The question that I get asked most by self-published authors is: How many books will I sell if you run a media-based book publicity campaign for me? I will always be open and say that there is no clear answer. I simply don’t know. It depends on a lot of things, such as what happens in the course of the campaign, how people respond to the cover, how much people like the book and how easily readers can find and buy the book.
While it is the one question that I cannot answer, I am always pleased when an author asks it. It means that they are thinking about their book as a business. It’s only natural to compare income to expenditure to figure out if an activity is worthwhile and for many marketing activities you can do just that. If you run a price promotion, ad campaign or use an email marketing list, for example, you can easily compare the results to the actions.
But media book publicity isn’t directly about sales – it is about the opportunity to achieve sales. And that opportunity can take many forms. For example, we have worked with authors who, as a result of a publicity campaign, have:
- Been asked back onto BBC Breakfast or ITV This Morning again, months after an initial interview that we arranged.
- Acquired an agent or a publisher because a book publicity campaign has proven that there is commercial interest in their writing.
- Obtained a regular monthly radio slot on a local BBC radio station because their initial interview gave them the opportunity to meet and talk to a producer who liked what they had to say.
- Been asked to write additional articles for The Guardian and other newspapers after they published one that we pitched to the newspaper.
- Become a known expert in their area of interest and experience, leading to public speaking and further media opportunities.
All of these activities build recognition for authors and books and lead ultimately to sales – usually at a much greater level than can be achieved through other means. And they are all opportunities that would be missed by only focussing on short-term monthly sales data.
Now, let’s get back to business.
As I mentioned before, measuring sales is a business task and shows that an author is taking their publishing life seriously. But that is not the only thing that businesses do. Businesses speculate, they look for opportunity, they value chances to add to brand recognition, they invest in research and development and they push themselves out into the world so that customers can discover them.
I am not saying that you should not run pure marketing activities, such as advertising (online and/or print) or mailing lists. You should as they are an important part of the mix. Nor am I saying that you should throw everything into a media-based book publicity campaign. Media doesn’t work for every book, so make sure that you really have something that is really of interest before you leap.
But I am saying that if you are looking for opportunities you need to present yourself to the world. And a media campaign can help you to do that.