|“The Cradle” – Henry Sandham|
One of the many adjustments I had to make when I moved from publishing into the tech world was learning a whole new set of acronyms.
And whether at work, at conferences, reading social media blogs, or having conversations with other people in a similar role as mine, there are two acronyms I hear again and again:
- ROI (Return On Investment), meaning, is the time/money/effort behind what you’re doing worth it? What’s your bang for your buck?
- KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators). How are you measuring success, and how are you doing?
People are constantly assessing what works, what doesn’t work, the impact of a campaign is having, what your goals are, what the “net net” was. You look at the numbers and then adjust for the future. Numbers are key.
Here’s the thing when you’re an author trying to figure out the best way to self-promote: I have very little idea what is working.
As a traditionally published author I basically have two numbers I can look at: the Amazon sales ranks for the hardcover and Kindle editions, and my Bookscan number of copies sold (as provided by Amazon).
The Amazon number is fickle and clearly only reflects a portion of my sales. Bookscan also only captures a portion, usually estimated to be 70% of sales, and that percentage varies from title to title.
Here’s what I don’t know as an author, or at least don’t know particularly accurately:
- At which outlets are my sales taking place? Is it doing better at B&N? At indies? Online?
- What effect are my promotional campaigns having? And where should I focus my attention?
- Who is buying my book? Mostly blog readers? Other people? What’s my reach?
- What do the numbers suggest I should be doing more of?
I’m flying in the dark. And while I have no complaints about my own publisher, too often publishers treat authors on a “need to know” basis and are stingy with sales data. (Though truthfully I don’t know that publishers have access to a whole lot more information than I do.)
Not knowing is no way to be. I would love to calibrate my approach and tell you precisely what is working and not working. I just don’t have the data.