Where Did You Hear About That Book? – A Book Publicity Experiment

When I’m not taking classes and working on projects here with Ooligan, I work as a book publicist. In case you didn’t know, a publicist’s’ main goal is to earn media coverage and get the word out for upcoming titles. This can include but is not limited to, book reviews from blogs, mentions in magazines or newspapers, author interviews, social media posts, media coverage for book-related events, etc. The hope is that potential readers will be exposed to these positive recommendations and purchase the book you are publicizing after it is released. Essentially, book publicity is just book-related public relations.
The tricky thing about publicity is that it’s nearly impossible to measure book sales based on publicity efforts. As a publicist, I’m always curious about how much of an impact publicity actually has on a book’s success, so I decided to conduct a small experiment. For an entire week, I asked everyone I saw reading a book two questions: Where did you first hear about that book? And, why did you choose to read that one in particular? I asked people reading in the breakroom at work, people waiting at my bus stop, people on the bus, my friends, students around campus, and people waiting for class to start. I even posted a poll on Twitter. Here’s what I found:
Most people (over half) were reading a book that someone they knew recommended to them. When Forbes published an article in 2012 on the same topic, they found similar results. The next most common answer was that they bought their book because it was on display at a bookstore and caught their attention. I’ll admit, this is often how I find new options, and apparently, about a third of the people I spoke with have had the same experience. Only a handful of people I interviewed—about 15 percent—picked up their book because they read about it in a magazine or newspaper. Only one person said that they were inspired to pick up their book because it was reviewed or suggested by a blogger they trust.
The results of my experiment were admittedly not what I expected. I was most surprised by how few people discovered their book by following bloggers, especially considering how much people rely on the internet for new information. While publicists spend a good amount of time pitching to bloggers whose themes relate to their book, my survey is a reminder that the internet is saturated in often incredibly niched blogs that don’t necessarily have a wide reach. While most people in my survey found out about their books via word-of-mouth, it’s important to remember that this type of hype has to begin somewhere. Maybe those recommendations came from people who do follow book bloggers. Or perhaps they too saw a copy on an end cap on their local bookstore’s shelves. Unfortunately, there’s no way to know for sure. However, as publicists, we must continue to ignite the spark and put the word out into the world in hopes that a future reader will be willing to do the same.