When you publish a book, you’re looking for sales.
Does that mean that a book that doesn’t sell very well is an automatic failure? Not necessarily. There are many different ways to measure the success of a book release. Money is only one of those measurements.
That doesn’t mean that any measurement applies to you. Obviously, if your main goal is to build a career out of selling books and pocketing the royalties, then those sales are going to be very important to you.
But that also doesn’t mean that releasing one book and having it not sell very well automatically means it’s a failure. Instead, consider the different ways that you can analyze the success or failure of your book as it pertains to your business.
First, let’s talk about sales.
This is the most common benchmark that any author will use when analyzing the success or failure of their book. Did you sell copies of it? And did you sell enough copies of it to turn a profit?
Publishing is a business. And unless you’re publishing as a hobby for fun, you want as many sales as you can get. Sales is also the most obvious way to measure the success of a book. It’s easy to track, and every book publisher offers some kind of dashboard where you can track the number of sales that you make.
Those dashboards also will tell you how many orders you had and how many royalties you are going to take home. If a book sells well and puts a lot of money into your pocket, then obviously it’s a success.
But what if the sales aren’t that high? What if you don’t quite make the level of sales that you were hoping for? Does that mean your book was a total failure?
No. There are other ways to measure the success of a book. Please note that we are not using these other benchmarks as justifications for a poor selling book. It’s entirely possible that your book is a failure because it doesn’t sell enough. But let’s make sure that we are framing this question as clearly as possible, because there are other ways of analyzing this data.
One very important metric that you need to be measuring is read through rate.
In other words, when someone buys a book of yours, are they reading it? And are they moving on to the next book? If you publish books in the series, then the read through rate is going to be very important to you. You need to know that your books aren’t just attractive enough to buy, but actually read.
There are lots of readers who are going to grab a copy of a book and then put it on their Kindles to collect digital dust while it waits to be read. Some books are never read. So you did get that eventual first sale, but you didn’t get anything after that.
As any business owner will tell you, it is far more expensive and time-consuming to attract a new customer than to keep a current customer. When you get someone to download a copy of your book, it is up to you to make sure that they stick around so that they buy more from you down the line.
Every customer that you get that reads your book and moves on to the next one has just increased their lifetime value. The more books you release that they are going to read, the higher their lifetime value is.
For many self-published authors, this is the gold standard of measuring the success or failure of a book. You’re not looking for the one-off sale, you’re looking for a new fan that you can add to your fan base that will read anything that you write and publish.
Every successful author has that core fan base that is going to buy from them. You need to build this fanbase over time. So if you have lower initial sales of a book, but you have a high read through rate among your readers, then you have a very strong foundation for a publishing business moving forward.
This particular metric is for the nonfiction publishers out there. Maybe you are publishing a book to establish authority for your brand. If you are a consultant or a freelancer of some kind, then publishing a book can be a great way for you to build your credibility in the marketplace.
As such, your book might not be a tool to generate more sales. Instead, it’s a tool to drive new leads to your business. If you can get more phone calls and emails inquiring about your business services, then the value of those sales is much higher than the few bucks you would get from your royalties.
This isn’t a metric that everyone can use, of course. If you don’t have a separate business from your publishing efforts, then you aren’t going to see any value in getting people to call you.
But if your book is more a part of an overall business strategy supporting your consultancy, then you want to measure the success of your book based on how many of your readers are actually reaching out to do business with you.
Along with read through rate, the growth of your email list is another very important metric for you to be following when it comes to the success or failure of your publishing business.
Maybe you don’t have a lot of initial sales on your book. But, you have a page in your book leading readers to your sign up form that will put them on an email list.
You already know – or you should know – that an email list is incredibly valuable. A successful business will have a growing email list full of engaged readers. Even if your book isn’t selling like hotcakes, if it is delivering a steady stream of new subscribers to your email list, then you may be able to consider it a success.
Again, this goes back to the lifetime value of the customer. If you get someone on your email list, they are far more engaged with you and what you’re putting out than someone who just buys your book and then leaves it on their Kindle.
Plus, a highly engaged email list is going to buy more books from you. You can get away with getting lower sales from your book if it’s going to lead to higher sales of subsequent books down the line. Your ability to market to your email list is going to be far more cost-effective than going out and trying to get new readers all the time.
So if your book is connecting with your reader enough that they are willing to give you their email address, then it is more successful than you think.
As you can see, there are many ways that you can measure the success or failure of your book. The key is to think of your publishing business as what it is – a business. You are not just in the business of selling books. You are trying to build an audience. And the key to building an audience is engagement.
Even if your book doesn’t fly off the shelves, it can still be a success. If your book is engaging the reader enough to get them to take additional actions, like signing up for your email list or reaching out to start a business relationship, then it is far more successful than you may initially think.
The secret to measuring the success or failure of your books is by thinking long-term. You need to zoom out from just your sales dashboard and think about the overall purpose and goals for your business. If you are publishing books in a series, then you are far more interested in read through rate than initial sales.
Once you know what your goals are, you can then nail down the metrics that you want to be focusing on improving to make sure that your book is a success. Other people’s success is not yours. Stop measuring your success based on the sales of somebody else. Instead, set your own benchmarks and your own expectations so that you can be sure that your book is a success in a way that fits your company, your business, and your goals.
That’s how you build long-lasting success in the publishing business today.