The really weird thing about “book marketing” experts

occupational-fraudSelf-publishing is big business. And most self-published books don’t sell – for a variety of reasons, but mainly because:

1. There isn’t any market for them; they were written without considering the genre readership.

2. They are poorly designed.

3. The authors have no platform (blog, traffic, followers, email list, etc).

And that’s why authors spend a lot of time and money trying to figure out how to market their books.

And that’s how book marketing gurus stay in business.

But here’s the strange thing:

The majority of book marketing experts don’t have nice looking websites.

A lot of them don’t have great book covers.

Some of their books have a handful of reviews (and some bad ones!)

Most of them haven’t had any major bestsellers and aren’t really earning money from their books.

Instead they charge authors for coaching or book marketing services, or infoproducts.

At first, that may incline you to think of them as frauds

But at least they have a website. At least they’ve set up their Twitter and Facebook pages, their email optin list.

At least they are writing guest posts to build traffic, and seeking out partners.

The truth is, most authors are beginning at an extremely basic level.

They don’t have anything set up.

They need help with everything.

They have no idea even how to begin marketing their books or building their platforms.

Which means even people who have established a basic, mediocre online presence are way ahead of them.

Can they help you build all the basic, necessary stuff you need to get done? Absolutely.

You need to set everything up – and well – before you can even begin thinking bigger.

But these things are also true

1. Online book marketing experts are able to build a successful platform because they have something people are actively searching for. They fill a need. People want what they are offering. So of course they get traffic, and followers – because they are sharing info that people want.

2. If you’re writing fiction, or memoir, or historical non-fiction, or anything else that isn’t practical, how-to advice solving a very common problem, setting up all of your platform won’t really do anything.

So what if you have a beautiful website, and professional social media profiles. Nobody cares. What content are you offering that people like, need or enjoy? If you don’t have any content (except your book) then you are at a marketing dead-end, and nobody can help you.

Which is why…

Book marketing experts can help non-fiction writers, but rarely do much for fiction writers. Or at least, they can help you understand the basics of marketing, but they probably aren’t doing the content creation for you (and without content, you’ve got nothing).

You can do paid advertising of course, but that’s short term – it doesn’t have the power of a strong article, which can bring in new traffic month after month.

Things to think about…

If a book marketer has an ugly website, they can’t help you design a nice one (and since they’ll be outsourcing the work, you’re probably paying way too much). Get a nice WordPress template and hire someone to set it up for you; it shouldn’t cost more than $500.

You need to be making content that your target readers will like or enjoy. For fiction writers, this is usually more stories. Lots of short stories on Wattpad or Kindle or Smashwords. Also book reviews of other books in your genre, or movies, or other things that people like you enjoy.

Building your own relationships is powerful. A marketer is helpful if they have a lot of powerful or influential friends in your genre… but they probably don’t. They would just be reaching out to strangers, which means they have no advantage (you could reach out to strangers yourself and have equal success if you do it right). On the other hand, without help, you’ll probably do it wrong.

Spend your time developing relationships with authors in your genre, and readers in your genre, by hanging out where they are and engaging them in interesting conversation. Learn as much as you can from book marketing gurus. There is no “magic secret” of bookmarketing. Everybody is saying the same thing.

If you don’t shut up and listen to everybody’s good advice before you start promoting your book yourself, that’s on you.

One last thing…

A book’s success is almost always due to the genre readership (how many people want to read books of that type) and the book cover design. Without a nice cover, in the beginning, nobody will buy it. If you want your promotions to work and get reviews quickly, you need to remove all buyer resistance. You do that with a great cover and a low (or free) price.

After that, book marketing doesn’t do very much, because it will quickly become apparent whether readers like it or not. If they like it, it will keep selling and snowball. If not, throwing more and more money to book marketing experts is never going to work.

A couple resources

Two cool things are going on right now, the first is Author Catapult’s Book Marketing Summit. Basically a whole collection of interviews with book marketing experts. Listen to them all and take notes. At least it will get you in the right frame of mind, so you don’t go out and screw up your book marketing.

And on Nov. 7th (2014) there’s March to a Bestseller ; along with a bunch of cheap books on book marketing, there will be some cool prizes. I’m giving away 10 memberships to (value: $87 each). It’s going to be a free Facebook event, which means you can ask us all direct, live questions, and get immediate feedback. I charge $500/hour for consultations, and most of the others are similar, so you could theoretically get thousands of dollars of value by attending and being active.

But remember; the most important thing is having a book that people want to read, making it beautiful, and removing buyer resistance (with great sales copy, lots of good reviews, a beautiful cover and a low price). Book marketing is something that comes in later.


About Derek Murphy

I help authors and artists turn their passions into full-time businesses, make a bigger impact, and blaze a luminous trail of creative independence. Right now I'm in Taiwan finishing a PHD in Literature, writing several books, and managing a handful of online businesses. Find me
  • Wow, a very well thought out piece Derek. I wasn’t sure where you were going with it, but it sure is right on. It’s really about creating a good marketable book and building relationships in your space. Two great resources for that at the Book Marketing Summit: Ann McIndoo (“Your Writer’s Coach”) and Steve Harrison who trains with Jack Canfield of Chicken Soup for the Soul on their Bestseller Blueprint program. Those resources though are really geared towards non fiction and it’s important, like you said, to pick the right genre. Great article!

    • Thanks Ryan – I appreciate what you’re doing and organizing. There’s more and more great resources for marketing, but success almost always comes back to writing books in popular genres; writing things people want or need, making great looking, professionally designed products, and adding social proof (reviews, testimonials, getting shared by others) which is all about relationship building.

      • Thanks Derek! It’s been quite an undertaking for sure! And I completely agree with you! And all you mentioned (for the most part) rests squarely on the shoulders of the author. Thanks for all you’re doing!

        • If your book doesn’t go anywhere free or paid – you’ve fucked up. It’s your fault, not the consumers.

          • Of course. It’s your responsibility – but there are lots of ways to turn readers into evangelists and get them to review and share your books.

      • Most testimonials are fake, you know that right?

        • Even if they are, they are necessary to sell books; but Amazon is doing a good job of stripping them out and indie author anti-fake review fervor is cleaning up the rest. Besides 20 fake 5 star reviews can be crushed by a single 1 star review that says “all those 5 star reviews are full of shit.”

          • I’ve got laptop lifestyle for free and bryan tracy told it’s good and it was so bad 🙂 I don’t believe in testimonials.

            All books I’ve bought during my life were bad, best one’s are the one’s I’ve got for free. Word of mouth advertising.

  • I’ve wrote about it in my book. You want to move your focus from yourself to your audience – do your fucking research before you even put your hands on the keyboard.

    Start from the title, which makes people curious
    Add a subtitle, if the title is confusing, in the sub title you want to make an offer.
    Don’t sellout your book on the cover.
    Over deliver your offer, inject positive or negative emotions.
    You want to make self selling stuff with money or skills you have.

    Write emotions or information, not letters.

    I do some great comments right?

  • TariAkpodiete

    Very good info. I was at March to a Bestseller, sadly I missed your fantastic giveaway. All the same, I did buy some good books for the great price of 99 cents each. I’d already bought a couple for 2.99 to 4.99, including yours, but as I mentioned elsewhere, I was also able to grab something of yours for no charge. Overall, it worked out very well for me. Now that I’m hooked up/linked in, I’ll be better able to keep tabs on the freebies, the lowered prices and the discount codes. Including ‘derek’ for that upcoming event. So much to learn!

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