How Exactly Do You Sell A Book These Days?

Also Available In MP3 and Kindle   

Also Available In MP3 and Kindle

Books demand a considerable amount of time and attention; so how do you go about trying to sell them?  Traditionally, publishers send authors on book tours to generate word of mouth interest, which can be very effective.  Then again, the life of letters hardly prepares someone for a guest shot on Oprah.  Something as fundamental as book cover design certainly encourages potential readers to pick one up and consider it further.  And in the case of industry heavy-hitters like James Patterson, publishers occasionally turn to television ads, usually with unfortunate results.

But in the past month, I’ve come across two deeply-engaging websites that do an incredibly effective job of selling books.  Photographer Andrew Zuckerman has a new celebrity-interview powered book out entitled Wisdom and a tremendous multi-media site to promote it.  Photographer Phillip Toledano created a slightly less-sophisticated but deeply moving site chronicling the final days of his ninety-three year old father, a documentary project which will eventually become a book.  

Both authors are younger (thirty one and forty one, respectively), both are photographers, and both provide generous amounts of their work free to the public in this context.  The online medium fits their work incredibly well, though the challenge still remains to publicize the link and drive traffic to the site.  In both cases, I followed forwarded links, an admittedly far less precise media tool but one that carries considerable weight as recommendation.

Then again, if this is the alternative, less precise is just fine…

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

A Visual Metaphor For Modern Marketing

picture-11One really nice perk of a career in advertising is free music; record labels send out CD’s promoting tracks and artists hoping we will use them in commercials, thus launching their artists to a music-buying public.  Every week, anywhere from four to ten CD’s arrive at my desk.  Which is kinda great. This photograph showcases maybe four months worth of free music that I’ve collected in the trunk of my car with the intention to eventually give all of them a listen and find some cool new music.   Because I know that somewhere in those thousands of tracks, I will find my next ten favorite songs ever.

However, finding those specific ten songs demands a lot of time.  Sifting through these thousands of tracks will require more than a few hours–it will demand weeks.  Once you fall behind on this, the task seems to grow exponentially.  It’s kind of like subscribing to The New Yorker–you inevitably fall behind but you know the writing’s so good that can’t just toss them in the recycling bin.  Which is the issue: with all of this raw product, the real value resides in the curation, not simply the ownership, of these assets.

This mirrors a fundamental challenge of the internet: while most of us share a tendency for collecting, few possess a natural propensity for archiving.  The abundance of information and content means there’s always another post to read, another link to follow, another tweet to retweet.

Regarding the CD’s, my best solution–aside from arranging frequent long car trips–would be to enlist a trusted friend who knows music to tell me what tracks she thinks are great.  Which is nothing other than recommendation marketing; the stock in trade of word-of-mouth advertising companies.  The smart folks at Zocalo Group cite studies that show 92% of Americans rate WOM of friends, family, and others as the best source of ideas and information (up from 67% in 1997) and the #1 driver of technology or services purchase decisions.

In a crowded world thick with potential experiences and opportunities, making informed choices efficiently isn’t simply appealing, it’s essential.  Because even when you get something for free, the time required to experience it commands a premium.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79