A couple of months ago I told a Venture Capitalist that I was thinking of starting a company that focused on providing marketing and advertising services to writers, particularly self-published writers. I had only just started to create my own “marketing platform” (and still have a long way to go) for my own book, but I had noticed that, especially on Twitter, there was a lot of “echo chamber” noise, as N.V. Binder has called it. Now writers are, of course, readers, so they are a good audience to market to, but I’m sure we will all agree that we writers are still very much in the beginning stage of learning how to market our books–to the right (buying) audience, that is.
It struck me that one could, potentially, build a tool that crawled the social web to find one’s unique audience, and having found them, engage in conversations with them, follow them, friend them, and advertise to them. A Writer’s Dashboard, if you will. Something Bloombergian.
After my soft pitch to the Venture Capitalist, she looked at me like I was from Mars, and replied, “Why, Mark, don’t you know that writers don’t have any money?” I felt like launching into an explanation of how the new revolution in self-publishing would change all that, would place the responsibility and financial burdens of marketing back on the writers themselves, that most self-published writers have “day” jobs, that the image of the penniless writer is a Romantic legacy, and so on, but I’ve always found it best not to try to persuade someone that one’s vision is the correct one. In any case, most writers know that we are a hard-working group, toiling away during the day to make ends meet, and spending late nights and weekends pursuing our dreams. Not for us the Nietzsche observation: I went in search of man, but only found the ape of his ideals.
But still, I’ve been around long enough to know that intuition is best corroborated by hard data, so I decided to “crowd verify” some of my initial assumptions. I’m pretty confident one can build a social media analytics tool for writers. What I have been less confident about is the most appropriate business model for a company that built just such a tool. While “most” writers are not scribbling away in dingy garrets, money is still an issue for all of us, and I want to develop something that creates real value for writers at an affordable price. Identifying “where” to advertise and then providing a cost-effective platform to do so is one of two business-model options I have envisioned.
My first step in testing the assumption that the advertising model would work was to poll some writers on what they would spend to advertise their books, assuming they had “located” the right audience. 111 writers responded. Here is the question I asked and the responses.
How much would you spend to advertise your book to a targeted audience?
$0-$250 42.34% (47 votes)
$250-500 18.02% (20 votes)
$500-$1,000 12.61% (14 votes)
$1,000+ 12.61% (14 votes)
Nothing 14.41% (16 votes)
Total Votes: 111
85% (95 of the 111) of the poll responders indicated that they would advertise to a targeted audience. Average spend is hard to measure, but it is probably in the $300 range. Almost 13% indicated that they would spend more than a $1,000. Of course more responses might skew the results in a different direction, and I make no claim for reliability or validity of the poll results, but I will note that the responders were geographically dispersed and were practicing in different genres (YA, Historical Fiction, Paranormal, Erotica, etc.).
I think that most writers, myself included, are hampered by the notion that if our work is “good,” then someone will read it. But that is not necessarily the case on the web. Indeed, I would make the claim that there is only a tenuous connection between quality of content and views. A perusal of the most popular You Tube videos provides one convincing data point for this perspective.
Rather, we need to adjust to the rules of the web, and think about the most cost-effective strategies that will place our work before a possible buyer. Quality of our work only becomes an issue once someone buys and actually reads our work. At that point, they either become a negative or positive referral, as the greatest source of reading suggestions comes from friends, family, and co-workers. If the work is good, then the advertising should pay off in spades.
At first blush, it looks like there is a compelling economic case for going forward. In my next post, I will upload some screen shots of what I am talking about when I refer to something Bloombergian. In the meantime, I would welcome your comments! Thanks.