Friday, January 11, 2019

Book Marketing Rage

I am sitting at my kitchen counter watching a trio of not-so-little-anymore black kittens lose their minds because the landscape crew are here trimming bushes right up against the house. The kittens are dashing from window to window to alternately watch and freak out when the hedge trimmer revs.

This is book marketing in one tidy metaphor.

Authors race from thing to thing, claws scrabbling for traction on the hardwood in their desperation to abandon FB ads for Amazon ads. Or BookBub. Or whatever else is au courant. Sixty seconds later, the scramble is on again.

It's interesting to watch. Certainly someone is making book marketing work for them or the rest of us wouldn't be chasing around trying to replicate their results. And with that sentence, you can surmise that I have no idea how to play Moneyball with book promotions. What you may not know is how much it annoys me. The whole point of the movie, Moneyball, was using hard data to drive decisions. Not instinct. Not heart. Not gut. Numbers. That's possible in baseball. It is almost entirely impossible with books. Especially if you're traditionally published. It is not possible to trace a customer from ad click thru to a purchase. I should imagine customers would be annoyed if we could track them like that. I would be. But it does make the entire book marketing thing a bit of a black box. Somewhere inside of it, weird magic happens, and we don't get to observe it happening.

Yes. You can run A/B ad tests. But unless you are direct selling through your own website only, you cannot possibly track sales. You can only track impressions and click thrus. You can infer from your click thru rates which ad drove the most buys should you see an uptick in sales, but you cannot prove which ad actually drove the spike.

You may now picture my little SQL database-driven heart trembling in rage.

My take away is that if you want to play Moneyball, you need to change to a career with actual, trackable metrics, cause this ain't it. We're all of us dancing on the edge of the volcano with book marketing - basically pleading with the gods and offering to sacrifice pretty much anything for just one shot at selling enough books to make the mortgage next month.

I comfort myself with the adage that your best marketing for your last book is your next book.


  1. "I comfort myself with the adage that your best marketing for your last book is your next book."

  2. I have no idea how to market my own stuff... However, in recent years I've started paying attention to how I find new authors to read--not that I think I'm necessarily typical, but at least its data.

    In 2018 I read 275 books. Of these, 33 were by fiction authors I'd never read before. Four of these were freebies
    1 was the co-author with another author who I was already reading (Baen books actually deliberately uses this as a marketing ploy)
    11 were books about which I'd heard "buzz"
    5 were more personal recommendations
    1 was a Hugo Award finalist
    2 I heard about from blog posts
    2 I picked up because I met the author at a convention
    6 were books that my husband bought because he liked the blurb (he hasn't read them yet)
    3 were from a resolution to read books from more POC (some overlap with over categories)
    1 was from a marketing push by Carina Press of a figure skater romance cleverly timed during the Olympics

    Of the 33 tried authors, I am willing or have tried another book by 22 of them.

    1. Wow - that's great data, Nicole! How smart you are for tracking that. You've inspired me to do that, too. I know I read tons from recommendations, award nominations, blurb requests, or because people give them to me. I want to crunch my 2018 numbers (you're way ahead of me - I only read 119) and see how many were by new-to-me authors - and why I picked them up. Interesting!

    2. I created a category on Goodreads called new-to-me, then at the end of the year I can easily sort those out from all the others.

    3. Holy cow, this is a treasure trove of data! Thank you!

    4. That's so cool! I'll go and figure out the numbers for the books I read last year too.

  3. I read 104 books. I now own 86 of them.
    46 were by new-to-me authors- I'd read another book by almost all of them because if I don't like a book I don't tend to finish it
    I discovered 26 new authors
    10 were recs from the Reading Reality blog
    6 I found on other blogs
    4 were personal recommendations from a friend
    8 were by an author who I'm on the launch team for
    42 were initially borrowed from a library
    6 had won an award of some kind that I was curious about (RITA, Golden Heart, SFR Galaxy Awards, Hugo)
    Most books by one author was 10- 2018 was the year I discovered Courtney Milan.