Need the No Nonsense Book Marketing Truth? Get These Titles by guest @cdetler
Am I the only one who hates a con artist?
Okay, rhetorical. Do over.
Am I the only one who recognizes a con artist when she sees one? That answer’s not so obvious, my friend. Prepare to learn there’s no Santa.
We’ve been laughing at the dupe who gets flimflammed since forever. Bugs Bunny had his trench coat full of snake oil in the 1940s; Mick Jagger told us, “Every man is the same, c’mon. I’ll make you a star” back in ’81. We’re soooo sophisticated nowadays, with our digital Encyclopedia Britannicas in our pockets and our Snopes on speed dial. We’re way too wise to get hoodwinked.
Yeah, ya think? You fool, you.
Pull out your glass encyclopedia. Thumb up the Google. Type in “book promotion” or “book marketing” or “book publicity,” and waddaya get? You get the virtual equivalent of a hand job. You get salacious phrases like, “Your book deserves success!” “Reach millions!” “Huge audience!” “Six-figure strategies!”
Your heart beats faster and your face lights up, and you know what you do? You buy it. Like I buy it. Like we all buy it. Because we’ve worked so hard on this book, and it’s so good, and we’re so not interested in doing the “selling” part, and we do deserve to reach millions! With simple six-figure strategies! For the low price of $199.99 $139.99! Don’t we.
But those $139.99s add up. Or, if you’re going for big league, those $5,000 or $12,000 or $40,000 publicist packages add up. Before you know it, oops: you’re bankrolling the macaroon-colored décor of an internet Bugs Bunny, all because you have a dream, and she has an Insta-worthy website.
But where’s your miracle results? Where’s your “10K engaged followers”? Where’s your “168 five-star reviews”? Where’s “Your book: page one on Google”? The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind. Or rather, it’s blowing in that smoke you got puffed up your arse. Next time, read the fine print, and seek a guarantee to go with that dream.
Now, this isn’t to say that all book marketing sites are grifty. Hells bells, we’re both on BadRedheadMedia right now, aren’t we? Rachel is irrefutably legit. But take a look at her tagline: “Helping you help your damn self.” Bam. No smoke blown; no promises made. Just the Quaker-plain truth: if you want book success, you’re gonna have to work for it. To earn it.
So. If you’re here, you’re a bit of a bootstrapper, right? You like a macaroon-pink, knickknack-lined bookshelf as much as the next guy, but you’re not afraid of some dirt, some hard work. Maybe you came to this point the hard way, having traveled down the road of empty promises. Maybe you were born to do grit. Point is, you’re here now, and you’re ready to work. Fantastic! I have just the tools you need to get the book marketing job done.
Introducing the three titles that scrubbed away my delusions, gave me realistic expectations, and taught me what to do to sell books (and save my dignity).
Book One: The Business of Being a Writer
The Business of Being a Writer, by Jane Friedman. Dude, if you’re not stalking Jane’s site on the regular, are you even a writer? No-joke Jane is the penultimate B.S.-free authority on writing and publishing. She’s like that aunt who explained the brief ‘90s dental dam trend, while the rest of your grownups were stuck on Just Say No.
Jane’s been doing the damn thing for eons, and she is not here for some nonsense. For example, here’s her, telling us exactly how much money she earned in 2014. Like, to the ones place. Who else is publishing their bank statement on the net?
The Business of Being a Writer is just as straightforward and detailed. It pulls back Oz’s curtain on the mysteries of the publishing industry, introducing us to nuts and bolts like the P&L, or “profit and loss”: “a publisher’s basic tool for deciding whether a book makes financial sense to publish” (p. 47). So, OMG. It’s not a popularity contest that decides if they sign you; it’s a frigging spreadsheet. Who knew.
Like any good aunt, Jane gives broad advice, too, as soothing as it is honest: “Platform…[is] about putting in consistent effort over the course of a career, and making incremental improvements…It’s about making waves that attract other people to you—not begging them to pay attention” (p.175-176). In other words, you guys, we can quit the panic-inducing, neon-flashing GIVEAWAY! posts, and quietly do our best for the long haul instead.
If you’re done getting burned by romantic publishing fantasies; if you’ve got your big-writer panties on and you want to get to work, this book is your new bible. It answers your honest questions—“Chapter 1: Can You Make a Living as a Writer?” It explains the different arms of the publishing industry. It describes the steps one takes to get published. It gives the God’s-honest truth about how to build a platform. And it goes full on granular in part five, “How Writers Make Money.”
The Business of Being a Writer is the writer’s career instruction manual condensed into to 296 pages. With the fluff boiled out and industry insider scoop stirred in in, it’s the beef demi-glace of authorhood.
Book Two: Perennial Seller
Perennial Seller, by Ryan Holiday. My agent told me to get this book when I hit marketing fatigue. My agent knows what the funk she’s talking about.
Ryan Holiday is this weird Millennial dude whose brain is totally Greatest Generation. Or rather, it’s totally Ancient Grecian. He’s obsessed with the Stoics, an Athenian philosophy from 300 BC which can be bastardized into a few key points, including:
- We should accept whatever fate hands us.
- We shouldn’t kvetch about it.
- Being an excellent human is way more vital than being a rich/famous/hot/etc human.
Perennial Seller fleshes these beliefs out, as they relate to book sales. Have your giant lined sticky notes ready, ‘cause when Holiday poses his awesome questions designed to uncover your true mission—“What sacred cows am I slaying? What groups am I pissing off?” (p.54), you’re going to want to fire off whatever brilliance pops up, pronto.
His questions funnel you into clarity about what you really, deeply give a shit about, then the book goes on to convince you that dude, quit worrying about stupid sales rank or follower count or whatever metric-du-jour you’re using to judge your worth. You know what makes you feel good? Working on that sacred-cow-slaying mission. You know what makes you feel like pummeled snail shit? Focusing on trying to get rich/famous/hot/etc.
It also makes you ponder deep truths. For instance, how fast have you been hoping you were gonna reach rich/famous/hot? Lightning fast. But how long does it take a human to achieve their birthright mission? Until their last breath. So what’s yer rush, stoopit?
Perspective, this book gives you. Perspective and a long, deep sigh of ohhhhh yeahhhh. That’s why I started this writing thing in the first place. Let me quit panicking and enjoy what fate is handing me. (P.S.: The whole second half of the book is chock full ‘o brilliant, creative strategies to make your book blow up the right way: not with advertising dollars, but with you, doing your actual mission.)
Book Three: Known
Known, by Mark W. Schaefer. This one’s the how-to book you’ve been dreaming of. It has clear directives, in bullet points, framed by snackable little anecdotes on how the author’s clients implemented his suggestions. His suggestions on what, exactly? Let’s let the subtitle tell you: “The Handbook for Building and Unleashing Your Personal Brand in the Digital Age.”
I read a “how to book market” blog post by Schaefer and found it to be so anti-cheerleading-B.S., and so concisely action-oriented, I had to get his book. Like, immediately. So I got it on Kindle, and quickly realized I needed it in hardcopy. Because this is the book you’re going to underline, and scribble with brainstorms, and use to develop complicated origami page-folding techniques, to differentiate what the different fold-styles signify.
Some of the material is the same scoop that every social media guru doles out: use BuzzSumo; here’s why. Use Google Keywords; here’s how. The difference here is in the delivery: it’s calm and slow-moving, with plenty of white space on the page to let your brain relax its shoulders. I’ve been hearing about BuzzSumo and Google Keywords for a decade or more, but always, it’s come at me through a megaphone with a Red Bull buzz, leaving me scrambling for a woobie and a hiding place. Discovering them at Mark Schaefer’s pace, I’ve been able to finally consider, digest, and implement these tools.
The real worth, though, is in the takeaway I got from this book. The big picture, holy shit, this is what I’ve been always needing to do revelation. This might sound hella obvious, but when you’re drowning in macaroons and hoodwinkers and electronic encyclopedias, the obvious can get obscured.
So here it is, my great Known realization:
- An author’s book doesn’t sell bigly if the author isn’t known.
- An author doesn’t get known by shouting, “look at my book!”
- An author gets known by doing/being/offering something different, something worthwhile, something people want and need…
- …and by doing/being/offering that thing consistently, and publicly, over the long haul.
Broken record alert, but: book success doesn’t come fast. And it doesn’t come via advertising or pushing. It comes because people like, and trust, the author.
So. You sick of being slimed by the rah-rah book marketing handjobbers? You ready for a committed relationship with the wise women and men of book publicity? Start with these books, a fast-moving pen, and a stack of big, lined sticky notes, and map you out an action plan. It’ll take work. It’ll take time. But it’ll also let you keep your money, and your dignity, where they belong: in your own pocket, instead of lining some cartoon trench coat.