On May 16, I attended Seth Godin's Pick Yourself event in Manhattan. Before I left home, I promised several writer friends that I would get Seth Godin's advice on how we could promote and sell our books. Here is a paraphrased and condensed version of his reply, as taken from my notes. (No recording or video permitted for the event.)
"People don't buy books from strangers." He repeated, "People do not buy books from strangers."
Seth had four suggestions.
- First, accept that this is going to take at least six months or a year. If you need to see results in two weeks, or even in two months it isn't going to happen.
- Second, use the "First, ten" method: "Find ten people. Ten people who trust you/respect you/need you/listen to you... Those ten people need what you have to sell, or want it. And if they love it, you win. If they love it, they'll each find you ten more people (or a hundred or a thousand or, perhaps, just three). Repeat. If they don't love it, you need a new product. Start over."
- Third, make a video. If you can make a 5 minute video with a high emotional impact, make one and post it on YouTube. Hope it goes viral.
- Fourth, look for existing platforms with high viewership (Huffpost for example) and write articles for them. Approach them with a well written pitch and chances are they will accept your article.
- What if I don't have time to do this?
"You find time. Maybe all you can do is spend Sundays doing this. That is what you do."
- I don't know how to promote books, or market myself. How do I learn?
"The only way to learn anything is by doing it. Set aside a time, and do it. Keep trying different things until you find out what works for you."
- What if blogging doesn't work for me?
"Different things work for different people. Blogs are not right for everyone. Giving talks to groups is not right for everyone. Keep trying different things until you find out what works for you."
- What if I fail?
"I can't guarantee this will work for you. No one can give you that guarantee. (This is important) What people are really asking me is 'can you promise me this will work?' The answer is no. I can't. Failure is hard, it is scary and it is OK. Failure is part of the process. Failure means you are learning. We have to change our whole view of failure."
- I just want to write, I don't want to build a platform.
"If you want people to see your work, you have to build a platform. In the Internet age, obscurity is the enemy."
- You often advise giving things away, like free eBooks. How can I make a living if I give my books away for free?
"I've never heard anyone say "Too many people are reading my free books and I'm broke!" Never! If a million people are reading your free ebook, a few of them are going to find you indispensable. You will not have a problem earning money."
"Be as generous as you can.
"Everything will be OK."