I recently read a book publicity quote that shocked me. In 1001 Ways to Market Your Books, self-published author John Kremer states:
“In publicity, there is a rule called the Rule of Seven. It states that if you want your prospects to take action and buy your product or use your service, you need to connect with them at least seven times within an 18-month period.”
When I read this, I nearly fell out of my chair: “You mean it will take me a year and a half and SEVEN separate “connections” for every person who eventually buys the book?”
*rolls over and dies*
It sounded crazy to me. But when I started to think about my own book-buying habits, I realized Mr. Kremer wasn’t so far off the mark. Take, for example, a non-fiction book I bought the other day called “Anatomy of an Epidemic” by Robert Whitaker. The first time I heard about the book was almost two years ago, around the time it first came out. In the meantime, I’ve read a few articles by the author, heard him on the radio, and seen the book mentioned in blog posts and news articles. But it wasn’t until a few days that I finally laid down twenty dollars for it, after seeing it on the shelf of an independent bookstore where I was browsing.
Maybe John Kremer’s on to something after all.
As you can see from the Robert Whitaker example, connection with a reader can (and should!) take many forms—hearing the same radio ad seven times probably won’t cut it. You need to get the word out in as many different ways as you can, and keep on getting the word out over a long enough period of time (somehow, hearing about the same book seven times in one day sounds more annoying than convincing).
So how can you conquer the rule of seven? Here are some ideas to get you started.
Skimming a review in a blog or newspaper is often the first way a potential reader will hear about your book. Even though relatively few readers rush out to buy a book after reading a single review, don’t underestimate the importance of getting your book reviewed widely in both print and electronic media. After all, each review is a potential “connection” for your target audience—and it’s the cumulative effect of these impressions, rather than their individual strength, that matters the most.
Radio interviews are a great way to get your message out there in a way that won’t leave potential readers feeling “marketed to.” Try to get yourself booked on shows that air during morning or evening commute times to maximize your audience, or on shows that are re-aired throughout the day or week, thereby giving you two or more impressions for the price of one.
Word of Mouth
“I just told my girlfriend/mother/boss/acupuncturist about your book, but she’d already heard about it somewhere else!” are among the sweetest words an author can hear. The most effective way to garner word of mouth is to write a book worth talking about. But if you’ve already done that, the next best thing you can do is put your book in the right hands. Seed word of mouth by giving free copies to other experts in your field. Then sit back and watch the connections multiply on their own.
Anyone who’s written a non-fiction book should also seek to publish articles about their subject matter, both at the time of publication and beyond. Articles in newspapers, magazines, and online media give readers yet another opportunity to “spot” you. Make sure your articles are up to the same high quality as your book, and be sure to include your website and purchasing details for your book in your byline.
“I saw someone reading that book on the bus.”
“I saw that book advertised in the flyer.”
“I saw a poster for an author appearance at the library.”
The more different ways a potential reader hears about or sees your book, the more likely they are to become curious enough to buy it. Put your book out there, and put yourself out there too. The net effect will have readers dying to know what all the fuss is about.
The Rule of Seven takes persistence and creativity, but what part of the writing business doesn’t? By now, your potential buys should be thinking, “Hey, isn’t this the book by that guy I heard on the radio and read about in the local news and saw at that book festival?”
And if that’s what your readers are thinking, you’re only a connection or two away from making a sale.