Book marketing 101: Don’t sell a book; build a brand

For a lot of authors, “book marketing” still means something like advertising or publicity.

In other words, you put something in front of people that tells them about the book, and that they should go buy it.

Here’s why that doesn’t work:

  • People need repetition before they notice, then take action. So they’ll need to see whatever it is you’re doing many times (usually 7 or more) before it even registers. That’s why something like a one time radio appearance or newspaper review isn’t likely to sell many books.
  • People buy based on trust. They’re much more likely to buy the book if a friend recommends it, or somebody else online that they’re following that they already know, like and trust.
  • People hate advertisement and promotion these days. That’s why the biggest, million-dollar companies avoid it in favor of content marketing, which means, they make other really cool and interesting content that their target buyers will enjoy and appreciate. There is no hard sale or call to action, except indirectly.

Coke has been doing this for years. When was the last time you saw a Coke ad that said “On sale for only 99cents right now!” Coke doesn’t need to sell its product. They don’t need to offer discounts. Pricing is irrelevant. Coke sells a lifestyle. Everything cool that they do makes people like them more, which, in turn will actually sell soda.

So here’s what you need to do to sell more books:

1. You need to get a lot of people to notice your book, again and again. You do that by being everywhere during launch week, by writing guest posts for 10+ popular blogs or websites, or by having them review the book for you, or through targeted Facebook or Google ads. Get your book in front of your target readers at least 7 times, in multiple places.

2. Get people to like and trust you. You do that by offering a lot of great, usually free, content. You can also do it by video, by doing cool publicity stunts, by organizing groups or events, by starting a cause or a movement, by doing something ridiculous or noteworthy. You don’t do it by selling your book. So don’t try. Focus on making people like and trust you because you’re providing value without just thinking about book sales.

3. Put your book on the shelf for a minute. Stop thinking about it. Stop thinking about how to sell to your readers. Think about how to make them happy. Think about what they might like or enjoy; what they think is cool. Think of something you could make or do that would bring them joy or entertainment.

Then do it.

Then put it in front of them (without selling your book at the end). Just give it to them and say “Here, I thought you’d like this.” If they’re curious about who you are, they’re check you out. It might not work the first time. You may need to do that 7 times, until somebody finally says “Gee, this person has been putting out a whole bunch of great content, I wonder who they are?” Then they click to your website. Then they see you’ve written a book. By this time, they already know that you provide value and are pretty awesome, so buying the book is an easy sale.

The great thing about this approach is that all of that content keeps working for you in a way that traditional advertising or marketing does not. Keep at it for a few months and put out 25 amazing articles, some on your blog, some on popular blogs with more traffic. Now you’ve got a funnel – each of those articles will get new traffic every day of the year, until the end of the world, which will drive consistent, long term book sales, while also building your author platform and bringing in new fans and readers.


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