Authors and publishers need to know how and where their books are selling in order to target readers and time promotions. Yet keeping track of and analyzing all the data that comes in from retailers like Amazon and Apple can be difficult, especially for publishers with large lists of books.
App Annie, a San Francisco-based company that provides app developers and publishers with analytics about app sales, rankings and trends, aims to solve the problem by automating aggregation and analysis of ebook sales in the same way it has for apps. (In the app world, it’s become a leading provider of that type of analysis: The company says that over 300,000 app publishers, including 90 percent of the top 100 grossing iOS publishers, use its tools.)
App Annie plans to announce Tuesday that it’s expanding into ebook analytics. It will provide publishers with two free products: An Analytics tool that lets publishers track sales and download data from the Kindle Store and the iBookstore into one dashboard, and a “Store Stats” tool that lets them view ebook market trends across a database of about a million titles.
“We’ve spent the last few months with major book publishers and influential writers, asking them about how they understand their data,” Oliver Lo, App Annie’s VP of marketing, told me. In general, the company found, publishers download their data from ebook retailers and aggregate it in Excel. But analyzing the data correctly can require “some Excel genius in the company,” and even publishers who have such a person or team likely find the process time-consuming.
To start, publishers or self-published authors log into App Annie and connect their Kindle and iBookstore accounts. (Traditionally published authors, who don’t have access to their direct sales rankings through retailers, won’t be able to log into App Annie. Soon, though, App Annie is adding the ability for publishers to share analytics reports with authors and other people within the company.) App Annie then pulls the retailer’s sales data for each of its titles into a dashboard, so that publishers can view each title’s sales (and refunds), revenue, price, star ratings and retail store rankings over time. Because they can see exactly when a book’s price changed, they can also see the effects of a price promotion on sales both at the time of the promotion and afterwards.
These are all things that publishers can do themselves if they have the tools and time. But App Annie automates the process and makes it easier for publishers and authors that lack data-crunching skills to see how their books are performing over time.
I asked Lo if he fears that Amazon or Apple will cut off third-party access to the ebook data. He said the company isn’t worried about that because the retailers haven’t cut off access to app data, and “the technology involved [for ebooks] is exactly the same for apps.” In addition, “some of those platforms are our customers.”
That’s a reference to App Annie’s third product, a paid market data tool that counts Google and Microsoft among its subscribers. A premium product like that isn’t in the works for book publishers yet, but App Annie may roll it out at some point if the free tools gain enough users. In addition, the company says it will eventually expand to other ebook retail platforms like Barnes & Noble and Google.
“Publishers are starting to realize that for them to be successful in this space, they need to learn a lot from how app and game publishers have extended their businesses and their business models,” Lo said. “Analytics and data need to become a core part of [book publishers'] culture.”