Lots of press, very few sales. How do I promote my book to real readers?
September 16, 2016 8:29 AM   Subscribe

I had a book published by Wiley this year (YAY!). It was a labor of love, and I believe it will help A LOT of people, but I am very shy about self-promotion. I speak at conferences all over the world, but my employer (who owns the book rights) will only allow me to give away copies, not sell them at these events, so all the excitement only amounts to a handful of sales when I speak. How do I get the word out to real readers, and expand my readership without looking like a self-promoting windbag? I am willing to spend $, but I want to spend it wisely.

As a part of my job, I wrote a book about money and psychology, and Wiley published it this year. The book itself is owned by my company (so I have no financial incentive to sell it), and the company does not care to go through the accounting hassle of selling it at conferences, etc. so we just give away promotional copies when I speak.

This is all fine for me and my employer because it has generated good press, and the ideas are resonating with financial advisers and investors. I also have a great platform for helping people through giving talks and interviews, etc. So there's no problem, right?


I have had mentions in the New York Times, Bloomberg Radio, Washington Post, Reuters, and other top news venues, but this doesn't translate to SALES. I need to get real readers to read, review, and recommend the book to other real readers if the publisher is going to benefit at all. I want them to work with me in the future, and I want real people to actually read this book!

So, how does someone with a full-time job (read: not much time to do grassroots promotion) go about publicizing a book? I am willing to spend money, but I want to be smart about how I do that.
posted by Dr_Janeway to Work & Money (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
[Heya, removed a link; fine to stick a link to the book in your profile but putting it in here ends up getting too close to the line we hold against active self-promotion in question text.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:35 AM on September 16, 2016

When you speak at conferences, you can arrange book signings thru a local bookstore. That way you don't have to deal with accounting.
posted by bq at 9:02 AM on September 16, 2016 [6 favorites]

The first step would be figuring out who the audience for your book is for and how books like yours which are more successful tend to be sold. Is your company not letting you sell the book at conferences because it's not the done thing? If so, what is the done thing? Is your book priced, designed, and sold like an academic text? If so, this may be a problem if your audience is the general public. Conversely if your audience is academic, are the right people getting access to it? Is it in university libraries? Could it be used as a textbook?

I don't have specific strategies because I don't know enough about your book and have never publicized a book, but in general "find your audience" and "find out how other more successful projects have done this" are the ways to go.

Sometimes there's just no answer to questions like this, though. Sometimes your successful models were successful because the author is a celebrity, or the publisher hired a publicist, or the book won an award, or they struck gold with a particularly timely subject matter. But if you start with "how have other people done this", at least you won't embarrass yourself.
posted by Sara C. at 9:02 AM on September 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

but my employer (who owns the book rights) will only allow me to give away copies, not sell them at these events,

I think it would make sense to talk to a lawyer and see if these rights can't be looked at again (can you buy your book back? Can Wiley? Is that a good idea? Is there a third or fourth option? Not a lawyer so don't know, but someone is and does). And if that goes well, maybe talk to your publisher about a different promotional strategy.

(I think no matter what, though, it'll take extra time to deal with all this.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:10 AM on September 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

Are there podcasts that deal with the subject that you can speak on and promote it there? Personal finance and financial independence is growing as a segment, so there's some possible markets out there. If you could get on someone like Mr. Money Mustache's blog, you'd likely see a good sized sales bump.

But the basic truth is a lot of books like this don't sell very well - a few will seize the zeitgeist and be popular, but with an apathetic owner, I'm not sure it's going to be possible to get much momentum. A lot of the ones that I see mention of do things like work with Amazon to be the $1.99 book of the day and things like that.
posted by Candleman at 9:34 AM on September 16, 2016

I'm really into personal finance and financial independence and would definitely be interested in reading your book, so I hope I can provide some good feedback! You seem to have a great message and I was intrigued enough by the idea to go check out your book page on your website. Some constructive feedback, it's not clear where I can actually buy the book on your book landing page (Amazon? Barnes and Noble? Ordering online?).

I see from some Amazon searching that its available on Amazon in deadtree and ebook formats. I would definitely update your book landing page with a direct link to the book on Amazon in a specific "Buy Now" section to make it really easy for someone to get there with one click (something like this ). That way someone doesn't have to search for it through google.

Couple other ideas:
- Could you giveaway copies to bloggers or podcasters that you read/listen that are within your target audience and ask for a review? (Listen Money Matters, Mr Money Mustache, Young and Thrifty, etc)
- Could you reach out to do interviews on sharing your message with podcasts (i.e. Stacking benjamins, Listen Money Matters, Mo Money)? Or guest posts? I would love to hear more about your ideas, and you could direct people to your book to learn more about things after getting an introduction in a guest post or interview?
posted by snowysoul at 10:45 AM on September 16, 2016 [5 favorites]

I'm not sure what you want out of this. It sounds like you want sales (for some reason) but also are shruggo about sales for money reasons. So what's the end goal here?

- money?
- name recognition?
- option to write more books?
- a better job?
- media mentions?
- more speaking gigs?

Maybe the company can go through the accounting hassle of selling YOU copies of the book at 40% off (i.e. wholesale) and you can sell at some small markup at events? Do you do any social media at all, maybe chapter giveaways, virtual book tours, some of the things Library Thing does where they do early reviewer things (if you're early enough in the process?) where people clearly got the book to review it but still give honest reviews? Do you latch on to current events and link your book to things going on so people can learn why it's relevant to them? What about selling to libraries? There are a lot of grants floating around to help people learn financial literacy, maybe there's a way to package your book s a part of one of those sorts of programs?
posted by jessamyn at 11:30 AM on September 16, 2016 [5 favorites]

jessamyn, the end goal is twofold:
1) Readers. I wrote the book to help people get unstuck, not to (only) boost my name recognition and career.
2) Option to write more books. I want the publisher to get a good return on their investment so I can work with them again in the future.
posted by Dr_Janeway at 11:56 AM on September 16, 2016

I'm an indie author, so my situation is different, but I've found a lot of good, useful, up-to-date marketing information on The Sell More Books Show podcast. (I also like the Rocking Self Publishing podcast. That may be less relevant to you, though their format makes it easy to scroll through and pick the episodes focusing on non-fiction, etc.)

I think a lot of what they recommend (including landing pages, as snowysoul recommended above, and book tours, as jessamyn recommended above, etc.) would be applicable to a traditionally published author too, as long as you can work out the details/legal ramifications of marketing your book with your employer, who owns the rights.

SMBS in particular is pretty much all about being smart about how you spend your marketing dollars and your limited time, as many of the people they talk to/about are super busy authors who have full time jobs in addition or crazy fast publication schedules or both.
posted by bananacabana at 11:57 AM on September 16, 2016 [4 favorites]

I totally recommend Dan Blank at We Grow Media. His website and weekly newsletter are inspiring and helpful in teaching how to grow your audience, as well as just giving some encouragement.
posted by hydra77 at 1:52 PM on September 16, 2016 [3 favorites]

This may not be the kind of advice that is helpful, but I'd reconsider the reason why you're doing this. The entire point of having a publisher is that they do stuff like marketing for you. If you're going to have to do a bunch of marketing yourself anyway, you might as well self-publish your next book and not worry so much about whether Wiley wants you back. (After experiences with both self publishing and publishing companies, I'd never go with a publishing company again.)

Do you have the rights to distribute below-retail electronic copies of the book? The #1 thing you could do, I think, is to get free or cheap copies in as many people's hands as possible in exchange for an email address and urge them to review the book.
posted by phoenixy at 6:57 PM on September 16, 2016 [4 favorites]

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