So many businesses and industries are struggling with basic math. So let me ask you, because I know you will know:

Which is greater, 0 or 500?

I know, d'uh, right? Of course. 500 is definitely the larger number of the two. It's really simple and most pre-schoolers could even answer this question. So why is it that many companies can't?

The other day, my publisher asked me to send them a list of bloggers/twitterers to send an advanced copy of my book to. Great, I thought. Let's see who wants one! So, I proceeded to tweet out a message that said I'd send a book to 20 bloggers who want a copy. Instantly, I received a slough of excited messages with addresses. The only ones I didn't reply to were the ones who lived in countries outside of the current publishing zone. I forwarded them onto my publisher, happy.

Then I get a phonecall the other day telling me that the publisher was going to send books to a few of the bloggers I forwarded, but that many had too few readers to bother. This was followed by the kind of question that really gets stuck in my craw:

Don't you have a list of bigger bloggers - you know, influencers - that you want me to send these to?

I had to count to ten before I responded calmly, "I want to send the book to people who WANT to receive it. People who are excited and are more likely to write about it, tweet about it, tell their friends, their bosses and everyone who will listen. I want to send my book to people who give a damn."

I got off the phone, thinking that, surely, the message came across. But no. I receive another message later that day asking for a list of 'influencers' I know. I reply, "Everyone is an influencer today." And then I decided to write this post about math.

Yes, people with a big audience make for big news. It would be amazing for Shel Israel or Kathy Sierra or even Cory Doctorow, himself, to read my book and blog about it. It would rock to be covered on TechCrunch. But the chances are that these influential types are so busy getting inundated with free books, software, goodies and other various sundries in hopes of a review that they won't even have time to read my book, let alone review it! So, I could send the book to 20 influential types and probably even get one or two of them to read it. Then blog about it? That's a precious commodity for people these days - especially since every blogger with a large audience I know is writing a book these days! They are pretty busy concentrating on writing their own material. So, if I add it up, the sum total of possible blog posts here is 0, which leads to the reach of...0.

However, of those that answered my tweet and asked for a book are actually looking forward to the book. This group is busy, too. Career and lives get in the way, so I probably will see about half of them able to actually get to reading the book in the near future. And, as blog posts fall off from reading, Maybe 5 of them will actually get around to posting something. Say, their collective readers are somewhere around 500 - and that number is really conservative, since most blog posts will see long term hits, even those with a low readership (I will also do my best to drive people to those posts). Adding this column up, I see a sum total of possible 'eyeballs' reading about the book being 500.

And from the test earlier, 500 is greater than 0. Therefore, I'm sending books to people who want them and are more likely to read them. Not to mention that the people who are just starting out on their blogging/tweeting/online community adventure today very possibly could be the 'influencers' of tomorrow. I started as a nobody. Kathy started from zero. Cory and Shel both came from being unknown to being well-known. I totally remember when Michael (TechCrunch) was just starting to write about startups - it was about 5 years ago. He went from 0 to over 1 million in less than 2 years. Like I said, today EVERYONE is an influencer.

I'm not saying to ignore or snub the people with a big reach. I've reached out at various times and would be honored to have any number of them read my book - review or not. But if they haven't responded or reach back, it's most likely the case that they've been incredibly busy. I know I have a stack of AT LEAST 30 books waiting for me to read and potentially review. I'll probably be able to get to them around 2020. Not because I don't want to read them, but because any time I have left in my day (which is rare) needs to be spent with my family and even sometimes sleeping.

So, keep the math in mind and remember that even someone whose blog is read by 5 people is someone who will reach 5 people. And that is better than zero.