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Return on Investment - It's Not Always Dollars : Self-Promotion for Authors

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selfpromotionThis post is part of a project tentatively titled Sans Spam: Self Promotion For Authors. I'm releasing this book in sections on my blog, but when it's all finished I will offer the whole thing as a single eBook.  

Everyone who donates toward its production (use the coffee cups to the right, note that it's because of this effort) will get a free copy of this eBook.
You can find all the posts here.


You’ll hear marketing pros (and me, as well) talk about “return on investment” (ROI). It’s a useful concept. You obviously don’t want to spend a lot of time and money doing something that has no impact whatsoever. This is one of the very, very few times that looking at your statistics and rankings actually makes sense.
But there are three big things that you must understand before you start thinking about ROI in any kind of meaningful way. PROTIP: These three things largely mean that ROI doesn't mean nearly as much for us as it does for many other types of business.
First: Measures are not made equally. During the first heyday of banner ads on the internet, advertisers were certain that they were a complete failure. Clickthrough rates of one percent were fairly common - and seemed completely disappointing. They failed to recognize thier own assumptions about traditional advertising. 
Millions of people drove past billboards on any given day - but the ratio of people passing by compared to those taking action was rarely considered. Instead, advertising campaigns were measured by changes in sale rates. If more product moved, the campaign was a success. If not, a failure. Yet the “click-through” rates on billboards were - and are - simply abysmal.
A lot of our efforts in self-promotion are equally unmeasurable. When we talk to a person at a convention and they don’t buy a book, is that wasted time? Or will they talk to five other people who get interested and end up buying? Avoid comparing measures of ROI in sales to more ambiguous effects.
Second: Determine what your “return” really is. Because of the ambiguous nature of the returns in our business, real numbers are scarse. I believe that while it’s nice to get real numbers whenever possible, there are other things that we can concentrate on.
Specifically, I believe that while we eventually measure our “return” in books sold (and money in our pocket), that whenever we cannot accurately measure that impact, we must measure the value in True Fans.
True Fans are those who will talk about your work to others. They may not buy it right away - or be able to - but will honestly recommend it to others. They will come to your readings, they will encourage others to attend, and generally subsidize you whenever possible.
Third: Measuring Connection Per Investment Allows You To Keep Your Soul. The general public is inundated with advertising. The sheer ubiquity of it means that with every gimmick, trick, and advertising shenanigan there are already several people there doing it better than you ever will. You can spend all your time trying to do everything as good (or better) than everyone else. That leads to becoming either a failure or a soulless machine (see: Used Car Salesperson). By focusing on the connections - and fans - that we have, then we're focusing on real people instead of on simple filthy lucre.

Yes, having money to eat is... um... important. But if you're in writing simply for the money, you're in the wrong damn business anyway. What we're talking about here is measuring the impact (or lack thereof) of your promotional effort. 

What I'm wanting you to think about here is comparing ten one-time-sales to making five new fans - or friends. Which of the two is more important to your long term sales? 


Which of the two is more important to your soul?

This post was part of Sans Spam: Self Promotion For Authors. I'm releasing this book in sections on my blog, but when it's all finished I will offer the whole thing as a single eBook.  
Everyone who donates toward its production (use the coffee cups to the right, note that it's because of this effort) will get a free copy of this eBook. You can find all the posts here.

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