Saturday, July 30, 2011

Olde Analyst Seeks Hard Data

I write stories.

It's what I've always done.

It's what I need to do, because I've discovered that I'm not really happy unless I am writing. And the absolute BEST thing about writing stories, is having people read and enjoy them.

However, back in the "not-so-good, old days" when I slaved away at a Dreaded Day Job, I worked for many years as an analyst. I learned how to gather data, study and manipulate it, and make some assumptions and conclusions based on it. Over the years I actually became quite good at my job. But just like lots of things in different parts of my life, my analytic tendencies carried over from my professional realm into my personal, and you know what they say about old habits.

When I quit my Dreaded Day Job and started writing with an aim toward publishing novels, I figured my analytic days were done. After all, two complete opposite sides of the brain were involved in these two activities -- the logical side and the creative side.

But the Olde Analyst in me refused to go quietly. Before I sold my first book, the Olde Analyst insisted I look at data from each editor and/or agent before I sent out a submission. Exactly what kinds of books were they acquiring? Not just length, sub-genre, and setting, but also frequency, and ratio of new to existing authors. Yes, crazy I know, but it did help divert me from all those many rejections.

However, once I did sell, and more than one book, Olde Analyst became obsessed with a new mission: What makes a reader buy a book?

Believe me, Olde Analyst is full of theories! Do blog tours sell books? Print advertising? Reviews? Book signings? Giving away swag? Tweeting? But she can't seem to reach any conclusions because there is a shocking lack of hard data!

I mean, there's plenty of ANECDOTAL info... Everyone has an opinion, after all! But where are the actual numbers? Sadly, there aren't any. Or none that are reliable (meaning I can verify them).

I FEEL that the more often readers see my name (like on blog tours), the more likely they are to seek out and buy my book.
I FEEL that the two print ads I placed in Romantic Times Magazine resulted in more sales (I know they resulted in those books getting reviewed by the magazine).
I FEEL like good reviews help (and bad reviews hurt).

But I can't find any numbers to back up my feelings.

As for book signings, swag, tweets, and a whole host of other things -- I have absolutely no idea! And that drives the Olde Analyst bonkers.

So tell me, dear readers, WHAT MAKES YOU BUY A BOOK? Do blogs, book signings, tweets, or reviews matter? And if they don't then what does?

Have mercy on the Olde Analyst and give her some numbers to crunch!

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