18 Feb Does Publicity Sell Books? A Case Study
The other day our new book, Mummy and Mumma Get Married was featured in a great piece in The Guardian. The article was shared over 3000 times. I posed the question of my friends (an educated, book-loving group) on Facebook, ‘How many copies do you think we sold of the book from our website as a result?’. Answers varied from zero (thanks friends!) to 789. I’ll spare you the suspense. The correct answer was 13.
I didn’t have particularly high expectations, but even still that seemed a low number. It’s a good job it’s not our only avenue for sales!
A couple of years ago, we had great coverage of our title The 50 Book in Sunday Life magazine. This resulted in around 35 book sales from our website that day – three times as many as for ‘Mummy and Mumma Get Married’. It was still a very modest result.
Fact one: Sunday Life is a hard copy publication with a huge circulation.
Fact two: There are more 50 year-old-women in Australia than there are lesbian mums.
In relation to fact one, my experience suggests that there’s a better direct sales outcome for a book featured in print than online. This makes sense. It’s one thing to share a piece (and sharing is greatly valued, too, in terms of creating buzz and awareness) but it’s another to take action, particularly when action = spending money.
It’s better to see online publicity as solely an awareness-raising exercise, with purchase happening elsewhere. We had record traffic to our website that day – that’s a great thing. And we were approached by other media wanting to talk to us about the book – also great. Publicity is a rolling stone and it’s important to keep the momentum going.
But, it got me thinking, do you ever buy a book immediately on reading about it online? Actually, I do. I did this just last week when I purchased Panthers and the Musuem of Fire after reading about its Stella Prize long listing. But I don’t do it often and I have to be motivated. Literary fiction is my love, closely followed by supporting Australian small publishers and Australian women authors – all those boxes were ticked for me in my purchase of Panthers and the Museum of Fire. Plus, I was able to buy this book with one-click on Amazon. I didn’t have to fumble about for my credit card late at night. It’s really important to make purchasing easy for customers.
Onto fact two, the audience. The obvious audience for this book is lesbian mums. I wonder how many there are in Australia? Somewhere between 5,000 – 10,000 would be my educated guess. During our crowdfunding campaign, we had a great piece in Mamamia. I was so excited and sat back waiting for the pledges to roll in. We got maybe a handful. The publicity had other fantastic benefits, acting as an invaluable trigger to getting other coverage, which saw better $$ results for us. Towards the end of the campaign, we finally got a Facebook and Twitter shout-out from the team at Australian Marriage Equality, and that was where our money came from – the lesbian mums. That’s great. This book is for kids with lesbian mums, for sure.
But it’s not just for them. Read the comments on The Guardian article and you’ll hear how strongly some heterosexual people feel about supporting this book. Here’s one example:
“I am in a perfectly conventional straight marriage, and I would read this story to my daughter for sure. I have no idea whether it will turn out that she’s straight or gay, cisgender or transgendered or what – but I want her to know that there are all kinds of normal out there and no consensual loving relationship is worth more or less than any other.
If anything, I feel like this kind of thing should be more relevant to straight parents, because it gives us a way to introduce different kinds of families to our kids in a way that doesn’t make value judgements, put words in anybody’s mouths for them …”
A friend of mine who guessed the highest number, 789, qualified his guess with the remark “Guardian readers”. Yes, you’d think so! I also thought that more of those “straight allies” – who read The Guardian, support marriage equality, and want their children to live in a world where diversity is celebrated – would have bought the book. But maybe, now that they know about it, they will buy it next time they are in a bookshop. Refer to point one about publicity driving awareness and purchase happening elsewhere.
I’m a big one for ‘learnings’, and one of the best things to come out of this for me is the insight that we need to reach straight parents. We need them to care enough to buy and read this book to their kids. So that will be the focus of our publicity efforts for the next little while. Any thoughts on how we do this, please send them our way!