Sunday, December 9, 2018

Hypothetical Book Marketing Questions Worth Exploring

I recently enjoyed combing through the New York Times Bestseller, What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions, by Randall Munroe.  It made me think about so many scenarios and possibilities – even improbabilities, and allowed my imagination to run wild.  There could be an application here to book marketing.

This book poses wild questions – and then attempts to answer them.  Need some examples?  It asks:

·         If everyone on the planet stayed away from each other for a couple of weeks, wouldn’t the common cold be wiped out?

·         How many Legos bricks would be needed to build a bridge from London to New York City?

·         Would a nuclear bomb, launched into the eye of a super hurricane, break the storm up?

·         What is the maximum number of different English-language Tweets that could be created?

You get the picture.  Now, let’s take that approach to book marketing and publicity and ask some fantastic questions:

·         What if we added up all of the words used to type up press releases to promote books for a year – how many 60,000–word books would they add up to?

·         What if we recruited and trained an army of 1,000 people to write a book on one specific topic?

·         What if you didn’t allow for any new books to be published for a month?

·         Could something happen that causes mass blindness or mass illiteracy?  How would it impart the book industry?

·         What if all of the books published this past year were recycled – every single copy of every title?  How many trees would it save?

·         What if you marketed your book every waking minute of a 16-hour day for a week – what would happen?

·         How many books could get media coverage from a newspaper, television show, radio show, or major blog or podcast if these media outlets were not allowed to cover the same books?

·         How many books does the New York Times Book Review receive each day for review consideration – and how many actually get reviewed?

·         How many books has the average librarian read?

·         How many books can the average person read or hear about in a year?

·         What if we all read the same book?

The list of questions can go on. But what if we can take a different approach to how books are marketed or sold?  What if we can create a more efficient system of how books are reviewed – and how those reviews are disseminated?  What if we all took a week-long vacation and spent that time only reading books?

We need to question what, how, and why we do what we do when it comes to writing, editing, selling, and promoting books.  There needs to be a better way than our current system.

The flaws are obvious:
·         The market is flooded by new books but it lacks a fair and accurate method of determining which books are worthy of our attention.
·         Though self-publishing no longer requires writers to seek permission from gatekeepers to have access to readers, there’s also no obligation or fail-safe to ensure a book is accurate, edited well, or even well-written. 
·         There are more books circulating than the reading public can handle, leaving most books with very few readers.
·         How do we ensure books that need to be written and published on topics that have been ignored or under examined get created?
·         How do we make sure truly great books receive the attention they deserve, regardless of who the author or publisher is, and regardless of the marketing budget available?

The publishing world tackles simple questions right now:
·         How do I advertise a book?
·         How do we get authors to tweet about their books?
·         Which media outlets should we approach for media coverage?
·         When shall we create a website to promote a book?

What if…
·         Authors and publishers followed good advice and the best-practices standards of successful authors?
·         Writers stopped fearing the media and marketed their books better?
·         Publishers actually put some support behind their books rather than leaving authors to fend for themselves?
·         The nation could improve literacy levels, allowing for many more books to be sold and read?
·         Writers honestly assessed their books in the face of popular or award-winning, critically acclaimed books, and make a decision to not release a book until it truly matches the high standards set by others?
·         Authors edited down their books to make them 10% shorter – but just as effective as they originally planned – so that we can read more books?

So many questions, so few answers.  It is fun to explore some of this stuff while other questions simply can’t be answered – nor should they be.  But we need to raise issues and ask questions – even wild ones – if we are to collectively move forward and make the book industry stronger and the book marketplace more efficient.


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Brian Feinblum’s insightful views, provocative opinions, and interesting ideas expressed in this terrific blog are his alone and not that of his employer or anyone else. You can – and should -- follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels much more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2018. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s Independent.  This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. Also named by as a "best resource.” He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo America and participated in a PR panel at the Sarah Lawrence College Writers Institute Conference.

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