The latest Marketing Meetup hosted by the American Booksellers Association covered the ways booksellers can use Libro.fm, a service that allows customers to support their local indie bookstore while purchasing audiobooks.
The November 29 Marketing Meetup — one of the biweekly online video conferences hosted by ABA on Zoom.us — featured an overview of the Libro.fm service and a glimpse of what’s to come from the company from staff Mark Pearson and Nick Johnson, as well as testimonials from Matt Norcross of Mclean & Eakin Booksellers in Petoskey, Michigan, and Suzanne Droppert of Liberty Bay Books in Poulsbo and Bremerton, Washington.
Libro.fm works by associating each customer with a specific store; when a customer signs up, they are prompted to link their purchases to an independent bookstore, and all purchases the customer makes through the service support that store.
“We’re betting on the future of audio,” said Libro.fm co-founder and CEO Mark Pearson. While sales are relatively small today, he noted, Libro.fm is most interested in looking to what the future will bring. “Digital audio has been growing about 30 percent a year for at least the last five years, whereas e-book sales have been declining.”
“With the growth of podcasts — 20 percent of Americans listening every week — I think there’s reason to be really optimistic that it will be [a larger portion] of your sales in five years,” he added. “Knowing that that’s the future, what do we do now? How do we merchandise that in the store? How do we do it online?”
One of the ways Libro.fm helps indie bookstores promote its service in-store and online is through imaging and graphics.
“We have a Google Drive library that’s publicly accessible and has thousands of digital assets. If you spend some time with it, you’ll find whatever you like in there,” said Libro.fm Creative Director Nick Johnson. “The easiest way to access that is to go to Libro.fm/hub, which is the Bookseller Hub.” Johnson noted that booksellers can contact him if they need any assets tweaked or created to suit their needs; contact information for Libro.fm staff is in the Hub.
Johnson also touched on the importance of using a referral link to recruit customers, which booksellers can find on their store’s Libro.fm homepage when they are logged into the site. The Liberty Bay staff, he noted, were doing a great job of talking with customers in the store and e-mailing about the service, but once they started using the referral link, they also began to earn credits.
Booksellers can use these credits to offer giveaways to customers, which in turn promotes Libro.fm, said Johnson; stores that haven’t accumulated credits but would still like to host a giveaway to promote the service can reach out to Libro.fm.
Libro.fm also offers a service that other audiobook retailers do not: recorded author events at indie stores.
“We probably have 10 author events that have been recorded in indie bookstores around the country, because that’s one of the things that indie bookstores do best, right? You build community and host events,” Pearson said. “But the next step, we feel, is to record those and share them with the bookstore community, and if you go to the Libro.fm page right now, you can view those under Free Audiobooks and Excerpts. That’s a way to reach out to people who live outside of your state with what’s happening in the store.”
Libro.fm also allows customers to pre-order all titles listed on the site. Pearson noted that the company is open to ideas for specific campaigns that could include an incentive to pre-order the audiobook, like a tote bag or other items similar to what the Pre-order Task Force came up with for pre-orders of print titles.
Another service Libro.fm offers customers is the ability to gift memberships to the service.
In the coming months, booksellers will be able to refer customers straight through the app instead of pulling up the website on a different device, said Johnson. There will also be the ability to communicate with booksellers through the app, so the team at Libro.fm can tell booksellers about current and upcoming promotions, campaigns, and other things of that nature.
Down the line, customers will be able to browse the Libro.fm catalog right in the app instead of using a web browser, which will be customized based on each individual store, Johnson said. It will show store logos and playlists, which can cement a customer’s relationship to a specific store.
In five to six months, customers who are traveling around the country will receive notifications about indie bookstores local to the area they’re visiting, said Pearson. He also shared that the app will become a tool for booksellers, as it will be able to scan a book’s cover or barcode to retrieve the audiobook instantly and play a sample.
Liberty Bay Books owner Suzanne Droppert said she encourages her staff members, who love the service, to recommend Libro.fm to customers. “We always have the sign-up on the main computer behind the point-of-sale and if it’s not really busy, we mention it to everyone,” Droppert said. “I remind [customers] it’s not just for the car — I listen while walking or gardening.”
Libro.fm is willing to work with member stores to test ideas for promotions. For a recent campaign to gift specific titles, Libro.fm provided Droppert with paper cards — one with the title and description of a book, and one with an access code — that staff could give to Liberty Bay customers.
Droppert also takes a slightly different approach to recommending Libro.fm to her customers. Being located in Seattle, she emphasizes what services like Libro.fm do for local businesses, as opposed to Amazon’s Audible. “I say, ‘That person named Jeff doesn’t need your money. I need your money.’ And we all have a good chuckle about it because everybody in Seattle hears about him, meaning Jeff Bezos, every day,” said Droppert.
Matt Norcross of Mclean & Eakin Booksellers said that the store’s first year with Libro.fm has been successful. “There’s a direct correlation between the physical book sales in our store and the free audiobook listening copies that Libro.fm makes available for booksellers each month,” said Norcross. “When I see the new list, within a week or two I can see some of those titles starting to pop up because my staff has had free access to the audiobooks. It’s very cool.”
Mclean & Eakin promotes Libro.fm through several different avenues in-store and through e-newsletters. “We have it at all the counters and our staff is very well-versed in how it works,” Norcross said. “We push it heavily in our weekly e-mail, which has a very strong customer base of around 6,000 people. It’s proved to be a really successful tool in marketing it.”
“My wife has worked hard to incorporate audio samples into our e-mail,” he added. “It allows the customer to open the weekly e-mail and actually listen to a sample of the audiobook straight in the e-mail, so it’s a nice little introduction.”
Mclean & Eakin also promotes shopping digitally to its customers by sending out an e-mail on Christmas morning. “It says, you probably got a new toy, so here’s how you can shop digitally with Mclean & Eakin,” Norcross said.
Since using Libro.fm, the store has seen more traffic to its online store. Norcross reported that the store’s overall online sales for the year are up 58 percent, and its Libro.fm sales specifically are up as well.
Booksellers who would like to participate in the next 30-minute Marketing Meetup, which will take place on Thursday, December 6, and focus on marketing strategies for children’s bookstores, can send an invite request to ABA’s Phil Davies. All ABA members are invited to join. Meetups are held at 11:00 a.m. EST on two Thursdays a month.