When you send out posts about your work willy-nilly - plastering ads all over various groups or on any site that will accept them, with simple links that say something along the lines of ‘Please like and share this’ or ‘My new book’ - you hope, along with millions of others doing the same thing, that, by contacting vast numbers of people in this way, some small percentage of people will actually click ‘like’ or share the post, leading - after some long, convoluted process whereby your ad is exposed to hundreds of thousands of people - to someone, at last, buying your book.
That long sentence probably left you as breathless as contemplating the sequence of intensive actions that you call ‘marketing’.
The maths is enticing: if two million people see your ad in some way or another, then if only 1% of people click ‘Add to Cart’ you will have made 20,000 sales - enough to retire on, or at least enough to buy you time to write the next book. You think - even devoutly believe - that that is how marketing works, because you see all those other people doing it. ‘It’s just a question of numbers,’ you say to yourself. ‘I just have to find enough walls to plaster my posts on, and the sales will follow!’
You have to believe it - partly because you have invested so much time and energy into it already, and partly because you don’t know any other way of getting readers. If you can’t get people to buy and read your book this way, what on earth are you supposed to do?
The strange thing is that this approach doesn’t work. Or rather, it works just enough for people to continue to do it: some tiny fraction of people may sign up to your product after you have spent thousands of pounds and hours and hours of work. And that tiny number of sales is enough to convince you to do the whole thing again - ‘only this time on a bigger scale!’ - until you either run out of money or Life leads you to other pastures.
The fact that a tiny percentage of people respond to these massive, expensive and time-consuming campaigns is what sustains them in their intention to conquer more and more. But clearly there must be a better way.
And there is.
What’s really going on here?
Let’s flip this around. Let’s assume that you’ve written a decent book which isn’t going to repel readers and has enough attractive quality to do just the opposite - draw in readers and grip them. Without that, of course, you’ll be fighting an uphill battle whatever you do.
The ‘marketplace’ which confronts you, having written this book, is divided into various sub-groups, from those who would love your book, to those who would be completely indifferent to it, all the way to those who might even resent having it placed in front of them.
It’s the first group that is of interest, obviously.
Let’s imagine, then, that there is a group of readers out there, a tailor-made audience for your book, who would love to read it and who would buy it without hesitation if it came to their attention and was accessible to them. This golden group is the sub-set of readers whom you are desperately trying to contact with your ‘spamming’ tactics above: like open-cast miners, you dig and dig and dig, clearing mountains of earth - all those people who are indifferent towards or resentful about an ad being placed in front of them about something that doesn’t interest them - in the hope of exposing this vein of gold, the readers who would love your work.
But in spamming the whole lot, you are like a mining company which begins digging without first having surveyed to find out if the gold was beneath the surface - you just dig and dig, going on hoping that, with enough effort, the gold will be exposed.
Your problem is that you don’t know where your group of readers is located. In fact, it doesn’t appear to you at first to be a ‘group’ at all: it’s a set of individuals, dotted all over the world probably, all of whom would dearly love to read your book but all of whom are largely unconnected with each other and unaware of your existence.
Like that mining company, before you start shifting earth, you need to find where, if anywhere, your audience is gathering: where are there enough concentrated deposits of gold for it to be worth your while digging.
Just like in mining surveys, you need to be able to spot the signs which tell you that gold is present under the surface.
How do you do this?
(If you can't wait, check out my book on marketing here.)