impacted directly by the quality of the metadata you send to partners. The recent shift to online sales channels has also lead to a shift in backlist title sales, as readers look for content that interests them and are not limited by the space available on bookstore shelves, typically taken by newer titles.

This year, we encourage you to take the time to engage the metadata on all of your titles, including your backlist, in targeted ways.

  • Create at least 200 characters of keywords for each title
  • Add book excerpts to your Eloquence feed (in the Comments section)
  • Add other data elements, such as Product Details and Prizes (new section for Prizes now available!)
  • Clean up your book descriptions, and add bolded Lead-Ins to the top
  • Get in the habit of linking related titles in the Title Relationships section

These and other cleanup and enhancement tasks really can make an impact on your sales.

3. Watch your titles, fix issues, and grab opportunities quickly

At the Community Conference in November we heard how Our Daily Bread Publishing increased their sales by actively watching their titles on retail sites and fixing issues that arose from bad data, missing cover images, third party sellers taking the Buy Box, and more.

You, too, can watch your titles daily, and gain all the benefits of a powerful tool that warns you when issues arise and opportunities emerge. Take a look at our Eloquence on Alert platform, the most powerful and flexible title performance monitoring system available.

We hope you have a wonderful 2021, and we look forward to hearing how these and other resolutions help you navigate the ever-changing waters we are in.

Announcing Elephants on Demand!

[Editor’s note: In case it was not clear, this was an April Fool’s joke. No elephants were harmed in the making of this video.]

Firebrand is constantly innovating and evolving — looking for the most effective strategies to help publishers succeed in the marketplace.

We are excited to announce the launch of our newest metadata delivery service, Elephants on Demand!

Elephants on Demand helps you get your heaviest and most important metadata where it needs to go. No longer do you have to worry about an intern dropping your fragile metadata on the way to the retailer, or one of the monkeys running the vacuum tubes getting their tubes crossed. No longer will your fully-fleshed-out metadata be left in the office because the designated carrying service can’t lift anything with a Table of Contents, an Excerpt, and 10 Review Quotes.

Elephants on Demand can handle any metadata load you give it, from the smallest to the largest. We have scoured the globe to find the fastest and hardiest elephants available, and we have already started to put them to work for you.

“This is a truly remarkable innovation in metadata delivery, which I know will make a huge impact on visibility,” said Catherine Toolan, Director of Elephant Services at Firebrand. “We have already been impressed with how quickly the service has been accepted by major retailers, and we are looking forward to expanding the reach of the service internationally with our upcoming Elephant Seal expansion.”

For more information on this new service, please watch our introductory video below.

Amazon 250 Byte Keywords Limit

We have been receiving reports for the last week or two that Amazon has set a limit on the number of keywords that will be indexed for books sold through Vendor Central. This limitation was previously only in place for Seller Central, but Amazon recently updated the documentation for Vendor Central to reflect the limitation, as well. The Vendor Central documentation specifically states:

Our system limits the length of the generic keyword/search terms attribute to less than 250 bytes. It is still possible to go over the limit, but if you do, our search engine will not index any of your entries.

Some clients have been in contact with Vendor Central Support and have received email and phone confirmation that the new limitation does apply to books, and to metadata delivered via ONIX, not just to metadata manually entered in Vendor Central.

We are taking this potential change seriously at Firebrand, and are looking for hard evidence that the limitation is actually being applied to titles. However, so far we have not seen that hard evidence. Also, in our experience Amazon’s support team is not always up-to-date on the technical requirements or application of rules when it comes to ONIX deliveries. These points make us cautious about jumping the gun on changing how keywords are handled in Title Management, Eloquence on Demand, or our Keywords service.

As we are running tests and looking for evidence of if and how this limitation is being applied, we encourage our clients to stay the course and not make changes to their current keywords programs. Again, we don’t have any hard evidence of keywords for titles not being indexed. There is a chance that changing the keywords currently applied to titles could negatively affect your sales rank for those titles unnecessarily. Even if Amazon is enforcing this new rule, they may not be (and from our current tests, are not) enforcing it on already-submitted metadata, choosing instead to only apply it when the keywords are refreshed.

If you have any hard evidence about this issue, especially evidence that the 250 byte limitation has been applied to your titles, making all keywords become un-indexed, please contact Joshua Tallent (joshua@firebrandtech.com) with that information.

We will update this blog post in the future as we learn more.

Community Conference 2018 Wrap-Up

We wanted to to give a big Thank You to everyone who attended the 2018 Community Conference in September! It was definitely one of our best conferences yet, and renewed our confidence that our clients benefit in tangible ways from this bi-annual meeting.

NetGalley posted a great article on their Insights blog last week, Lessons from the Firebrand Community Conference, and we highly recommend you check that out.

Also, Brian O’Leary, Executive Director of BISG, our keynote speaker, has put up the text of his talk, The Art of the Possible, on the BISG website. It is a great read, and worth your time.

The Community Conference comes every other year, but we don’t want to you to have to wait two years to learn with us again. Our Odd Year Conference, a one-day Master Class, is going to be on October 23, 2019, in New York City. We will also have open meeting slots available on the 24th for those who want to sit down with our team and talk shop. Save those dates!

Announcing Eloquence on Alert

Have you ever wondered what was really going on with your books on Amazon and other retailers? According to BISG’s report on The Development, Use, and Modification of Book Product Metadata, only 36% of publishers manually check their metadata once it is live on retailer websites. Meanwhile, 95% of publishers say their metadata is altered without their knowledge on retail websites by third parties like distributors and metadata aggregators.

The problem is that once you publish a book you are usually too busy working on the next one to keep an eye on your metadata. The more books you publish, the more daunting the task. Eventually you just leave backlist titles alone unless someone complains about something or you notice a problem when you happen to go look at the product page.

Our new Eloquence on Alert service is designed to give you detailed, actionable market intelligence about your books. It highlights notable trends such as fluctuating sale prices, product metadata issues, changes in customer rankings, and audience behavior. You’ll see information from all of the major retailers, both print and ebook, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Google, Kobo, and Goodreads.

Visit the Eloquence on Alert page here on our website for more information, including a short introductory video and informative screenshots of the service.

We will also be hosting a webinar on Wednesday, February 8th at 2:00pm ET, which will give you an overview of the Eloquence on Alert service, as well as information on our Case Study on Increasing Sales Through Effective use of Keywords. Register now!

NetGalley Kid Reviewers Reignite Languishing Book Club

Parents reliably dropped their middle schoolers off after school for book club meetings at the Jolla/Riford branch of the San Diego Public Library. But despite a warm welcome from the librarians there, and the enthusiasm of those moms and dads, few kids stuck with it. “We tried everything to boost enrollment, including e-blasts at school, posting flyers, and rounding up kids in the library on the same day, but the club was really struggling,” recalls Shaun Briley, the La Jolla/Riford branch manager and a 2016 Library Journal Mover & Shaker.

A sea change was in order—and a lightbulb went off. “At the time, I was writing occasional book reviews for the Sunday edition of the San Diego Union Tribune,” says Briley. “Also, I had done some marketing work for a publishing company in the past, and the two things came together in my mind.” He wondered if there wouldn’t be a demand for middle schoolers who could act as a focus group by writing book reviews.

In researching this idea, he came across NetGalley, the digital service that provides online galleys to professional readers on behalf of hundreds of publishers worldwide in order to help promote and market new books.

Read the entire story on School Library Journal.