05/22/2014 07:02 pm ET Updated Jul 22, 2014

Data Driven Marketing for Books

When I started my book marketing career, my boss gave me this advice: "Don't use green covers. Books with green covers don't sell." There was no data behind this statement, it was just part of the collective publishing wisdom then.

Since then the world of book publishing has changed in strange and magical ways. We now have tangible information with which to make better marketing decisions. Data is available everywhere we look and coming at us at an accelerated pace. A few years ago Facebook users would share 684,478 pieces of content. Today that number has shot up to 2,460,000 pieces of content every minute, according to Domo, a software company. Check out Domo's infographic that gives a snapshot of social media information that is shared in just one minute. As a marketer, I have access to more data than ever before, but how can I cut through all the noise to determine what is useful data and what is not?

With this concern in mind, I turned to three marketers with very different perspectives. "Find the balance between science and art," says Kate Rados, director of community development at Crown Publishing at Penguin Random House. "Data will inform strategy, yet it's not a guarantee of performance. Connecting with your audience requires a marriage of fact (the numbers) and fiction (the story within the data). A lot of companies rely too much on one over the other and are in danger of losing audience in the long-term." I agree with Kate, successful marketing today is a well-choreographed dance between data and story.

Marriage of data and an intuitive knowledge of your audience can lead to sales, drive traffic to websites, increase engagement on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Pinterest, gather reader preferences, and target click-throughs for advertising. With the right data, you can make smarter marketing decisions and maximize your budget, engage readers and drive book sales. Data can indicate reach, reputation, following, influence and brand awareness. And that's not even scratching the surface of what data can do for all of us in the publishing industry.

When publishers use data they can create better campaigns and communities. They can be more responsive to the needs of their readers, and can quickly assess which type of marketing produces results and which does not. Publishers can use data to determine the right customized plan for each author. True enough, but how do we trust the data that we have? I put the question to Tom Thompson, Vice President, Group Director of Verso Advertising. "It's important to work with trusted partners as close to the source of the data as possible. The fewer middlemen the better chance that the data you are collecting is accurate."

All of the players in the publishing landscape have access to data, but deciding how to use that data makes all the difference. What is hugely successful for one author and one niche might not work at all for the next author. There is no magic formula to make a book sell or one-size fits all approach. The winning formula for marketing will be different for every author. Which is probably my favorite part about the new world order of publishing. Today at FSB, we assess the data, identify trends and shift marketing/publicity plans in real time.

Digital marketing only works when there is a customized plan for each author. Data helps every position in publishing, because with data we can all make smarter decisions -- whether publisher, agent, marketer, publicist or author. "Data gives us the ability to tell factual stories about our fiction," said Elizabeth Dimarco, Co-Founder of BooksILove, an app that allows all of us to create and share thoughtful recommendations.

What I know for sure is that we don't have to be good with numbers to love Data.

In today's publishing world, we all have more information than ever before, which will allow us to make better decisions about where to put our time and our money.

If you are attending Book Expo American in NYC this year, stop by our panel and continue the discussion: Data Driven Marketing -- Engaging Readers and Driving Sales.

Fauzia Burke is the founder and president of FSB Associates, a digital publicity and marketing firm specializing in creating awareness for books and authors. For online publicity, book publishing and social media news, follow Fauzia on Twitter: @FauziaBurke. To talk with FSB and ask your book publicity questions, please join us on Facebook.