New Podcast Episode: Digital Strategy and Optimization with Pubvendo’s Josh Schwartz

On the latest podcast episode, Pubvendo’s Josh Schwartz dives into digital strategy and optimization by discussing how data can inform language, advertising, audience engagement, and platform growth. 

Olivia: Welcome to another episode of All Things Book Marketing. Today I’m with my cohost Corinne Moulder and we have special guest Josh Schwartz. Joshua Schwartz is the founder and CEO of Pubvendo, a disruptive digital agency for book publishers and authors, where he is responsible for digital campaign methodology, strategy, and execution. A twelve year veteran of the book publishing industry, he has previously held business development and product development roles at Aptara and Jouve. He holds a bachelor’s degree in American literature from George Mason University and a master’s degree from Georgetown University. Hi, Josh, welcome to the show.

Josh: Thanks for having me.

Olivia: Of course. And congratulations on five years in business with Pubendo, that’s a big feat

Josh: That’s right. A lot of book campaigns in those five years.

Corinne: No doubt, no doubt. Josh, could you tell us a little bit more about your work and what you do to help authors grow their brands?

Josh: Sure. So I think the way to understand Pubvendo is we’re a digital marketing agency, not unlike other digital marketing agencies. We do a lot of the same stuff. Things like Facebook ads or Amazon ads or optimization of owned media assets like Amazon pages or websites. But the big distinction is we only work with book publishers and authors. And in that regard, we really do believe we’ve curated the best in class owned media, earned media, and paid media opportunities for online and social media. And in that regard, we’re using those tools to help an author grow their platform, which could be more social media followers, could be email signups. We’re helping them sell more books. We’re helping them use their books to get things like speaking opportunities, or credentials in their books as best sellers or award-winning. We’re trying to get them really from whatever level they are today, we’ll call it level zero if it’s a debut indie memoirist, for example, and get them to level one or two; or in the case of somebody who’s kind of already got a platform, get them from level five to level six. That’s what we like to do.

Corinne: Yeah. And we love partnering with you, Josh, your team is incredible. And on the campaigns that we have worked on together, whether they’re starting at a zero or they’re ramped up to a higher level, we know that you start with the in-depth digital audit, which I feel is a term a lot of people are using these days: the digital audit. So 

can you give us a little context into what that is and why it’s so important to have that as a basis before moving forward?

Josh: Sure. So this is critical. This phase, we call market analysis, and it’s about a two to four week process that we go through before we start any campaign activities. There’s kind of two ways you could go about doing this, right? If you wanted to set up a Facebook ad campaign, one way is you could guess, right? What your creative should look like, or how you should configure your targeting. Some folks in the industry colloquially refer to that as a “spray and pray,” just kind of put it out there and see what works. The other way you can do it, which is the way that we do it, is you measure – kind of measure twice, cut once. Or the other way I like to describe it is the difference between going up to the plate to take an ad bat and sort of swinging at the ball, versus going up to the plate, pointing where you’re going to hit it, and then taking the swing at the ball. So what we’re doing in that market analysis phase is really trying to answer two really critical questions, the first being who is the audience for the book, by which we don’t really meet the persona level. We really mean at the data level: demographically, geographically, psychographically, or the brand affinities, media affinities, influencers, obviously things like age, gender, occupation, income, geographic distribution by country, city, and state. We’re going to pull about 8,000 of those data points, and that’s going to get distilled not only into our social ad targeting parameters, but it’s going to give us a lot of clues about where this audience hangs out online so that we can reach them there.

And then the second really critical question we’re trying to answer when we’re doing this digital audit that you described is we’re trying to understand how this audience will find the book we’re working on online: where are they one click removed from finding out about the book we’re trying to market to them. And we ascertain that primarily through comps, where we’ll establish a comp set of comparable authors more so than competitive authors, who are kind of substantially similar in terms of subject matter or genre or audience. And then we’re going to pull a lot of data on how this audience finds them via search or via referral websites or via social media, or what kind of social media content this audience really responds to with engagement, because each one of those data touch points is going to inform how we are then going to engage that audience within that digital path of discovery once you begin our campaign. And, how are we going to optimize our media essence for discoverability, and what social influencers are this audience following that we can reach out to to get a book review on TikTok or Instagram, for example. And what is the best way to target them with what kinds of creative through social media ads or Amazon ads or whatever it might be. So, yeah, it’s really mission critical. I don’t think there’s been a project we’ve worked on at all in the last five years that didn’t start with that very extensive market analysis phase.

Olivia: So I actually have a couple of follow-up questions from that and I’m kind of battling in my head over which one to go with first, but lots of data comes in these reports. And I actually just saw my first one on the campaign we’re working on together right now, but with everything that comes in that digital audit, of all the data that informs and influences an author’s brand and reach, what are some of the key metrics that the author should be specifically aware of and really key in on?

Josh: Sure, I think there’s a two-part answer to that. The first is what are the metrics they should be aware of relative to their current audience, people who are currently following them like social media followers or email subscribers. The other would be cold audience members. How do you reach people who are not already familiar with your book or author brand? When it comes to existing audience, there’s actually a really critical metric that I think is easily lost in the shuffle, and that is the pace and quality with which you post social media content. So maybe you have a Facebook page with a thousand followers or maybe 10,000 or maybe 50,000 followers. You can read plenty of stuff online that says you’ve got to post three times a day or 20 times a day. And that’s not bad in certain cases if your audience is expecting that amount of content.

The better approach, though, is to publish content more strategically and specifically to publish content that can get good engagement, because if you just publish a bunch of content on an ongoing basis and your followers are not engaging with it, it really hurts your page’s reach. You might only get 5% or so of your followers to see any given organic social media posts if your page has very low engagement. Whereas if you have only published engagement content, so content about you, or about your books (everybody likes a picture of an author with a dog), then that would actually increase your page’s performance. Because if you get good engagement, now maybe 20% of your followers will see any given piece of content that you publish. So that’s the first one. The second one is maybe a little bit more tangley: to understand who your audience actually is and where they hang out online. But in both cases, I think you can probably zero in very much on engagement – organic engagement for your page or paid engagement for your ads. Those are both going to be indicators of how well you’ve targeted your audience and how well they’re responding to your message.

Olivia:  Yeah. It’s funny you actually mentioned the dog. I have an author right now that’s using a pen name and doesn’t want an author photo, so I’ve been sending around a picture of their bulldog and everyone’s obsessed, everyone in the office, everyone out of the office. The things that we expect to take off aren’t always what the metrics say, or they’re exactly what the metrics say. It’s different for each person, but it’s funny that you mentioned that.

Josh: Dogs are winners. Dogs have been selling things like magazines for decades, or beer, or whatever. Watch a Superbowl ad and it’s either got a horse or a dog in it.

Olivia:  So you mentioned SEO (search engine optimization). I’m going to skip around a little bit, but how can SEO be adapted and used to boost visibility and discoverability for books on other sites like Google, Amazon, Goodreads and more, not just social media and website?

Josh: The most critical owned media asset that one could optimize for discoverability with search engine optim

ization is your website. And that’s partially because when it comes to search in these ecosystems, things like Google search versus Amazon search, most of the time when people are searching for something on Amazon, they actually already know what they’re looking for. I think the most recent number I saw is something like 90% of searches on Amazon are for the name of a product, or in the case of a book it’s for the book title or the author name. If you’re trying to optimize for discoverability on Amazon, it’s a lot different than optimizing your website, which might be based on things like keywords or backlinks or the presence of video.

Those are the lowest hanging fruit that you can optimize for your website: put a good video on your homepage, make it a minute and a half or two minutes long, the idea here being that if people come to your website and view maybe 30% of that video or 20%, that’s kind of good enough to signal to Google that this is a good video on a good website. So that gives you a pretty large search credibility bump from Google. In the case of Amazon, it’s a lot less about things like your keywords, although I think there’s probably a school of thought out there who might disagree with me about that. But from my view and in practice from the campaigns that we run, what really moves the needle with Amazon optimization is just having all of the assets present: your author profile, being in good categories, having editorial praise, if you have an A plus listing or access to that unit, using that as well, and then sending traffic to the page. That’s actually what Amazon views as a well optimized page: something where all of the elements are present, and people are actually visiting it. That’s probably the two most important owned media assets you can optimize as a book publisher or an author: your website and your Amazon page.

Corinne: Thanks Josh. And without giving away any of your trade secrets, can you give us some more insight into the other places where readers live outside of Amazon, which is where everyone’s mind goes, that’s where readers live, but where else can we find them?

Josh: Amazon is where they hang out to buy books, which I think is why everybody thinks about it. When it comes to tactics, Amazon ads are definitely top performers for the potentially obvious reason that when you serve an Amazon ad to somebody on a similar book page, they’re already on Amazon ready to one-click buy something, and they’re already looking at books. I think social media has become quite critical, certainly for building an author platform. As far as which ones, it really matters a lot on the sort of demographic of your audience, as well as your subject area. But just to give a couple of examples, if you’re writing World War II history, whether historical fiction or historical nonfiction, having a Fa

cebook page and maybe even a Facebook group is going to be a great way to curate audience, because readers of that subject matter are hanging out in Facebook groups about it. So that’s one way you can find them. There’s others that would be more fitting for hanging out on Reddit threads, right? Some topics are discussed quite a bit on Reddit, so you can get some mileage there. And even beyond that, understanding what podcasts they listen to – maybe they listen to this podcast, actually. What podcast is this audience listening to, or what media are they consuming, whether it’s traditional media, or maybe there’s a really popular social media influencer. Those are the places where audiences are hanging out. They’re following influencers that are in their space. They’re on Facebook groups where they can discuss the subject matter with other people who are interested in the same subject matter. They’re on message boards like Reddit discussing these sorts of things. Those are the really critical places to think about how you can reach them where they are online.

Olivia: And I do want to jump to ads because that’s a big part of my background in the industry from marketing. I know Amazon ads are where we see a lot of the return on investment for authors looking to sell books and get copies out there. But then you also mentioned connecting with influencers everywhere that readers are following, and we can do that through advertising as well. So where should we be looking to advertise books? Let’s talk about how that copy, how that asks changes depending on where you are: Amazon versus social media versus other websites, et cetera.

Josh: I would think of it in two buckets: one of them is a paid media bucket that includes ads, the things that we would think about like Amazon ads or Facebook ads. That same bucket includes things like paid media opportunities with Booktokers or Bookstagrammers or whatever it might be. I’ll come back to that in a moment, I suppose.

And then the other bucket is thinking about where they are in the funnel. A classic example here: if you have an Amazon ad that’s being served to people who are looking at books similar to yours, you’re serving an ad to bottom funnel audience members. So your copy is very straightforward. It’s the product, it’s a praise quote, it’s maybe some incentive to get them interested in taking action. But you’re talking about somebody who is probably as close to being primed to buy as they possibly could be. Whereas if you’re running a Facebook ad or a Twitter ad or a LinkedIn ad, and you’re targeting completely cold audience members, you’re talking about people who are not even top funnel yet. They’re in a sandbox waiting to be pushed into the top of the funnel. So, your copy needs to really get them interested, it needs to give them a hook. This is where, for our social ad creative, we’re often trying to recreate the story world in the case of, say, a novel. It’s almost giving them that little social media size video trailer, if you will, a sort of movie trailer. To get them interested enough, it’s going to take more than one impression to get them further down the funnel. But once you get them closer to the bottom of the funnel is when you switch messaging to be a little bit more action driven, a “buy now” kind of thing. As far as where does this work the best, Amazon ads is, in my opinion, the number one converter for the reason I previously mentioned. I think there are other really good ones, though.

Even before looking at things like the efficacy of Facebook ads or Instagram or social media ads in general, I think look to those paid media opportunities with folks on social media, like TikTok and Instagram. A lot of them are very comfortable asking for these fees. It’s kind of that influencer marketing area that’s been kind of maturing quite a bit in the last five years or so. On TikTok in particular, they might have 10,000, 20,000 followers, and they’re very comfortable asking for $70 or $120 to do essentially a paid promotion for your book. They’ll read the book in their story or something like that for their followers. It’s really worth it. In terms of metrics like CPM rates, you’re getting a pretty good rate and you’re getting it from a trusted influencer whose audiences are going to really respond to it. And then from there, I would sort of start going into the social media ads that work very well. If it’s a book that’s nonfiction and/or a business or leadership book, Google ads can be very, very effective.

Think, for example, if you are a lawyer who’s written a book about practicing law in whatever your area is now, your book might be a marketing piece for your firm that you’re trying to run. In that same regard, Google ads, which work very well to drive traffic to a business website, might do very well for you to promote your book and your business. And the last thing I’ll mention here is there are other platforms that are paid promotion platforms, like BookBub is kind of a big example, or Goodreads has Goodreads giveaways and some other things. And a lot of these promotional engines also have ad platforms where you can, instead of doing the BookBub featured deal of the day, you’re doing BookBub ads, or instead of doing the Goodreads giveaway, you’re doing Goodreads ads. If anybody from BookBub or Goodreads is listening, my apologies, but I don’t think they work very well. They definitely don’t work as well as the feature deal of the day does, or other tactics in the same platforms or same ecosystems. I think part of the reason for that is just like the reason that Amazon has worked really well because the people who you’re serving ads to are on Amazon already to buy a book, I think a BookBub ad works less well because of the people who are visiting BookBub are actually looking for the daily deal of the day, right. They’re looking for that 99 cents ebook promo in their inbox. So just understanding why my audience is here and will an ad be an effective way to reach them within the context of this platform, whether it’s an influencer or Amazon or Goodreads or whatever it might be. I don’t know if that was sequential or not, but those are my views.

Corinne: So helpful. So helpful, Josh. And obviously, we’re rooted more in the mainstream media space, but we see the intense lean towards digital and online strategy and growth. That’s part of why we love working with you and why we are starting to really lean on surfaces like yours and Pubvendo to really enhance what we’re doing. But is there ever a case where it’s not effective or necessary, and what would those authors look to do instead?

Josh: That’s interesting. Digital has become so critical by the year that we are currently in, 2022. It was about three years ago that digital ad spend surpassed traditional ad spend for the first time. That means that these days, people advertise or spend more money on Google ads and YouTube ads and social media ads than they do on television ads and radio ads and print ads. So it’s kind of just overtaken the traditional landscape in terms of where people’s eyeballs are. That said, I think that it depends a lot on your book and your audience, so I’ll give an example here. If your book is just a lay up for social media advertising, like a book we did that was ironically enough about the ills of social media, of which there are many well-documented things, and hopefully the people who have power to change those things can actually make some progress on. But it’s a good opportunity to promote a book on social media, because the people who might be interested in reading about that topic are on social media. Whereas if you had a book that was very geographic location driven, or we’ve done several books that are about wine around the world, or Italian wines, or something like that, I think you’ll get some good mileage out of online promotion of a book like that. I think you’d get better mileage out of doing wine tastings at a local vineyard, or go on a book tour with vineyards or wine makers or whatever it might be. So the form fits the factor, I suppose. If it’s a book that lends itself well to in-person events, um, particularly if it’s about things like cooking or fashion or lifestyle, things that can be demonstrated really well in person, I think those kinds of approaches would probably work really well. Although probably not at the expense of digital, because you kind of have to be there.

Corinne: I had a feeling that would be your answer, just still helpful for listeners to hear that.

Olivia: And whether they’re promoting an event that’s offline or an ad or strategy online, they still have to have those followers to promote to. We know purchasing followers is a big no-no, don’t love that. Definitely not a standard practice. So what goes into an authentic follower growth campaign and how can our listeners get started themselves?

Josh: All right. I’ll tell you what the most authentic way to do it is, and then I will tell you how to make that job a little bit easier while still avoiding the trap you’re describing. I wish that that didn’t exist, the ability to buy fake followers, because there’s several ways that you can do it. I think it creates a misconception, because if you’re buying followers, you can buy 50,000 of them overnight and you’ll have 50,000 new followers. Any authentic method for growing followers is going to be much slower than that, unless you happen to have influencers with very large followings retweeting or reposting your content – that is an authentic way to get new followers.

But let me back up. So here’s the authentic way to get new followers, and I’ll try to avoid some cliches here. The number one most important thing when it comes to getting new social media followers is to have good content. That might sound like a very easy answer, and it probably is a little bit, but it doesn’t matter, right? If your content is not interesting to your audience, there’s nothing that you’re going to be able to do to get them interested in it, and thus interested in following you. We have tools to do this kind of an analysis, and an author could probably do it back of the napkin themselves as well. The easiest way to understand this is just to see what authors are similar to you, what kind of content are they putting on a social media that’s actually working, right? They’re getting lots of likes, comments, and shares on Facebook or Instagram. And you don’t have to copy them, but you want to understand, all right, does my audience like inspirational memes? Do they like poetry overlaid on historical art? Do they like pictures of me? That authentic self-angle, do they like infographics? Understand what your audience responds to and then create content that scratches that itch that they have for that specific kind of content. So what do you do with this content? On Instagram, you can get followers with hashtags, which is to say, if you have the right mix of hashtags, you have 20 to 25 of them, you’ll probably get a few dozen extra eyeballs, if not a few hundred extra eyeballs on that piece of content. And of course, if it happens to rank at the top of that hashtag conversation, now you’re talking about several thousand new sets of eyeballs, and you can get some followers that way.

The other thing to do is to engage other people, other accounts. To do this organically, you have to kind of be cool, right? A lot of things that you would consider to be socially intelligent in real life interactions are very similar on social media. So if you approach a new person at a party, and you just spill your entire life story on them, and all the reasons that they should be your friend, you’re going to come across a little bit desperate. We all kind of know that in real life, but when it comes to social media, we seem to forget that sometimes, and we want to pitch people with all of the reasons why our book is amazing, or everybody who read it and liked it, or every award that it won. Really, all you have to do is just be a casual, like you belong in this conversation. You DM somebody on Instagram who’s got a larger social media following than you, and just let them know what you like about their content, and why you think their audience might like your content, and, either way, keep up the great work, right? And hopefully we can work together. But if not, that’s cool too. That very short, very casual approach is going to get a lot better mileage than overwhelming people with very lengthy requests. And along the way, what you could also do is, if you understand what hashtags your audience is following, what influencers they’re following, you’re obviously going to follow the same things. Just be active, comment, that kind of a thing. All right, that’s the authentic way to do it. And if you do it that way, you’d have to spend like eight hours a day. And by the end of the year, you might have a lot of followers. Actually, you might have 8,000, 10,000 followers, but I don’t think any of us have eight hours a day to do that.

So the next best thing, while avoiding the whole purchasing followers situation, is to use an audience growth bot. There are some of these that are better than others. These days, you can Google the top ten Instagram bots, and they’ll give you some answers. What you’re looking for, though, are the ones that do it slowly and that replicate those behaviors. If you are manually going to identify the five hashtag conversations and five influencers that I know my audience is following, you want to find a bot that can target followers of those hashtags and those influencers. And what they’re going to do is exactly what you were going to do. If you were going to go watch somebody’s story or like a comment that they made or send them a message, the good bots will do the same thing, albeit be very slowly. I should probably disclaim here that there are policies about the use of bots. You should probably check before you use them, but any sort of reputable article you can Google will probably tell you the pros and cons of each one. That’s probably the most effective way to grow followers without putting an eight hour day, five days a week behind it. You can kind of set it and forget it, and now you’re just focusing on content and letting the bot do all of those manual steps for you. And at that pace, you’ll probably get a thousand new followers after three months or so. If that’s too small of a number for you, then you might have to go the other way. But I think for most authors, having a thousand new quality followers interested in the same hashtags, the same influencers, and the same subject matters is very valuable.

Olivia:  Like you said, earlier, engagement is really the most important thing.

Corinne: It’s pretty quick to see how it’s working. So Josh, just as an interesting question, and I have to say I’ve learned so much from you just in the past few months as we’ve been connecting more. What’s the optimal timing to initiate a digital ad campaign. I know I was surprised by it. And is it ever too late to get started?

Josh: The optimal timing, I think it does surprise folks. The optimal timing for starting an ad campaign for a book is a week before it comes out. And even that week of lead time is not to drive pre-orders, although anybody will take pre-orders if they come along the way. It’s just a test before you turn up your ad spend with your book launch. Test your creative strategy, test your audience targeting, test your channels. See what’s working the best so that on your pub date, and then for several months or weeks after, you can turn up the ad spend on the highest performing campaign segments. I think that’s a surprise, because I think a lot of folks think maybe you should start it months in advance.

I think the most common comparison that I’ve heard from authors in particular is to movie releases. The movie release is coming out, it’s going to be in the press months in advance. And that is also true if you are a national celebrity with millions of fans and followers: your book is also going to get several months of promotion before the pub date. But for all the rest of us, for 99% of the books out there, your powder is better saved when there is a buy button on your book, particularly if you’re relying primarily on targeting sort of lukewarm or cold audience members. They’re going to be much more likely to push a buy button than they are going to be to push a pre-order button. That doesn’t mean that you can’t do anything until the week before your pub date, because a lot of the areas that Smith focuses on, places where we’ve always had the pleasure of working alongside you, is doing a lot of that publicity outreach that you need to do two to three months before the pub date. Because if you are a much later than that, a lot of the folks who might otherwise review your book, it’s going

 to be too late for them. So there’s still a lot of value in lining up press several months before the pub date.

I would say for most of our campaigns, we are probably doing our initial market analysis about three or four months before the pub date, maybe lining up social media influencers a couple of months before the pub date, maybe some podcast outreach – usually getting second tier stuff compared to Smith. You guys get the home runs, you guys are better at the traditional stuff. And then we’re doing our ad campaigns like a week before, or even our Amazon ads. You can run your Amazon ads before your book is out, but it’s going to be a waste of money. In most cases, we’d rather wait till there’s a buy button. And to the question of, is it ever too late? Yes and no. The most typical scenario where it would be too late is if your book was offset print, and you or your publisher print several hundred or several thousand, or tens of thousands of units and distributed them across the country to traditional brick and mortar retailers. In that scenario, if you have offset print books from a publisher in particular, you have about a 17 week window to sell as many units as you can before those traditional booksellers like Barnes and Noble or whomever it might be start returning on sold inventory. It’s kind of the window that we’re always trying to put as much of a full court press into before we get to the end of it, because then you have returns to deal with, and these can in many ways be the end of a book’s life – in a certain way. Not forever. If you don’t have that, though, if you have a print on demand book, then you can start at any time.

I think what’s going to be more important in that scenario is not whether your book has been out for a year or two, but more importantly, how many reviews do you have on Amazon and how much press do you have to support the book. But if it’s a print on demand book and an e-book, then you can promote it any time because you don’t have that risk of returns and you can just sort of build it as if today were the pub date. I will just put one disclaimer in though. Typically, once it’s been a year or so, I’m usually telling authors that if they really want to put more effort into the book, the better approach would be to do something like release a second edition. Write a new foreword, maybe write a couple of new chapters. I just met with an author yesterday who wrote a book about dating and published it right before the pandemic started. There’s a lot of books that got released in March 2020 that are kind of these very sad stories because they kind of just faded into the ether because it’s just not where people’s head space was in March 2020. I’m a married man myself, but the dating world has changed quite a bit since the pandemic. So my advice to her was to release a new edition. You get a splashy dating expert advice influencer to write a new foreword for you, write a few new chapters about what the post COVID dating world looks like, put a new book cover image on it, and you kind of have a new book as far as audience members are concerned. That’s what I’d recommend outside of that one-year window. Otherwise, you’re pretty fine in that one year window, especially with print on demand.

Olivia: Great. That’s really helpful. Thank you for that. Throughout this interview, you’ve actually hit on a lot of the points that we talk about in a lot of our episodes, those key pieces of advice we’re giving: consistency, engagement, all of those things that we’re talking to our office about all the time. I guess it’s an industry hazard. You start using those words constantly. So I wanted to ask what your favorite piece of advice is to give authors, whether or not you give it frequently.

Josh: Sure. Okay. I’m going to give you a few pieces of advice and then, you know, we’re obviously all book nerds here so I’m going to tell you what my favorite books to recommend to authors are also. My favorite piece of advice is that the book publishing industry in the United States in particular is kind of notoriously opaque, right? It’s kind of a black box to people who are on the outside of it. And I think that that creates an unintended misconception that it’s very easy. So the number one piece of advice I typically want to give to the authors is not to boil the ocean and to set realistic goals. It’s actually very similar advice to what you might give a high school sophomore who is starting to think about college. You know, it’s not uncommon. I certainly suffered from this many years ago. You can easily adopt this mentality of, oh, it’s Harvard or bust. I’m going to Harvard. And if I don’t get into Harvard, I’m not going to college. There’s nothing better. That’s the only path that I can define as being a successful path. And I can say that now, and hopefully most of the listeners, if not all of the listeners, can hear that and we can laugh a little bit at ourselves if we ever thought that way, because you live and you learn and that’s just not true. It’s not Harvard or bust. There’s many other schools that a high schooler can apply to and get into and have a really successful academic career at. Well, similarly with books and particularly for new a entrance to the industry, it’s very easy to think, if you’ve written a very good book, and you know it’s good book, and you maybe even have some validation from other people that it’s a good book to think, oh yeah, this is going to be a New York Times bestseller. And I hate to be so blunt about it, but the short answer is it’s probably not. It’s probably not going to be a New York Times bestseller. Not because it’s not meritorious of such a prestigious list, but because the odds are stacked so far against you.

For every book that hits a list like that, there’s 10,000 books that don’t hit that list. It’s fine because, on the one hand, the New York Times list matters in a certain way. But on the other hand, for many authors, there are more attainable goals that are going to move the needle for them more anyway than this golden ticket mentality of being on a list like that. So I would say, particularly for new authors, my advice is to set realistic goals. That might mean that your first goal is how do you sell your first 1000 units outside of your sphere of influence. That’s a really hard goal to achieve. Once you sort of look at that one, it starts making a goal like the New York Times bestseller list look really far off because it actually is really far off. But as it turns out, getting from sphere of influence sales to a thousand new sales to cold audience members, that’s kind of getting from Lily pads zero to Lily pad one. It gets you on your way to those other outcomes, like bestseller lists or whatever it might be.

The other piece of advice I would give to authors, particularly new authors, is to think about their book a little bit less from the perspective of these kinds of vanity metrics. Instead of how many units did you sell or did you hit a bestseller list or whatever, think about it more like how can you credential it? How can you build your platform by getting an award for this book or being a best seller on Amazon, which is a much more attainable goal. What word of mouth recommendations can be generated for your book from things like high value press that folks like Smith Publicity get actually, because those are magic words that actually matter to book buyers in the west. Bestselling, award-winning, or a word of mouth recommendation that moves the needle that would get people to actually take an interest and check out your book instead of the other hundred books next to it, none of which they’ve heard of, of course. The last piece of advice is a book recommendation and it’s to go and read The Old Man and the Sea. If you read The Old Man and the Sea, you will gain an understanding of what it is like to be an author. It’s actually just a good life book in my opinion, because it’s a lot harder, I think, than people know that it is until they experience it. It’s book about man versus nature and achievement, even with staggering odds against you. And what does it mean to achieve success? I h

ate to spoil the book, but you probably should’ve read it by now,

Corinne: Josh, you definitely have ocean on the brain thinking of Cape May, New Jersey here, I guess, but that’s some great advice and so much to take away there. Where can our listeners follow you? And what’s the best way to get in touch with Pubvendo?

Josh: Sure. I’m looking forward to getting those Jersey tomatoes when I go through Cape May a couple of weeks here. You can find us at or @Pubvendo everywhere other than Twitter. On Twitter, we’re @Pubvendo1, because @Pubvendo has been a suspended account for as long as I can remember. I think for anybody who wants to follow us, to keep up with what we’ve got going on, our Instagram is pretty lit. We have a really good team here at Pubvendo, and they put together a lot of the content celebrating big wins for the bookstore we’re working on or any kind of relevant events, stories from folks who have gone through the same writing journey or author journey. Follow us on Instagram. And if you want to reach out, you can contact us on the website. It goes right to my inbox. So if you put the contact form together on our website, you’ll p

robably get a note from me, yours truly, within a day or so.

Olivia: Thank you so much for that, and thank you for joining us today. This has been really informative.

Josh: My Pleasure. Thank you so much for having me.

Olivia: Of course. Everyone go check out Pubvendo. They’re on top of it, as far as, I mean everything, but especially data and ads and driving that digital region campaign. So go take a look at their website and, thank you so much. We’ll talk to you soon.

Joshua Schwartz is the Founder and CEO of Pubvendo, a disruptive digital agency for book publishers and authors, where he is responsible for digital campaign methodology, strategy, and execution. A 12 year veteran of the book publishing industry, he has previously held business development and product development roles at Aptara and Jouve. He holds a bachelor’s degree in American Literature from George Mason University and a master’s degree from Georgetown University. You can learn more at