The Physics of Book Marketing

I have a Biology degree, so I tend to look at things scientifically. I was thinking about book marketing the other day, and how it relates to Newton’s Laws of Motion.

Newton’s first law says essentially that an object in motion stays in motion, and an object at rest stays at rest, unless an external force is applied to it. Just putting a book “out there” is the equivalent of setting it on a table. Books don’t start out “in motion” so an outside force—you, the marketer—must get it going or it will continue to sit there like a paperweight.

This has gotten me thinking about things I can do to initiate that kick-start when (yes, I say “when,” it’s much more optimistic than “if,” thank you very much) Finding Angel finally sees print. That brings in the second law of motion.

Newton’s second law is that equation we’ve all seen:

F = ma (Force = Mass x Acceleration)

The force with which a book is going to move has to do with the weight of marketing you put behind it. But look closely—it’s not just the weight that matters, it’s how much that weight is accelerating. That’s why getting hit with a baseball can knock you on your…rear…but something heavy that’s barely moving won’t budge you much at all.

If you decide you’re going to market through a thousand different means—Facebook, blogging, signings, etc, etc, etc—but spread yourself thin trying to do them all, you won’t have much acceleration. If you pick a few key things and really focus, you can accelerate like a speeding bullet, but in a smaller area. Both ways create force, so you have to pick which works best for you.

All the mass and acceleration in the world, though, is still not a guarantee. You see…

Newton’s third law says that all actions have an equal and opposite reaction. Think pushing on a wall—it doesn’t move, but you feel the pressure on your hand. The harder you push, the more pressure you feel. Which means if you push your book, something or someone will push back. There are authors competing for the same market. You’re going to get bad reviews. You’re going to have life issues vying for your time and marketing and writing may get shoved to the back burner. Call these things the friction of book sales acceleration.

In the world of physics, there are ways to reduce friction—one of them is polishing a surface until it is smooth. Same goes for reducing friction in the book-marketing world. Make sure your writing is the best it can be—polish it until it shines. Get great cover art. Write the best back-cover blurb you can.

Many authors get frustrated about the polishing stuff because we see so many well-selling published books that are not polished. Sometimes the stories under those rough surfaces aren’t even worth the polish, and it makes our blood boil. Well, that’s because the book has a big publishing house with a big marketing budget behind it—the ultimate force—and it overcomes friction. (And my personal hypothesis: stupid sometimes works like oil.)

If you don’t have a big house behind you, you have to think about marketing.  It’s not something that can be haphazard, though. While there are no “laws” that book sales follow the way objects follow the laws of motion, if you put *no* force behind your book it is guaranteed to stay at rest.

So there you have it…Kat’s Newtonian analysis of book marketing. Next…How the process of DNA transcription can be used to describe….


About Kat Heckenbach

Kat grew up in the small town of Riverview, Florida, where she spent most of her time either drawing or sitting in her "reading tree" with her nose buried in a fantasy novel...except for the hours pretending her back yard was an enchanted forest that could only be reached through the secret passage in her closet... She never could give up on the idea that maybe she really was magic, mistakenly placed in a world not her own...but as the years passed, and no elves or fairies carted her away...she realized she was just going to have to create the life of her fantasies. She shares that life with her husband and two homeschooling kids. Kat is a graduate of the University of Tampa, Magna Cum Laude, B.S. in Biology. She spent several years teaching, but never in a traditional classroom--everything from Art to Algebra II. Her writing spans the gamut from inspirational personal essays to dark and disturbing fantasy and horror, with over forty short fiction and nonfiction credits to her name.

11 comments on “The Physics of Book Marketing

  1. This is hilarious. I love this quote: “Sometimes stupid works like oil”.

  2. These are great points, Kat. I often wonder how much of marketing could be outsourced to someone who’s good at it, the way you’d outsource cover design to a good designer. I’m a pretty good page designer, but I’d want someone better than me to do the cover. And I stink at marketing.

    • Well, I’m assuming the big houses operate like that–not so much outsourcing, but having a designated marketing team so people who are good at that do the marketing. But for smaller presses and indie publishing, you have to do a certain amount yourself, I think. No way around it.

  3. So how come eBooks (with zero mass) sell so much better? Marketing is exactly like pushing against a wall. Push and push and push with all your might, but the wall doesn’t move. Didn’t the emperor in Mulan say something like that? Why can’t Newton be my buddy instead of that Chinese guy?

    • Hm….maybe it’s like wind. Air feels like nothing until you have a lot of it together, all moving the same direction :).

  4. Great thoughts, Kat. I admit, the marketing aspect of this whole author business is the part that has me the most ready to crawl into a small dark space and hide. Like you’ve stated, there are so many factors in play, and what a percentage of them are completely out of our control. But writing a book isn’t for the fainthearted, after all. Writing the story is the easier part…

    • I agree, Becky. And of course this is all well and good on paper. Implementing it is different :P. Hehe.

      And yes, some things are out of our control. But doing nothing ensures, well, nothing.

  5. My Dearest Kat,

    Very interesting thoughts but, all the marketing in the world can’t make-up for a poorly written book. It may get the book out there but, the proof is in the pudding.

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