I don’t often share pictures or stories from Facebook, but this one really got me thinking. It is about a social experiment conducted by the Washington Post that measures people’s perception, taste and priorities.
I got to thinking about this in relation to book marketing. It really does show that you need to find and target the right audience to maximize your book sales through your promotions.
Read on and you will see what I mean.
“A man sat at a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that 1,100 people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.
Three minutes went by, and a middle aged man noticed there was musician playing. He slowed his pace, and stopped for a few seconds, and then hurried up to meet his schedule.
A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the till and without stopping, and continued to walk.
A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly he was late for work.
The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy. His mother tagged him along, hurried, but the kid stopped to look at the violinist. Finally, the mother pushed hard, and the child continued to walk, turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.
In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money, but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.
No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the most talented musicians in the world. He had just played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, on a violin worth $3.5 million dollars.
Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100.
This is a real story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste, and priorities of people.
The outlines were: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour: Do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?
One of the possible conclusions from this experience could be: If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?”
I think this story draws great parallels with the book publishing industry. If you imagine Joshua as an author rather than a violinist, we can consider the reactions of his audience in a more familiar context.
Let’s say his $3.5 million violin is his manuscript and it was handed out to the commuters to read while they were in transit on the train. I think we could reclassify them as follows:
- The middle aged man who stopped for a few seconds and then hurried on: A literary agent who has never heard of you.
- The woman who threw Joshua his first tip without bothering to stop and listen: A reader who thought your title sounded interesting enough to download your e-book to read at an indeterminate date in the future (possibly).
- The man who leaned against the wall to listen for a few moments and then carried on as he was late for work: A reader interested in hearing what your story is about, but decides it is not for him.
- The children who actually stopped to listen: Your potential audience/readership
- The parents who pushed their children on when they stopped to listen: Anti self-publishing campaigners
- The 6 people who stopped to listen: Self-publishers, AuthorHouse for example.
- The 20 people who gave a tip: Your target audience / readership
- The 1,000+ people who didn’t stop to listen in the subway: The people who would never buy your book anyway
- The sell out crowd at the Boston theater two days prior: Your loyal fans
So if we interpret this scenario within those parameters, it just goes to show how hard it is to get your story heard and that most people won’t hear it anyway because, despite all your best efforts, your story doesn’t reach them, it doesn’t resonate with them or they are simply uninterested or don’t like it.
So what do you do about these people? And those that are looking to put you down for choosing self-publishing?
Forget them. There will always be people who say no, or who don’t share your opinions or style or taste.
Instead, focus on the people who are open to you. The people who are there to listen, the kids and adults who stopped, the people who gave money (whether they listened or not) and the people who already know you and respect you.
All you have to do is find out who is who. But remember, you can always share your story with the world through self-publishing. Even if only one person is touched by your work, that is one more than would have been if you never shared your story in the first place.