Don’t Market Your Book

Anna Leinberger Posted by Anna Leinberger, Editorial Manager, Acqusitions, Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc.

Anna is a writer and editor for Berrett-Koehler in Oakland, CA. More on killer book proposals and writing can be found on her BK Blog.


Don’t Market Your Book

…Market yourself!

Despite the phenomenal popularity of the show Mad Men, where people who advertise to the rest of us are lauded for their genius and creativity, sitting in Madison Avenue skyscrapers drinking scotch in the middle of the day, it turns out that what they do is actually pretty unpopular.

Really- no one likes to be “sold” to. The minute we realize that someone’s motivation is to sell us something, to convince us to buy something, we usually turn off, tune out, and walk away with a bad taste in our mouths.

Books, though they have a bit of a “virtuous” mystique are no exception. Newbie authors to twitter are vehemently told that they must do more with their twitter account than attempt to get people to buy their book. Cue confusion- “I was told to be on twitter to market my book! Why else would I be on twitter??”

Why you shouldn’t ever try to sell books on twitter

Imagine this: you are at a cocktail party- a large one, somewhat impersonal, perhaps sponsored by a large organization in a bigger venue. You don’t know many people there but you are interested to chat with some new people and talk about interesting things. You happen to be choosing between a kale and mushroom slider with pine nuts and bacon beignet, when suddenly you are accosted by someone who excitedly attempts to tell you about their book, monopolizing your time and spouting pitch after pitch for their book. Not fun, right?

Alternatively, you strike up a conversation with someone else at the table because they have a brochure for an organization you are both interested in. Turns out they are a really interesting person, and they are doing very interesting things in the world! You like what they are doing and want to learn more. You ask about their work, and they mention that they wrote a book about it called “______” they were such a lovely person that you are excited to buy the book.

Although twitter has come into its own as much more than a pared down version of Facebook, it is still a social network. It is used to share trends, have conversations, and report on events (amongst other things). People go on twitter to engage, to interact with others in a very particular way. No one likes ads, and people dislike when someone they thought was there to socially engage ends up sending blast after pre-fab blast about their awesome thing you should buy. Instead, sell your book indirectly by engaging with others and sharing about the work you do. This is authentically marketing yourself.

The Book Tour is Dead (and no, not, long live the book tour)

Think about your life for a moment. When was the last time you went to an author reading at a bookstore? If you have ever actually attended an author event, I am willing to bet that it is because you are already a huge fan of that author, not because you are interested in discovering a new book to read. Despite this fact, many a prospective author includes “willing to travel on book tours to promote the book and do readings” in their marketing plan.

I hate to burst your collective bubbles, but to be frank: unless you are Lena Dunham, your book tour is not going to do squat. Attendance at readings is generally very low, and the 10-20 books you are going to sell does not justify the travel expenses of sending you to 5 cities in travel, hotel, and food costs. People do not go to book events, they go to events with an interesting topic, and if they are sufficiently inspired by your work, that is when they will be excited to invest the money and time into buying and reading your book.

Instead, Try this:

Think about what motivates you to buy a book. Our publicity department pays very little in the way of advertisement money. Speaking events, interviews, or well-placed blog entries drive sales far more than any ad campaign. When you hear someone speak, you are introduced to the ideas and the work, it piques your interest and where do you go for more information? The book! It is the substance, the person, that grabs interest initially, not an ad or a twitter blast to convince you to buy a book. Use twitter to engage with your community, seek guest blog slots to write about your work and what you are passionate about. Get the news out there about your message, and sales will follow.

The lesson is this- don’t market your book. Market yourself. If people like what you are doing they will want to know more, and they will seek your book out.