Charlotte Abbott writes about the increasingly perennial question, does blogging and Twitter marketing help drive book sales. She points to several anecdotal examples of sales increases, and raises some interesting questions.
As co-founder of, and the author of the influence algorithm used by, BuzzLogic, I do believe it is possible to measure influence within networks. However, it takes a tremendous amount of information and an expensive infrastructure to do it right. In the case of Edelweiss, one of Charlotte Abbott’s examples, they have sought to correlate blog and Twitter mentions of books to sales, which is a blunt cause-and-effect measure that can be fruitful, if you want to believe there is a linear relationship between “buzz” and sales. The problem is, a bad buzz produces the inverse result in many cases.
If we believe a survey Abbott points out, 56 percent of respondents (self-selected) buy books based on their readings of blogs, it implies that positive buzz has a positive correlation to sales, so there must also be a negative correlation or, at minimum, a smaller positive correlation between negative buzz and sales. I am certain blogs have influence, but measuring that influence remains difficult.
The case of Hugh MacLeod, whose excellent new book, Ignore Everybody, is in the Amazon Top 25 in its first weeks on the market, is, I think, a special case of a blogger and artist with a strong following who is benefitting from his intimate relationship with his audience. It would be very hard to replicate his accomplishment without having laid the foundation with a multi-year relationship, as Hugh has.
It will be a long while before anecdotal evidence leads to an inspiration that reduces answering this complex question to a science. In the meantime, we can all be certain that blogs and Twitter, as well as other social channels, are tools we must begin to use and understand as we sell books.