Women's magazines' exact awareness of their reader demographic allows book publishers to target their marketing more precisely

<p>Harriet Dennys</p><p>Nowhere is the first commandment of magazine editing--know your reader--more in evidence than in the glossy world of women's magazines. Magazines' reader research is so extensive that their editors know where their readers live, how much they earn, where they like to go on holiday . . . and which books they like to take with them. A recent survey of 1,500 readers of Woman&amp;Home has found not only that its readers' favourite authors are Maeve Binchy, Anita Shreve and Joanna Trollope, but even that 3% of its readers would choose TV gardener Alan Titchmarsh as the hero of a book if they were the heroine.</p><p>Such detailed readership information is priceless for book publishers, who can target their marketing campaigns for new books more precisely than in any other media. "Women's magazines are a great place to market books because you have such a clear idea of the reader in terms of age, attitude and lifestyle," says Kelly Edgson-Wright, head of marketing at Hodder. "With women's magazines, there is less wastage."</p><p>Anthony Keates, paperback marketing director at Orion, says that women's magazines are "essential" to mass market women's fiction, while Karen Geary, publicity director at Hodder, describes the publications as a "lifeblood" for the types of books that are unlikely to be picked up by highbrow reviewers. "Many women's fiction titles will never get reviewed in the nationals, so these magazines are absolutely vital for them," she says, citing Elizabeth Noble's Alphabet Weekends and Jodi Picoult's Keeping Faith as recent examples of books that have been heavily reviewed in female-oriented magazines.</p><p>Geary also puts forward non-fiction titles to women's magazines: her role as publicist involves looking at every section of a magazine--from cookery to gardening--and working out which of the three classic pitches to propose to features editors: the straight review, the author interview, or a feature written by the author on a theme relating to their book.</p><p>For example, Geary represents a poet called Sophie Hannah who has just written a psychological thriller, so she is considering pitching a piece about poets turned thriller writers (of which there are a number this year). Elle's summer special on first love will be another "excellent opportunity for authors to get publicity", according to Geary, and so is Dr Michael Dooley's prominence in Eve magazine's [May] fertility issue, which he is overseeing as fertility expert and author of Fit for Fertility, published on 8th May. </p><p> Top-selling women's publications--which range from the upmarket monthly magazines such as Harper's Bazaar and Vogue through to the newer crop of celebrity-biased weekly titles including Heat, Now and Closer--are also a canny channel for marketing budgets because of their large circulation figures (including high pass-on rates in hairdressers, doctors surgeries and Chinese takeaways), and because the consumer tends to read the magazines in an unusually receptive frame of mind.</p><p>In addition, book ads placed in the magazines achieve high stand-out because the majority of the other ads are for fashion or beauty products. Rebecca Ikin, marketing manager at Simon&amp;Schuster, was pleased with the slot that S&S secured in Red for the paperback of Rococo, because the book had a good position next to the magazine's book review coverage without being choked by competing book ads.</p><p>But women's magazines are just as interested in books as a source of editorial content as publishers are keen to place their ads, get the crucial mention on Heat's review pages, or secure the prized "This Life" column in the Mail's relaunched You magazine.</p><p>Sam Baker, editor of Cosmopolitan, whose novel Fashion Victim will be published in May, says: "Books are pretty important to us from an ideas generation point of view. We look at upcoming books [both here and in the US] every features meeting, and it's rare that there will be no ideas based on forthcoming books."</p><p>Cosmopolitan, which does a summer round-up of books in every July issue and is looking at starting an online book club, commissions a couple of features a month from authors. Sometimes these articles will be on a subject loosely based on the author's book--such as Gigi Levangie's piece on being a Hollywood wife to promote The Starter Wife; other times they will be "more general emotional reads that don't bear any relation to the themes of the novel, but are on topics that we feel the author is qualified to write about", according to Baker.</p><p>Woman&amp;Home, which this month comes with a choice of cover-mount between Eve Green by Susan Fletcher and Cold Hit by Linda Fairstein, also has a strong association with books. The magazine has always featured books pages, carries short stories by professional writers in every issue, has a book discussion forum on its website, and is currently running a short story competition for readers in collaboration with HarperCollins. And in September, Arrow is publishing The Sunday Night Book Club: a collection of short stories from the magazine that will raise money for Breast Cancer Care.</p><p>Better than sex</p><p>The strong affiliation between W&H readers and books--the magazine has the "highest interest in and coverage of books" in its 35+ target audience according to Linda Swindenbank, IPC publishing director for women's lifestyle titles--was the impetus behind the magazine's recent survey to investigate the book preferences of its 750,000 readers. Swindenbank explains: "Women in their 30s to 50s are all about attitude, not age. The boundaries between these decades are blurring, and it is things like books that unite them."</p><p>The W&H survey, one of around four reader studies conducted each year by the magazine, has confirmed that its readers are voracious book buyers: more than half spend more than &#163;50 on books each year, and one in five splash out more than &#163;100. Half the readers surveyed always have a book on the go; the remainder read whenever they can (43%), at least morning and night (17%), or once a day (10%).</p><p>However, work and family commitments mean that reading is seen as a spare-time pursuit: 86% of those surveyed only find time to read in bed, with other popular reading locations named as the sofa, the garden, the beach and, more surprisingly, the bathroom. The respondents' preferred reading companions are wine and chocolate; the survey pool even admitted that if they had a spare 20 minutes, they would overwhelmingly rather "read a gripping novel" (68%) than have sex (8%).</p><p>Sue James, editor of W&H, who commissioned the study, says: "Our readers often have to balance many aspects of their lives to create time for themselves; this survey shows that buying, reading and sharing books is a key part of that 'me time'."</p><p>Another trend that emerged in the poll was that a higher than expected number of the magazine's ABC1 readers harbour ambitions to write their own novel: in response to the question: "Do you have a book inside you that deserves to be written?", 40% of the survey pool answered "yes". Although two-thirds of the would-be writers said that no, they hadn't yet put pen to paper, a majority of 74% indicated interest in undertaking a fiction writing course.</p><p>But perhaps the survey's most significant result for publishers is that most readers (73%) rely on recommendations and reviews in magazines and newspapers when choosing a book, with this statistic even higher in Scotland and in the 60+ age bracket. The next most popular ways of choosing books are going by the back cover write-up (63%), or using friends' recommendations (46%).</p><p>W&H also found that passing on books is popular: mainly to best friends (48%), but also to work colleagues, partners, and family members. The high pass-on rates of women's fiction is something that Keates found when commissioning research into Orion author Maeve Binchy: alongside the typical 40+, BCD Binchy reader, he discovered that 99% of the readers surveyed would pass the book down to their daughters. Orion, which commissions market research every year to look more closely at the readers of its bigger authors, is not alone in generating its own demographic information to boost sales: S&S recently hired market research company Muse to survey the readers of Adriana Trigiani (author of Rococo) because it "saw the potential to take her further", according to Ikin.</p><p>Publishers' increasing willingness to commission their own research is supported by their use of media planners (principally Total Media), who supply the publishing houses with media demographic and buying information based on the Target Group Index methodology of data collection. HarperCollins--which, in an exception to Total Media's dominance, uses media planner OMD--briefs the agency a year to six months in advance on a new book; OMD then recommends the magazines that are best matched to that author and to the campaign as a whole.</p><p>Once the market for the book has been matched to its reciprocal magazine readership profile, publicists can then set up meetings with target magazines. At Hodder, women's magazines are considered so important to the promotion of its fiction lists that its publicity team has regular brainstorming sessions on a sub-category of women's magazines--for example, women's monthlies--where everyone in the team goes through a handful of the publications "with a toothcomb" and reports back on the opportunities for promoting books within their pages.</p><p>Geary says: "Keeping up to speed with what's available in women's magazines is incredibly important. Every national newspaper features editor I have spoken to recently has complained that they are losing female readers to magazines--hence the launch of You magazine as an independent, news-stand publication."</p>