In the sixteen years that I have been running Author Marketing Experts, there's a word I've come to hate: metrics. Now, don't get me wrong, metrics can be great when it comes to running ads or website data. However when it comes to book promotion, getting caught up in metrics can be the quickest way to kill any marketing endeavor.
When Metrics Matter and When They Don't
Many authors I've talked to focus too much on the direct correlation between an action they've taken and the corresponding metric, without considering the bigger picture. As mentioned above, I recognize that metrics matter for certain things; however, for most of the things we'll do in marketing they often don't. Most books that wind up being great successes get there by the accumulation of many things, some of them made a big wave and some were barely a ripple.
If it's Not Working, Maybe You're Doing it Wrong
I often hear authors say: "I stopped blogging, because no one was visiting." That was a mistake. Why? Blogging takes time to become effective. However sometimes marketing efforts don't work, because they are not being done correctly. In this example, no one may have been visiting, because the author wasn't addressing what their market wants to hear. If you aren't sure if you've got your market identified correctly, or aren't sure what to say in social media or on your blog, do a search on other authors in your market. 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, you'll want to ignore big celeb authors like Nora Roberts or James Patterson. Why? Because of their longevity in the market they've been grandfathered into some great results in Google and on Amazon. 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. Success leaves clues. Emulate these authors, but don't copy You can learn from what these authors are doing, because if they are high in search results they are likely doing a lot of things that matter.
Say Yes to Everything
Though this may sound ridiculous, I always get nervous when authors we work with start to nitpick or deny book requests, reader requests, blogger requests or, for that matter, any opportunity. 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 see authors saying things like: "I don't think that blogger is worth my time." We all want Oprah, but let's face it, we also all have to start somewhere. One of my favorite terms 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. He built this incredible empire through bottom up marketing. Neither of these authors was famous when they started this series, but they are now. See what I mean? Don't be a book promotion snob. You'll be amazed at the great opportunities that come your way.
I'm sad to say that there isn't always a direct correlation between the marketing efforts we do, and the results we see. Rather, efforts will gain exposure which will build over time. I get a lot of exposure from doing speaking gigs; 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. Yes, there are things you can do that offer immediate bounce, timed giveaways and promotions, all of that is good, but you still don't know what residual effect it will have on sales. I always tell our authors to not expect every blogger or media person to get in touch with us the minute we pitch them. Sure, most of them will, but sometimes we hear from media long after the campaign ends. We have a guy who we pitched to several national women's magazines, and a year later Cosmopolitan Magazine emailed asking to interview our author. 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. I promise you if you keep at it in the right way, something always will.
Stop Doing Stuff that Doesn't Matter
What does that mean, "keep at it in the right way?" 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? I'm a fan of book ads, especially as it relates to book promotions like eBook discounts, etc. Ads that are not as effective are the ones that just publicize the book and don't tie into anything per se, other than your book release. With 4,500 books published each day, you need to be compelling and give readers something to care about. 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 other 4,499 books published that day. Instead, ask yourself who will care that you released a book? Again, be compelling. Instead, consider issuing a release when you have big, exciting news, or if you're running a great promotion.
Another time waster is pitching yourself to national shows if you do not have platform, reviews on Amazon, or a real tie into the show or pitch angle. I always encourage our authors to aim high and dream big; but to do that, you will need to 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.
One Thing at a Time
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. Now, I get why you'd want to do that. "Let me see if this BookBub ad is really all it's cracked up to be." I understand why you'd want to do that, 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. And speaking of consistency...
Consistency is Magic
Inconsistency is one of the big reasons why authors fail, and can result from an overemphasis on metrics. Say you try blogging once, but see no direct effect and give it up; you're hurting yourself in the long run. It goes back to my "say yes to everything" advice; let your marketing efforts build, understand what your audience wants, and be consistent.
Book reviews are always a good idea. Previously, you could have fifty reviews on Amazon and be a rock star. Now you need closer to one hundred or more to even get noticed. 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.
The term "metric" is a popular buzzword in marketing right now; it seems to be sprinkled in every marketing article like New Year's Eve confetti. Sometimes, campaign metrics need to be deferred in favor of time. Instead of getting caught in the metric of every single marketing effort, take a step back, and give yourself time for your efforts to succeed. Metrics, for the most part, need immediate feedback and if you've been in publishing any length of time, you know that very little is immediate in this industry. Success, when it happens, is a beautiful thing and often the result of a lot of hard work.
When you build your marketing plan, keep in mind that marketing is a marathon, not a sprint, and every step you take will get you closer to the finish line. Give your efforts time to build on one another, and use metrics where they are applicable. Consistency is key to any marketing plan; as they say, "An overnight success is often a long time in the making."