Have you ever heard Obama defend the stimulus plan? Have you heard him say the economy would be even worse if that plan hadn’t been implemented? He might be right but he can’t prove it. All we, as American citizens, see is that the economy is pretty bad right now but whether or not it is better than it would have been if we had done things differently can never be anything more than speculation.
That’s how book publicity is. You do an enormous amount of work and hope that it’s helping. Even if your sales aren’t as strong as you’d like you don’t really know what they would be if you had done things differently. For that matter if your sales are amazing you can say it’s because of a stellar publicity campaign but it’s hard to find the direct evidence. There are certain plugs that definitely help. When Jon Stewart plugs a book it shoots up to Amazon’s top ten list within an hour. Direct cause and effect. Not very many publicity stunts work that way. If you see a review for a book on your friend’s blog you might buy that book, but are you going to hop in your car and run over to the bookstore and buy it that day? Will you, after reading a Tweet on your iPhone while standing in line at the grocery store, pull out your credit card and click the Amazon link? Or are you simply more likely to buy the book if you happen to come across it in the bookstore?
Most product marketing involves repetition. Consumers have to hear a product’s name again and again. They have to see the ads over and over again until something clicks in their brains and they start believing (despite all logic) that lots of advertisements are indicative of a very good product. And then the hope of say, the people who market M&M’s is that the next time you’re in line at the drug store you’ll see the M&M’s new chocolate covered pretzels and think, “Oh yeah, I saw an ad for those. Maybe I should buy a package.”
Publicity is the same way. You need the repetition (which is why I encourage everyone to stop reading for a moment and say Vows, Vendettas & A Little Black Dress three times fast). Kidding...sort of. Anyway, my point is that one review in one newspaper isn’t going to cut it nor is posting one book trailer. But if people have to see lots of PR before they buy then you’re not going to see immediate results when you start your campaign and it’s going to make success of said campaign more difficult to measure.
And yet there aren’t very many successful authors out there who don’t do some kind of publicity and if your sales are strong it’s probably realistic to assume that your publicity campaign helped with that. And if your sales aren’t what you’d like them to be...well, maybe the publicity campaign could have been better...on the other hand there is a very distinct possibility that without the campaign things would be a lot worse. Perhaps you had the right campaign but bad store placement. There’s a very good chance your campaign would have yielded bigger and better results if your publisher had supplemented your efforts with a better publisher-funded marketing campaign (or as is the case for many midlist authors, ANY marketing campaign) and that your publicity efforts are the only reason anyone found out about your book at all. That’s speculative of course, but that’s the nature of the beast.
The harsh truth is that living with that kind of ambiguity and speculation is part of being an author or any kind of artist and the inability to deal with uncertainty will destroy the careers of more authors, artists, and entrepreneurs than this recession ever could stimulus plan or no. On the other hand, if you can handle and accept the ambiguity that comes with any creative profession, if you are willing to invest your time, energy and yes, sometimes money, in trying different things without any guarantees of what the results will be your chances of being successful in your career (and personal) pursuits will go way up.
So here's to perseverance and to the willingness of talented artists and authors everywhere to take a deep breath and...for lack of a better term, suck it up and deal. I'll be rooting for you.
Bestselling Author of:The Sophie Katz Mystery Series
So Much For My Happy Ending
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