Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Tracing the Path of a Purchase

Why do we buy books? Of course the easy answer is we love to read. 

But why do we choose to buy the books we buy? Another easy answer–because we like a particular genre or a particular writer.

So the final question–of all the books and authors in that genre, how do we ultimately make the decision to spend our money on a particular one?

If we knew this answer, we would know how to make the most of our promotion time and for those who have one, promotion budget.  Unfortunately, the path to purchase is not always an easy one to follow.  So I decided to review my most recent purchase decision to see if I could translate it to use in terms of my own promotion.

A few minutes ago I bought a book by Tom Adair on Kindle.  I saw a post that included Tom Adair’s area of expertise, which is forensics.  I read a lot of forensics in my job as a criminal appellate attorney, and tried many, many cases with forensics as a prosecutor in the ‘90s.  To be honest, the forensics part of the case file usually gets only a quick skim unless it is going to be extremely relevant to my case.

Ordinarily, crime lab does not solve cases in Orleans Parish.  There are the occasional cases that rely solely upon DNA– I’ve had three recent cases where the defendants were convicted of decades old rapes due to CODIS hits.  Every day new DNA information gets added to the national database and to local databases, and so hits off of old cases are not that unusual.  In those types of cases, the conviction is almost always based only on the DNA, so I pay real close attention to every aspect of that evidence.

So, knowing that forensics is not necessarily near and dear to my heart, why would I buy a book that will heavily feature forensics? Three short reasons.  First, the story line was interesting. It was a story that would definitely keep my interest.  Second, the Kindle price was only $2.99.   It was worth the risk if it turned out I didn’t like it.  Third, the writer was good looking. 

Reason three may seem to be an odd deciding factor.  I’ve been married for seventeen years, but I can still certainly look.  And all other things being equal, there it was.

Another day there may have been another factor I considered that could have made the decision different.  And that is where the big problem lies in trying to decide promotion that works or doesn’t work.

Most people will use genre, story, and price as decision makers.  Others, though, might use the title, or the book cover, or some other factor that seems completely random.  Someone might not like the way a writer looks, or where the writer is from.  It is virtually impossible to account for the randomness of book purchasers.

The one thing I can say for sure is that if I had not seen Adair mentioned in a post with his photo, I would not have known about him, and I would not have visited his website to see what his book was about. 

This leads me to what I think most of us have probably already figured out– a writer needs to figure out how to get their name and whatever else they can out there, to put it in front of people who may end up making a purchase.

My husband is an aspiring actor. They shoot a lot of movies here in New Orleans, and lately he has been getting featured roles.  He has given copies of my books to Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mark Wahlberg, Jasom Momoa, Brad Pitt, and probably a host of other actors I can’t remember at the moment.  Right now, he’s shooting a movie with Jason Statham and Stanley Tucci.  (He gets to man handle Jason Statham, which is something I wouldn’t mind myself!)  I’m pretty sure both men will end up with a copy of at least one, if not both, of my books.

Do I think one of these huge movie stars is going to fall in love with my book and make it into a movie? Doubtful.  There’s not a role in these books appropriate for any of these stars.  Chances are, the stars aren’t even going to read it. 

But do you know what I think happens when the other cast and crew see these stars holding my book, or sees one of my books in the star’s dressing room or car?  They think the star might be
considering my book for something, and my sales pick up slightly. 

Not every writer has a spouse crazy enough to put a bow on his or her book and pass it off as a gift to a movie star.  But it’s illustrative of the idea that creativity counts in promotion.

Adair had little to do with getting me to buy his book, but he had a connection to writer Mike Befeler, who posted about him on this blog.  Then Adair had an easy to read website, with enough information on his site to make me want to look at Amazon and read more about the book. 

Incidentally, I also bought one of Mike Befeler’s books on Kindle.  I learned about his books from his post and his stories appealed to me.  But the deciding factor this time was the final reason I sometimes buy books– he has a great publisher.  Mine.  And I try to support Oak Tree authors whenever I can.

Holli Castillo
Julio with Stanley Tucci (My husband is the big guy)


Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

I've enjoyed following Julio's TV and movie career on Facebook. He has the perfect face and body to play either a bad guy or cop. Remember, when you two came to PSWA the first time, I thought he was the one attending. Ha! It would be wonderful if someone decided either of your books would make a wonderful movie!

Beryl Reichenberg said...

I think we all are trying to figure out what drives sales. Your experiment of trying to figure out how you make decisions about what to buy is a good strategy.

For children's books, a lot has to do with the cover and then the topic. If a child likes elephants or cats or wimpy kids, they be drawn to that kind of book, especially if the cover is brightly colored and engaging. But that is only the first step. When a child or a parent looks at a children's book, they will often flip through looking at the illustrations. Then they may read a few lines.

Watching our public's behavior in bookstores and other sales outlets, helps us determine what will catch their eye and better yet, result in a sale. Beryl

Anonymous said...

Great post, Holli! And you are so right about the random factor in book buying...even me! I just ordered Kris Neri's new title, REVENGE ON ROUTE 66...and among my reasons was that this title refers to many places along the old Rt 66--once the only highway west--and my daughter and I are going to be taking that ride this summer. We have been looking for sight-seeing opportunities and this seemed it would have some backdrop in reality...or at least set the tone for our adventure.

We were hoping to see the BIG BALL OF STRING but turns out that is not in a state we will go through. (Yes, my zany sense of humor went straight down the gene pool!!)