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ECPA Wire: Industry Issues

Watch Your Data, Reap the Rewards

Monday, September 30, 2019  
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by Joshua Tallent, Director of Sales and Education at Firebrand Technologies

This article is sponsored by ECPA business solution provider, Firebrand Technologies. For more information on their discounted services to ECPA members, click here.

Over the last few years the business world has seen a major revolution in the need for, and the use of, different kinds of data, and the publishing industry has been impacted by this trend just as much as other industries. Publishing is actually uniquely situated for a data revolution because so much of what we do revolves around data of one kind or another. 


The obvious example of this in our little corner of the world is metadata, which serves as the driving force behind book visibility and discovery. Multiple studies over the last few years have touched on this issue, most notably the Nielsen study from late 2016, "The Importance of Metadata for Book Discovery and Sales," which showed a significant connection between the amount and quality of bestseller book metadata and the actual sales of those books. 


So, yes, metadata is important, and book metadata, due to the nature of the book as a product, is especially rich and brimming with potential. However, publishers also deal with other data on a regular basis: sales data, data that is found on retailer websites, contract and rights data, acquisitions and product planning data, and more. Finding ways to connect up these different kinds of data and process it all through the DIKW (Data, Information, Knowledge, Wisdom) model is arguably the most important challenge any publisher encounters. 


Let's talk a bit more about one of those kinds of data: the data that is found on retailer websites. How often do you go out to retailer websites and manually look at your books to ensure the data is correct? If you're like 64% of publishers, you don't do it at all (from BISG's report, The Development, Use, and Modification of Book Product Metadata.) Once a book is up for sale, and especially after it is off the frontlist, most publishers don't have the time to go out to different websites and look at what's happening with it.


But actively watching how your titles are doing on retailer sites can help you catch, and react to, opportunities that would have gone unnoticed. Online retailing is a fast-paced business. A book that has been out of the public eye can suddenly see a surge in visibility and interest because it is mentioned on a podcast, or because the topic it covers resurfaces in the news or cultural discussions. Also, a retailer's sale price algorithm can suddenly drop the price of a book, giving you an opportunity to see an bump in sales rank and visibility, especially when combined with some targeted marketing.


Watching your books on retail sites can also help you catch issues that could ruin your sales. Third party sellers on Amazon have become a big issue for publishers, taking the buy box on a regular basis and causing publishers to lose thousands of sales with no warning. Data problems can also cause a loss of sales. One of our clients recently ran into an issue where the list prices for a large number of titles were incorrectly applied by a retailer and raised to over 5 times the normal price. Thankfully they were watching their titles actively and were able to catch the problem and get it fixed quickly, instead of waiting until the next sales report came in and seeing that they had lost all of those book sales for the entire month. 


As you look at the future of your publishing company, as you decide how you can best approach the data revolution, here are a few recommendations:


1. Clean up your data and make it easier to manage. If you are not using a title management system or a metadata management system yet, look carefully at taking on that investment for the future of your company. If you are not assessing and cleaning up your product metadata in a consistent way, set up an internal team to do that. Shedding some light in those dark places can reveal significant areas that are primed for growth. 


2. Focus time and attention on your data in the marketplace. Look at how your metadata is being applied on retail sites, watch for issues on your titles, and actively address them. One of our clients, Discovery House/Our Daily Bread, has been doing that for the last 18 months, and has seen a 40% increase in sales as a result. 


3. Start looking at how you can more effectively integrate your data and work it through the DIKW model. Turning raw data into actionable intelligence can be done, it just requires the right tools and a committed approach. 


Joshua Tallent is the Director of Sales and Education at Firebrand Technologies (, where his focus is on helping publishers of all sizes learn about, and find solutions to, their workflow and data problems. Firebrand's Eloquence on Alert tool watches products in the marketplace and alerts publishers to potential opportunities and data issues.

For more information, contact Joshua at

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