Lately, I have been getting a lot of questions from people wanting to know how I write, publish, and market my books, especially my most successful book, “How To Deliver a TED Talk.” I love helping others become more effective communicators so I’m happy to share the insights and techniques I have learned along the way. This post, Part 3 in a three-part series, covers how to market a nonfiction book. The other posts are:
Tip 1: Build your platform by being an active content giver
At this point, I am assuming that you have written and published a well-edited nonfiction book that has material people value and want to share with their friends. However, no one knows that your book exists. To help people find it, you have to start giving
I’m a strong believer in the hypothesis that if you give great content away, people will want to buy your book. They are not rewarding you. Rather, they hope (and it should be true) that what is in your book is as valuable as what you give away for free. I give content away by blogging at least once a week. In case you are wondering, I use and recommend the Focus child theme on the Genesis Framework in WordPress. (I used to use and love the Thesis theme, but the new version became way too technically complex even though I used to be a programmer.)
There are tons of books written on platform building for people entering the ‘expert economy.’ Three of my favorites are Michael Hyatt’s Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World, Brenden Bruchard’s The Millionaire Messenger: Make a Difference and a Fortune Sharing Your Advice, and Michael Port’s Book Yourself Solid.
Tip 2: Give content on other people’s platforms
It is going to take a while for a critical-mass of people to find (and hopefully share) the content you are giving away on your own platform. While you build your content empire, give content away freely on other people’s platforms. My main way of doing this is serving as a guest on other people’s Podcasts. One of my favorite podcasters is Moe Abdou at 33Voices. At least at this stage, I’m happy to be interviewed by any Podcaster independent of the size of their audience.
Every once in a blue moon, I write a guest blog post but I try to reserve written content for my own platform.
Tip 3: Figure out who the influencers are in your genre and send them two review copies
I maintain a list of the top influencers (mostly bloggers and other writers) on public speaking. My go-to resource is Guy Kawaskaki’s Alltop which aggregates and ranks blogs in every imaginable category.
Once I identify an influencer, I reach out with a very personalized email to ask if they would like a copy of my book to do an objective review. Most say yes since they are as hungry to get content as I am to give it. Plus, we are all fans of each other’s work.
Next, I mail the influencer two physical copies with a handwritten note. Even though this process is more time consuming and expensive than sending an eBook, I send physical copies because it shows I care. I send two copies so that the reviewer can read one and pass one on to a friend.
Outside of influencers who regularly write reviews, I do NOT give books away. With my first book, What Great Looks Like, I gave hundreds of books away and ended up with two reviews. When you give a book away, it will collect dust. When people buy your book, they read it since they have skin in the game. If they enjoy it, they may reward you with a review.
Tip 4: Get as many positive reviews on Amazon as fast as you can
Though I do not have scientific proof, I believe that building a strong, early flow of positive reviews on Amazon is a major driver of book sales, triggering a virtuous cycle – reviews drive sales which drive reviews which drive sales…
Your friends and family will likely provide the first reviews. The next wave will come from the influencers to whom you sent books. Then, when you book takes off, everyone else will jump in. As an added touch, I do my best to track down people (usually via LinkedIn) who gave me four or five star reviews to thank them.
Some people will give you 1 or 2 star reviews. You just have to accept that some people will hate your work. Do not try to change their opinion. And, don’t feel hurt; as Seth Godin would say, it is a good sign you created something remarkable when some people love your work and others loath.
Tip 5: Sign up for NetGalley
Once you get some traction, reinvest some of your profits by signing up for NetGalley. They provide their community with access to your book in exchange for objective reviews. The NetGalley reviewers are quite active and influential so your reviews will show up on Amazon, GoodReads, and blogs.
NetGalley is the only “service” of this type that I use. I avoid all forms of paid reviews, including Kirkus.
Tip 6: Speak for free or for fee every chance you get
Early on, you are probably going to need to speak for free at every venue you are invited to. Go for it and have fun. You should be able to sell books from the back of the room (if you do that, make sure you use a credit card processing device like Square and sell at a price equal to or less than what people can buy your book for through any other channel). Once you are established, you can start speaking “for fee” and bundle your books with the deal.
Please add a comment if you agree or disagree or if I missed anything.