Thursdays with Dan: The Science of Book Publicity

By Dan Smith, Founder and CEO

Book marketing is in many ways a straightforward endeavor: Get as much media exposure for an author and book as possible. Certainly, there are many techniques, strategies, and some tricks of our tradecraft – even “secret” tactics unique to Smith Publicity – that we guard carefully! Along with this, we’ve established terminology that’s more scientific-sounding than you might expect. Here are two examples; I’ll post more in the future.

Conversion Ratio

This term applies to two fundamental elements of book publicist pitching. When a publicist secures interest from a media outlet, blogger, podcast, etc., we call this a “hit.” Getting media interested in our clients is our main priority; it’s what we are paid to do.

As great as getting interest and “hits” is, the next step in the process is having this hit turn into a “run.” A run is actual coverage – a review, interview, feature story, mention, article, author profile, etc. When a hit turns into a run, it “converts” from interest to coverage.

Much of what happens after we secure media interest is out of our control. We can’t make a producer, editor, reviewer, etc., write about a book or author or interview an author. What we can do is follow-up. Follow-ups are crucial for several reasons.

Because media are pitched so often (some top show producers and editors receive hundreds of pitches and books every day!) that follow-ups can serve to simply – but effectively – remind them about a pitch or book we sent to them. In addition, our book publicists follow-up to offer additional information and suggest new story or interview ideas. We “encourage” coverage as much as we can.

So, “conversion ratio” is the percentage of hits that convert to runs. We analyze this frequently. While we have tried to develop formulas with predictive ability in this regard, variances in genre, author personality, and other elements make it impossible. We do, however, maintain records of conversion ratios, and use it as a one of the metrics of our book marketing campaign evaluation.

The Cumulative Effect

This primarily relates to radio interviews. Some authors get frustrated when they do a radio interview then jump onto Amazon and wait to see sales soar, only to see negligible or no impact. Other times, a single interview can significantly boost sales. This is again something that is very hard to predict.

One fact we have determined is that while a single interview may, in some cases, not have a noticeable impact, the more radio interviews completed boosts book sales.

Picture a map of the United States. An author does one interview in Miami, and places a pin to show that interview. In addition, a concentric circle is noted showing the broadcast coverage area of that station. The the author does an interview in Denver, places the pin and marks the circle of the station’s reach. Then more interviews are completed, with more pins and more concentric circles of reach. The map fills up.

This is a fact: The more people you reach through interviews, the more positive impact on book sales. One interview may not have impact, but as you add to the “map,” the number of people reached increases exponentially, virtually guaranteeing that a percentage of people who hear you will, in fact, buy your book. 

It’s pretty simple. Let’s say that the percentage of people who hear about your book on the radio and buy it is only a measly .01%. A tiny fraction. If a very small local radio show is typically listened to by 20,000 people, based on this percentage you may sell 20 books as a result. Not bad, but nothing to be thrilled about. But as you add even very small radio stations you were interviewed on to the map, the sales numbers grow, and grow. Get a nationally syndicated interview, sales can really jump.

This is the Cumulative Effect.

It must be noted that, again, results of interviews vary wildly. An author can do 30 radio interviews with negligible sales impact, and another can do five interviews and sell a nice amount. It’s once more where variable come in: How good is the author on the air? What type of book is it?

So there you have a few snippets of the “science” of book marketing!