It’s an eternal question. And by one reader I don’t mean a librarian or book reviewer or bookseller or Stephen King or Michael Connelly. I mean one ordinary, run-of-the-mill, casual reader.
Now, before I start, let me acknowledge that this question will never be conclusively, factually answered. But that doesn’t mean it’s not helpful to consider. I hope—and I believe—that the answer is a resounding yes. I believe that every reader matters. That the parts are greater than the sum, if you will.
In an attempt to prove myself right, I’ve been conducting something of an experiment. And as you read this, you’re now part of it (thank you!).
A few weeks ago, I finished reading an early copy of THE PROFESSOR by debut author Robert Bailey, published by the Exhibit A imprint of Angry Robot Books. Being a debut from a smaller publisher means it’s ideally positioned to do…ok. It could sell out a modest print run and do a bit better on the electronic front. But if we’re honest, we can’t reasonably expect to see it on any bestseller lists.
But the thing is, this book should be on all the lists. It is incredibly readable. It is—and apologies to those who hate the term—a true page-turner. It has appeal across demographics. It’s full of characters who are at once complex and accessible. Reading it is a singularly enjoyable experience.
So I decided to see whether this one reader could make a difference for this book that so richly deserves it.
I’m not the ideal candidate to test my theory because I’m not, strictly speaking, an average nor a casual reader. Because I work with authors and publishers in my professional life, I have a platform to talk about books that extends beyond the norm (like, um, right here). If surveys are to be believed, I read 10-20 times as many books each year as the average American. I talk about books pretty much constantly. But all of that said, I am still an ordinary unremarkable reader, too.
So I set about using all of the venues I have available to talk about THE PROFESSOR. I wrote a review on my blog. I talked about it on Facebook. I’ve tweeted about it to the point of nagging. I cross-posted my review on Amazon and Goodreads. I emailed some folks. And now I’m writing about it here.
Is it making a difference? In truth, I have no idea. The book’s Amazon ranking is not great—not terrible, but nothing to write home about. Three people on Twitter have told me they bought the book because of my nags. I like to think that there are people out there who might pick the book up in a store because they see it and recall my mentioning it.
And I will keep mentioning it. Because it really is a fantastic story.
The publisher of THE PROFESSOR is doing a good job with their marketing, but they are a small company with, presumably, limited resources. The company they hired to do the launch event seems to have done a terrific job with it, but I’m not seeing much online promotion, which is unfortunate (it might be there and I’m just not seeing it, but if so, it needs to be re-targeted).
So the marketing lesson? I’m sticking with my answer to the question with which I began: Yes, one reader can make a difference. Your marketing program would do well to remember this. I get goosebumps every time an author takes the time to thank me (me!) for writing a review. Because I’m a reader, first and always.