Books in the Age of Impressions: Part One

My job is to convey the message about our services to people who wish to publish a book. This includes tracking how clients come to us. I’m interested in how they find us, as it helps me adjust our marketing. When I look back at how current and potential clients have found us, the most common pathway is through one of our books. But how do you track or quantify the impact of a book as a marketing tool?

It’s more straightforward in the online world. We now have the ability to track and quantify nearly everything we put online. I can pull up the Google Analytics page for our Orange Frazer website and know how long people spend on each page, which page leads people to the contact page, which page causes people to stop reading, etc. I can track how many people are new visitors or returning visitors and how many of them visit on a desktop computer, smart phone, or tablet.

Most important, I can track the number of impressions my content may have, which means I can also create new and better content, and update its layout and structure, so that it reaches more people and garners more impressions.

But how do we, then, quantify the “impressions” of a book? This is answered through two specific questions

1. If I print 10,000 books, am I limited to 10,000 impressions? 2. Can you compare books and websites as marketing tools?

I believe the answer to the first query is no, and following is why.

Cleveland photography, Jennie Jones
Cleveland photography, Jennie Jones

We produce books for private clients all the time. These books end up on bookshelves, in stores, on coffee tables, and in gift shops, each book with a finite number of copies and a predetermined retail price. A few years ago, we worked with Cleveland photographer Jennie Jones to produce her collection of Cleveland architectural photography, Cleveland Inside Outside. While she printed a finite number of books, sold a finite number of books, and kept a finite number of books, people have interacted with her book in not-so-finite ways, and it’s led to various outcomes.

For example, I recently received an email query from a photographer living in Paris, who, on his most recent trip to Ohio, visited the Cleveland Museum of Art and saw Jennie Jones’s book. He felt it akin to his vision for his own work, so he contacted us to learn more about what we do. Someone else may have also seen and flipped through this book without purchasing—in fact, who knows how many people looked through the book in the gift shop, and who knows how many people will now remember Jennie Jones’ photography, or the unique design of the book?

Another example: we recently met with a university committee about producing an anniversary book, and we left a number of our books with the committee members to show to the board. One of these board members happened to have an entirely independent book in mind, saw one of our books, and came to us about her own project. We will now be publishing her book as well. The books, passed around to a group, and then discussed with family and friends, were experienced tenfold.

We are currently producing a memoir for a local farmer and Vietnam War veteran. How did he discover us? Through the book of Clinton County photography currently sitting on the coffee tables of local banks, political offices, residents, and community liaisons.

While each copy of a book is finite, the number of people a single book can reach is anything but.

So, to answer the second question of comparing books and websites as marketing tools: kind of. We can use similar language in our comparison: impression, as a term, is useful when discussing print materials. However, there is still the question of tracking a physical product. Maybe someday we will know when you turn a page, dog-ear a corner, or Google the author. We are coming closer to this with e-books. But for now, we’ll focus on how to leverage the potential impressions of a book for marketing—in part two.