The Art of Book Marketing: Past, Present & Future

This post originally appeared on Shelton Interactive’s blog back in December as a guest post.

Writing a book is tricky business. I know because I’m in the process of doing so as I write this post. Marketing a book after it’s published can be equally difficult for a few different reasons:

  1. There is a LOT of content out there right now. Some good, some bad, some meh, but all of that content on a variety of different topics makes it difficult to break through the clutter.
  2. Publishers often don’t pony up a lot of money to market new books. That doesn’t mean they never put marketing muscle behind a book. Just not a lot. Instead, they rely on the author to hire a publicist that can hopefully propel the book into Amazon’s or the NY Times’ best seller lists.
  3. Slowly but surely, social media is making its way into the mix. But authors that are new to social media are finding that it takes more than a month or two to tap into the benefits of social. And those that have been doing social for a while aren’t necessarily the ones writing the books.
For me, I’ve had the benefit of some past, present and soon to be future experience with book marketing. In the latter case, I’m the one writing the book. In the former instances, it was a boss or a colleague that wrote the books and I’ve been on the hook to help them get the word out.
In the spirit of being prescriptive, I’m including a “what worked, what didn’t and what I would have done differently” for the past and present books I helped market. In the case of my Location Based Marketing for Dummies book that I’m writing with my friend, Mike Schneider, I’ve spelled out a few things that we hope will work based on past experience. I also have a dozen or so friends that have written books and I’ve included a few at the end of this post that I think did a good job marketing their respective books.

The Past
Back in 2006, not a lot of people knew about social media. In some ways, this was a good thing. In other ways, it made marketing a book about social media (or more specifically, using a community of people to crowd source a book on a wiki platform) that much harder. The book I’m referencing was cleverly titled, We Are Smarter Than Me, and was a collection of case studies provided by “the crowd.”

  • What worked: Content creation i.e. podcasts with individuals or representatives from companies mentioned in the book. This helped to extend the book beyond its physical cover and was great SEO juice for the book website.
  • What didn’t work: While many of the constituents that helped contributed to the book were actively engaged early on in the book writing process, we lost momentum for the six months that it took to get the book through it’s official publishing process.
  • What could have been done different: Better outreach to the companies mentioned in the book to get them to buy the book in bulk.

The Present
During my tenure here at Powered, I’ve actually had the benefit marketing two books. One by my colleague, Joseph Jaffe, titled Flip the Funnel, and a second by colleague, Greg Verdino, titled microMarketing. Because the promotion of Greg’s book is more recent, I’m going to focus on that one versus Joe’s.

  • What worked: Greg and his publicist, PTA, came up with the idea of asking bloggers to review individual chapters of Greg’s book versus the entire book. This way, we were able to get more of them engaged and lined up several chapter reviews a day for 10 days. The foundational post (and a review of Chapter One) can be found here on Citizen Marketer 2.1.
  • What didn’t work: Unfortunately, Greg is a busy guy (his full time job is VP of strategy here at Powered). While Greg is always more than willing to speak at events, webinars and take interviews, his day job keeps him focused on delivering client work instead of book promoting. This is good for Powered but tough for Greg as an author.
  • What could have been done different: In a perfect world, I would have loved to have spent more marketing dollars against getting Greg to more events and pushing for more press coverage and earned media.

The Future
As I mentioned earlier, I’m co-authoring a book titled, Location Based Marketing for Dummies. In the plus column, this is a book that is part of a well-known series that our publisher, Wiley, has been supporting for years. It’s also focusing on a topic that is near and dear to my heart. At the same time, I know there are people with a natural bias against Dummies books and while I’m thrilled to be a part of it, it’s definitely not the same as writing a book from scratch. But with that said, I do plan to market the hell out of it starting now.

  • What (we hope) will work: We’ve already secured a URL for the book and we plan to start writing posts that talk about location based marketing. We’ll also talk about the book writing process, include video and podcast interviews from the companies we talk to and keep a running list of sources we’re using for source material. By building our “followership” early and often, we’re hoping that we’ll have a built in audience who wants to buy the book when it comes out.
  • What (we hope we don’t have to say) didn’t work: Mike and I never want to come off as too sale-sy. If we ever get accused of that, I know both of us will be disappointed.
  • What we hope to do different: Combine the power of the “Dummies series” marketing engine with Mike’s and my social knowhow to create a winning product that people want to buy when it’s published. Part of what will make this successful is our continuous engagement with our constituents along the way.
So who are a few of the other authors who have done a great job marketing their books? Here are five (if you want to know why, you have to ask me in the comments):