I accidentally sold three pounds of coffee yesterday. You see, I follow a lady on MeWe who runs a one-woman roastery, and puts up lots of coffee pictures. No matter what my political beliefs, I find it very nice to have less screaming about politics and more coffee pictures on my social media feed, and she’s a great photographer. As you’d expect, she also regularly promotes her products, and her business, Carriage House Roasters. In book terms, we’d call this discoverability; she’s making sure it comes to the attention of people.
But I have a local roaster in town, and I have Black Rifle Coffee subscription, so I’m not exactly in the market for yet more coffee than I can drink. I just enjoyed the coffee pictures. This went on until the day she took a break from pattern and made a very happy post about her husband being rotated back from Iraq. …Okay, I was very successfully marketed to by the one post she didn’t intend as marketing, and out came the wallet. Which is something to keep in mind: no matter how you think you ought to market to your reader demographic, sometimes the best connections aren’t the ones you expected at all.
The coffee arrived yesterday, and while it is more expensive than Black Rifle, I can see some of the decision points that cause it to be so – instead of a basic coffee bag and a box just barely big enough to hold it and a packing slip, she shipped a lovely tin with a an airtight seal that’s very practical for storing coffee fresh on the counter. Since it’s a beautiful tin, it also takes a larger box, and packing material, so a chunk of the higher price isn’t just lack of economy of scale, it’s the shipping. (In book terms, we’re looking at the difference between slapping a $10 cover on a short and marketing it to readers through other channels, and a $300+ cover on a story we think will earn it back in discoverability by readers outside our immediate marketing reach, if it looks good enough… as well as enrolling in KU vs. going wide, and the extra effort to format for print, along with the attendant price point for a profit on that.)
But it’s coffee. The proof is in the cup – just as no matter the cover or blurb, the proof is in whether or not readers like the story. So I made it, and was amazing, and very, very different from my normal. This pound, picked at near-random by me because the ad copy sounded interesting, is a medium roast single batch from Papua New Guinea. And where a medium roast like Gunship from Black Rifle is a single, solid flavour with mild notes, and a lot of body, solid and dependable like a punch to the gut… this was very light, and absolutely loaded with layered complex flavours and aromas, and aftertaste notes. It’s delightful, and I think I could even drink it without sweetener, which is something I never thought I’d say of coffee. Wouldn’t drink it with creamer, though, because that’d be like muting a symphony.
I took the cup to my Calmer Half, who took a sniff, smiled, and took a sip. “This is from somewhere tropical. You can actually taste that in the coffee. There are floral notes in it.”
“Single batch out of Papua New Guinea.”
He took another sip, and passed my cup back to me. “That’d do it. That’s very delicate and… feminine. I wonder if the personality of the roaster manifests in the coffees they choose?”
He prefers the Black Rifle to the Carriage House Roasters Papua New Guinea, and de gustibus non est disputandem. We also prefer different authors and our bookshelves don’t have that much Venn diagram overlap. But I enthused to other friends about this shiny new wonderful thing I found and I like… and noted that I now have far more coffee than I normally drink in a month, so I am not going to give into to my driving curiousity about the Peruvian coffee she makes, given the ad copy on that. In book terms, that’s word of mouth, and sell-through… although she wouldn’t be easily able to link the sell-through because it’s going to take me a month to finish this, at least, before I buy any more.
And some of my friends, who like coffee and found my description interesting, picked up a shipment from her instead of other sources. In any advertising, word of mouth is far more powerful than paid advertising, and it’s incredibly hard to force or induce reliably.
And word of mouth is hard to link, as well, because it’s only a few pounds, to widely disparate parts of the country. In book terms, if you’re only selling 3 a day, you’re able to tell when it got mentioned somewhere because you suddenly go up to selling 6 or 7 in a day, or the kindle store ranking shoots up because people borrowed it with the intention to read later. But if you’re selling 40 a day, it may not be significant enough to stand out. It’s also slower, not to the timetable you want, and yet carries on for years and years after the original sale…
So keep in mind when you’re looking at things that haven’t “taken off”, and at the backstock you’ve had published for years – just because you may be too busy, exhausted, overwhelmed, stressed out, or broke to advertise right now, doesn’t mean that there’s not someone, somewhere out there who’s talking up a book of yours they really liked to a friend when the discussion comes up. And you won’t be able to see it, and you may not be able to link it together, and you may not even be able to see that it exists….
Except that someone out of the blue just borrowed or bought a story while you weren’t looking. Enjoy!