I am a dummy sometimes: marketing as luck-seeking behavior


As a followup to yesterday’s post about our bias toward survivors, skill, luck, and the creating of luck, I wanted to make one little note here about how wrong I’ve been on one aspect of book marketing.

It’s often said that publicists and marketers will do all sorts of things to get the word out about a particular book, but they know that 90% of it will be wasted effort–they just don’t know which will be in the 90%, so they do it all.

For me and a lot of other people, I suspect, this sounds like a poorly-researched, poorly-planned activity. How can you not know what works and what doesn’t? Why not just find out what’s effective? Do polling/market research/whatever to answer questions like: Do book reviews in Locus sell copies? Do convention appearances? Do radio interviews?

Obviously, this wouldn’t be easy but it sounds doable. What’s more, there’s money on the line and if there’s one thing that begs for careful research into the acquiring of it, it’s money.

But that’s because I hadn’t really thought about it correctly. As mentioned in yesterday’s post, people who are lucky tend to put themselves into new situations often. They’re flexible. They don’t try to control situations. They try new things.

Yesterday, while I was mulling over the prospect that it was my own damn choices that made the Twenty Palaces books so unlucky, it dawned on me that the whole point of “90% is wasted effort” is that it’s luck-seeking behavior. It’s putting information out into the world hoping that it starts catching people’s attention in a big way. People will say things like “I took out an ad on Reddit Fantasy” or “I did a guest post for [Name Author]” or “I got a nice review on [Non-Book Site]” but that’s a kind of suvivorship bias, too. The book was marketed and publicized in a lot of ways, but those were the times that luck hit.

Maybe that’s obvious to everyone in the world but me, but this is my blog, so…

Here I’ve been thinking that most marketing is Not Useful. Maybe I should rethink.