Friday, June 15, 2012

Book Promotion Is a Crummy Investment, But It’s an Excellent Opportunity

A book promotion campaign represents a dubious expenditure if your sole goal is to sell a sufficient number of books to pay for the book promotion campaign and then to move enough additional books to turn a profit. Although there is a relationship between book promotion and book sales, that connection is highly unpredictable. You can't say with any degree of certainty, "If I invest X in my book promotion campaign, I'll see a boost of Y in book sales." The only dependable expression of the link between book publicity and book sales, unfortunately, is a negative one: if you don't promote your book, then you'll probably sell no books because nobody will know about it.

A book promotion campaign may help you sell books if you can get yourself in front of the right potential book buyers, in the right ways, and at the right times. Then your messages must be relevant and compelling. The solutions you offer must be credible, or you have to be really entertaining (or you have to know somebody who is). Potential readers have to learn (and remember) your name and your book's title, and your book must be readily, and continually, available where your intended readers can find and buy it. Your book also has to be worth its price, and it has to inspire buyers to tell other potential readers about it. All of that can happen. In other words, a book promotion might pay off in increased book sales, or at least in one or more short-term book sales spikes. But, in order for that to happen, a lot of variables have to fall into place. You have to be lucky, and the stars have to line up for you and, even then, you won't be able to replicate the experience every time you publish a new book. Few authors catch lightning in a bottle twice because there's nothing scientific about the relationship between a book publicity campaign and an increase in the number of books that you sell.

That said, book promotion campaigns are excellent opportunities for authors. No, you can't justify launching a book promotion campaign in exchange for a predictable number of book sales unless you're the type of person who bought Google shares during its initial public offering and then enjoyed a good night's sleep. But, if you're like most authors, you won't count on monetizing your publicity campaign solely on the basis of increased book sales. Your plans will also include embracing the benefits that book promotion campaigns always provide and that make book publicity campaigns reliably worth the time, effort, and money you put into it (yes, even shoestring book promotion campaigns require an investment of cash). But here's the good news. Every time you embark upon a book publicity campaign, you'll give yourself an opportunity to:

1. Disseminate your key messages and share your viewpoint. Your book gives journalists and hosts a reason to interview you. Once you're on the air, in print, or online, you can tell people what you want them to know, share your perspective with them, make your case, and persuade listeners, viewers, and readers to follow a specific course of action. A dentist who writes a book about the importance dental hygiene, for example, might target people who haven't had a checkup in years... and figure out how to finally get bring them into a dentist's office before a dental crisis erupts that will really turn dental care into a nightmare. You'll have your say, and people will hear you... and that's probably one of the main reasons why you wrote your book, anyway.

2. Establish yourself as an authority and gain a competitive advantage. Which furniture mover would you be more inclined to hire: the one whose media spokesperson is always providing advice for packing fragile items, transporting heirlooms across long distances, familiarizing yourself with a new neighborhood, and helping your kids adapt to a new school, or the one whose company name you've randomly picked up from the Boston Globe's classified ads? Your expertise is something you can translate into new business opportunities, increased fees for current offerings, and the like.

3. Enhance your online presence. As you establish your portfolio of newspaper and online clippings, and accumulate radio, TV, and web interviews, you'll find your search engine visibility improving, and organizations, clients, customers, and the media will be better able to connect with you. Online articles that link back to your website attract readers, and they help your overall search engine optimization efforts on an ongoing basis, too. You can leverage your increased online presence to create new business relationships and reach out to people who, otherwise, wouldn't have any way of finding you.

4. Build your brand. By sharing your expertise and point of view, you're creating a platform from which you can more easily and successfully launch additional products and services... or simply enlarge your potential client and customer base for the services and products you already provide (or hope to offer). Every interview provides you with the possibility of metaphorically handing out hundreds, if not thousands, of business cards all at once to highly targeted audiences.

So, although you can't count on a book promotion campaign to pay for itself through increased book sales, you can depend on the enhanced opportunities that book publicity campaigns provide. Launching a book promotion campaign is a sound investment... or, at least, it is a wonderful opportunity for authors who can see beyond a hoped-for spike in book sales to achieve far more lucrative, and sustainable, gains.


Stacey J. Miller is an online book promotion specialist and founder of S. J. Miller Communications. Visit her at (connecting with her on Facebook or Twitter is strictly optional).