Career Authors

What Book Marketing Is – and Isn’t

You might think marketing is the answer to selling your book. But marketing has nothing to do with you.

And I know you’d like a marketing checklist to put your books at the top of the bestseller lists right away and keep them there.

But there’s no one-size-fits-all Facebook ad plan or Amazon scheme for that. If such a foolproof recipe existed everyone would use it and crowd each other out. It would be formulaic, and so would the books it promoted.

That idea has the rules upside down, imagining that marketing is all about you.

Unlearn this

Everyone knows that marketing is begging. That it’s grabbing every stranger by the lapels and whimpering, “Buy my book … please.”

That it’s all about you, desperate and demeaned.

Which is why we hate it. Why it drains our soul.

One size does not fit all

But marketing is not begging. It’s not even the answer to selling your book.

Marketing instead is revealing what’s unique and remarkable about you. Discovering who your most passionate fans are and how to heap love on them. Then lighting the fire that your tribe can add fuel to.

No begging involved.

First, improve your craft

But first (and this never stops) before troubling over what marketing is and isn’t, become a better writer, because the best marketing can’t sell a bad book.

Writing a good book is not a throwaway line. Review scores matter. Your book’s reputation spreads by word of mouth and your two-star book doesn’t deserve to make you a living.

The best marketing is to write more, better books.

Be remarkable

That said, the rest of marketing starts with what’s remarkable. Find the remarkable thing and then get people remarking on it. That’s the word of mouth that leads to discovery.

Yet even this is not about you. Define what makes you remarkable – and put that brand forth in the world – all to be the author readers think of when they think a certain way.

Maybe it’s because of your fantastic stories. Maybe it’s your cause. Maybe it’s just some personal way that you inspire people in an authentic, lasting way. Maybe it’s you and maybe it’s your books. Either is fine.

Marketing is getting something remarkable noticed.

But there’s no one answer to that process. And if a trendy get-noticed method appeared today, it would change before your next book is written.  

The bad news: There are more than a million books published every year.

The good news: You’re not competing with them. You’re putting yourself into the world in a unique, remarkable way.

Be a category of one

Folks call it your author brand. I call it authenticity. It’s not a color scheme or a tagline, it’s the series of promises you make and keep.

And for most people, the brand emerges as you write. As you uncover what is authentic and lasting about you.

Which means, at the beginning of your career concentrate more on your writing than your branding. Don’t try to invent your brand – reveal it over time.

For that brand, be distinctive, but not so much that you’re unclassifiable. You still have to meet certain expectations.

And when you do meet these expectations in a way that aligns with your personal brand, you’ll have unlocked a new way to interact with your readers.

Make them feel

People buy books – or anything at all – because of how it makes them feel about themselves.

Because of who they are with your book in hand and your story in mind. It’s not about you, or even your book. Or even what your readers say. It about how your readers feel.

Marketing is a relationship that makes people feel.

So make them feel part of something bigger. Make them feel better about themselves. Make them feel honored and special.

Because when readers feel that way … the rules change. Then you’re not begging. Then you’re bringing joy.

Identify what you fulfill

Because it means you’re solving one specific problem for them.

Marketing is solving a problem. This one: “What should I read next?”

Billions of readers ask this question all the time. Anybody in a bookstore. Anybody on Amazon. You do them a service, you solve their problem, if you help make them aware of your books.

It’s not about shilling for yourself. It’s about serving the readers.

And when you see that marketing isn’t begging, but solving problems and bringing joy, then your task of being remarkable for your readers is one that’s no chore at all.


Does this way of looking at marketing suggest any new approaches for you? Drop us a line on Facebook. Let’s chat about it.