Bang for Your Buck?

“Give me the best bang for the buck.”

“What would you do if it was your book?”

These are the most common phrases I hear during an initial call with a prospective client. And I truly understand why a new client would feel that way.  Truthfully, I have probably used those same words myself when I’m negotiating delivery of a service (or…you know…hitting a monster sale at Nordstrom.)

But today when I heard the words, “give me the best bang for the buck,” it struck me. I can’t really do that.  There is no best bang for your buck when you are dealing with something that has no formulaic model.  It ain’t science.

Imagine you arrive at the surgeon’s office for a consultation. “Doctor, give me the best bang for my buck on this surgery,” you say. The doctor replies, “Sure!  I’ll just leave in half the cancer cells,” or “I’ll only do half of the root canal,” or “we can stretch that dollar even further if we don’t cast the severely broken arm. Just hold your arm straight for several weeks and it’ll probably heal up just fine.”  That’s not gonna work.

I sometimes feel like I’m spinning my wheels when we work on projects that only involve one form of media. Believe it or not, this is not because I’m lamenting all the lost fees we could have collected if only the client would have agreed to more media. I absolutely understand that many authors, especially first timers, are working with a limited budget. Money is tight for everyone these days. Still, I have seen time and again that unless clients are willing to put everything into promoting their work, the PR campaign doesn’t take them where they want to go.

Many clients are willing to try several different media, but they favor the piecemeal approach to publicity.  Let’s do radio interviews for a month or two. If that works, then let’s try print media.  This seems reasonable. Unfortunately, the result is similar to the “bang for your buck” system. Disappointment.

Not to be such a negative Nellie, but I’m not completely sold on the idea of a one or two day satellite tour  For those of you who haven’t heard, this is a setup in which the author goes into the studio for some length of time (8 hours, 4 hours) and does consecutive, non-stop radio or TV interview right after the other.  It’s great for the author’s time, and there might be a temporary boost of hits or sales on Amazon for a day, but I don’t think it does anything to help promote a book and keep the word about it out there long enough  to build the kind of audience it takes to make a book successful.

Why doesn’t all this work, you ask?

It’s simple.  Repetition works.  Think about it.  You see a billboard.  It’s nice but it doesn’t make you go buy the product featured on it (unless you are on a long road trip and you need that MacDonald’s right then and there because the kids are preparing to riot).  But then you see a review in a magazine or a Q&A interview with the author, and you get some perspective on the author you didn’t know.  You’re curious and you think, I might like to read his/her book.  Then a few days later you hear a radio interview with the author, and it gives you even more insight.  That afternoon you receive an email from your favorite internet site displaying the authors’ book on the banner at the top and maybe another review below. You decide to click the banner and you purchase the book.  Would that purchase take place if your exposure to the book was spread out over several months, with several weeks passing between each mention of the author (whether it be via radio, billboard, internet, etc.)?

And I haven’t even talked about marketing aspects yet….social media, speaking, events, etc.  I will have to save that for another rant, er, I mean post.

These days, out of sight really does mean out of mind.  And thanks to the internet, someone is always in the wings just waiting to take your place.  Well, that’s not quite accurate. They are not waiting passively to take your place. They are actively working to beat you out of your place.  Ask Bruce Wilkinson.

Not quite sure who he is? Let me clue you in.  About 10 years ago, he wrote a little book called The Prayer of Jabez.  At book conferences, the lines of people waiting to buy his autographed book went all the way out the convention floor doors. Fast forward to 2009, after he left the writing world and did missions in Africa for a few years (don’t get me wrong; I think that is an admirable and God-glorifying thing to do.), then came back.  At the book convention, he was standing alone at a book signing table, and no one was lining up to get his autograph.  I think that’s terrible. He was just as great a writer in 2009—maybe even a better writer. But this is reality. The market is fickle. The brand loyalty people used to enjoy just isn’t the same in such a fast-paced, media-saturated environment.

So Tina, you ask. If it was your book, what would you do?  First of all I, would never write a book that I was not prepared to back up totally with whatever time, money, and effort it takes to make it succeed.  It takes a lot of elbow grease and several tens of thousands of dollars to make your book fiscally successful. It will require your own sweat equity and your own personal investment, even if you are lucky enough to snag a traditional publisher.  So I would budget $50,000 per book (yes, for starters, I really would) and I would do my homework to discover who my audience is. I would make the best investment with an agency that can handle everything and do it all with integrity—one that will really do the work, not just say they will get it done.  And I would be serious about making it a ministry and a business. I would put on my long- term reality glasses, not the rose- colored ones that entice me in the present.  And I would determine to pick myself up when I need to and keep moving forward.  That’s what I have done with my business. If I do write a book, I promise to take my own advice!

So what do you guys think? Am I completely off? I’m interested to hear your feedback.

Happy writing to all my author friends.

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2 thoughts on “Bang for Your Buck?

  1. Wow. Lots to think about. I’ve often thought about writing a book, but never seriously enough to actually do it, let alone to really make it successful!

  2. Yes, I think you are a little “off”, but not about this. As a complete and utter novice with no valuable opinion whatsoever, I think you speak reality to those that truly aspire to be writers and sell a book. Off course, you are not really talking to people like me, who do not have aspirations of financial success and just take it as a new experience. I’m not sure I could man the empty table long, but I think I would be fine if the real writers would give me a book to read… 🙂

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