Trying to play Moneyball with Book Promotion

The publishing business is pretty strange. There’s plenty of money being made, tons of books being sold, and if you scratch the surface, you’ll see that no one really understands what works and what doesn’t.

For real, if you go to a bunch of writers– successful ones!– and ask, “How does one sell more books?” you tend to get a bunch of shrugs. You will get that occasional person who talks like a marketing guru, but more often than not, their advice is not particularly useful.

This is, in part, because the ground is always shifting, tragedy-of-the-commons style. If someone comes up with a Great New Way to promote books, soon TONS OF PEOPLE are all doing that same Great New Way, and it’s just so much screaming into the hurricane.

There’s also the factor that book promotion just feels like ugly business. None of us know what’s right, but we do know when someone’s doing it wrong, and it stands out. Badly. For example: book trailers. There was a period when everyone was trying them, and most of them were terrible. Mostly because they were made by people who didn’t know the language of film or the language of commercials. Too long and used that time badly.

Is there some Great New Secret, some perfect formula to get readers interested, to get books in their hands? I don’t think there is, but maybe– as how the Moneyball idea changed baseball– there’s something out there that requires a line of thinking from a different industry completely. Maybe there is, and I don’t have the mindset to see it.

I’ve got a friend who talks about books having “stickiness”, that when someone reads it, they “stay” in the book. They want to live in there, think about it all the time, tell others about it. And, he thinks, if you get enough people to “stick” into a book, they create that natural marketing machine for you.

And maybe he’s right? It’s an interesting idea, but right now I don’t know how one might implement it. So, for now, like everyone else in this business, we’re throwing things against the wall and seeing what sticks.

(Which, for the record, is a stupid way to check if your pasta is done. Just eat it, that’ll tell you. No need to throw it against the wall.)

(And maybe that’s a metaphor for this whole endeavor.)

All right, back to work. Do good things, people.

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