What’s a New York Times ad worth for a book?

Dani Rodrik tries an experiment:

Princeton University Press ran a small ad for my book last Sunday in the New York Times book review. I was curious if it would have any effect on sales, so I ran a little experiment.  I checked the book’s sales ranking in amazon.com at periodic intervals starting on Saturday afternoon.

But the ad didn’t matter so much (see also the comments on the post).  I would note a few points of speculation:

1. Below the top tier, a book can rise rapidly through the Amazon rankings without selling so many extra copies.

2. Amazon buyers are better educated and not representative of the market as a whole.

3. It is an open question whether the Amazon rankings are "honest," or strategically designed to sell what is hot at the moment, by making it look especially hot.

4. The best question to ask is: Is your book in Wal-Mart and Costco?

5. The next best metric is to check its location in Barnes and Noble.

6. Success of a book in Borders is less representative of overall success than it used to be; Borders (which is on the verge of going under, I might add) is now closer to an "indie" book store in many ways than it is to B&N.

Addendum: Chug writes in the comments: "display ads for books are not to sell books. they are for good relations between the publisher and the author…."

Comments

Tyler-

Can you elaborate on your comment that Borders "is now closer to an "indie" book store in many ways than it is to B&N"?

I much prefer Borders to B&N, but I can't put my finger on why; perhaps your sense of its indie-ness will explain.

CP

You're certainly correct for the connection between Amazon rankings and book sales. Here's a tool you can use to translate an Amazon ranking into an equivalent number of book sales to confirm that's the case - it works pretty well for rankings below the Top 100, which can have some pretty asymptotic characteristics.

I live in Wal-Mart territory, and I once sat on a plane next to a guy who works for a publishing house and tries to place books in Wal-Mart. I asked him what difference Wal-Mart made over Barnes & Noble. He said, "There's no comparison. If I get a book in Barnes & Noble, it might sell five thousand copies. If I get a book in Wal-Mart, it will sell five HUNDRED thousand copies."

I would argue that you should try the same experiment with appearances on C-span2's book programming, or on talk radio, especially a nationally syndicated show. I have some experience with both of these and I can tell you that the Amazon ranking soars after a C-span appearance or syndicated radio. The real lesson here may be that print can no longer sell books the way it used to, ironically.

display ads for books are not to sell books. they are for good relations between the publisher and the author....

The problem with depending on Walmart or Costco is that
they only carry 200 or so book titles which is only good if you want a bestseller.
Amazon is fine if you know what you want
but the browsing element is weak. I rarely find what something I want but wasn't
looking for specificaly. I preferlarge book stores: Powells in Portland,
Tattered Cover in Denver and Borders almost everywhere else.
BTW check your facts Borders isn't "going under" and they did start as an
independent bookseller and still retain some of the indy feel and inventory.

Where on the Amazon list is Ron Paul's book?

Thanks for sharing your tips, its tips like these that actually do make a difference to the individual readers of this blog. Thank you and well done.

Excellent post thank you very much for taking the time to share with those who are starting on the subject. Greetings

The question is after you've corrected the deficiencies of increased sales? They have remained the same. This is most important.masini
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