The government shutdown is over. For now. After so much productive and rigorous hashtagging on Twitter, complaints on Facebook, and half-plagiarised news articles looking for traffic, our representatives had no choice but to start funding things again. And agree to fund the things they passed this year already.
During that time – while I was caught up in the virtual world of eating different blog posts like Cheetos – I stumbled upon one entitled “The Great Library of Alexandria was destroyed by budget cuts, not fire.”
Interesting headline. Related to the current crisis, albeit peripherally. It was enough to get almost 100,000 views since October 8, along with over 200 comments, so I would consider the piece a success.
And the best part? The blog post was advertising a book by the author. A book I actually clicked.
Blogging for Books
I would consider myself an advocate for trying to sell books by blogging. It’s one of the few free ways authors can build up an audience, drive sales and just plain old write at the same time. However, the evidence of success for this approach is absolutely underwhelming.
Holly Robinson, who I interviewed about Twitter a while ago, blogs frequently on websites like The Huffington Post. If you can’t sell books from blog posts there, then you probably won’t sell them anywhere… right?
She wrote about the experience, too, posing the question whether or not blogging sold books. Her answer? “Not exactly.”
That doesn’t stop authors (myself included) from pasting their books like wallpaper all across their websites, though. On the off-chance that one visitor actually does buy the book, then, well, you want to make sure it’s there.
I’ve had my website for about a year. It gets about 1,000 hits a month. I track my analytics dashboard on WordPress pretty heavily and I would guess that 0-2 people have clicked my book and bought it since February.
But I’m not surprised
I don’t aggressively promote my short story collection, because:
- It was more of an experiment than a true book marketing campaign
- The content doesn’t have much to do with this blog
I just have the book there, because I feel an obligation to have it there. I don’t slap it at the bottom of every blog post or even mention it by name. I figure if people are interested enough to buy the book, they won’t need that kind of encouragement.
The blog-book marketing strategy
This blog post by Annalee Newitz about the Library of Alexandria pinned down a very important formula that any author trying to blog to sell books should be using:
Contemporary News Hook + Unique Content Related to Book + Powerful Promotion Platform = Clickthroughs to Amazon Page.
In this case, the variables are this:
Government Shutdown + Historical Budget Issues + IO9 = Clickthroughs to Amazon Page.
It was a really interesting post. So interesting that I clicked the call to action. Others probably even decided to follow her own Twitter. There was even a third option, to buy the book directly. This was a mistake, because it showed the pricey print version, not the affordable and much more impulse-friendly Kindle edition.
Why I Didn’t Buy
I lingered on the book page for a while. Newitz must have known that readers of the tech-science site IO9 would be interested in the blog post and likely interested in any kind of post-apocalyptic literature.
Unfortunately, there were honest reviews. Even though the book had four stars out of 70+ reviews, the top review – which 158 out of 199 people found helpful – gave it one star. The reviewer accused the author of being egocentric and the book of being loose and disconnected.
Consider my impulse buy abated.
So what does all this tell us about selling books with a blog? It means blogging can get people to click to your book’s page, but the rest is going to be up to your reviewers – or lack of reviewers.
Word-of-mouth is always going to be the deciding factor when people are purchasing books. Online, that’s no different. Readers don’t want to hear from the author that the book is good, they want proof. They want a hook. Most of all, they want to hear from others about the book first.