Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The Value of Marketing


First, hats off to all of you creative captioners for yesterday's photo. Many of them had me laughing out loud.

And now for today:

A recent issue of Publisher’s Weekly ran an article based on the findings of a study concerned with the efficacy of business professionals writing books in their fields. Does writing a nonfiction book really boost the earning power of a professional? The study was conducted by RainToday.com, a company that helps professionals market their services. While this study does not focus on our realm of writing fiction and marketing novels, it yielded interesting findings that are applicable to us.

Finding #1: Authors who invested their own money in promoting a book saw definite payoff in the sales of that book. Fifty-one percent of the 200 authors who took part in the survey used their own funds for marketing, with the median investment being $4,500. Usually these monies were used to hire an outside public relations firm. This is, of course, in addition to what the publishing houses were doing to market the book (which in many cases can be very little). The average response (50th percentile) found that authors who purchased the outside marketing help sold 10,000 copies of their book, compared to 4,500 copies of books sold by authors who did not invest in marketing. Moneywise, this meant $55,000 worth of royalties versus $25,000 in royalties. (Keep in mind these books are often hardbacks selling at $25 a pop.) The lower and higher selling percentiles found about the same thing—i.e., more than double the sales and royalties of extra-marketed books than those without the marketing investment.

Finding #2: The most effective way to promote a book was through the Internet. Book signings were way down the list. No surprise to me on the book signing thing. But I was surprised about the Internet. Clearly, this is where folks are hanging out these days. And when you think about it, a lot of Internet marketing doesn’t even cost anything. Although google ads, amazon.com ads, etc. certainly can cost.

Finding #3: Sort of an oh-by-the-way finding. The bigger the publisher, the higher the sales for a book. (I would guess that in general, larger houses mean more marketing $$ in the budget for a book.) An average author at a major publisher sold nearly 11,000 more copies than an author with a small press. Authors at mid-sized houses sold only slightly less than those at larger houses. Self-published authors sold way less.

Would these findings be about the same if the survey had focused on marketing novels? I know of novelists who’ve hired outside firms and haven’t seen such returns on investment as this survey shows. However, I’m only thinking of a few cases, which hardly make for a good survey. And no doubt, the most important ingredient is—who is the outside firm, and how good are they at what they do?

In many ways it’s easier to market nonfiction. Easier to find hooks for radio interviews, for example. Also easier to find clustered target audiences. A nonfiction book can be advertised in a trade magazine and hit a strong target market. (In fact, trade magazine advertising was the #2 most effective way to market, after the Internet.) But it's harder to find a magazine with a built-in strong market for a certain kind of novel. Stay-at-home moms may read Good Housekeeping, but what percentage would be interested in mom-lit fiction?

The other thing this article doesn’t note is how much the publishing houses were spending on marketing in the first place. Sometimes the house will spend its own money for the outside publicist. Of course, even then, it’s all relative, depending upon how much the firm is being paid to publicize the book.

Bottom line, this survey reminds us that publishing is a business. It’s typical for people who want to start a business to have a marketing budget. Yet in writing books, authors so often don’t consider any marketing budget at all. If you look again at the average findings of this survey, you’ll see that, in general, authors spent about 8% of their earnings on extra marketing ($4,500 out of $55,000 royalty earnings).

Something to think about.

9 comments:

relevantgirl said...

This is really encouraging to me because I always felt my hands were tied by living in France. I can say I've used the Internet a lot this time around. I'm curious to see what will become of it.

Gina Holmes said...

Fascinating information. Thanks for sharing it.

Jason said...

I don't know what kind of trade magazine "Violet Dawn" could be marketed in. Definitely not the hot tub periodical!

Stuart said...

Cool info. Marketing is one of those wierd nebulous areas that it always seems hard to pin down what is effective and what is just wasted energy & money.

johnny dangerous said...

The advice I've heard among Mystery Writers of America folks is to spend most of your advance in promotion, minus a little for celebrating the contract with a nice dinner out!

William G. said...

Not sure where that fell in the RainToday.com polling data, but judging by The Apprentice last night, flyers on windshields is definitely NOT a productive way to spend those marketing dollars.

Wayne Scott said...

Brandilyn, thanks for this. I've been trying to persuade my wife that if the time comes when I get published, we should spend a good chunk of my advance on marketing. She wants a new deck on the house. :) Of course, I sort of have to actually pitch to an editor an finish the book first. Details...

Sally Bradley said...

Wayne, I hear ya! I printed out today's post and it's going in my marketing file. My husband wants to pay off the car and take a vacation should my book (which my agent just started on its publisher rounds--grin!) sell. Brandilyn, thanks! I think I'll have him read this as the opener for my honey-here's-why-I-need-x-number-of-dollars-for -marketing talk.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

I too, printed this out to save with my marketing file. This is great info. Thanks Brandilyn!