Friday, March 09, 2012

What's An Author To Do?

Writers have heard all the advice. In order to succeed, it's necessary to have a platform. That might be a presence on social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Goodreads, or other sites. It would certainly include both a website and a blog. One has to consider personal appearances, speaking, signings, and even pounding the pavement to introduce yourself to brick-and-mortar bookstore managers. Blog tours? Sure, the more the merrier. And the list goes on.

I, like most authors, have climbed aboard this merry-go-round, but a recent survey has me scratching my head, wondering if it's all in vain. The survey was of readers of a specific genre of novel, but I sort of imagine the results can be applied more generally. And the results are striking.

Readers were asked to indicate their interest in several activities that constitute the stock in trade of marketing. Of respondents, 40% said they had no interest in author websites, 51% said the same for book trailers, 62% didn't read authors' blogs, 70% don't follow authors on Facebook and 83% didn't read authors on Twitter.

The number one source for discovering a new title or author? The recommendation of friends. Also in the top echelon of factors were bookstore displays and the website of online booksellers.

I'm still trying to digest this information. Some of it's sort of hard to believe. Then again, if there were one thing that guaranteed sure-fire book sales, we'd all be doing it. Instead, there are lots of things, and we're like a juggler attempting to keep all the plates spinning. Whew!

How about you? What factor or factors contribute most to your decision to buy a book, especially one by a novelist whose work you haven't read? I'd like to know.


Ellen Painter Dollar said...

Interesting data, but I'm not so sure the stats necessarily go against the standard platform-building advice. First, 40% of respondents have no interest in author web sites...that means 60% do! Plus, I see all of these activities—web site, blogging, speaking engagements, etc.—as essentially being ways to increase the odds that someone will recommend your book to someone else. They are all ways to connect with people, in the hope that those people will both read your book and tell other people to read it. Yesterday, I spent the afternoon sending free copies of my book to various people—the people I thank in my acknowledgments, people I was on an NPR segment with a few weeks ago, writers with similar topic areas. And while I did this in part simply to offer a gift of thanks to these folks, I also hope it fosters more word-of-mouth marketing down the road. The book recipients have colleagues and friends, blogs and web sites, organizations they belong to and conferences they attend. If they each tell, say, two people about my book? That's 30 new potential readers.

Timothy Fish said...

The problem is, we have no control over the three things you mentioned. So the real question is, what can we do to gain the recommendation of friends, bookstore displays, and top placement on websites. The last two can be acheived by throwing money at it (if you have enough). The first is even harder. But platform is part of it. Forget the websites, book trailers, etc. They are not a platform, they just help build one. What is important is that an author is in a position to influence the friends of people to recommend a book. That is the essence of a platform.

Richard Mabry said...

Ellen and Timothy--You're both making the same point, and one with which I agree. In some fashion or other, what an author needs to generate is word-of-mouth about their work.
Thanks for your comments.

Jessica R. Patch said...

Honestly, before I started writing, I never visited author websites or read any blogs! When I read books, it was from friends and family who recommended them. Also, perusing the library aisles or when a LifeWay booklet came to the house.

I think we should try new things but in the end, if the book is good, word of mouth will probably be the most valuable tool. :) Great thoughts!

Katie said...

If it's an author I've never read, yes, recommendations from friends and books in the bookstore are important. If it's an author I have read (and liked), then I'm more interested in their Twitter, blog, et al. I think social media outlets are important because they keep people connected and updated but they're not always the best way to reach new readers.

<>< Katie

Deb said...

I think it's interesting that when you ask publishers what techniques in platform-building lead to good results, they admit they don't know. I feel the need to be a good steward of my time and money. Until it's widely accepted that some of these ways and means work and we can abandon those that don't, I'm not drinking that Kool-Aid so much, thanks.