Is book publishing a zero-sum game, where a book sale or media placement for one book means that another book won’t be sold or get a media placement?
Some thing’s are zero-sum when it comes to books. For instance, when you look at a specific media outlet, it has limited space or airtime to dedicate to books. Take a TV show like Good Morning America. It’s on several hundred days a year, several hours a day. It can only have so many guests on, and only a certain number will be authors, so yes, if they interview author X today it means others can’t get that time slot. Radio operates the same way. Print has general limitations, mostly based on advertising. A newspaper or magazine doesn’t publish at a fixed size. It can vary in length from issue to issue, but generally, there are only so many books reviewed by a publication and only so many books mentioned in off-the-book-page stories.
Online is where there seems to be unlimited possibilities, but even that has a limitation, at least when it comes to how much time people will have to consume all of this information. One can do endless blog postings and be interviewed by a thousand websites but readers only have so many days in the hour to absorb the media.
So, suffice to say, there are limits to how much exposure all books can receive, and there are limits to how much readers can consume of the media. But there are fewer limits on what can be done for a specific book.
Sales, too, have limits. With so much out there for people to buy – DVDs, CDs, downloads, streams, newspapers, magazines, movies, plays, and concerts – there is a lot of competition for the entertainment dollar. Books are not only competing with things that cost money, but that cost time. Plus there’s a lot of free stuff out there – blogs, podcasts, book giveaways, newsfeeds, websites, etc. In many ways, book sales are a zero-sum game. People can only buy so many books, based on time and money, and so they are always comparing options and choosing one book over another, a book over something else, and something else over a book.
Perhaps we need to promote and market books with all of this in mind. Sometimes we act as if in a vacuum, like all eyes should be on our book even though there’s a world of competition out there. By taking the competition into consideration, you begin to think like the media and consumer. Start to see yourself through their eyes. What are they looking for and how do you compare to the myriad options?
The way to expand your ability to reach more people may depend on you finding media outlets that are new and growing or to find readers beyond our borders. Look to other countries for sales. The United States is saturated with books. If we can turn the tens of millions of illiterates into readers we would have a bigger marketplace, but eventually more books would fill that new void. Your mission is clear: compete where there’s less competition and when competing against others, see the world through the eyes of those you want to impress.
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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2015
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