From many years of promoting books online, the one thing I know for sure is that each book has its own sales trajectory. Some start selling right out of the gate and reach great heights, others take the scenic route and sell steadily for years, and yes, there are some that don’t sell well at all. We–publishers, marketers, authors–can make the same effort for both kinds of books and yet some books resonate with buyers better and more quickly than others. Why is that?
As much as I would love to say, “I know the answer,” or “I guarantee your book will be #1 on Amazon if you hire us” it’s just not possible. We have worked on many books that have become huge bestsellers and many more that we wished would have sold better. What I do know is that as publicists, we work with diligence and commitment, believe in the books we promote, are creative and flexible, follow-up religiously, and hope for a little magic.
When books don’t sell as well as we’d hoped, it is of course disappointing. However, the effectiveness of an online campaign should not be judged by book sales alone. Through TV you can reach millions of people with one segment, where this is not true online. Online exposure is diffused. You may get millions of hits, but they will be staggered. The millions of people will more likely come from different sites and see the information at different times, days, months or even years. When you think of online exposure think longevity and message control.
The Internet offers longevity. Web features and links are available to readers now, and new readers months and years from now. Like a snowball rolling down a hill, these features are able to grow thanks in large part to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, which thrive on the constant sharing of information.
Additionally, it is amazing how well online placements translate into long term visibility on Google. Earlier this year we worked on Horse Soldiers by Doug Stanton. Published by Scribner, it was a New York Times Best Seller. We are very proud of the Web campaign we ran, and feel it was a strong component of the overall campaign, while by no means the most important. Scribner did a spectacular job with the publicity. Doug was on TV, radio and had reviews in major newspapers including the cover of The New York Times Book Review. Out of curiosity I decided to check out the long-term visibility of this publicity campaign. Six months after the book was published, I did a search on his name and book title on Google. In the first 4 pages and 40 links, 24 were from promotional activities. To my surprise (and delight) 67% of the promotional links were Web features. TV made up 4%, print 13%, event promotion 17% and there were no radio links at all. In this case, it was clear that the Web features had staying power.
It is also easier to buy a book online. Unlike most advertising, TV appearances, print features, speaking engagements and radio interviews, all Web features are linked directly to a bookseller. Making the step from “I like this book” to “I want to buy this book” literally one click away.
Like the Lotto ad said, “You gotta be in it, to win it.” If you are not available online when people are searching for information, the chances of them finding your book and buying it are slim. Remember that every reader who takes the time to “seek and pull” online information on your book or related topic is an interested, committed, and qualified buyer. Just the kind we like.