Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Does Book Promotion Increase Book Sales?

Does book promotion increase book sales? Probably. But should you hire a book publicist only for the purpose of increasing book sales? Probably not.

Here's why. A book promotion specialist doesn't sell books. He or she arranges media interviews, book reviews, article placements, search engine maximization, and the like. This raises the visibility of your book and your Web site. That may drive book sales, and it usually does. But, when it does, that's a great benefit of book promotion, but your book publicist will hope and trust it's not the only benefit you are receiving from the campaign.

Your book publicist will assume that you are promoting your book to disseminate your messages to as many people as possible. That's why you want to be on the air, and that's why you want to be quoted as an expert in newspaper and magazine articles, and that's why you want people to find your site through Google and other search engines. You have something to say, and your book is one outlet for saying it; the mass media provides additional venues for you to spread your messages.

In addition, many authors believe their visibility in the media will lead to great opportunities such as offers from corporations (perhaps speaking engagements or endorsement projects), additional clients or customers, or enhanced credibility in the professional world. This is usually what happens.

You benefit from media appearances in a myriad of ways. Book sales, when and if they happen, are a wonderful fringe benefit of your book promotion campaign. But they can't be the only reason why you hire a book promotion specialist.

An author from a mainstream publishing house was recently in discussions with me about promoting her book. She thought my book promotion plan looked great. Finally, she wanted to know how many books it would sell. I was taken aback by the question.

Another book publicist might have taken a guess and added a disclaimer such as "but no one really knows for sure." However, I opted to tell the author the whole truth which was that book sales weren't my area of expertise, and therefore, I had no idea of what number to give her. I could guess how many radio interviews I might be able to arrange for her (and that would only be a guess, because it's impossible to predict how radio show producers will respond to a particular pitch). But I couldn't make even a wild guess about how many books she'd sell if she hired me.

I received her emailed response earlier today. She asked me for a referral to a book publicist whose focus was on selling books.

Of course, I responded that there's no such book publicist. Distributors and salespeople sell books. (In the case of her book, since she's working through a major publishing company, she can't even hire an independent distributor -- she'll have to put her complete faith in the capabilities of her publisher.) Book promotion specialists arrange media appearances and reviews.

What I could have done, I suppose, is refer her to a book promotion firm that's able to toss around figures and promises that come from nowhere and are utterly meaningless. However, I don't have the heart to do that.

No, I don't want her as a client, because her goals are not in line with what I can provide for her, and the last thing in the world I want is a disappointed client. But another thing I don't want is for a book publicity firm to take advantage of her by, basically, telling her what she wants to hear.

What would King Solomon do in this situation? Hmmm.