July 13, 2014

Marketing Your Book: 4 Things Writers Can Learn from Business



Hug for Jan




Writers more than frequently than not tell me they are stymied when it comes to marketing their book. They prefer sitting at their desk writing. They would love to hide in their little corner of the world and let the book sell itself.

However, the book won’t sell itself.

There are multi-million dollar deals for some authors. For all but very few authors. However, they have a proven track record or have had a unique life experience. For example

  • Simon & Schuster signed Mary Higgins Clark, the mystery writer, to a $10.1 million, five-book contract.
  • Dell Publishing’s agreement less than two weeks ago to pay $5.2 million for hardcover and paperback rights to two books by Thomas Harris, the author of three best sellers, including the current ”Silence of the Lambs.”
  • Malala Yousafzai, 15, will get a chance to tell her story with the publication of a book I Am Malala. The deal: 3 million dollars.
  • Amanda Knox agreed to a nearly $4 million book deal with HarperCollins about her trial and imprisonment in Italy for the murder of her British roommate.

Yes, the multimillion dollar book deals are out there for those persons with name recognition or with bizarre experiences. However, they aren’t out there for you or for me. For us marketing is viewed as a struggle and a challenge. We must work diligently to sell our books.

Business persons offers some marketing hints for authors. I’ve collected a four to share. NOTE: I’ve changed some of the material to reflect writing and readers rather than businesses and customers.


As I read articles and columns about being successful in business I see hints which might help us market our books. After all, our book is a product and a product must be marketed if it is to be sold. And marketing requires us to develop an outgoing side to our personality. Sitting in a corner mouse-like doesn’t cut it.

In this article I’ll share four business-model lessons I’ve gleaned from reading different columns: developing an opening line, sell yourself first, developing empathy, and developing self-confidence.


When selling your book (product) what you really sell first is yourself. The ultimate product is you, the author. Do you have the self-confidence to market yourself to others?

  • Know how to sell yourself, something we all need today to get ahead? according to business columnist Anita Bruzzese


Your opening line generally is what you say to the common bloke who asks two questions.

  • First question: “what do you do.” The questioner often fawns over you when you say you are a writer. This is an opportunity to have a relationship with that person—a relationship that might last three minutes or develop into a best-friend situation, but always is an opportunity to hand out your business card.

Charley Reese* stated that his purpose in writing (other than to keep bread on the table) is to stimulate readers to think about important subjects. It matters not to him if people agree or disagree with him, as long as they accept the challenge to think. The enemies at our gates are ignorance, apathy, and the inability to think logically. If we don’t kill them, they will kill us as a free society.

That is a workable opening line that will yield conversation.

  • The next question is “what do you write?”

Frequently my opening line is I’m writing about a strong French woman who emigrated from France during the Revolution, didn’t speak English, yet within two months signed a tentative contract with Gen. Henry Knox to purchase 220,000 acres in Maine.

It’s catchy—strong woman doing an amazing thing. This line stimulates questions.

OK, so your book doesn’t necessarily challenge people to think, nor is it based on real-life characters doing extraordinary things.

New York-based copywriter and humorist Don Hauptman learned a technique he said is “as old as the hills but still applies and always will…The approach the instructor taught was to begin with these four magic words: ‘I can bring you.’”  It makes you think like a reader, which is the secret to being read.

Ask yourself What will my book, my specific writing, bring to others?

I hear Joanne McGough, author of A Bed and Breakfast Affair, tell people it brings relaxation, a respite from the constant barrage of information and troubles of the day.


Selling yourself is not just about you.

Bullet  To persuade someone to buy you it is necessary to develop empathy—that is, you need to be able to see through the eyes of the other. Empathy is the most important aspect of business (marketing), according to Bruzzese.

I add: when marketing your book (product) the risk is viewing everyone as a potential purchaser, which objectifies them. Empathy overrules this tendency. It allows you to be genuinely interested in the other person, not just in the possibility they will reduce your pile of books.

Having empathy has been shown in research to be a key personal quality in managers reaching top leadership positions, according to entrepreneur Adam Riccoboni. He states that developing empathy, or emotional intelligence, may take some practice. There are ways to develop empathy:

Recognize emotions: Try to pick up on verbal and nonverbal cues about what another person feels; be sensitive and understanding.

Step into the reader’s shoes: Imagine yourself in the reader’s place and think about asking questions that will help you answer what reading your book would contribute to their life. And sometimes it might not contribute anything.

Think before acting: Be aware of your own emotions and get them under control before trying to change someone else’s mind. Be aware of how others will others react to your comments, what non-verbal cues are you sending.

Back to the four magic words: ‘I can bring you.’”  It makes you think like a reader, which is the secret to being read.


Authors need a sense of self-confidence that projects genuineness.

As you think back over the last 10 years, list achievement for each year. Reviewing this list will offer you an understanding of your own achievements and strengths…and will build your confidence in your abilities.


With practice, selling yourself, opening lines, empathy, and self-confidence will come to those who risk putting themselves “out there.”

Keep writing, knowing that in the end, your product will sell. And you just might enjoy its marketing aspect.



How to Write a Letter to the Editor

From Postcards to Tweets: The Byte Connection

Daily Post: 32 Flavors…of Writing Resolutions


*Reese’s Reasoning, Charley Reese, Here is where this columnist is coming from, Dec. 29, 2000 (no paper listed)


1 Comment »

  1. Carolyn, Good morning. Writing is a lot of hard work…selling it/yourself is even more! 🙂

    Comment by merry101 — July 13, 2014 @ 7:04 am | Reply

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