In a world where purchasers often need to see a product as many as twenty times before they decide to purchase it, is there anything an author can do, in terms of marketing, that is bad for their book?
I pose the question, even though I don’t entirely have an answer. I am leaning toward yes, but first let me tell you why I posed the question. An author I know told me something they were planning to do to market their book. I thought it was the stupidest thing I’d ever heard. (And, NO, I won’t tell you what it was.) While I can be fairly blunt, I’m not blunt enough to blurt out that I think an idea is completely idiotic. I did, however, ask, “Do you really think that will be effective?”
The author’s response. “Can’t hurt, can it?”
Well, that is the 64-million-dollar question. Like a lot of people, I’ve listed my book on sites that don’t have the hugest reach, figuring that it might help, but even if it doesn’t, it can’t hurt. I mean, if some readers need to see a book twenty times before acting on it, that means being in as many places as possible is a plus.
Yet, does the virtual equivalent of standing on the corner with a sandwich board sign actually help? Or, the better question is, does it help enough to cover your outlay of time and energy? Or should your time and energy be devoted to strategies that have been proven more effective? Should you use your time and energy to write another book or build your mailing list? Those are both proven avenues for improving book sales and building your author platform.
The idea of “thinking outside the box” is popular with people hoping “outside the box” strategies will help them strike gold (literally or figuratively). However, the reason people use “inside the box” strategies is because they’re proven to work. They don’t want to waste their time trying strategies with low or no effectiveness. Outside-the-box strategies often just don’t work. That’s why they’re outside the box.
In some instances, going for strategy that is really “outside the box” can hurt. I recently read an article about a man who decided to create a website with a controversial proposition, in hopes of boosting book sales. The strategy was outside the box, but also offended people who thought the site was about a real person, and then left bad reviews on the author’s Amazon book page. Now, that’s an extreme example of an outside-the-box strategy going wrong.
Most cases of strategies that run “outside the box” are not going to end up directly hurting your book sales or reviews. Tossing your book onto a site with a paltry readership will probably not hurt your book on its own. Will other strategies or sites on the fringes hurt? Again, probably not. But, cumulatively, wasting time on ineffective things does hurt your writing career, because you’re spending time that you could be writing on things that aren’t helping you.
I would say the concept of effective frequency is a good one. Getting your book out there is a good idea. But the key to that phrase is effective. If you’re pressed for time, evaluate which strategies are most effective and start with those. If they’re not working, don’t immediately say, “these strategies don’t work.” If they’re tried-and-true strategies, examine how you’ve executed them to see if you’re doing them properly. If you’re not, then reformulate your plan to execute them correctly. If you’re doing it right, then you may want to consider some outside-the-box strategies. But, don’t devote so much time to pie-in-the-sky practices that you’re not pushing forward with more effective methods.