The Shortlist for the Man Booker Prize, According to Social Media
The Man Booker prize is a prestigious award given to the best “original” novel of the year written in the English language. To be awarded such a distinction is revered in many ways, and is also one of the largest monetary awards given to fiction writers. This year marks a unique modification to the award process, as the pool of applicants was opened to share in global participation. This change is significant as previous writers required a British Commonwealth origin to participate. The prize list’s are known for ignoring many mass-marketed works and for bringing distinction to less known submissions, but all writing must have a UK-based publisher to compete. The texts are judged solely on their content and not on their publishing house or selling capacity. This allows authors at every level of commercial success a chance for financial gain and recognition.
Each year, the Booker prize garners a significant amount of media attention and increases sales figures for the novels named to the longlist of nominees. This year, Crimson Hexagon analyzed the conversation about the nomination announcement for the longlist to better inform what authors will lead the short list, according to social media. We know that sales of books on the longlist will increase, and we can rely on social listening and analytics to find strategize for sales and promotional decision-making; this will help create the greatest sales lift possible from the honor of making the longlist.
The longlist for the Man Booker prize, contains 13 authors: Richard Powers, Ali Smith, Paul Kingsnorth, Karen Joy Fowler, Joshua Ferris, David Mitchell, Siri Hustvedt, David Nicholls, Niall Williams, Richard Flanagan, Neel Mukherjee, Howard Jacobson and Joseph O’Neill. We used ForSight to build queries for each author and compared the results. By tracking the volume of Tweets and comparing the net sentiments before each author, we can track the most “popular” authors in the Booker discussion.
In terms of a social media shortlist “winner”, Karen Joy Fowler held the highest position with 36% net positive sentiment and highest volume of posts (1,270 posts). There was a split between the US and UK for the highest number of posts for Fowler, which indicates her popular appeal is clearly present in the UK, and her popularity is growing within the US. The majority of postings came from the female demographic, with a majority of 66% of posts from females.
Richard Flanagan followed up as second for his net positive sentiment of 30% of posts and 761 relevant posts. Females made up 55% of post volume for demographics, and the majority of posts for Flanagan came from Australia (his home country).
The longlist writer with the second largest volume of relevant posts was David Mitchell. He had over 1,000 posts regarding his association with the Booker prize, with a net positive sentiment of 17%.
Some of the most interesting factors surrounding these authors were the Affinities, which measures the interest of people talking about them. The strongest affinities for the “Social Winner”, Karen Joy Fowler, were “Publishing” and “Writing”. Authors that discuss Fowler are 115 times more likely to be interested in publishing than the average Twitter user, and 41 times more likely to be interested in writing than the average Twitter user. Authors discussing David Mitchell’s association with the Booker prize also showed the strongest skew toward interests in “Writing” and “Publishing.”
Using the knowledge that can be gained from ForSight’s Affinities capabilities, we can figure out more about how a book can be marketed effectively: What are consumer’s interests? How do they prefer to purchase books? Online or in stores? One strategy is clear: from looking into the discussions of our top volume authors, it appears readers rely heavily on reviews to influence their critical purchasing decisions. Top retweeted handles in the US are from the New York Times Books and LA Times Books Twitter page, while the UK relies on The Guardian’s Book page and Waterstone’s. These location would provide great access for advertising, something which can be more readily available after the book appears on the notable longlist.
Another great way to advertise these novels without giving away all the details is to offer a preview of the material online. In Mitchell’s monitor, we found conversation around the preview of his book, ‘The Bone Clocks’, which can mean that marketing tactic was successful in drawing in readership. Another way to reach customer is to appeal to their larger community. Though the idea may seem antiquated for some, many readers partake in social book clubs to meet and discuss new works. This was another source of discussion we found with Fowler’s work ‘We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves’.
How significant is it to be the top social media shortlist winner? We looked into the sales for the books surrounding the events. Unfortunately, due to the complications of some authors pulling their novels from top shopping site Amazon, predicting the exact number of sales proves difficult at this point for 2014. So, we looked into the past earnings for spots on the top lists.
Lily Rothman at Time, discusses many reasons why we should care about the Booker Prize. The greatest point she touches on is the buzz the prize creates for the authors. It’s almost impossible to gain notoriety without spending exorbitant amounts of money for advertising in these critical locations, but the supply of excitement and the gravity of this award make it a marketable product for online shopping sites. It’s clear the winners’ of the prizes have a productive round of selling after they win the Booker award (see table below, courtesy of Nielsen):
With the average winning authors increasing sales over 10,000%, it’s clear that even the mention of a book on the longlist greatly affects an author’s chance of recognition. The nomination for the Man Booker prize is a coveted financial gain for an author without highly published works. With social media channeling the conversation of the short list, unrepresented writers who submit for the Booker with some success could become a new business opportunity for a growing publishing firm, and social media can point out the stars from the booker list that resonate with readers.
By finding ways to engage readers through social media, you can offer new opportunities to position the book correctly for the corresponding audience. This can only produce stronger and more directed publicity efforts for the author’s work. In addition to the notoriety for the writer, the longlist is a great way to leverage the success of an author’s piece to for better media positioning and marketing strategy within the publishing world.
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