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6 Secrets of Successful Book Marketing

I’ve probably worked on hundreds of marketing campaigns in my time over the past ten years working at agencies. And what I realized these past few weeks as I’ve been launching my own book, is that I’ve never worked on a book launch among all those campaigns and that it’s different when it’s your own project as opposed to something you work on for someone else. I thought about doing a recap of the entire marketing effort behind PNI (including the things I am still planning but haven’t yet launched), but that’s only something you can do a year or longer after launching the book and seeing the results of effort. Of course, waiting that long seems like way too long to share some things I have already learned, so here’s a first list of some "secrets" I’ve learned so far about working in the publishing industry which will hopefully be useful for you whether you are launching your own book, or some other product or service:

  1. Provide a vision. Lots of people will want to try and help you with a book when you come out with it because it is exciting. The trick is to keep them excited about it beyond the initial buzz of meeting you or hearing that you have a book out.  My vision for the book had partially to do with a very short and powerful elevator pitch ("personality matters") which I have been talking about since my first post about the power of personality picking it as the trend to watch for 2008 back in my first post of the new year. The vision for the book is what people can believe in, and what has propelled much of the buzz from people so far talking about it.
  2. Avoid the big bang. Lots of books launch with a big burst of activity and then fade away. Instead, my marketing strategy for PNI extends for more than a year. There is lots of activity now and you could be forgiven for thinking that I am using the same "big bang" approach as other books … but trust me when I say that there is a much longer term approach to how I am promoting this book.  I expect peak sales for PNI to come a year or two from now, and hopefully continue. I aimed to write a book that was international, had a shelf life beyond the usual 2 years and that would build word of mouth as more people puchased, read, and used the ideas within it. "Bum rushing charts" is great for a spike, but I am building a brand around the book that I want to last for far longer than a weekend.
  3. Know your competition. I know that I released a book in the same time frame as the long awaited Groundswell from Charlene and Josh from Forrester (both of whom I know and have great respect and admiration for). On occasion, I get a question about what it is like to be "competing" with them by having PNI come out within a week of Groundswell. I don’t see it like that firstly because we have very different books (mine is only peripherally about social media and is actually more of a marketing/branding/entrepreneurship book). Secondly, and more importantly, we are not with the same publisher. My real competition is any other book from McGraw-Hill that is part of their Spring 2008 catalog which is competing for marketing resources from the MH team. So far PNI is the lead title from McGraw-Hill’s entire Spring catalog. That’s why we managed to presell more than half of our entire first edition run to bookstores (more than 10,000 units) before the book was even released.
  4. Get used to uncertainty. When you launch a book, there are a lot of elements that are out of your control. The actual release date, the binding, the timelines … everything will start to seem a bit haphazard and uncoordinated. Luckily, I have a lot of experience working with big brands, so the experience of working in an environment where you are not quite sure of everything that others are doing to work on the same challenge as you is a very familiar situation for me. The main way I have learned to tackle this is by sharing more openly what I am doing and reacting to new information quickly as I get it.
  5. Build a team one by one. My book is all about how you need to make the individuals in your organization the ones that can speak for your brand and bring it to life. In publishing, this means selling the concept of the book to all the people from my publisher who may have the chance to touch it. I have been directly emailing more than 25 individuals in offices around the world at McGraw-Hill to build relationships with them and bring them into the marketing team for PNI. I know what it’s like to have multiple projects to work on each day … I’ve done that in agencies for many years. Now that I’m the client, I’m taking my own advice and trying to make my project the one that team members choose to work on more than any of the other ones on their plate.  I want PNI to be the project they tell their families about with excitement after getting home from a day of work.
  6. Launch quickly, iterate and move on. This is a lesson that more and more marketers are starting to embrace, in part because of the perceived success of a brand like Google in just trying lots of things, seeing what works, and then focusing on that.  The nice thing about being my own client is that I have ultimate say on whether to do something or not. And the tact I’ve taken with most campaigns around the book launch is to decide quickly and do it. The virtual interview idea that I had on book launch day (March 28th) which resulted in buzz on more than 60 blogs was an idea that I had just four days earlier. It fit with my strategy, was implementable and so I did it. I will soon be launching a follow up to that effort (next week) that should get even more buzz. Stay tuned for that announcement next Monday.

This list is based on a few months of promotional effort for Personality Not Included.  As time runs on, I hope to have even more insights to share … as well as more detailed results behind them to illustrate just how effective they really are.

20 thoughts on “6 Secrets of Successful Book Marketing”

  1. Promoting your own writing is always more difficult than promoting someone else’s writing. These seem like pretty good tips, although I’ve never promoted a book in my life.

    Reply
  2. Promoting your own writing is always more difficult than promoting someone else’s writing. These seem like pretty good tips, although I’ve never promoted a book in my life.

    Reply
  3. Great conversation about the fundamentals of successful book marketing. Too many good books don’t make it because of the mentality of author and the hired marketing help.

    Thank you,
    Maria Reyes-McDavis

    Reply
  4. Great conversation about the fundamentals of successful book marketing. Too many good books don’t make it because of the mentality of author and the hired marketing help.

    Thank you,
    Maria Reyes-McDavis

    Reply
  5. This is definitely a great blog!! But, I can’t leave without telling the readers that Internet marketing is not an easy thing to do. Please educate yourself before getting into this field. When you finally get the right tools and knowledge, you can create an income with unlimited potential.

    Reply
  6. This is definitely a great blog!! But, I can’t leave without telling the readers that Internet marketing is not an easy thing to do. Please educate yourself before getting into this field. When you finally get the right tools and knowledge, you can create an income with unlimited potential.

    Reply
  7. Rohit . . . Love this blog entry. If agreeable to you, I’d like to repost it to my BookMarket.com website where I’m featuring marketing-my-book lists from various authors and publishers.

    As for the comment above that Internet marketing is not an easy thing to do. Well, I disagree. I believe it’s a lot easier than most other kinds of marketing. That’s what I’m teaching in my new Ten Million Eyeballs Events.

    Reply
  8. Rohit . . . Love this blog entry. If agreeable to you, I’d like to repost it to my BookMarket.com website where I’m featuring marketing-my-book lists from various authors and publishers.

    As for the comment above that Internet marketing is not an easy thing to do. Well, I disagree. I believe it’s a lot easier than most other kinds of marketing. That’s what I’m teaching in my new Ten Million Eyeballs Events.

    Reply
  9. Great post, I would agree not to just go out with a band and then let the book fade away. The internet is a long-term marketing approach for books from my experiences. I would have to disagree with Kremer on this one – internet marketing is easy once you learn it, but it has a very sharp learning curve and it not easy at the start.

    Reply
  10. Great post, I would agree not to just go out with a band and then let the book fade away. The internet is a long-term marketing approach for books from my experiences. I would have to disagree with Kremer on this one – internet marketing is easy once you learn it, but it has a very sharp learning curve and it not easy at the start.

    Reply
  11. Ditto! I know so many fellow professionals who’ve written a book, went with a publisher, had a big “launch” with a flurry of activity, and then had their dream fizzle out. I think that it not only takes a prolonged effort to make a book a success, but works even better when selling the book serves a larger purpose (whether financially or not). Thanks for your post, Rohit

    Reply
  12. Ditto! I know so many fellow professionals who’ve written a book, went with a publisher, had a big “launch” with a flurry of activity, and then had their dream fizzle out. I think that it not only takes a prolonged effort to make a book a success, but works even better when selling the book serves a larger purpose (whether financially or not). Thanks for your post, Rohit

    Reply
  13. Hi, former book publicist here. Great points, Rohit. You have a leg up because you have already cultivated an audience on your blog — which is another important bit of advice: don’t wait for the book launch to start your marketing/PR. By then, it’s too late. I worked with many authors — a majority of whom were very busy with day jobs — who were so focused on the chore of writing their books, they didn’t see the larger picture. Fact is, even big publishers like McGraw-Hill aren’t going to put the marketing resources behind a book/author they way they once would have for store appearances, etc. And those tactics are no longer effective anyway. You really need to be of the mindset that you are selling *yourself and your ideas*, which happen to be packaged for easy consumption in a book.

    You need to get your voice out there — on blogs, mixing at events, etc., where your target audience congregates — and build anticipation. You can’t do that for a book already released. See if your publisher will let you share a pre-release book excerpt, visuals of the book jacket or illustrations from inside. See if they’ll let you shop gallies around to reviewers so that the raves are out there right when the book is “ready to ship” from Amazon. See how many printed copies your publisher will let you send out on your own to reviewers/bloggers/etc. Don’t count on their marketing machine to do the work.

    I also agree with other commenters about making a long-term commitment to book promotion. You can get lots more mileage by aligning yourself with talked-about topics, rather than just pushing the book as product. Participate on blogs, contact journalists who write about your subject, offer yourself as an expert.

    Obviously, I could go on & on. Main thing to keep in mind is that you are not going to make (much) money on book sales. For business books, the objective is to raise your visibility as a thought leader, not to become the next Stephen King. The most successful authors do it out of passion & are willing to keep working on their books long after the writing is done. You know this, Rohit, because you were a marketer before you were an author. That’s not true for the vast majority.

    Reply
  14. Hi, former book publicist here. Great points, Rohit. You have a leg up because you have already cultivated an audience on your blog — which is another important bit of advice: don’t wait for the book launch to start your marketing/PR. By then, it’s too late. I worked with many authors — a majority of whom were very busy with day jobs — who were so focused on the chore of writing their books, they didn’t see the larger picture. Fact is, even big publishers like McGraw-Hill aren’t going to put the marketing resources behind a book/author they way they once would have for store appearances, etc. And those tactics are no longer effective anyway. You really need to be of the mindset that you are selling *yourself and your ideas*, which happen to be packaged for easy consumption in a book.

    You need to get your voice out there — on blogs, mixing at events, etc., where your target audience congregates — and build anticipation. You can’t do that for a book already released. See if your publisher will let you share a pre-release book excerpt, visuals of the book jacket or illustrations from inside. See if they’ll let you shop gallies around to reviewers so that the raves are out there right when the book is “ready to ship” from Amazon. See how many printed copies your publisher will let you send out on your own to reviewers/bloggers/etc. Don’t count on their marketing machine to do the work.

    I also agree with other commenters about making a long-term commitment to book promotion. You can get lots more mileage by aligning yourself with talked-about topics, rather than just pushing the book as product. Participate on blogs, contact journalists who write about your subject, offer yourself as an expert.

    Obviously, I could go on & on. Main thing to keep in mind is that you are not going to make (much) money on book sales. For business books, the objective is to raise your visibility as a thought leader, not to become the next Stephen King. The most successful authors do it out of passion & are willing to keep working on their books long after the writing is done. You know this, Rohit, because you were a marketer before you were an author. That’s not true for the vast majority.

    Reply
  15. I like the “Avoid The Big Bang” rule. I didn’t follow this rule and my book sold more in the first week of release then it has in the 9 months since then.

    Sure, it was nice for the first week, but it sure would be nice to still be getting decent sales!

    Reply
  16. I like the “Avoid The Big Bang” rule. I didn’t follow this rule and my book sold more in the first week of release then it has in the 9 months since then.

    Sure, it was nice for the first week, but it sure would be nice to still be getting decent sales!

    Reply
  17. Interesting comment re: “launch quickly, then move on”. From the 60 mentions you received in the blogs, how big was the sales bump — and are you getting a noticable residual? Perhaps the mantra might be, “launch quickly, move on, relaunch again and again”.

    Reply
  18. Interesting comment re: “launch quickly, then move on”. From the 60 mentions you received in the blogs, how big was the sales bump — and are you getting a noticable residual? Perhaps the mantra might be, “launch quickly, move on, relaunch again and again”.

    Reply
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    If you have some works that you would like to get published, use my permalink to find out how easy it is to self-publish. Get it written & bound @

    Reply

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A keynote speaker on trends, innovation, marketing, storytelling and diversity.

Rohit Bhargava is on a mission to inspire more non-obvious thinking in the world. He is the #1 Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling author of eight books and is widely considered one of the most entertaining and original speakers on disruption, trends and marketing in the world.

Rohit has been invited to keynote events in 32 countries … and over the past year, given more than 100 virtual talks from his home studio. He previously spent 15 years as a marketing strategist at Ogilvy and Leo Burnett and also teaches marketing and storytelling as an adjunct professor at Georgetown University.

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