We live in a world where almost everything can be measured by metrics: the number of likes our profile picture received on Facebook; the number of followers we have on Twitter; the number of views a video has on YouTube, etc. In a world of big data, metrics seems to drive our behavior online, but in the sixteen years that I have been running Author Marketing Experts, metrics is a word that I’ve come to hate. As mentioned above, metrics can be great when it comes to running ads or website data. However when it comes to book promotion, focusing on metrics alone can cause prove to be the quickest way to kill any marketing endeavor.
For many authors, focusing on metrics can make them lose sight of the overall goals of their campaign. In publishing, most books do not end up being great successes simply as a direct result of one action, but rather the accumulation of many actions. For example, I get a lot of exposure from doing speaking engagements; however it does not always immediately turn into sales for the business. Sometimes it takes months, or even years. If I expected a direct measure of success from every single thing I did, I’d never get very far or, frankly, do much of anything. Why? Planting seeds takes time. I always tell our authors to not expect every blogger or media person to get in touch with us the minute we pitch them. For example, we worked with an author that we pitched to several national women’s magazines, and a year later Cosmopolitan Magazine emailed asking to interview him. This is especially true when you have an evergreen topic. So while a direct correlation to something you did is great, it does not always unfold that way. Sometimes you have to keep planting seeds until something sprouts.
If it’s Not Working, Maybe You’re Doing it Wrong
I often hear authors say: “I stopped blogging, because no one was visiting.” Let’s discuss why that was a mistake. Blogging takes time to become effective, and will not immediately seem “worth it” from a metrics standpoint – you need to give yourself time to build a following of fans. Say you’ve been blogging for a while, and still have not seen a jump in followers. If you let metrics guide your actions, you may be tempted to give up, and say that blogging doesn’t work. Something important to keep in mind is that sometimes marketing efforts don’t work, because they are not being done correctly. In this example, no one may have been reading your blog, because you weren’t addressing what your potential audience wants to hear. You may need to spend some time and effort into researching the meaning behind your dismal metrics. Could your blogging be ineffective, because you have misidentified your potential audience? Have you run out of things to say? If that’s the case, start researching successful authors in your market/genre. Head on over to Google and type in your book genre and the word “author” or “book” (try different combinations in different search strings). Look at what comes up. Authors who are on the first page of Google under their specific book topic are doing it right. And by “it” I mean blogging, social media, etc. When you do this search, ignore big names, and instead, look at authors who aren’t major brands or household names, and do some spy work to see what they’re doing in terms of their blog and social media. This research may unearth some surprising things: social media sites that you should be on and aren’t; or social sites that you can kick to the curb, because there really is no market for you there. By doing this type of research for 4 to 6 authors in your market you’ll start to see a trend of what’s working for them.
Bottom Up Marketing
Another problem with blindly following metrics, can be saying no to opportunities that may benefit you in the long run. One of my favorite strategies is “bottom up marketing” – why? Because it works. Mark Victor Hanson, one of the master minds behind the Chicken Soup for the Soul books, tells a great story about when he and his co-author were first publishing these books. He said that he did every single radio interview (even those that were at 3 and 4AM his time). He never turned down one single opportunity, and built this incredible empire through bottom up marketing. Again, this is just another example of allowing opportunities to build on one another and lead to success. For this reason, I always encourage the authors we work with to say yes to every opportunity that comes their way. Now, keep in mind that when I say, “say yes to everything” obviously, that should be within reason. Keep in mind your time constraints; financial constraints, if any; and the relevancy to your genre. Often we see authors say things like: “I don’t think that blogger is worth my time,” or “They don’t have enough followers.” We all want to be on The Tonight Show, but let’s face it, everyone has to start somewhere.
Stop Doing Stuff that Doesn’t Matter
By this, I mean that you should be realistic with what is the most effective way to spend your time and money. Often we fall into the habit of implementing marketing efforts, because they’re easy, not because they are effective in the long run. Running ads, for example, are pretty easy, and it feels like you’re doing something productive. But are you? Ads should be compelling and give the viewers something act on. The same is true for press releases. I love a good press release, but if you’re issuing one to announce your book, and that’s it…well…it may get lost in the crowd of the books published that day. Instead, consider issuing a release when you have big, exciting news, or if you’re running a great promotion.
Be realistic with your pitching efforts. To pitch well, you should be taking a lot of time and effort to craft a pitch that shows you researched the outlet, and have put careful thought into why your book would be a good fit. For example, pitching yourself to national shows when you are just starting out (and do not have platform, reviews on Amazon, or a real tie into the show or pitch angle) may not be the most efficient use of your time. First, you should work hard to build a solid foundation, which is built by starting small working your way to the top. Remember what I said about bottom up marketing.
Coordinate Your Marketing Efforts
One of the quickest ways to kill a book is to not promote it; the other is to only do one thing at a time so you can see which one gives you the most bounce. I understand why you’d want to test your efforts separately to see how effective they are, but the problem with this thinking is that it’s all metric driven and not momentum driven. Marketing by doing one thing at a time and then waiting to see what comes of the action you took is the surest way to fail. Do a lot of things (or several, if you’re short on time) and do them consistently.
Slow and Steady Wins the Race
Inconsistency is one of the big reasons why authors fail, and can result from an overemphasis on metrics. It goes back to my “say yes to everything” advice; let your marketing efforts build, understand what your audience wants, and be consistent. As mentioned above, if you’re short on time, find a few things that are an effective use of your time, and do them consistently.
People Like What Other People Like
Book reviews are always a good idea, and are something you should always be pursuing, no matter how old your book is. With so many books on Amazon, a good rule of thumb is that a book should have close to one hundred or more reviews to even get noticed. The competitive nature of publishing means that garnering reviews for your book should be an ongoing effort to keep your title relevant. So when authors tell me they are done pitching for reviews, I ask them if this means that they’re done marketing their book. They will often seem surprised that I asked and say “Of course not!” Here’s why pitching your book for reviews is important: reviews for your book has one of the strongest metrics attached to it. Why? Because people like what other people like.
In closing, metrics are a powerful tool; however they need to be viewed with some perspective and may need to be deferred in favor of time. When planning your marketing efforts, I would urge you to emphasize consistency, use metrics as a tool to identify marketing efforts that can be improved, and simply give yourself some time for your marketing efforts to build on one another and allow success to accumulate. Remember what I said above: success is rarely the direct result of one action, but rather the accumulation of many actions.