How I’m Marketing My Self-Published Book

My first book — on how I cured my anxiety — is basically finished.

I haven’t put it up for sale yet, but it will be released once it makes it through this final pass. And then the marketing begins…

In this post, I’m going to reveal my entire plan for launching my self-published book. I’m doing this for a few reasons:

(1) It holds me accountable,

(2) It’s a nice way to organize my plan into a checklist,

(3) I like being transparent and helping people.

There are ZERO secrets or innovative gems in my plan; all of this stuff has been done before. I’m mostly just copying techniques that I know will work. My strategy is based on lessons I’ve learned directly from bestselling authors whom I’ve worked with and studied under. Specifically:

Tim FerrissThe 4-Hour Workweek, The 4-Hour Body, and The 4-Hour Chef
Tucker MaxI Hope They Serve Beer in Hell, Assholes Finish First, and Hilarity Ensues
Ramit SethiI Will Teach You to be Rich
Seth Godin — Purple Cow, Permission Marketing, Linchpin, Tribes

 

 

Before I get into all the details of my marketing plan, I want to get one thing off my chest… Writing a book is a looooong damn process. It takes so much time that I’m embarrassed whenever someone asks me if it’s done. The reason for this is that I technically “finished” the book a couple months ago. But then I entered the editing phase, where I had to do complete revisions more than a dozen times. Even though I was done, I wasn’t even close. That’s because books are never actually done; they are all just good enough for the author to ship. I’m only going to consider this book “done” when it’s on sale. So if you want to be alerted when it’s up for sale, sign up for my newsletter.

 

Granted, I could have sped this entire process up significantly in a number of ways. I could have recorded my spoken thoughts and transcribed them, or never edited while writing, or shut off the internet… I also could have just stuck to writing ONE book instead of deciding to do a second book mid-stream. But no matter what, this process would have taken me several months. I didn’t want to release it until it was “good enough” and that is an awfully tedious phase to reach.

 

Alright, that’s enough of that. Let’s get to the good stuff…

 

Laying The Foundation

In order to understand why my plan is the way it is, you need to know all the things I currently have going in my favor. My particular advantages are very different from most first-time authors, but as you’ll see, it doesn’t have to be that way…

 

– I’ve studied online product launches for five years. I’ve read thousands of blog posts and tons of marketing books, and took notes on everything I learned. Then I got my feet wet by launching a couple small products I created (see: Recession-Proof Graduate, Negotiate It) while helping other people market their works (see: The 4-Hour Body, I Will Teach You to be Rich, App Empire). All of those were successful projects for me, but I had many failures along the way. Sometimes I made good money, and a lot of times I didn’t make anything. But I wasn’t really interested in a paycheck — I was interested in gaining experience and lifelong skills, while doing fun and worthwhile projects. In short, I paid my dues.

 

Lesson: Anyone can learn how to become a great book marketer and effective entrepreneur for free, or very cheap. You just have to be willing to read, study under a few experts, experiment, learn from your mistakes, and keep growing. Here are some of my favorite resources for aspiring authors:
– I’ve been practicing writing and building my platforms for five years. I have an email newsletter with about 5,000 subscribers, and an established blog with good content. Those are my two most valuable assets, where I get to practice the craft of writing and direct communication with readers. I focus exclusively on earning the trust, respect, and love of my audience. I’ve given away a lot of free quality content so I could accomplish those things. I also have Twitter (good for traffic), a Facebook page (meh — pretty useless), and a few other things like Youtube (in retrospect, I wish I’d focused on creating more video content for my account) and Delicious bookmarks (14,000 followers but it’s sadly useless for traffic). I don’t know if I have the dedication, but if I was starting over and trying to build a super loyal following, I would probably take the podcast route (audio, not video).

 

Lesson: You don’t have to become a blogger, but you should have a platform where you can showcase your work and build up a permission asset for your fans/customers. Even though they’re a pain to run, quality email newsletters and drip sequences have the best ROI, by far, for running a successful launch. 

 

– I’ve been building my network for five years. I did a TON of free work so I could work with people who were way out of my league. I started when I was unemployed and fresh out of college, living in my parents’ basement in Colorado. First, I did a virtual internship with Seth Godin, then I reached out to Ramit Sethi (a former Seth intern). I helped Ramit with video for his site, and offered to help Tucker Max do the same. After a few months, they both recommended me to Tim Ferriss, who hired (and mentored) me for three years as a paid employee. I moved out to San Francisco to work on The 4-Hour Body, where Tim introduced me to an insane number of successful and influential people. He also allowed me to edit guest posts by other great writers, which made me even better.

 

Lesson: Aspiring authors should be willing to help other established authors in exchange for their real-world education. Put in the time to build meaningful relationships and earn their trust by doing quality free work. Don’t expect compensation right away; whatever money you lose will be made up for in experience and relationships. Look at this as an investment in your abilities and your network. Do anything you can to work with and learn directly from the pros. 

 

– I became an expert on my topic. I certainly didn’t set out to become an anxiety specialist; I was just obsessed with healing myself for a very personal reason — it was a tremendous source of pain for me. I tried every solution the “experts” said would work, discovered most of them didn’t help, then found the few critical things that did. I knew firsthand that the book I wanted to read did not exist, so I decided to write it. Same thing happened with Recession-Proof Graduate. Figuring out what to do after college was a nightmare. I tried the traditional route, it didn’t work, then I figured out something that did.

 

Lesson: Start with your biggest source of pain — the one problem that you would kill to solve. Whether that’s a form of physical pain (poor health), technical pain (poor design or functionality), or even spiritual pain (bad entertainment). It just has to be a problem you’re strongly motivated to solve for personal reasons. Try all the top-selling solutions on the market, take notes on what they’re doing really well, and what they’re doing really wrong. Now go make the product / service you wish existed.

 

– I confirmed there was strong demand and gathered email addresses. Before I fully committed to writing this book, I wanted to see how my audience would respond. The “How I cured my anxiety” post went up six months ago, and immediately took off — hit the #1 search result on Google for “cure anxiety,” averaging 900 visitors per day, etc. (I couldn’t have hit #1 on Google organically if I didn’t have a well-established, 5-year old blog). After the post got some traction, I embedded a sign up form at the bottom of the post, asking readers to fill out a brief survey. I asked if they were: interested in buying a full book on the topic, what format they wanted it in, what would make the book worthwhile, and their email address. Within one week, I had more than 100 readers signed up. Since October, over 1,000 people have signed up. Those aren’t pre-orders, but they are prospective buyers. Finally, to ensure my book had the potential to sell for a long time, I looked up Google Trends data on “cure anxiety.” The demand has been steadily increasing for years, and with all the recent news pieces I’ve come across on anxiety and loneliness, I suspect the timing for this book is ideal.

 

Lesson: Creating a great product is really hard and time-consuming, and it will be extremely painful if you make something that no one wants to buy. Confirm that there’s strong demand AND strong intent to purchase for whatever you plan on making beforehand. If people aren’t biting, either re-position your product, find a category with stronger demand, find a niche that’s ready to buy, or go back to the drawing board. You MUST validate your idea before you make it!

 

– I wrote the book I wanted to read.  By far the most important thing I did was making a great book, because this is the ONLY way a book will continue selling for years. I worked hard to ensure this book would be solid by doing tons of research, writing for hours on end, printing it off a dozen times, reading it aloud, making line edits, then allowing a group of beta readers to offer me their feedback. At this point, the vast majority of the book’s flaws have been hammered out. It’s not perfect, but it’s finally good enough.

 

Lesson: You can’t sell a book that’s bad… Well, you can, but WHY WOULD YOU WANT TO?! What a tremendous waste of your time (and your readers’ time). Make something great, that you are confident is unique or superior to what the market is currently offering. That way, you can confidently sell it to others because you know it’s the best you have to offer.

 

Dealing with Doubt

Alright, so that covers where I am right now, PRE-launch. I have a lot working in my favor, but that doesn’t mean I’m kissing my biceps and high-fiving strangers. There are plenty of things I’m still worried about…

For one, I’m afraid I won’t be able to help my most desperate readers. The thing I’ve learned from my anxiety post is that there are a ton of people out there who have crippling anxiety because of extremely difficult pasts (victims of rape, incest, physical abuse). They’ve unquestionably gone through far worse than I have, and a lot of them will come to me with their wallets out, asking to take the pain away. I have serious doubts that my solution will be theirs. Still, I hope it helps, and for anyone who’s unhappy, I’ll provide a full refund. Just know that my book is primarily for workaholics and people with General Anxiety Disorder.

Two, I occasionally feel weird talking about my anxiety. I love talking about play and what helped me get better, but it’s strange for me to talk about the emotional pain I went through. That part of my life wasn’t exactly rainbows and sunshine, and talking about it occasionally evokes a twinge of residual pain. I have a lot of sympathy for people dealing with these issues, and I hope my story will make them feel less alone AND give them a clear plan to heal themselves. Still, I feel strange admitting I went through that whole ordeal.

Three, I’m afraid I’m overextending myself big time in this launch (see below). I can already see there’s A LOT for me to handle, and I’m not sure I’ll be able to pull all of this stuff off the way I’ve planned it. I’m still trying to figure out which tasks I can successfully delegate. That’s always been an issue for me; swallowing my pride and giving ownership to someone else. It’s foolish and it wastes time for me to tackle everything. I wish I had a team of smart people working together in the same room as me, but alas, I do not.

Finally, I’m walking in the footsteps of some pretty big giants. I want to pay tribute to all of the people who helped me get my foothold in this world. I don’t want to screw this up, because I really don’t have many excuses. There’s so much in my favor.

Preparation for the Launch

There are a number of things I’ve been doing to prepare for a successful book launch. Here they are:

  1. Beta readers. Instead of having a publisher edit my book, I had 30 beta readers edit my book for free (you can read how I pulled this off here). The group consisted of professional authors, world-class journalists, freelance copywriters and editors, ghostwriters, teachers, and grad students. These people now have a vested interest in seeing the book succeed, and I’ll encourage them to leave a thoughtful Amazon review when it’s up for sale.
  2. Finished the product.  So many pieces to this, but here are a few important ones that I spent a lot of time on… Tucker Max helped me come up with a great title (haven’t announced yet, but it’s critical to have something people can comfortably recommend to their friends). I just finished the back cover copy the other day (super important for converting Amazon browsers to buyers). The amazingly talented Erin Tyler designed my cover, and Ryan Case did the photography. I can’t wait to do a post on the cover alone, because the book looks incredible. [Sidenote: I bought my ISBN and barcode through Bowker, NOT Createspace — the latter prevents you from listing your book on other online retailers.]
  3. Youtube video trailers. This is a HUGE part of my marketing I put a lot of effort into. I made not one, but seven trailers. It’s a standalone series on healing anxiety that’s intended to be useful to Youtube viewers for years to come (rather than just doing a single promotional trailer for the book). I currently have the #1 result on Google for “cure anxiety,” so I’ll be aiming to have some of the top results on Youtube as well (the #2 search engine on the internet). All of the videos in the series will link to each other, so if one takes off, the others hopefully will too. Tim Stiefler and Mitchell Shotts are making the videos (they’re based in Austin, you can see some of their work here). We still need to make a video summary for the book, which I’ll post on the Amazon book page.
  4. Set up email drip sequence for book. I want people who are on the fence to have free access to most of the book’s content, including the video trailers. One way I’m going to do this is by having them sign up for a “10 Day Anxiety Healer Course” (or some name like that). Each day, they’ll get an email from me with a quick lesson and a simple assignment. After a few days, I’ll start gently reminding them that they can buy the book to get all the content. (FYI — Tim Grahl specializes in helping authors create email platforms and sequences for their books.)
  5. Set up book’s website. I actually still need to get this taken care of. Scroll to the bottom of this post if you think you can help me.
  6. Optimize PDF for sharing / conversion, publish to Bittorrent Bundles. I’m going to split the book up into a series of PDF’s that people can pirate. It will be optimized for (A) sharing on social media, and (B) buying the book on Amazon. I have ZERO issues with people pirating my content. For me, it’s free advertising. I know it’s going to happen anyway, so might as well plan for it. Plus, I pirated a lot of media in my high school and college years, so it’s sort of the least I can do :) I might include a few handwritten notes in the PDF, saying something like “Hey Pirate Buddy- For the same price as a burrito, you can own the real deal. But if you don’t want to buy the book, would you send this PDF to someone you think it could help? Arrrr (Love), Charlie.”
  7. Over-deliver for readers. Hopefully this comes through when you go through the book — I’ve got bonus materials and helpful content out the wazoo. I focused heavily on giving the reader an incredible, personal experience (more on that in #11).
  8. Bonus gifts for people who buy multiple copies. Tim did this in the Land Rush promotion for The 4-Hour Body, and it worked really well (15K copies sold in three days). I’ll going to offer bonus gifts for people who buy 1, 3, 30, 300, and 1000 copies. I’ll have a clear picture on the blog for each package, showing what you’ll be getting in an image AND brief video trailer (with a prominent “BUY NOW” button). I’ll also have a system set up to automatically distribute bonus gifts for purchases of 1-30 copies.
  9. Repackage content and optimize for social media. I have a lot of great quotes in my book from hugely successful people who made their living by playing. I took those and made them into shareable visuals for a variety of platforms (Slideshare, Pinterest, Youtube). Not sure how well they’ll do, but we’ll see.
  10. Schedule guest posts and podcasts. I’m aiming to have all of my guest content appear on sites within 48 hours (Monday and Tuesday). The goal of my content is that it will be USEFUL and ACTIONABLE, which means the reader will be able to immediately change their life, in some way, for the better. It’s important to ensure the headline and content for each article is brag-worthy (i.e. the reader feels like they’re elevating their status by sharing it with their friends). For top sites, I’ll aim to do multiple guest posts. When I have data on my best performing guest posts (# of shares, # of click-thrus to Amazon), I’ll send those articles to influencers I know to share with their audience.
  11. Video trailer for support group, and post-purchase “Thank You” video. I’m going to offer a 6-week support group for readers who buy the book. The book will be enough by itself for healing anxiety, especially if you’re a Do-It-Yourselfer. But if you want personal attention, better understanding of the material, and accountability, you will probably want to be in the support group too. It will contain 6 hour-long workshops where I’ll go over that week’s content and any reader questions. Readers will have to apply to ensure the quality of the group is really high. In the application, I’m going to ask what the reader’s biggest obstacle is for overcoming their anxiety, so I can focus on overcoming those obstacles in each lesson. I’ll also need to gather contact info (email, phone, mailing address). After they’ve filled out the application, they’ll see what place they are “in line” and how many are “behind them.” People who apply but don’t get in will still walk away happy — they’ll get a bonus of some sort. It will cost at least 10X more than the book to be a part of the group. You can sign up to get notified when the support group’s application is open here.

 

Launch Day

  1. Publish book through Createspace. The book will be available in the following formats: Paperback, Amazon Kindle Ebook, Apple iBooks, and PDF (DRM-free). I’ll release it in the top 4 English markets (United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia). The two categories I’ve chosen for my book are not crazy competitive, which will increase my likelihood of hitting the #1 spot in both of them during marketing week. My categories are: (1) Health, Fitness & Dieting > Mental Health > Anxiety Disorders; (2) Business & Investing › Business Life › Health & Stress. I’m going to enroll in KDP Select so I can promote the book for free to Amazon Prime members at some point.
  2. Set up tracking. I’m going to use App Annie for Ebooks, and NovelRank.
  3. Ask for reviews from beta readers. All of my beta readers will be given a free copy of the final book, and I’ll ask them to leave an Amazon review. But I won’t just ask — I’m going to show them how to leave an honest, helpful, and thorough review. This is important for two reasons: (1) The best review you get in the early days will often be the best review forever (other people on Amazon vote for it and it stays in the top spot); (2) Most people won’t know what to do unless you tell them. To make it crystal clear what reviewers need to do, I’m going to show a few case studies of excellent book reviews. I won’t tell them to leave a 5-star review; I just need them to be honest. If they felt certain parts of the book were weak, they should let other potential readers know. One other thing I’ll do: Record video interviews with people who make great case studies, edit the videos, then ask those people to post them on Amazon.
  4. Announce book to my email list. This will be a soft launch. My main focus is to get a ton of Amazon reviews (ideally 100) so that the book’s sales page will convert well going forward.

Marketing Week

  1. Bonus gifts for book buyers! Major incentives to buy the book. Different packages if you buy 1, 3, 30, 300, or 1000 — and one Golden Ticket. I won’t reveal those gifts now, but they will be very worthwhile.
  2. Live webinarOn the big day (either Monday or Tuesday), I’m going to do an extended live webinar where I talk about the book, discuss my marketing efforts, and connect with readers.
  3. Keep my email list informed. The 5,000 people subscribed to my newsletter will get updates on the book and special offers throughout the week.
  4. Guest posts. Assistants will help me monitor discussions about the book, keeping me posted on which comments I need to jump on.
  5. Reddit AMA. This will be a bit challenging (and might fall totally flat) but I’ve seen it work well for other authors. I’ll probably give away the book to Redditors through BitTorrent. Need to have assistants pre-loading common questions to kick off the discussion. I experimented with this awhile back and got slammed for coming across as too pitchy. Need to be careful and genuine with this audience.
  6. Ask readers to promote the book to friends. Asking readers to post on Facebook isn’t enough. I want people to email friends, or gift the book to them through Amazon. I want them to say exactly why they need to read the book, why it will change their life. Or best of all, I want them to tell their friend face-to-face while they’re playing. I’ll give readers a short checklist of ways they can give the book to people they care about.
  7. Book launch party. I’m not sure if this will work at all, and I’m pretty positive it won’t move any books. Still, I’d like to give it a shot… Instead of doing a traditional book launch party, where I invite a couple hundred people I barely know to a nice venue, I want to invite everyone to go out and play with their friends. I’ll make a public invitation on Facebook, with a compelling and honest description — something you’d say to your friend after a few drinks — and a call to unplug for a few hours. Then I’ll list all the best play activities they could do. If this gains any traction, I’ll link to the event in some of my guest posts. The picture(s), title, and description of the event are critical for this to take off, but I’m not sure if it will work. Worst case scenario: it doesn’t, and oh well.

 

Post-Launch

  1. Announce support group and workshops. I’ll do a live webinar for people who bought the book, where I’ll announce details. Applications will open up, I’ll sort through them, collect payment, then commence the 6-week program.
  2. Contact Amazon KDP newsletter, GalleyCat, Publishers Weekly, and GoodReads. I’m going to give them my sales data, and the results of my launch efforts. If they decide to write about my book and share my results, it will help other self-pub authors, validate the book, and give me another round of marketing.
  3. Make video trailers public on Youtube. After the launch dies down, I’m going to switch my video series on healing anxiety from “Unlisted” to “Public” so everyone can access them.
  4. Set up Wikipedia page. For me, and my book.
  5. Record the audiobook. I’ll record this at my friend’s podcast studio (though these guys are supposedly the best audiobook producers in the business). Then I’ll publish it through Audible by going through ACX. Once again, I’ll get a bunch of reviews up before promoting this.
  6. Focus on selling in bulk to businesses, organizations, and schools. This is going to be a HUGE part of my ongoing marketing. I’m far more interested in selling a ton of copies with one transaction then having to continually convince thousands of individuals to buy a single copy. For any company that buys 300+ books, I’ll speak at their venue (in the beginning, at least).
  7. Answer Quora questions related to anxiety. Just like guest posts, I’ll write evergreen answers that people can continually refer to, with a soft sell on my book.
  8. Make Udemy course on curing anxiety. I’ll take the best lessons I learn from running my support group, and package them and the book into a video course people can take.
  9. Secure international rights. Only if the book does well and there’s demand overseas. James Altucher recommends this service.

 

After all of this is done, and assuming the book is a success, I will talk to traditional publishers. The book needs to do really well through online sales for several months. If that’s the case, I will approach traditional publishers, show them my sales numbers, tell them I need help getting my book in stores, and offer a proposal.

Bookstores still sell books, and it’d be a dream to see mine prominently displayed in a Hudson’s or B&N or Tattered Cover. But after the launch, I don’t need a publisher’s help with anything but physical distribution. All of their other responsibilities have been covered.

“But Why Aren’t You…?”

There are a lot of things I’m NOT doing to launch my book. Here’s what’s missing, and here’s why I’m not doing it:

– Why I didn’t go with a traditional publisher: Publishers are generalists who cover the gamut of production. They bear the responsibility of a bunch of important and difficult roles — book cover design, layout, editing, distribution. Unfortunately, they have to spread themselves pretty thin because they’re juggling so many different projects. Because of this, they tend to do a decent-but-not-great job at each of their roles. That’s not just my experience; countless authors have complained about this dynamic. Frankly, I’d just rather do things my way and work with the team I’ve built.

 

And another thing: Publishers AREN’T marketers. They don’t do anything to help sell copies of your book. They just help you produce the book, then get it into physical locations. It’s up to the author to take control of the marketing so the book actually sells.

 

There are a TON of reasons why it makes more and more sense to self-publish. Fortunately, a bunch of smart people have expounded upon them:

 

– Why I’m not focused on traditional media (e.g. Today Show, Good Morning America, etc.) The vast majority of TV shows, magazines, and newspapers have surprisingly little influence on SALES. I know a number of authors who had major press pieces and it didn’t move more than a couple hundred books. Why? Same reason that Facebook ads don’t really work — the context is wrong. The user’s intent is NOT to buy, but to be entertained. Plus, the viewer probably doesn’t have quick access to Amazon during that moment, which makes converting to a sale that much harder by default. Unless the book gets a rave review from an influential talking-head or included in some controversial news piece, traditional PR — from what I’ve seen — doesn’t move a ton of copies. Of course, getting traditional media coverage IS helpful. It adds an air of legitimacy to your book, and validates you as a professional. That can lead to a number of doors opening that you didn’t even know where there. Still, I prefer to take the online route from the outset. I learned from Tim that it’s far more effective to make a ton of noise online for a brief period, then field requests from traditional media (rather than trying to convince them to tell your story).

 

[Note: Getting PR for books is not my specialty. Ryan Holiday is arguably the best in the world at this, but his services don’t come cheap.]

 

– Why I’m not trying to hit the New York Times bestseller list: I made the choice to not go with a traditional publisher. That means I made the choice to not have immediate placement in book stores. That means I cannot hit the NYT bestseller list during the launch, because NYT list includes sales at physical locations — which I won’t be in — to determine their rankings. The only category that’s possible for me to hit (though it’s unlikely) is E-Book Nonfiction. I have no clue how they determine E-book rankings at this point, but it’s not a big deal. For this book’s launch, I’m just going to focus on getting good word-of-mouth with audiences that crave this type of material. I’ll do that by compressing the majority of my promotional efforts into a few days. That should result in a solid ranking on Amazon, and hopefully, enough of a nudge to set the book’s sales in motion.

 

Why there isn’t a heavy emphasis on social media: Social media doesn’t make much sense for me to focus on. People are using those sites to browse, be entertained, and kill time. They are searching for content that will elevate their status — stuff they can share with their friends that will make them look cooler. Most importantly, social media users are not in a buyer’s state of mind, and therefore they DO NOT CONVERT. I’ve seen data on email outperforming social media in sales by 50X(!)… So, I’m roughly 50X more interested in sending quality emails to qualified readers, and just as interested in doing podcasts for rabid-followings (although those types of podcasts are few and far between). The inbox is sacred space, and so are headphones. Social media is noisy, cluttered, and optimized for people with ADHD.

 

I’m most interested in the people who find my post on Google then look at my book’s Amazon page. People on Google are actively seeking a solution to their problem RIGHT NOW; they have intent, which means they are far more likely to BUY THE BOOK. And once they get to Amazon, they are one-click away from purchasing. So it makes sense to focus my efforts on optimizing for Google and Amazon users first — those are the people who are most likely to BUY.

 

My social media plan is pretty simple: create content that people will immediately want to share. That means writing a handful of amazing guest posts with rabid audiences. If you want to know my plan for each platform… With Twitter, I’m going to gently nudge people to tweet about my book OR my top-performing guest posts (so they have a choice on which link will be best for their following). For Facebook and Pinterest, I’ve made some cool graphics people can share (visuals and infographics tend to perform best for those platforms). For Youtube and Slideshare, I’ll have a number of evergreen presentations and tutorials that will be linked to each other (if one takes off, it helps all the others).

 

– Why book tours don’t make sense: As much as I’d love to travel around the country and visit bookstores, I can’t justify the amount of time, energy, and resources that would require. It would take at least a week, cost thousands of dollars, and probably wouldn’t move many books (I’m not famous or influential enough to gather a crowd — I suspect that I’d average 0.7 readers per stop). That being said, I am very open to traveling across the country for anyone who buys several hundred (or 1,000+) copies. For those people, I’d be happy to speak to their organization on the topics in the book.

What I Really Need Help With…

I’ve received a lot of emails from friendly people. They usually sign off with this:

“If you need help with anything, just let me know.”

I appreciate what these people are offering (which is “anything”). The problem is that I’m never going to take them up on this offer. Ever. I have no idea what they can do for my book, so that gesture — while it makes them feel good to include — doesn’t compute for me.

You want to help with the book? Well, you’ve read the post and you know what I’m planning. If it’s not obvious, here are some of my biggest pain points:

  1. Making the book’s website. My designer friend doesn’t have time to put this together, so I need help making a basic website for the book. This is a relatively easy task BUT I don’t want to hand it off to someone who hasn’t done great / similar work in the past. If you’re interested, send me your portfolio.
  2. Figuring out how the upsell for the support group will flow. The last thing I want is to leave the book buyer with a feeling of “Really? Already trying to f-ing upsell me?” I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to pull this off with the video I’m going to shoot, but it’s the actual sales page I’m worried about. I want to put something together that will make them feel confident that they’re making the right decision, and gently nudge people away who don’t need the upsell. If you’ve worked on sales funnels, send me a description of what you’ve worked on (and the results you got).
  3. Converting blog visitors to buyers. I’m getting roughly 1,000 people per day reading the article. I have a sign up form at the bottom to collect email addresses, but I’ll really need to be able to convert these people to buy the book. If you have any expertise in conversion, tell me your story.

If you have questions for me on the content in this post, please leave a comment below.

If you’re an author or entrepreneur who wants marketing consulting, set up a call.

Sign up and get Charlie’s latest books — free.

Fill in your email below to instantly get my best work. You’ll learn how I landed my dream job with Tim Ferriss, and how I overcame burnout and anxiety in one month.

Charlie Hoehn is a speaker and the author of Play It Away (“Here's the cure to your stress!” -Tony Robbins) and Recession Proof Graduate. He has presented at the Pentagon and three TEDx events. His article about the importance of play is the #1 result on Google for the search “cure anxiety." He was the former Director of Special Projects for Tim Ferriss, and helped launch The 4-Hour Body (#1 NYTimes bestseller, million copies sold). Charlie's work has been featured on NPR TED Radio Hour, Forbes, Fast Company, and Harvard Business Review. He lives in Austin, Texas.

This Post Has 30 Comments

  1. Pingback: How My Children’s Books – Gos’s Big Dreams and Gaby’s Big Dreams – Came To Be | Painting Glory

  2. Pingback: This is a Community, Not a Book — How I’m Marketing The Quarter-Life Breakthrough | whatsupsmiley

  3. Pingback: Book Launch Breakdown: Play It Away’s First Month of Sales | Hoehn Zone

  4. DustyTheKid

    Thanks for the killer post Charlie. Hey, do you ever partner with others who have a bigger/better email list and cut them in on book sales to their people? I’m considering doing that with my 1st two books that are about a month out….thoughts?

    1. Charlie Hoehn

      Hey Dusty. It doesn’t really make sense to do affiliate deals with books, mostly because books are supposed to be personal / sentimental / respectable products, and bringing a paltry sum of money into the equation screws everything up. And it can REALLY screw up your brand if you’re known as that dude who’s hawking his book through all the scammy online marketers.

      But let’s say you actually get a few dozen affiliates on board. Sweet, right? Not really. Those affiliates are less concerned about giving an honest endorsement than they are about how much money they can make. That means at least half of them are going to aggressively push their audience to buy, which is weird, and the audience isn’t stupid so they suspect foul play and avoid buying it. I’d MUCH rather get a few hearty endorsements from people who genuinely loved the book than 30 affiliates trying to shove it down their jaded email list’s collective throat.

      Another reason these deals don’t make sense is because books are so cheap that the commission sucks (relatively speaking) for the affiliates. Let’s say for a $20 PDF you offer a 50% cut (that’s the bare minimum percentage they’d expect). That means you’re giving them $10 a pop, which — I can tell you from experience — very few emailers will be able to crack $1,000 in total commissions with that kind of payout. And getting a $1,000 paycheck one time for an affiliate, who isn’t a genuine fan of your work, is a bad long term move for both parties. For the affiliates, they’re compromising their list — they know they have to be selective and honest with their endorsements, otherwise no one will trust them (i.e. buy from them). For you, you’re potentially scorching your brand because you’ve associated yourself with losers who pitch any information product with a decent payout.

      And what do you get, at best? 100 people who bought your book because they were pestered into it, that you didn’t money from. Which is fine, btw — don’t get me wrong. If you can get your book into your target audience’s hands without it costing you anything, great! But having online marketers do it for you, just so they can get a couple hundred bucks, totally ruins the spirit of why you’d recommend a book in the first place. And it potentially ruins your book’s odds of ever being taken seriously.

      Take my advice: Make something great, that you and your target reader desperately want. Figure out the conversations that will take place around your book. Think about the business you could build around the book. Do the math. Figure out how much it will take you to make it work. Then make an amazing book that your target reader LOVES and raves about, find more of those people… and follow the rest of this post’s advice :)

      1. DustyTheKid

        thanks for the reply, Charlie – certainly appreciated and I intend to take your advice. I recall reading that part of James Altucher’s strategy for ‘Choose Yourself’ was to parter with a friend who had an extensive email list, cut the guy in for half – and that accounted for half the revenue Altucher’s book made at least to the point of that acknowledgement?

        I hear you loud and clear about creating something real, something my audience wants…I love to write & tell stories. I live in central america and am headed south from here – working with NGO’s and interesting people. I’m also going to take the video/podcast approach to building a network – as much or more for the communities I’m helping than myself. I believe there will be a correlation over time to my own work/writing, too.

        It doesn’t have to be highly-paid to be successful. I love the work itself and the people that go along with it. I’m sure you feel the same in your world.

        Hope our paths cross from time to time…

        thanks again,
        Dusty Magill

  5. Pingback: How your crowdfunding marketing is just like this bestseller's book launch. | Kick Start your journey

  6. Ben Greenfield

    Charlie, I can hook you up with the guy who made my website for my book. It is RAKING in opt-ins for the book’s free chapter. I won’t put URL in this comment as I don’t want to be spammy, but email me and I’ll send you book URL and my designer’s name/email. Super affordable.

  7. Kevin

    This is all so well thought out and a great plan Charlie! Wishing you the successes you certainly deserve. Hard work pays off pal. I can’t offer an exact funnel to profit, but I can be a resource in feedback as you strategize your game plan. I like books, I’ve bought books, and I’m willing to help sell books.

    1. Charlie Hoehn

      Thanks for the support Kev! Let’s get together when we’re both in Colorado. I’m coming back in the next couple weeks.

  8. Uriel

    I have to say I was very happy to have found this post, Charlie.
    It was rich in good information, organized and entertaining. I did get a lot from it.

    There was just one thing that didn’t settle well with me – your attitude.
    Your “I want to get one thing off my chest…” and your “If you need help with anything, just ledifferent way.
    In order for people to help you, and go out of their way to do so, they have to like you not just respect you. And I noticed those two comments made you seem unlikable in my eyes.

    If they ask for the book’s release date, I imagine it’s because they are interested in it or because you have talked about the book. I think that if you get irritated because they ask you, it’s because you don’t have it ready yet, and that’s not their fault -it’s yours.
    If your readers say “if you need help with anything, just let me know”…well, let them know. They want to help – they weren’t as specific as you would have liked, but they offered. I think they deserved better than a negative comment for that.

    I only can imagine the stress you are probably under with the launch and everything else. I just wanted to mention this and hopefully help with my comment.

    If I’m totally wrong on this or I interpreted something that wasn’t there, I apologized. At the end, with all the information you gave away, I could live with those comments.

    I hope you are having a good day and…

    If you need help with anything, just let me know ; )

    1. Charlie Hoehn

      Thanks for your feedback, Uriel. You’re right- I did come across a little bit harsh in the beginning. That wasn’t my intention though. I went back and softened the wording in that first paragraph.

      The one thing I disagree with is the “if you need help with anything.” This is almost always an empty gesture, even when it’s sincere, because the recipient can’t act on it. I get a lot of strangers emailing me who offer help, but don’t include their portfolio or a single suggestion on how they could help. I don’t know what they’re capable of, so I have to turn it down. It doesn’t really irritate me; I’m just pointing out that it’s ineffective.

      Anyways, really appreciate your thoughts. Thanks!

  9. Zach

    It is a subtle but important point about people’s INTENT on different platforms. I have heard that Pinterest is the best performing platform in social media, where people (mostly women) go with an expectation to buy–as opposed to Twitter (entertainment), Facebook (connecting), etc.

    “I’ve seen data on email outperforming social media in sales by 50X(!)”

    Do you have a reference to this data off hand? Or is this proprietary from past campaigns you worked on?

    1. Charlie Hoehn

      Yep, Pinterest is the best by far. I made some cool stuff for that site, but really not sure how it will do — sharing or sales-wise.

      Check out ‘Your First 1000 Copies.’ I saw it there in relation to book sales, but email consistently outperforms social media by a huge margin. It’s not even close.

  10. Bustan

    Thanks for putting it all out there and sharing the experience / process with us Charlie. It’s the beginning of many great things to come I’m sure…

    Are you setting up a company for this? People say that in this game one should view the book as a business. Just curious.

    1. Charlie Hoehn

      Setting up an LLC? At some point, but not right now. Talked with a friend about this- it doesn’t make financial sense until you’re pulling in about $250K+. Also, the “limited liability” part doesn’t really help authors. They don’t usually accumulate much debt for their businesses, and they can be sued as individuals — even if they’re working with a traditional publisher — for all sorts of fun stuff: defamation, copyright infringement, invasion of privacy, etc.

      1. Jessica

        What about for tax purposes though? Establishing an LLC will allow you to tax any earnings as a corporation, rather than an individual. So the IRS will only tax money you haven’t “spent,” or claimed as a business expense.

  11. Chuck Rylant

    Awesome information Charlie. Thanks for sharing and I look forward to at the very least buying a book come launch time.

    On your blog conversion question, I will share something you likely know.

    When I added an immediate pop-up, email opt-in jumped from something like .05 to 5%. I’m pretty sure those were the numbers. It was a ridiculous bump.

    You may not feel comfortable with that aggressive approach, but I think if the pop-up offer is really in the user’s benifit, you are being helpful.

    That does not answer your conversion question, but a step closer.

    Thanks for sharing. Great stuff and best of luck.

  12. Ben Rosenfeld

    Thanks for putting this up Charlie. I’m working on an illustrated humor coffee table book and am in the process of deciding between traditional publishing vs self publishing, and your post has a ton of useful links that I’m looking forward to reading.

    I probably misread something, but are you planning to have a physical book available that’ll only be available from Amazon? Or will you only have a pdf / ebook version? Is there any company that isn’t a publishing company that does only book distribution, i.e. if you print a physical book and they get it into stores for you?

    1. Charlie Hoehn

      Thanks Ben. I wasn’t clear on this, but I’m going to have a physical book, Kindle e-book, a PDF, and eventually an audiobook.

      There are companies that only assist with physical distribution. But it doesn’t make sense (in my opinion) to go after that until it’s a proven winner online.

      1. Ben Rosenfeld

        Thanks for clarifying Charlie.

        Also meant to ask, how would you define “The book needs to do really well through online sales for several months,” 1,000 sales? 5,000? 10,000? I don’t know what kind of quantities books get moved in these days and am curious….

      2. Charlie Hoehn

        Good question. The book needs to have an initial boost from my marketing efforts, then have consistent (and hopefully increasing) sales month over month from word of mouth. The demand is there, but it’s up to the readers to decide if the book is good enough to recommend to their friends. There isn’t a specific number I’m aiming for, but if I get anywhere near 10,000 sales within the first several months, I’ll be very happy. That’s a strong showing for a first-time author in the business category.

  13. sharialexander

    Good God, man! Great post. Solid plan, well thought out. Thanks for sharing. If I think of anything that might be missing, will let you know. I’ve seen more and more people do the AMA’s so I’d be curious about your experience with that. LOVE the pirate notes in the pdf. (stealing … with love) :-) However I can help out, let me know!

  14. Michael Riley (@LifeofRiley29)

    Very well thought out, Charile. Recently re-discovered you and your work and am loving it. I’d like to self-publish a book some day and will definitely use this as a resource. Looking forward to when it comes out!

  15. Chris

    Charlie, this is hands down the best post on self-published book marketing (and maybe even traditional) that I’ve come across. It’s no wonder Tim’s, Tucker’s and Ramit’s books were such a success. I have a book coming out in mid-2014 (co-authored) and although it’s coming from a major publisher, I’ll be pushing these points on them as much as possible.

    1. Charlie Hoehn

      Thank you Chris. Tim, Tucker, and Ramit are all brilliant marketers who would have done just as well without my help. I’m glad I got the chance to learn from all of them.

  16. Andrew Lynch

    This post reads like a well-organised version of your delicious bookmarks from the past two years. Love it.

    Really enjoyed all the articles you’ve written on this – particularly the interview you did for Sebastian Marshall’s site. Can’t imagine how hard it was to sit down with Tim Ferriss and tell him you couldn’t work for him any more.

    Looking forward to the book release – I’ll definitely be picking up a copy. Good luck man!

    1. Charlie Hoehn

      Thanks for reading all these years, Andrew!

Tell me what you think...