How to Reshape Your Mindset Around Book Marketing
By Sue Campbell
Many authors look forward to marketing their books about as much as they look forward to major dental work. Maybe they think marketing involves being sleazy and self-absorbed, or maybe they just don’t know where to start. Either way, they put it off, despite their own best interests.
It bums me out. When you work hard and write hard for months or years, your book really deserves a chance to succeed. And the only way it’s going to get that chance is through a sound marketing strategy.
So let’s try a new way to look at marketing your book that won’t be akin to facing a dentist’s drill.
Step one: don’t call it marketing
A big part of the problem is, frankly, marketers. As consumers, we tend to define marketing by it’s most unsavory practices. We think in order to sell books we have to be that guy; who never gets out of your face and is always with the hard sell. And we definitely don’t want to be that guy.
But that’s not the kind of marketing that sells books anyway, so we need to let all those associations go. What if instead of saying “marketing,” we said “finding and connecting with readers”? My mentor Tim Grahl’s definition of marketing is “the act of building long-lasting connections with people.” I bet you don’t have too many negative associations with that concept, so let’s use it.
That’s the first step in reshaping your marketing mindset. Don’t call it marketing. Just call it finding and connecting with (potential) readers.
Step two: ask yourself this key question
Are you proud of what you’ve written? Yes, we all have moments where we doubt our abilities. In every book there’s a “what if this is a piece of shit” moment. But if we’ve done our job as creatives, we’ve poured all our skills into writing the best possible book and enlisted some external validation and help in the form of critique groups, editors, and agents to make sure the book is as good as it can be.
If you’ve done all these things, you can be proud.
You wrote a book. Millions of people want to, very few actually do. Use your enthusiasm as fuel to find the right audience for it.
But, if deep in your heart you know you took shortcuts and this is not the best work you’re capable of, well, that’s a different story. In that case, I’m going to recommend you stop trying to market your book and instead set to work on writing something better — a book that will make people sob, scream, laugh out loud, or maybe even change their entire approach to life. Write a book people will automatically share because it’s made some magic for them. (Recommendation for deeper reading on this: Perennial Seller by Ryan Holiday. The first part of the book is all about creating something worthwhile.)
Step three: Accept that not everyone will like your book
We’ve established that you’re proud and you’re ready to connect with readers. Now’s the time I need to be straight with you and warn you that not everyone will love, like, or even care about your book. That is perfectly okay. I’m sure you’ve read many books you were lukewarm about, but would you want your feelings about the book to throw that author into a depression that parked her on the couch watching Rockford Files re-runs and eating cold pizza for six months? (I’m really hoping you’re not a troll and can answer that question with a definitive “no.”)
Negative readers should not have that kind of power over writers. Sadly, there are trolls out there. Do not feed the trolls with your emotional and creative energy! And don’t read your reviews if you suspect a negative one would get stuck in your craw.
Instead, find your minimal viable audience (hat tip to Seth Godin) and focus on them. Connect with them, nourish them with great content and invite them to join your tribe.
You don’t want just anybody to read your book, you want the right people to read your book. Now go find them.