No less than three people within the past week have asked me about best methods to market their book.
They usually understand but don’t like my response.
I’m thinking personally about this matter of book marketing, too. My recent poetry collection Coat Thief was released by Saint Julian Press on May 23rd, 2016.
I don’t see book marketing – or business marketing – in terms of attention-getting gimmicks or quick money-generating tactics. Many of my clients and many members of our TW Community are marketing professionals. They do know what works, and they have considerable integrity. So, I take nothing away from their expertise. But I do take the long view and wide view when it comes to marketing.
One person recently asked me if republishing her book in a new form would help escalate sales.
Another person asked on a forum how best to market his new book.
These people are accomplished, smart people. They each have written remarkable books.
But they each were seeking in my view immediate “techniques” to sell books.
Marketing a book begins 2, 3, 10 years before a book comes out. Here’s why.
Your book is not your Story.
Your book is your most compact, impactful dispenser of your medicine (whether aesthetic, spiritual, intellectual, business, or other value) and of your message. But your book is not your Story in whole.
People who try to market their books without a Story do so at a great disadvantage. Their book exists in a vacuum and silo of sorts. There are exceptions, of course, but I see people even with handsome book deals fail at book marketing because a Story was not being lived and shared before the book came out. Book marketing builds from the Story you’re living and delivering on consistently.
Here are four questions to help you reflect on your endeavors:
- If you want to market a book you’re publishing, what have you been doing actively and consistently – live and online – for 2, 3, or more years that forges in people’s minds that you deliver exceptional value with your topic a certain way?
- How have you actively sought, stayed in touch with, and engaged a growing audience and community?
- How have you generated genuine conversation around topics relevant to your book?
- If your book is a trade nonfiction book, then how have you tested your assumptions on real people? Audiences? Clients? Customers? Research of other case studies?
If you’ve tested it and have social proof of your book’s premise, then you’ve served your marketing efforts ahead of time.
It’s called delivering on a promise. Consistently.
It’s called Living the Quest.
Why Author a Book?
Our clients and my colleagues say consistently that one of the greatest values of writing and rewriting a book is that it demands they define and refine their core message and the Story they must tell. That rigorous process helps them become far more effective interviewees, speakers, teachers, and workshop facilitators, too. But if they are practicing telling that Story and sharing parts of their message a few years ahead of launch time, then their readers are hungry for the book.
Book marketing is essentially about building genuine relationships with people you care about.
Once I hosted a webinar with a youngish entrepreneur who had a start-up endeavor. When I suggested that much of marketing is about relationship-building, she shucked it off and went on to list gimmicks. I was surprised. I was not surprised to see the endeavor, unfortunately, fail.
You build relationships with people in your community – the people you love to engage in your events or talks, on your blog, via your newsletter, on your webinars or podcasts. You build relationships with other people in your field or outside of your field whose work you respect. You engage their content. You share it because you believe in it. If you show that you deliver sound work, too, then at the right time you can approach them about ways they can help you get word out about your book. You build relationships with book reviewers on Goodreads and Amazon.
A book marketing strategy has to be aligned with your core values, strengths, and nature.
If you love being with people live, imagine what kinds of events you can create and delight your audiences with beyond standard “readings.” Their buying your book becomes ancillary to the event. If you abhor engaging live audiences, then engage via print and print interviews. If gimmicks turn you and your community off, you might avoid contests and other such novelties. If your youthful energy loves to play, then bring that playfulness to how you market your book your way.
A recent survey of authors who have published with the Big 5 turned up a disappointing fact: Most of them were not even consulted on how to promote or publicize their book. But I also wonder how many of those authors actually came up with novel, useful, and effective solutions and then actively proposed them.
If you view yourself as a publishing collaborator, then it is your role not to be asked but to ask.
Let me know what lands right with you or what ruffles your feathers. I care.