The #1 question we get, both from current and prospective authors, is this:
“How should I approach book marketing once it’s published?”
In this guide, I will go over the basics of how we teach our authors to market their business books.
Specifically, I’ll go over three things in this guide:
Part 1: How to Think about Book Marketing
When you’re marketing a business book, the most important thing you can do is frame your thinking around three core tenets:
1. Your book is a marketing tool—not the thing you market
2. Book marketing is a long term process—not a single event
3. No one cares about your book—they only care what your book gets them
1. Your book is a marketing tool—not the thing you market
Most business book authors make the mistake of trying to market their book. That’s wrong. The reason is that book sales are rarely their primary goal. Their primary goal is to use the book to get something else.
We like to say that authors don’t want a book, they want what a book gets them. For almost all of our authors, they see a book getting them one of six basic things:
1. Raise Visibility/Profile—books can increase visibility in any number of ways, like making it easier to gain media exposure or raise your profile in your niche.
2. Increase Authority/Credibility—books help an author establish authority and gain credibility within their field.
3. Get New Clients/Opportunities—books can easily help generate new business and other opportunities across a variety of platforms and venues in multiple ways.
4. Speaking Engagements—a book is almost a necessity for becoming a paid speaker, or often getting booked for any public speaking at all.
5. Leave a Legacy—a book can help establish a legacy and pass your story on to others.
6. Impact Others—this is somewhat covered by the first question, but you could put it here as well. For some authors, this is often the main benefit to them. They either do not care about what they’ll get from their book, or they care about that only as a secondary benefit. Note that for any book to be effective, it has to impact others—it’s just that authors place a much higher emphasis on this than others.
When you do one of those six things or several of them, then your book can make you money in a lot of different ways.
Don’t get me wrong, every author would like to sell a lot of books. But that is only a bonus, not the actual goal. Now, I know what you are probably thinking:
Isn’t the best way to get visibility by having a book that sells millions of copies?
It’s not that selling copies is bad, it’s just that there are two problems with it:
1. Selling millions of books is just not realistic for most authors or books. Just to give you some perspective, last year, there were about 500,000 new books published in America. BookScan, the company that measures all book sales, says that only about 200 books per year sell even 100,000 copies—and most of those are novels. The odds are very long to sell even 100,000 copies, and to sell a million is “win the lottery” level of likelihood.
2. Goals trade-off, and if you try to write a book that reaches lots of people, so you can sell lots of copies, you’re going to fail to reach the smaller audience that you can actually make an impact on.
This is the difference between being a mile wide and an inch deep, or an inch wide and a mile deep. Wide and shallow is for professional writers. Narrow and deep is for most non-fiction books.
Think about it this way: if you’re a professional writer, someone like Malcolm Gladwell or Michael Lewis, the book is the product you are marketing. So for them, it makes a ton of sense to write a book that could appeal to millions, because they are in the business of selling copies of books.
But you are not a professional writer. Your job is not to write books. You have a different job. Yes, you are the author of a book, but the reason you wrote that book is because you want it to get you something else—namely, something tied to your existing career.
Do you see how this changes everything? Now you use the book to get something instead of trying to market the book itself.
Because of this, authors who are not professional writers need a different model for book marketing:
The best way to think about book marketing is that a book is a marketing tool that helps you get what you want.
This is a crucial difference, and you need to really internalize it.
2. Book marketing is a long term process (not a single event)
Think about how complicated a book launch is for someone like Tim Ferriss or Seth Godin. If you don’t know, I can tell you (because I have run them): it’s hundreds of moving parts, incredibly stressful, and painful.
It’s common for authors to think they want this, but then when they try to organize it, they feel overwhelmed by all of the insane amount of work it takes to create a huge book launch.
Beyond that, a launch model doesn’t work for most authors. It works for a professional writer because they have an audience waiting for them who is ready and waiting to buy their book. Chances are, you do not have an audience waiting to buy your book, so how could you generate a lot of sales quickly? Without an audience, it’s not possible.
So instead of trying to generate attention out of nothing in one week, the better option is to see the book marketing as a process that you execute on overtime, not cram into one small period and then ignore.
If you do one or two things each week for years, you can maximize all the impacts of the book on you.
3. No one cares about your book (they only care what your book gets them)
This is going to sound harsh, but you need to sear this rule into your brain. It is the defining rule of book marketing—for all authors:
No one cares about your book—they only care about what your book gets them.
You probably already knew this about writing your book. You know you can’t just put some crap down on paper and expect that it will work. Most successful books are very impactful and important to the readers. Quality books always make marketing easier.
But this is also very important for marketing, and lots of authors forget this in marketing. This concept also applies to journalists and podcast hosts and everyone else you will want to help you.
They won’t care about your book—they’re only going to care how the ideas in your book are potentially relevant to their audience.
This makes sense if you think about it—do you buy a book because the author wants you to? No. Do you recommend a book to your friends because it is meaningful to the author? No, you do it because the book is good and you think it will help your friends.
Everyone else is the exact same way. No one cares about your book—they only care what your book gets them.
Part 2. Set the Foundation for Your Marketing
The purpose of this stage is to set the foundation for your book marketing and capitalize on early opportunities. Book marketing is a long-term process, not a single event, and the goal of the first week is to seize the opportunities that are easier to maximize at this point in the process.
Step 1: Get Support from Your Connections
Create a copy of this spreadsheet and use it to list anyone you know who has the ability to communicate with your primary audience.
They don’t need to be celebrities: focus on people who host podcasts, write for media outlets, have a large social media following, or run groups of any sort. Anyone that you know who has an audience that overlaps with your book audience.
For each person, include one specific ask for what they could do to most effectively share the book with their audience. As soon as you have a finished PDF of the book, send them an email sharing the finished book and asking for support.
Depending on your network, this should get you at least a few pieces of media or attention the first week.
Step 2: Prepare Amazon for Book Release
Once you confirm that Amazon is 100% ready to go, discount the Kindle version of the book to $0.99 through KDP.
Step 3: Secure Early Amazon Reviews
As soon as the book is live on Amazon and set to $0.99, your job is to get early reviews. In the long term, most reviews will come from readers in your audience that you don’t know, but it takes readers a while to get through the book which creates a gap with a low review count and holds up your other marketing. You’ll use favors to overcome this.
Get immediate reviews from direct friends and family. Make a list of close friends and family who would be willing to leave a review. Reach out to each of these people with a free PDF of the book and a clear ask to leave an Amazon review.
If possible, ask them to buy the book for $0.99 as well, so the book is marked as “Verified Amazon Purchase.” This strategy should get you up to 20 reviews in the first week.
Step 4: Engage Your Network
Most book sales come from word of mouth, so your goal early on is to build a base of early readers who enjoy and recommend the book. You’ve spent years building trust with your network, so they are the group who are most likely to pull the trigger without much convincing. They already know you’re an expert.
There are three ways to engage your network:
1. Post on Social Media
- Post on Twitter
- Post on LinkedIn
- Write a LinkedIn article (this can be pulled straight from the book)
- Post on Facebook
- Do a Facebook live stream
- Announce the book on any other social media platform that can help reach your audience.
2. Individually message people
- I know this sounds extreme, but many of the most successful authors started off this way. It’s your first week, the book is only $0.99, and your network will be willing to support you, so make sure to reach out to them and tell them you have a book out.
3. Email all your LinkedIn connections
- You can do this by exporting your LinkedIn connections as a spreadsheet and emailing out to them using Yet Another Mail Merge.
Step 5: Build Your Book into Your Assets
Once your book is out, you also need to set up processes to passively promote it. There are some simple ways to do this:
1. Add your book to your email signature. According to a recent study, the average person sends 95 emails per day. Over the course of a year, that’s over 30,000 impressions of your email signature. For free.
2. Add your book to your social media profiles. Add the book to your bio on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Include an image of the book in your banners for Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Add the book as a publication on your LinkedIn.
3. Order 50–100 copies of your book. Leave them next to your desk with a big, thick Sharpie and a stack of manila envelopes. Send them out to new connections and bring them to meetings. The point is to give away as many as possible.
Based on the above actions, you should be able to move your first few hundred copies, get at least 20+ early reviews, and set a good foundation for the future.
Once that is done, it’s time to expand beyond the reach of your direct network.
Part 3. Leverage the Foundation to Get in Front of Your Audience
This part of book marketing is all about getting your book in front of its audience—wherever they are. To help our authors think through their marketing, we ask them these three questions:
1. Who is the primary audience for your book?
2. What media sources do they spend their time on?
3. If there was a story about the main benefits of your book in one of these media sources, what would the headline say to make your audience click on it?
Let’s go through them now.
Step 1: Who is the primary audience for your book?
For authors that have positioned their book well, this question should already be answered in the positioning (because the best marketing plan is actually set during the positioning).
We highly recommend to focus on the smallest possible audience you must reach to make your book successful. The smaller the better. By starting small, you can ensure that your marketing will definitely reach someone. This niche focus ensures that you know for a fact that this audience will get excited about your ideas, they will implement your ideas, and they will share your ideas with their peers.
The audience you need to reach is directly tied to the results you want your book to get you, and you can reverse engineer precisely who your audience is by understanding who needs to know about your book to make your results happen. This process is no more complicated than asking yourself a very basic question:
“Who must know about my book in order for it to get the results I want?”
For example, if you want to speak at a major oil and gas conference, then your audience is the people who book the speakers for that specific conference (and the attendees).
If you want clients for your CTO coaching business, then chief technology officers (and the people who know them) are your audience.
If you want your book to establish your authority in the online gambling space so you can start consulting clients, then your audience is the people who care about online gambling and wagering.
Step 2: What media sources do they spend their time on?
Once you identify your audience, then think about where the majority of them get their media.
The most important part of the question is “the majority.” What you don’t want to do here is name a bunch of things that only a small portion of your audience reads. You want to focus on the media outlets where large numbers of your primary audience congregate, mainly because those outlets will be the most receptive to talking about the ideas in your book.
Pay special attention: the smaller and more niche blogs are your best bet.
This is for two reasons: they are more likely to care about your content, and getting featured there is more likely to help you.
Everyone thinks they want to be in the New York Times. But for most books—aside from being unrealistic—that won’t help.
The more focused the blog is on your primary audience, the better off you will be in terms of getting attention for your book.
To continue with examples above, if your audience is oil and gas executives, then your audience will be reading blogs, and websites like Oil & Gas Journal and Rigzone.com.
If your audience is CTOs, then magazines like CIO and Wired, along with several websites like Recode and MIT Technology Review would make sense.
When you are thinking about media sources, remember to cover all your bases. Written media, blogs, podcasts, TV, YouTube, and local media are all possible sources.
Step 3: If there were a story about the main benefits of your book in one of these media sources, what would the headline say to make your audience click on it?
What you’re doing here is writing a mock headline. What you’ll do then is pitch the media sources you identified before.
What matters here is not that you get a perfect headline—what matters is that this exercise forces you to make sure that your book is actually appealing to your primary audience (and thus the media editors you will be pitching to).
Remember: no one cares about your book—they only care about what your book gets them.
This is true both for the audience and the media sources. Your audience wants the benefit in your book, the media source wants the audience to click on the article or listen to the podcast. So frame the headline entirely around what is appealing to the audience, and you are good.
Step 4: Pick the best 1–2 opportunities, and start pitching
When you are done, there should be a few media outlets that seem far more promising than the rest.
You can judge by seeing where the benefits of your book most clearly overlap with the benefits the audience is seeking. I would focus on one, maybe two at first, and go from there.
Remember, book marketing is a process, not a single event. You will be using this book to market yourself for years, so don’t try to get it all done at once. Focusing on one or two media outlets at a time helps ensure you get results.
The best part about getting some success in marketing is that it tends to snowball. For example, if you focus on TV and get booked for interviews on several channels, then getting blogs to cover you becomes easier.
Remember the goal here: you are using your book as a marketing tool to promote yourself, and that can happen over a long period. The more you use the book to raise your visibility, the easier it becomes to get more opportunities.
Examples of Authors Using These Principles Correctly
What does it look like when it’s done right with the new model?
His book Giftology raised his visibility and established his authority as “the corporate gift guy,” helping him by more than doubling his speaking fee, earning him dozens of keynote speeches, and bringing in hundreds of new leads and signed clients for his agency, including many professional sports teams. His book got him visibility and authority, which created opportunities and business.
(And as a bonus, he has sold nearly 25,000 copies since the book came out, which is great for a business book.)
For Deb, her book Branding Is Sex helped her establish her brand and was a hook to get her a huge amount of media attention and speaking gigs, which drove word of mouth around her branding company, and got her dozens of high-level corporate clients like Dell, Microsoft, and others. Her book got her visibility and authority, which created more opportunities and clients.
His book Performance Partnerships firmly established him and his 100 person company as the leader in his space, and it redefined the media conversation around affiliate marketing, even landing him a spot on Dr. Oz. He’s now a sought-after corporate keynote speaker. Again, his book got him visibility and authority, which created opportunities.
If you read the case studies, you’ll see how all these authors used their book as marketing tools to help them achieve their objectives, they used the book for an extended period, and they focused on how the book benefitted other people in order to get it covered.