In today’s tech-savvy world, nearly everything can be measured by metrics: Facebook profile picture likes; Twitter followers; YouTube video views, etc. Big data is a big industry and metrics seem to drive marketing efforts and other online behaviors. However, “metrics” is a word I’ve learned to hate. In sixteen years of running Author Marketing Experts, we’ve learned that focusing on metrics alone is a fast way to tank your marketing plan. While metrics give you a tangible measurement in the relatively intangible world of feelings, and they’re great for running ads or website data, a focus solely on metrics means we don’t always see the forest for all the trees.
Metrics Don't Stand Alone
If you’re like lots of authors, when you focus solely on metrics, it’s easy to lose sight of your overall campaign goals. In publishing, it’s rare for books to become a huge success because of one a single marketing effort, but instead as the cumulative effect of a multi-faceted approach. For example, speaking engagements give me lots of exposure, even though it doesn’t always generate immediate business or book sales. Sometimes it takes months, or even years. If I expected a direct measure of success from every single thing I did, I’d never get very far or, frankly, do much of anything. Why? Nurturing seeds you plant takes time—flowers don’t pop up the day after you put a seed in the ground and book marketing is the same way. I always coach our authors to not expect every blogger or media person to get in touch with us immediately. For example, we worked with an author that we pitched to several national women’s magazines, and after a year, we got an email from Cosmopolitan Magazine asking to interview him. This is especially true when you have an evergreen topic with lasting interest. While we love when we get immediate, real-time results, it does not always unfold that way. Sometimes you have to keep planting seeds until something sprouts.
If It’s Not Working, Maybe You’re Doing it Wrong
Authors often tell me: “I stopped blogging because no one was visiting." Blogging takes time to become effective, and may not immediately seem “worth it” from a metrics standpoint – you need to give yourself time to build solid content and a following of fans. If you’ve been blogging for a while without seeing a jump in followers, and you let metrics guide your actions, you may be tempted to give up, thinking that blogging doesn’t work. Keep in mind that sometimes marketing efforts don’t work simply because they are not correctly executed.
In this example, no one may have been reading your blog because you weren’t addressing the interests of your potential audience. It is worth your while to spend some time and effort researching the meaning behind your dismal metrics. It might be that your blogging is ineffective because you have misidentified your potential audience. Have you run out of things to say? Devote some time to researching successful authors in your market/genre. Do a quick Google search of your book genre and the word “author” or “book” (try different combinations in different search strings). Look at what comes up. Authors who are on the first page of Google under their specific book topic are doing it right. And by “it” I mean blogging, social media, etc. In your research, ignore big names in favor of authors who aren’t major brands or household names, and look at what they’re doing in terms of their blog and social media. This research may unearth some surprising things. You may find new social media sites that you should be on, or there may be some social sites that you can dump if there really is no market for you there. By researching 4 to 6 successful authors in your market, you’ll start to see a trend of what’s working for them.
Bottom Up Marketing
Another problem with blindly following metrics is that you may turn down opportunities with long term benefits. One of my favorite strategies is “bottom up marketing”—why? Because it works. Mark Victor Hanson, one of the masterminds behind the Chicken Soup for the Soul books, tells a great story about when he and his co-author were first publishing these books. He did every single radio interview possible regardless of the early hours (even those that were at 3 and 4 AM his time). He built an incredible empire through bottom up marketing and never turning down a single opportunity. Allow opportunities to build on one another and lead to success. For this reason, I always encourage authors we work with to say yes to every opportunity that arises, within reason. Keep in mind your limiting factors—time constraints; financial constraints, if any; and the relevancy to your genre. Often we see authors say things like: “I don’t think that blogger is worth my time,” or “They don’t have enough followers.” We all want to be on popular network television, but let’s face it, everyone has to start somewhere.
Stop Doing Stuff that Doesn’t Matter
I just told you not to turn down any opportunities that arise. So when I say stop doing things that don’t matter, I mean that you should be realistic with what is the most effective way to spend your time and money. Often we implement marketing efforts because they’re easy instead of carefully considering their long term benefits. Running ads, for example, is relatively easy, and it feels like you’re doing something productive. But are you? Ads should be compelling and give the viewers a call to action. The same is true for press releases. I love a good press release, but if you’re issuing one to announce your book, and that’s it…well…it may get lost in the crowd of 4000+ books published that day. Instead, consider issuing a release when you have big, exciting news, or if you’re running a great promotion.
Be realistic with your pitching efforts. To pitch well, you should be taking a lot of time and effort to craft a pitch that shows you researched the outlet, and have put careful thought into why your book would be a good fit. For example, pitching yourself to national shows when you are just starting out (and do not have a platform, reviews on Amazon, or a real tie into the show or pitch angle) may not be the most efficient use of your time. First, you should work hard to build a solid foundation. Start small and work your way to the top. Remember what I said about bottom up marketing.
Coordinate Your Marketing Efforts
One of the quickest ways to kill a book is to not promote it; the other is to only do one thing at a time so you can see which efforts are most effective. I understand why you’d want to test your efforts separately, but the problem with this thinking is that driven by metrics instead of momentum. Marketing by doing one thing at a time and then waiting to see what comes of the action you took is the surest way to fail. Take a multi-faceted approach and do multiple things consistently.
An overemphasis on metrics can lead to inconsistent marketing efforts, which in turn can be a big reason that authors fail. It goes back to my “say yes to everything” advice; let your marketing efforts build, understand what your audience wants, and be consistent. If you have a tight schedule, find a few things that are an effective use of your time, and do them consistently.
People Like What Other People Like
Book reviews are always a good idea. You should always pursue them, no matter the age of your book. With so many books on Amazon, a good rule of thumb is that a book should have one hundred or more reviews to get noticed. Since publishing, by nature, is extremely competitive, you should really make an ongoing effort to keep your title relevant. One way you can do this is by continually seeking reviews. When authors tell me they are done pitching for reviews, I ask them if this means they have finished marketing their book. They will often seem surprised that I asked and say “Of course not!” Here’s why pitching your book for reviews is important: reviews for your book has one of the strongest metrics attached to it. Why? Because people like what other people like.
Metrics are a powerful tool; however, they should be reviewed periodically instead of constantly. When planning your marketing, I would urge you to emphasize consistency, use metrics as a tool to identify marketing efforts that can be improved. Give your marketing efforts time to work for you before writing specific avenues off immediately if the metrics don’t speak for them. Allow your marketing efforts to build on one another and allow success to accumulate. Remember what I said above: success is rarely the direct result of one action, but rather the cumulative effect of many actions.
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