On Business: Advance Copies

By | Monday, January 09, 2017 Leave a Comment
Let's say you're putting together a book, and you want to sell more copies. You could just announce that "Hey, I've got this new book out" and hope people go pick up a copy, but unless you've got a history of really solid performers (in the cases of, say, J.K. Rowling or Stephen King) that's not likely to happen. So ideally, in an effort to create a buzz of anticipation around the book before it's even released, you might send out advance review copies to what you might consider tastemakers. That is, people who have some degree of influence over your anticipated audience. The hope is that these tastemakers will say something positive about the book before it's even available so that when it does finally hit the market, people will be ready and eager for it.

Historically, that meant getting a handful of one-off galley copies and physically mailing them to the New York Times book reviewer or whomever. Which meant that small and independent publishers couldn't really do this because (mostly) it was too expensive to be practical without a large publisher behind it. Once the prospect of making a book availability digitally came along, it obviously became much more cost-effective to send copies out to even smaller outlets. And, with an increase in the number of outlets as well, there rose a greater demand for this type of thing.

I'm wondering, though, how much it actually helps. For every advance copy that is sent out, even electronically, how much of an increase in sales can publishers point to? If I review a book here, does that actually lead to an additional sale? Well, I'm pretty insignificant as far as reviewers go, so probably not. But what about a review that shows up on The Beat or CBR? How big does a reviewer have to get to start generating additional sales? And at what point does it make sense to ensure that a reviewer gets physical copies instead of just a PDF? Has anyone done any studies or actual research on this? I'm curious how much of this is science and how much of this falls under "Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half."
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