2016 Novelist Income Results, Part 4: Impact of Marketing and Promotion
This is the fourth chunk of data and analysis from the 2016 Novelist Income Survey.
For this part, I wanted to look at whether the hours spent on marketing, promotion, and outreach correlated at all with how much money our authors made last year.
I used net income again, which means I removed data points where the authors hadn’t reported their expenses. I also eliminated two data points where respondents said they spent over 1000 hours/week on promotion and marketing. (If I’m wrong and those two authors have been using a TARDIS, I’d ask them to email me. And also to let me borrow their TARDIS.)
This left us with data from a total of 371 authors.
I then did a bit of Excel self-teaching to figure out how to use the correlation function. (In the previous section, I simply graphed out number of books and net income, and inserted a trendline. Calculating the actual correlation is more accurate, and I’ll be doing that for the previous part as well when I do the final write-up.) Yay, learning!
A correlation of 1.0 would be a perfect positive correlation. Likewise, -1.0 would be a perfect negative correlation.
Finally, in addition to analyzing the overall data, I also broke it down by authors who were primarily indie, small press, and large press, because I had a feeling there’d be a difference there.
Looking at all 371 authors together gives us the following graph. The trend line suggests a slight correlation.
Excel gives a correlation of 0.16. That’s a very small positive correlation. Is it a significant correlation? I’m not enough of a statistician to say for certain, but it’s on the low side.
So let’s look at the correlation scores for different groups of authors.
- Large Press: 0.06
- Small Press: 0.13
- Indie: 0.36
In other words, the strongest correlation between promotion/outreach/marketing and net income is for the indie authors. Which shouldn’t really surprise anyone.
On the other end, the amount of time spent on marketing and promo had pretty much no relation to overall income for the large press authors.
Removing the millionaires increased the correlation for large press slightly, and decreased slightly for the indies. But the correlation remained noticeably stronger for indie authors than for large/small press authors.
Does this mean the time and money I spent last year as a large-press author traveling to signings and conventions and doing online promotion was completely wasted? Not necessarily. We’re looking at overall trends, and any individual data point might buck a given trend. (Also, correlation =/= causation. I think I’ve said that on every post so far.)
There’s also the question about how you’re spending that time. 20 hours spent standing on a street corner wearing a BUY LIBRIOMANCER! sign probably wasn’t as effective as 20 hours spent researching reviewers and sending out targeted review copies of my book.
That said, I think the data supports the general wisdom that if you’re self-published, it’s a lot more important to spend time on marketing and promotion. Whereas if you’re with a large press, there’s a good chance your marketing efforts won’t have much of an impact on your bottom line.
2016 Novelist Income Survey Results, Part 1
February 23, 2017 @ 8:28 pm
[…] Part 4: Impact of Marketing and Promotion […]
February 23, 2017 @ 10:41 pm
The trend line, and correlation of 0.16, is almost entirely due to the one five million dollar outlier. Your statistics will be a lot more meaningful if you eliminate that. The one person who spent 100 hours a week on marketing is almost certainly also an outlier in need of removing. In general, if removing one data point dramatically changes your correlation, then you should run the calculation with and without that point and consider them both.
February 24, 2017 @ 11:58 am
One thing that’s probably missing from this is the notion of simply writing the next book as a form of marketing. We hear over and over that the best thing we can do to publicize our latest book is to write the next one. And I think there’s a good deal of truth to that.
To be clear, no one is completely ignoring their next book while they push their current book. We’re all striking some balance between the two efforts. But this sort of analysis is going to be focusing on direct, active marketing, while ignoring the efforts of others who focus more heavily on writing and getting books out faster.
February 25, 2017 @ 6:07 pm
Just another quick comment.
Your correlation was significant.
Also, you can have Excel insert the R^2 for the trendline (and the square root of that is your correlation coefficient. Yay learning!)
March 1, 2017 @ 1:56 am
To add to what Neighborhood Statistician said, another way to deal with the outliers is to do a non-parametric test. The non-parametric equivalent to the correlation is the Spearman rank correlation. I found instructions on how to do this in Excel at
@Alexander – with correlations, statistical significance tends to be unimportant in determining whether a correlation is important. With enough data points, a correlation of 0.05 can be statistically significant but in practical terms it’s meaningless.
March 1, 2017 @ 11:55 am
@Another Statistician I know the significance is relatively meaningless, but it was an open question from the post. I had considered addressing the issue of significance in my post, but it didn’t seem like the place.
March 9, 2017 @ 12:30 pm
Thanks for continuing to do this kind of analysis. I think it’s super helpful.
I know the purpose of the survey was not specifically on marketing and promotion, but I would love to see a little more detail in this area. There are so many different activities that can be lumped in under marketing and promotion. Any given activity may never be effective, may be effective only for certain people or certain genres, or may be effective for most authors.
I have my own preconceived notions, but I’d bet that’s true of most people doing marketing and promotion.
Is it possible to do an add-on survey where you had just a single question asking people which categories of marketing and promotion they tried, and correlate that with the original survey data?
Jim C. Hines
March 9, 2017 @ 4:39 pm
William Hertling – Probably not something I could do this round, but I’ll definitely keep that in mind if I do it again next year!