Marketing Your Book

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While you don’t need to have every detail of your marketing strategies mapped out when you begin writing your book, the earlier you get started on crafting this part of your platform, the better.

Speaking Events

When you appear at events, you can spread the gospel about your book. If you’re physically in contact with audiences, you can sell copies of your book. When people see and meet you, they frequently buy your book. If you give speeches, you’re almost guaranteed to sell your books because at most events, your books will be available for sale. However, when you try to publicize your book through the media, selling books is iffier.

Learn to become an accomplished speaker because speaking is a major platform for selling books. Plan ahead, early in the book-writing process. Begin speaking at least six months to a year before your book is published, to drum up interest in it and to build your speaking ability and reputation.

If you’re not an established speaker, take public-speaking classes or media training. Join speakers’ organizations. Then speak for free for local organizations where you can polish your craft. Start small and work your way up; build a following and a reputation for being a dynamic, entertaining, and enlightening speaker. Chamber of commerce events routinely feature business authors. Arrange with bookstore owners who are chamber members to sell your books at the events.

Also speak to local branches of industry or professional groups. If you’ve written a sales or networking book, you could speak at meetings of Sales and Marketing Executives International or the American Marketing Association. Try to build your base where you live and work because members of the community where you started will become your staunchest supporters.

When you become an accomplished speaker, assemble videotapes of your presentations, testimonials, a speech description, and your biography in a professional manner. Then, sign up with as many speaker bureaus as possible to get bookings. The top bureaus include the International Speakers Bureau, Leading Authorities, Inc., the Leigh Bureau, and Washington Speaker Bureau.

Author 101 Advice

A powerful strategy for launching your book is to reduce your fee on the condition that the host organization make up the difference by purchasing copies of your book. For example, if you normally command $5,000 for a keynote speech, cut your fee in half and take $2,500 if the host organization agrees to spend the other half buying $2,500 worth of your book.

The benefits you receive are that you’re guaranteed $2,500 worth of book sales that won’t be returned and more of your books get into circulation. Having books circulate builds word-of-mouth publicity, which should be your main objective because every book in a reader’s hands is an ambassador and a publicist for you and your book. If you are an established speaker, you can afford to take less cash in order to move more copies of your book. When you employ this strategy over a number of personal appearances, it can provide substantial book sales and excellent publicity.

Hook up with 800-CEO-READ, an online business-book retailer that sells books to the corporate market. It will feature your book in its newsletter and on its website and will solicit bulk orders for your book from corporations. 800-CEO-READ will arrange for copies of your books to be available at your public appearances, events, and speaking engagements. All sales made by 800-CEO-READ are reported to many of the leading bestseller lists. Either go through or clear it with your publisher.

E-Mail Blasts

E-mail blasts are campaigns intended to make books bestsellers with online booksellers. E-mail blasts work well with certain business books, especially motivational books. Incentives that can be a part of the package include free or discounted audiotapes, videos, books or chapters of books, resource lists, courses, newsletter subscriptions, or seminars.

A variation of the e-mail blast that works well for business books is what we call an awareness blast. This blast is intended to provide information and awareness, not free gifts. For example, if your marketing book is targeted to C-level executives (chief executive officers, chief information officers, and chief financial officers), you probably don’t want to conduct giveaways, because they’re too gimmicky for your audience. So, instead, you buy a list of C-level executives from Business Week and then send a general sales e-mail or letter to inform them about your new book. You can include high-level endorsements, favorable reviews, and even excerpts. The cost of buying sharply targeted lists can be expensive, but it can enable you to reach a precise audience.

As we mentioned in our discussion of authors’ Web sites, capturing names and e-mail addresses is a major objective of such sites. If you acquire enough names and addresses, you can hold your own e-mail blast and send other promotions to people who you know have some interest in you and your book.


Some business books lend themselves to creative campaigns. One that was highly successful was the Best Boss/Worst Boss contest that Planned Television Arts developed to promote The Corporate Coach: How to Build a Team of Loyal Customers and Happy Employees by James B. Miller, the CEO of Miller Business Systems (HarperBusiness, 1994).

The contest, which was promoted during Miller’s twenty-city tour, invited employees to submit essays describing their best and worst bosses. The grand-prize winner in each category received a trip to Hawaii. The contest generated many additional interviews for Miller during his tour as well as national placements, including three with the Associated Press. Both the Today Show and The Osgood File featured the contest winners and Miller’s book. Interestingly, the worst boss winner appeared in disguise.

Miller’s contest was so popular that he ran similar contests for another two years. He also used material obtained from the contests to write another book, Best Boss, Worst Boss: Lessons and Laughs from the International “Best Boss/Worst Boss” Contests (Summit Publishing Group, 1997).

Any entrepreneurial author should strongly consider running a contest. With the Internet, it’s not difficult.

Top BestSeller Lists

New York Times (monthly)

Business Week (monthly)

Wall Street Journal Business

USA Today

To make weekly bestseller lists, you usually need to sell at least 3,000 copies a week, and for monthly lists, 10,000 copies a month.

Making the business bestseller list is a matter of velocity; it’s a matter of how many books you sell in a particular week or month, not your cumulative sales. It’s a sprint, not a marathon. So, create your book campaign strategy to sell as many books in the smallest period of time possible in order to generate the maximum number of reported sales during that time. To create the most impact, orchestrate all your publicity efforts to come together during that window of time: your speaking engagements, op-ed piece, your e-mail blast, and your corporate orders. If your promotional efforts and your book sales are spread over a period of months, you will be less likely to make the bestseller lists.

The only sales figures used for bestseller lists are those that come from retail chains, online booksellers, and independent bookstores. So, if you make a bulk sale to a corporation or sell tons of books from the back of the room when you speak, those won’t be counted unless they’re made by one of the groups mentioned above.

Special Opportunities

Business news is always breaking. In areas such as parenting, lifestyles, entertainment, food, and even sports, the news can be slow. However, the business news never stops; it rarely slows down. So, business authors must position themselves to seize upon developments as soon as they occur in their areas of expertise.

Bill George’s book, Authentic Leadership (Jossey-Bass, 2004), featured his expertise on good corporate governance and CEO pay. His publicity campaign focused on his high ethical standards and visionary ideas. When former New York Stock Exchange chief Richard Grasso came under fire, the media turned to George as an expert on ethical CEO behavior. George gave interviews that spawned more interviews, and he received great publicity, which boosted the sales of his book.

Business authors must also anticipate future news in order to time their books and publicity efforts around upcoming cycles that the media will cover. If you have a book on job searching or career advice, make sure that your book is released during April or May to tie it into the annual graduation cycle that follows. Every year, prior to graduation, the media churns out stories on finding jobs and establishing careers. By anticipating the media’s patterns, authors of books on these subjects can make themselves available to the media as experts. They can get great publicity for themselves and their books by giving the media explanations, insights, and quotations on careers. The assistance they provide to the media can pay off at other times of the year when the media needs experts to help it with news items on jobs and careers.


All authors should capitalize on the special attention that they can get from the media in their hometowns. For business authors, that means developing strong ties to the business editors and reporters for their local newspapers and business journals. It pays for authors to build strong hometown bases because locals take pride in the success of other locals and help promote them.

When it comes to hometown coverage, business authors have the advantage of having more outlets where they can speak than other authors. They can speak at chambers of Commerce; at service clubs such as Rotary, Kiwanis, and Elks Clubs; and to local business groups. Business authors should take advantage of these opportunities to build a strong local speaking base and solid grassroots support.

Extra Credit

Write biographies and promotional materials that build your credibility. In bios, stress the accomplishments that relate most to your book. Readers and the media want to know that you have outstanding credentials. It will make the information and advice in your book more authoritative.

The press materials for Bill George’s Authentic Leadership noted that George was a member of the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD). However, it stressed that he had been named the Corporate Director of the Year by NACD. The media picked up on this point and frequently referred to George as the former NACD Corporate Director of the year.

Tweak bios to emphasize the author’s expertise in areas in which individual media contacts are most interested. Conform news releases and other promotional materials so they also highlight authors’ expertise in the same areas.

Business authors should also utilize their media contacts. Over the years, most business authors, especially those who are business leaders, make extensive media contacts. To promote their books, they should contact their media contacts. When members of the media cover stories, they have the power to determine the direction and tenor of the piece. So using your personal connections can get you favorable coverage.

It’s a good idea to cultivate media contacts well before your book comes out. As we’ve suggested, become a media resource: feed the media stories, information, and sources; write byline articles; and volunteer your expertise. Then, when you need the help of those contacts, your relationship will have been established and you won’t have to start from scratch.

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