How to Customize Your Book Marketing Approach! By Sharon Woodhouse

How to Customize Your Book Marketing Approach! By Sharon Woodhouse

Having written a book is an incredible achievement, and authors should make the most of that. Share your content with the world, integrate the book and its marketing into your life, and leverage your accomplishment for maximum satisfaction, starting with the sweet gratification of proper financial reward!

I have been helping creative types make money from their work my entire 25-year career. It started with the authors I published, many of whom turned a single nonfiction book on a topic close to their heart into a cottage industry, a side gig that yielded personal and monetary returns for 3-7+ years after the book’s release.

One thing I learned years ago was that the best way to make money in publishing was to customizing the sales and marketing approach to fit each author, their book, their personality, their goals, their lifestyle, and their readers. What I have come to think since the 2008 recession is that this is now the only way for authors—and by extension many other writers and creatives—to receive ample compensation for their endeavors.

There are eight areas I’ve identified that you, as an author, can look at when creating a personalized sales and promotion plan that works for you and your book:

Your Personal Strengths
StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath is my favorite resource for discovering one’s strengths, and understanding their hidden super powers in new ways. But, however they may be determined, your personal strengths make a terrific first place to start building your customized book promotion and sales strategy. Instead of worrying about what things you aren’t good at doing, focus on the few places you really shine. Great conversationalists can seek out radio and podcast interviews. Those who are disciplined should create a methodical system for pursuing their book promotion leads. I’ve seen one super-entertaining author slowly turn his book presentation in libraries into a stand-up comedy act at clubs (with books for sale after the show).

How Others See You
In How the World Sees You, author, social scientist, and advertising pro Sally Hogshead encourages you to use the “science of fascination,” to learn the ways you inherently are most valuable and interesting to others. In short, which two of the seven advantages (Innovation, Passion, Power, Prestige, Trust, Mystique, and Alert) combine into an archetype that can guide your efforts most advantageously? For example, Innovation plus Passion yields “The Rockstar” type. One author I know with these attributes has built a consulting company and a business book series using Rockstar in the title. In hindsight, I see that the first publishing imprint I developed was a great example of “The Authentic,” a combination of Trust and Passion. We best marketed our regional books by riding on the appeal of our reliable authenticity.

Your Interests and Skills (Those You Have and Those You Want to Develop)
Take inventory of your existing interests and skills, as well as those you want to explore or develop, and customize your book marketing activities around these things. If you are already a great public speaker, or if you would like to become a better public speaker, use book promotion as an excuse to do more of it. Ditto for teaching, networking, blogging, creative sales approaches, fill-in-the-blank ability, etc. An author I’ve published with an interest in old movies has written multiple books on narrow subjects in this area, and spends weekends furthering his interest by meeting and selling books to like-minded fans at collectibles shows and conventions.

The Needs of Your Book, Your Readers, and Your Customers
Spend time considering what your specific book needs, what its readers need, and what your customers (individuals and entities who buy the book) need. A book that makes a breakthrough contribution to its field needs a heavy publicity campaign aimed at those who care about that field, and keep up with its developments. Readers of hobby books always need more ways to pursue and enjoy their hobby. If most of your customers are retail stores, perhaps they need display stands, bookmarks, shelf cards, bag inserts, and autographed copies. One author I know with a book on a historic Chicago Cubs season has been doing media interviews at the start of baseball season every year for a decade; radio stations, TV shows, newspapers, and magazines all needed expert baseball commentary for their customers every March and April.

Your Values and Priorities / What Matters to You
Figure out what matters to you and how that intersects with selling and marketing your book. If increasing your income is of utmost importance, then don’t pretend it’s otherwise. Keep focusing on those activities that bring you more money and don’t distract yourself with nonpaying gigs. An author I currently work with values excellent work and community contribution. His priorities in retirement include refining his photography craft and supporting nonprofits whose boards he serves on. He produces beautiful hardcover photography books, and donates his proceeds to these organizations that mean a lot to him.

Your Short- and Long-Term Goals / Desired Benefits of Being an Author
What are your short- and long-terms goals for yourself, in general, and as an author? Use your book to bring you closer to these things. Instead of feeling yourself slog through mundane sales tasks, experience them while inching you closer to your goals. I’ve seen countless authors leverage their book, its reputation, and the new skills it brought to them into better-paying jobs. Just as many have discovered in the author experience an expanded social network and interesting new friends. Others were surprised at how diligent book promotion turned them into recognized authorities on their subject in a relatively short period of time.

Your Connections / How Other People Can Help You
Make a list of everyone you know. Everyone. Get out your address book and your holiday card list. Add your email contacts, your phone contacts, and your Facebook friends. Whether you know 100 or 1,000 people, or more, you will be contacting all of them individually in a systematic way over the next month or months, be it one a day or five a day. For some, you will be asking for something specific that they can do for you: Will you show my book to that bookstore at the end of your block? May I speak about my book to your women’s group / book club / historical society? For others, you can ask more generally: May I send you a free digital version of my book and will you consider writing an Amazon / GoodReads / Library Thing review? Will you share my Facebook event for my upcoming booksigning with your friends?

Next, think of the group platforms you have, both online (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn Groups) and offline (clubs, etc.). As appropriate, create a multi-month campaign to ask the group or group members collectively for something (once, once a month, four times a year, whatever makes sense): Is anyone here willing to read my book and write an online review? Do you belong to any organizations that are looking for guest speakers in my area of expertise? Does my book fit with the merchandise at any stores you regularly patronize?

Your Current Life and Schedule / Your Desired Life and Dreams
Choose marketing and sales activities for your book that work with your life and its constraints. Better yet, pick activities that both fit with your current situation and where you’d ideally like to go, whether that’s a modest or grand shift. A stay-at-home parent who does a lot of shuttling of children and feels torn by the wasted time? Commit to making sales calls from the car every time you’re waiting for the kids. Retired and increasing your travel schedule? Plan author events at your destination in advance. Visit bookstores on the road to drop off reading copies and ordering information. I worked with an author who had three young triplets at home the year his book was released. He scheduled book events after work with 2-3 clubs a month for a couple of years, and cherished the extra cash and every adult-filled conversation those opportunities provided.

Sound easy? It is easy in its simplicity, but it’s work. Go inside, consider all of the above, then make your plan for action. When you bother only with the substance, you are optimizing your efforts and that tends to deliver not just more money, but more good things all around.



Sharon Woodhouse is a publisher (, publishing consultant, author, and small business coach ( Her latest book is The Coach Within: 28 Big Ideas for Engaging the Power of Your Own Wisdom, Creativity, and Choices.




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