I’m listening to a School of Greatness Podcast with Tucker Max about book marketing. Tucker is one of only 3 authors ever to have three non-fiction books on the NYT bestseller list at the same time. When he started writing, he was rejected by every single agent and publisher in town. So he started blogging, built an audience and the rest is history.
If you’re a writer, you’re probably family with feel-good encouraging books about creativity like Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art. Those kinds of books will tell you to listen to your muse, write whatever you want, because the thing you’re passionate about is the thing you need to create.
That’s a great tip for motivation, and for believing in yourself enough to finish the work.
But if you want to be a NYT bestseller, it’s also misleading. I’ve said this many times before, but this time I’m going to let Tucker Max speak for me. I’m going to quote and paraphrase, because Tucker’s comments are so insightful, but you really need to go listen to the episode.
In his words:
Marketing a book is not fundamentally different than marketing other things.
The most important thing for marketing anything is having something people want.
You won’t believe how many people come to me and say “Oh, I’m writing a book about crocheting underwater, get me on the bestseller list.” And we say,
“No, that’s fucking stupid nobody cares.”
The first thing you have to do if you want a book on the bestseller list is think, does anybody care about this topic? Fiction is a little different, in that you have to write a great book, but it still has to appeal to/resonate with a lot of people, often by tapping into complex or universal human experiences and themes.
But for non-fiction, you just need to provide valuable information that people think will help or improve their lives. Most people don’t do this – most people’s books are self-centered. They are very much about themselves. They don’t explain things well or teach things well.
“Very few people actually think about what other people will think about their book, they write for themselves, and for their own reasons. That’s fine, there’s nothing wrong with that – but that’s called a diary.”
You never ask for a consumer product, “does anybody want this?”
“Does anyone else care” is the FIRST thing you need to ask if you want a bestseller.
The Publishing Industry
The ONLY reason to use a mainstream publisher is credibility with mainstream media. Normal people don’t give a shit anymore. They don’t ever look at the publisher. They look at the cover. They look at the social proof. It needs a professional book description.
Make sure the content is really good. The assumption should be “I’m going to self-publish the book” UNLESS your goal is to hit #1 bestseller list, AND a publisher is not going to care about you unless you have a platform.
Having a publisher means you’ll be in bookstores and the NYT list is heavily weighted toward bookstore sales.
The book publishing business is filled with people who think it’s their responsibility to preserve culture… and that’s why it’s going out of business.
They give people a big advance, not because of what it will earn, but because it looks good for them, it’s prestigious, to acquire certain authors.
It took me years to understand this because it’s such kooky nonsense, but that’s how publishing works.
Lewis Howes asks great questions and I actually learned a lot about the publishing industry; you should listen to the episode yourself.
If you want to get published, you should…
First start with your idea. What do you have to say that other people care about?
If you have a great idea, outline your idea. Take it, transcribe it, send it to a great editor. Really professional design and cover. A good website, then put it out.
Tucker just launched a process for helping get the right book out of authors. This is really for non-fiction authors who are boosting their existing platform, but for $6000 – $10,000 you’d get interviewed with leading questions to get the right content, it will be transcribed, edited, you’ll get a great cover, the best title… from idea to finished project. Tucker and his pals (Ryan Holiday, Zach Obront) will walk you through making the book. It’s a great deal – they will get the best book out of you. I’m saving up to use them for an upcoming non-fiction project.
PS) I’ve started noticing there isn’t much material about marketing fiction or YA books; I’m going to cover that soon.