Marketing by Degrees

Blanche DuboisIn A Streetcar Named Desire, Blanche DuBois tells the kind hearted doctor, who takes her away to the mental hospital after her breakdown, that she always depended on the kindness of strangers.  The same could be said of many publishers.  The typical book marketing plan is mostly aimed at getting the title into the bookstore or library channel.  Certainly good exposure, but it comes at a huge cost.  The cost involves inventory, discounts, promotions and returns.  The clutter in these channels is huge.  Often this means paying more for less attention.   For independent publishers with smaller marketing budgets, this can result in financial loss.

Why not depend, at least initially, on the kindness of those closest to you – in a social network sense.  Think of every customer as being so many degrees of separation from the author.  According to current thinking in network science, there are at most 5 or 6 degrees of separation between any two individuals.  If your objective is to sell books, you could organize your marketing efforts by degrees of separation from the author.  The first degree of separation might include friends, family, colleagues or others in the author’s extended contact list.  It would probably be relatively inexpensive to find and market to these prospects with a good probability that they might purchase the book.  The first degree of separation can represent a test of sorts.  Sales are via pre-order; inventory is scaled precisely to demand. 

The next degree would be generated from those individuals – via word of mouth.  As Chris Webb recently pointed out, word of mouth is still important.  In fact, the connectedness brought about by the Internet and all the new social media technologies makes word of mouth buzz ultimately important.  If demand is weak at this stage, the book may not sell no matter what promotions are applied.  More promotional  and marketing resources are required to move beyond this stage.  However, if this initial marketing has been successful, there may be enough profits to cover the extra costs associated with marketing to perfect strangers. 

Marketing by degrees of separation leverages the connectedness of the Internet age.  It may also become more important as the bookstore channel assumes a less prominent role in overall book sales

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2 Responses to Marketing by Degrees

  1. Sorry if this is a little off topic but I was wondering how you come up with ideas on what to write about? It seems like you put a lot of work into this site and I was just wondering how you do it. As a website owner myself I often experience writers block. How do you get past it?

    • orionwell says:

      Hi Sarah –
      It is easy to hit a wall with blogging. Here are some tips you can use to beat the block.
      1. Get an RSS feed reader and point it to sites that talk about things in your topic domain. This often provides great ideas for a blog post. With the RSS reader you avoid the site surfing – the posts comes to you.
      2. Interview people pertinent to your topic. I have found that people are very willing to do interviews for a blog. Send them 8-10 questions via e-mail. When they send back their responses, the post is practically written for you.
      3. Invite people to be guest bloggers; perhaps writing one post per month.
      4. Try writing reviews of books that relate to your subject area. These are generally easier to write than other types of posts.
      5. Do a Links of the Day type of post. This is basically a list of 4-5 sites that you find really interesting and think your readers might, too. You can write a one sentence annotation of each link to give them an idea of what they will find when they click on it.
      6. Do a “5 things . . .” type of post. This is a post that has a title like “5 Things You Should Always Do when [fill in the blank].” It is just a simple bulleted list. People tend to like these becasuse they are useful and easy to read.
      7. Go to YouTube and add a video that highlights what you are talking about. The maxim that a picture is worth a thousand words definitely applies in blogging.
      8. If you blog about things that are topical or in the news, set up a Google alert based on a useful you did about that topic. Then Google will automatically rerun the search and e-mail you the results based on a frequency you specify. You can get multiple posts by continuing to update a story with the new information you get from the alerts.
      9. Monitor your topic or story on Twitter. You will often find new twists to a story, people you can interview or links to sites that provide great information you can incorporate into your posts.

      Anyway, hope this helps.
      – Tom

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