Book Marketing: What Worked (So Far)
Last week I had a conversation with a friend whose book, Crackerjack Bands and Hometown Boosters: The Story of a Minnesota Music Man, is coming out in July. She’s at the point in the process where the writing is done, the book is in production, and she’s facing the daunting next step: launching her book.
She asked great questions about marketing: What worked? What didn’t? What seemed to be the best investment of time and money? Her questions were smart and on-point, though I would expect nothing less since her background is as a journalist.
Her question reminded me of something I had been meaning to do for a few weeks, which was to map spikes in sales to specific marketing activities. I’ve attached a graph showing sales during the 101 weeks since Marcel’s Letters: A Font and the Search for One Man’s Fate was released.
A couple of notes:
– This graph only shows Amazon sales. It does not show direct sales from the publisher, sales to libraries, or sales through booksellers. I wish I had that information but I don’t.
– I’ve removed data showing the specific number of books sold; the point of this blog post is to provide information on the spikes in sales, not specific numbers.
I looked at my calendar to see what I could discern about which (or even if) activities correlated to the top 10 spikes in sales. The numbers in circles show:
1. Pre-order and first-week sales, bolstered by appearance on WCCO morning show
2. Post-holiday sales (a huge disappointment was to learn the book was out of print during the Christmas 2017 sales season [see the red circle with the ‘x’]; I believe spike #2 shows backorders once filled.)
3. Minnesota Book Awards (though the book didn’t win, book award finalists received a fair amount of press)
4. Appearance on KARE-11 tv the week of Valentine’s Day
5. Release of paperback version of Marcel’s Letters: A Font and the Search for One Man’s Fate
6/7. Not trackable to a specific event, though in the first weeks after the book’s launch, I was busy with library talks, bookstore signings, and interviews. The book also received coverage in several regional newspapers and magazines, including a review in the Star-Tribune and articles in the UW-Stout Alumni magazine and White Bear Lake magazine.
8. Profile by Rob Olson on FOX9 tv (watch it here)
9. Interview on Bonjour Minnesota radio show plus talks at Hamilton Wood Type and Print Museum
10. Style Speaks Volumes Style Show
What is apparent from these spikes? It probably shouldn’t be a surprise, but appearances on main-stream media outlets resulted in some of the biggest spikes. My publicist, Rachel M. Anderson/RMA Publicity, gets the credit for placing several newspaper articles around the time of the book launch and securing media appearances on KARE-11, WCCO, and FOX9.
The Long Tail Theory
In statistics, a “long tail” is the portion of the distribution occurring far from the “head” (i.e. initial book launch). In that regard, having a number of spikes months after release of the book is great. All I can do is hope the various marketing efforts will work to create a long life (a long tail) for the book.
Ongoing marketing efforts have included social media posts and book club visits. On social media, I’ve promoted talks and other public events, along with posting short reader reviews. I will also occasionally post event notices on LinkedIn.
I am grateful for readers who have recommended the book to friends, co-workers, neighbors, and relatives. I have no idea how it is possible to compare word-of-mouth sales to media-prompted sales, but I know word-of-mouth referrals have made a difference! Independent booksellers also deserve a huge shout-out for hand-selling the book. Sellers at two local independent bookstores have told me the book has been a solid seller (though again, the numbers below only show Amazon sales).
What Didn’t Work?
I was at a loss to provide a specific answer the question, “what didn’t work?” Some marketing efforts, such as placing an ad with Alliance Française, preparing social media posts, or mailing out postcards are untrackable to specific sales. Would I do those things again despite being untrackable? Probably. In my work as a graphic designer I often tell clients their prospective customers need six or more marketing “touches” before they make a buying decision. So, things like placing an ad with Alliance Française or mailing out postcards may have helped build that baseline exposure. Who knows!
Fellow authors, do you have data you’d like to share about what resulted in sales spikes for your books? Please share!