In a Data-Driven World We All Benefit

Harry PotterThe process of getting published remained virtually unchanged since the invention of the printing press (P.S. We have a Heidelberg at AGS). That is, until big data entered the scene.

So many good authors were repeatedly turned away in the past. For example, one of my son’s favorite series, Harry Potter, might never have come to existence. Guess who was told there wasn’t a future market for children’s books? Yep, author JK Rowling’s original manuscript was rejected 12 times before it finally went to print. Authors have had to be tenacious to succeed, but data + technology is making it easier for a book to come to market.

Even though the industry has evolved since the mid 1990’s with e-books, our industry has been playing catch up to the way in which people select and purchase books. Editors and agents still select books to publish based on their experience and knowledge of past market behavior. Why should publishers rely on someone’s gut feeling, or the past, to predict the world’s next bestsellers when we actually have the means to help shape or find it with data?

See where I’m going with this?

Well-established industry processes that have been in place for years are being turned upside down as more and more data-driven decisions are changing the publishing landscape. Not only can decision makers better understand reader preferences and more accurately predict future trends, but they can also equalize the publishing process for everyone. This paves the way for an easier selection of the world’s next bestsellers.

Before big data, reader opinions were obtained through surveys or focus groups. The problem was these groups were such a small pool, and it took lots of time to collect and analyze that data. Also weirdly, there seemed to be a discrepancy between what people said in these groups and how they actually felt about a piece of literature. When people began reading digitally, everything changed. Now readers leave their digital footprint in everything they touch from online reading forums, to e-readers, to consumption habits. Because of data and analytics, we can tell who is losing sleep because they just can’t put that “book” down (read: ME).

The use of big data determines what type of content gets published, and basically guarantees that what is printed is what people actually want to read. Readers get to drive the types of books being created. It really is a win-win for both sides.

Hail to big data.

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