How to sell a book in the 21st century

Someone wrote a couple of business books, and asked me how to sell them.

I see two ways.


The boring way

This is really how you sell anything. Put it on as many distribution channels as possible, pay Google for traffic, advertise in communities specific to what the book is about. Mention the book at all the parties you go to, and send a free copy to all of your friends and acquaintances. Who probably don’t really care about it’s content anyway.
And yes, the book is going to sell. But sales will be mediocre. Because lets face it – there are so many books out there, there is so much stuff. And all you do is join the crowd, take a place in line to the customer’s wallet. Your publication will not really stand out, be it digital or (god forbid!) paper.


The fun way

The fun way is to change the world works!

The idea is that you don’t sell a book, you sell an idea. The 4-hour workweek, in itself a recollection of a personal experience and in a nutshell just a list of tips and tricks (anyone can write that!), sells for that particular reason. As an idea, it is very compelling, and certainly still very fresh and enticing. It is like you are buying a brand, something you want to associate yourself with, just like Pepsi (which is materialistically just sweetened, colored bubbly water). And so you buy the book even if all the tips and tricks can be found for free on the internet.

Quite possibly, you might also be selling the solution, in other words the services needed to get the result. That is perhaps the real reason why consultants write books. Brickwork India, the virtual assistant company that was mentioned in the book, had a windfall. It started receiving so many requests for service that it had to put people in line, as they simply could not hire and train fast enough.


How do you do it?

Have you met “Positioning“? A well-tested classic from before I was born, this baby boomer says it well. Your book has to be distillable to a single concept – an easy sentence that can occupy a place in the brain of the consumer.

From then on you build a simple website. You put it on as many distribution channels as possible. Pay Google for traffic. Talk to and help the communities specific to what the book is about. Mention the book at all the parties you go to, but don’t give out free copies.

And then the book is going to sell. Maybe it will sell well, maybe it will still sell mediocre. But at least you will feel that you are doing something important, that you are changing the world to be a better place. And that’s really what this is all about.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *