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There are a few people out there who review books who have enjoyed my previous work and so have been keen to review the latest. That is a small and steadily growing resource of people who are treasured because they represent a network effect. A review tends to reach a wide audience and have the benefit of providing recommendation.
This, then, is my 'author platform' - my very own marketing machine. All of these people have, for one reason or another, given me permission to talk to them. Not all of them want to talk to me about books, a lot have been attracted by my ranting and other unstable behaviours. And so when I do talk about books, I see a drop in blog traffic and, with an increasing frequency of promotional tweets and posts, provoke a mixture of reactions from disinterest through to mild amusement, bemusement and, when an unseen line has been crossed, even mild irritation.
The balance here is clearly to try and provide interesting, thought provoking or amusing content on these platforms to increase engagement and stretch the elasticity of the Line of Follower Irritation. When it comes to book marketing, I am clearly without morals. And while I'm not quite reduced to screaming 'Buy my book!' in the faces of strangers, there have been times when I've thought about it. The trouble is, of course, people don't automatically go away and buy books just because they're asked to or told to. Oh, how much simpler my universe would be if that were the case! No, there's something else that makes us click on that 'Deliver to my Kindle' button. And I wish to God I knew what it was. I don't even recognise it in myself as a stable or discernible pattern of behaviour.
It's interesting to see how little strength there is to 'social glue', as well. People will 'like' at the drop of a hat and generally make nice, supportive noises. But getting them to take an action, beyond a click, based on social media interactions is not easy - or even a known, defined science. We basically do a number of things we think might result in that (engagement and all that stuff) and hope it's worked. Clicks are not a measure of action - as I've explained before.
Without a doubt, word of mouth has a huge role to play. Reviews, as I have mentioned above, take the form of recommendations* and so have the power of word of mouth - but I haven't seen them create notable spikes in sales. This is hard to track in terms of physical book sales because physical book distribution is such a slow and placid process. On Amazon I get day by day data and analysis and so can see spikes when they occur. They're usually of a binary nature, by the way. I'm not quite in the hundreds of books a day game!
But my experience has been that people, even when they have thoroughly enjoyed, even 'loved' a book, don't necessarily go around berating their friends about it. And a single recommendation isn't enough to send people jetting off to the nearest bookshop, either. Scale has a huge amount to do with it. If you see a positive review, have a friend or even two recommend it and then see it on display in the bookshop, then you may well act. But any of those in isolation will likely not do the job. My personal theory is the average punter will act on a book purchase after five 'touches' - and then only if the last touch is while they're actually in proximity to a BBO - a Book Buying Opportunity.
It's that scale that is the issue, of course, in the UAE - where, incidentally, much of my 'author platform' is located. The market here is relatively small (Olives - A Violent Romance sold out its run of 2,000 copies and is considered consequently to have done really very well here) and also underserved by all the major platforms - Amazon won't play here, Google and Apple have limited offerings and B&N and Kobo are non-existent. And people here will buy my books from me at signings and other events, but they'll tend not to buy a paperback from Amazon to have delivered here.
Which is why at last year's LitFest, I sat next to Orion's Kate Mills and explained that, as a self-publisher, I was weary and recognised that I actually could really do with the scale that an operation such as hers offered to reach into a market like the UK where I cannot, for all my 'platform', reach. It's there where the scale lies that brings quantum effects into play and starts to launch books towards the exosphere. Of course, in order to make that stellar journey, the book has to have 'that' quality, the something that has people interested enough to pick it up, flip it around, scan the blurb and go, 'Hmm. Sounds interesting. I'll give this little puppy a spin.' Or whatever it is they say at that sublime and subtle moment when a complete stranger decides to exchange value for your book...
Meanwhile, I'ma gonna keep plugging away on the A Decent Bomber pre-order campaign. Once November 5 is past, it'll be all about reviews and events. Up until then, I'm quietly nagging people to email their friends to ask them to email their friends with a link to the book. Because in the world of 1,000,000 clicks to get one sale, network effects are king, baby.
See? I got through a whole post without linking to the pre-order A Decent Bomber link on Amazon.com! Oh...
* Unless they're stinkers, of course! I have so far in the main avoided these, although I do say this with the feeling of mild dread that accompanies pronouncements such as 'I've never had a car accident in my life...'