In January of 2015, I wrote an article on How and Why I’m writing a book in 2015. In July of the same year, I released that book, The End of Jobs. Here’s a brief breakdown of what happened in the first six months of the book’s life:
- 5000 copies sold in the first month (Over 30,000 copies in circulation within six months)
- #1 Amazon Best Seller in the Kindle Business and Money Category.
- Over 200 Amazon 5 star reviews
- Featured on dozens of media outlets including Inc and Forbes.
- Over $60k in revenue (directly from the book)
- Grew my email list by 2100% (from 700 to 15,000)
Nine months earlier (October 2014), I had 300 email subscribers (which had taken me three years to amass, and most of whom I’d met in person), never sold a product, and had only appeared as a guest on three podcasts.
I did not expect to sell so many copies of the book this quickly. I did a Google Hangout the day before the book launched with around 15 people on it and said that I hoped the book would sell 5000 copies in the first 6 months, but would be happy if it sold 1000.
I’d like to break down what those 9 months of prep and my book marketing plan looked like and how you could do the same. For those of you with larger platforms already, I think many of the principles will still apply – I arrived at them from emulating much larger book launches.
You can download the whole book marketing plan toolkit mentioned in this article by entering your email below.
Book marketing plan principles
Let’s start with some of the overarching principles so we have a common vocabulary to use when we get to the nitty gritty.
Feathers vs. bricks
Good books are like feathers: it doesn’t take as much to launch them up into the air and they have a tendency to hang there.
Bad books are like bricks: It take a lot to launch them into the air and they have a tendency to fall right back down.
However, a great, well written book with no marketing behind it is like a feather lying on the ground. It needs an initial umph to take off, but once it does, it can float for a long time.
A well marketed, but poorly written, book is like a brick thrown up in the air. It shoots to the top of the rankings and makes a bunch of sales. Once people read it, they don’t pass it on, and it drops right back to the ground.
To figure out whether your book is in the brick or feather category, I’ll borrow author and marketer Seth Godin’s terminology: Have you crossed the “minimum viable purple cow threshold?” That is, can you imagine someone sitting down to lunch with a friend and recommending they read the book? Or writing a Facebook post about it?
If you can use all the tricks and tips to hit #1, and the book is also referable, you’ll create more value and impact than both the super smart author that didn’t market the book (no one read it) or the amazing marketer (everyone read it, no one learned anything).
Credit for this framework goes to an interview between Tim Ferriss and Neil Strauss.
Benchmark off the best
It’s generally better to aim high and fail, than aim low and hit.
When I planned the book launch, I was trying to benchmark it off of New York Times level launches that I’d seen from marketers like Ryan Holiday and Tim Ferriss, among others. While I didn’t come anywhere near that level, looking at those probably yielded better results than if I had aimed at more modest launches.
A big turning point for me was deciding to give the book away for free AND market the crap out of it. In the end, it made a lot more money and got a lot more exposure (more on this later).
Run the book like a business
Another big “aha” moment I had writing the book was reading Tim Grahl’s Your First 1000 Copies. Tim does a great job of explaining marketing fundamentals to authors. However, reading the book mainly made me feel like an idiot. I was getting paid to do marketing consulting at the same time as I was writing a book, without thinking about the marketing of the book. (For the antifragilistas, domain dependence is domain dependent.)
Reading Tim’s book made me realize that writing and marketing a new book is just like running a business. You start with an idea and a lot of unproven assumptions and your goal is to prove those assumptions as quickly as possible while investing as little capital and time as possible. Eric Reis’s Lean Startup is the framework for doing this in tech startups.
This lead me to two main ideas:
- Allocate resources equally between product development (writing) and marketing. As Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares point out in Traction: A Startup Guide to Getting Customers: “Most startups end in failure. Almost every failed startup has a product. What failed startups don’t have is traction.”
Likewise, every author has a book. What most don’t have is marketing traction.
- Iterate quickly and publicly
Startups release products quickly to ever larger groups because it both improves the quality of the product more quickly (by getting tons of feedback) and weaves that feedback into the narrative of the product in a way that makes customers feel a sense of ownership. I tried to do the same with the book. Here are the steps I took:
- Sent the First Draft to 5 alpha readers
- Blogged sections of the Second Draft on my site
- Sent the Second Draft to 70 Early Readers
- Sent the Final Draft to 300 Early Ambassadors
If you’re concerned about giving away your book’s content publicly, there’s no downside that I can see to blogging out large sections of the second and/or third draft of a book publicly. Andy Weir, author of The Martian, published the entire book on his blog before self-publishing it on Amazon.1 Then he sold the rights to Crown Publishing, before eventually turning it into a screenplay which has grossed in excess of $400 million. Not bad for packaging up some blog posts.
Blogging a book lets you test concepts and ways of explaining them to see if they resonate. “The Commoditization of Credentialism” was one of the most popular articles I wrote while writing the book, so I made it part of a chapter in the book.
Another way that blogging helped, is that it let me start to build the narrative (more on that later) and find people interested in the book. I didn’t build a huge email list while writing the book, but I did add 400 people who were incredibly helpful, both in giving feedback and with the marketing.
These posts all ended up in the book in some way:
- Going All In: The Ignorance of Diversification in Life and Entrepreneurship
- Thinking in Limits: Two Simple Questions for Becoming a Better Entrepreneur
- The Commoditization of Credentialism
- On Baking Pie: Why Profit Always Comes First
- To You Who Wants More Freedom
- Welcome to Extremistan. Don’t Be a Turkey — People called and texted me after I wrote this one so I beefed it out and made it a full section in the book.
One was a post which I thought about putting in the book but yielded crickets, so I threw it out:
Some posts were totally unrelated and I wrote them purely because I needed to walk away and think about something other than the book for a little while:
- Ever Think, “I Feel Stuck?” Escape From Hintergedanke Purgatory
- The Taboo Productivity Trap: On Dealing with Blah-ness
- 4 Strategies To Find The Work Only You Can Do (And Why It’s More Profitable Than Ever)
Market like Jesus aka relationships and the 80/20 rule all
The biggest element of the book’s success was not my clever marketing, but other people’s support. Iterating quickly and publicly not only helped to make the actual product better, it also let me identify a core group of readers who were willing to help spread the message of the book.
Two days after the book launched, I had a list of forums, Facebook groups, and other places to post about the book. Before I could post, however, I saw that other people had already posted about the book for me. This was much more persuasive than a post coming from me. I spent most of the next few days writing thank you notes to all the people who had helped market the book instead.
In retrospect, I realize that I had a very similar marketing plan to the man who may be considered the greatest marketer of all time: Jesus.2
In terms of longevity in the marketplaces, the movement he started is 2,000 years old and is still going strong. It has 2.2 billion active users (over 30% of global population), annual revenue across all its subsidiaries is well into the billions of dollars. That’s an unmatched scale, market penetration, and longevity.
How did it start?
It started with with a very small group of 12 disciples that he invested massively in. It would appear that Jesus had a deep understanding of the 80/20 principle which states that 80% of results come from 20% of actions.
In the case of book marketing, 80% of the excitement and support for the book is in 20% of readers.
But, it gets even more compelling…
If you factor the 80/20 rule twice, you get 51.2/0.8. (80%x80%x80%=51.2% and 20%x20%x20%=0.8%)
Which is to say that 51.2% of the total excitement about your books is in .8% of the total market. If you can identify these people (you can – I’ll explain more below) it makes sense to invest 50% of your marketing resources (probably your time) into them because they generate enormous leverage. They post about your book on forums. They tell their friends. They write amazing reviews. They give you ideas for your marketing.
I did a few things to try and facilitate this.
I published large sections of the book on my site and asked people who were interested to opt in to an early notification email list for a free copy of the book when it came out. On the Thank You page, I asked people who were interested to join a private Facebook group.
This let me get over 70 beta readers (over 10% of my email subscribers at the time).
They not only made the book better from their feedback, but they also got invested in the project. When the book launched, they had a sense of ownership because they had actually created a piece of the final product.
During the process, I was always asking myself, How can I invest more in the “vital few” .8% instead of the “trivial many” 80%+?” How can I invest 50% of my marketing resources into the 0.8%?
Book writing and marketing phases
Now, time for the nitty gritty! I broke the writing and marketing process down into four phases:
- Definition – The Black Box Proposal and a Shitty First Draft (2-3 Months)
- Narrative and Tension – Blog the Book and Create Community (6 months)
- Eyeballs and Urgency – Thunderclap + Free (1 week – 1 month)
- Momentum – Hack it to the top and ride out the virtuous cycle (1-3 months)
Phase 1: Definition
The two main components of phase 1 are the proposal and a first draft. You need to get clear on who the book is for and what outcome it’s going to create in their life.
I committed to writing the book at a business conference in October of last year (the conference I mentioned in the introduction of the book). Sitting in a breakout session on writing books, I asked what seemed an innocuous question:
At what size platform does it make sense to write a book?
I had been blogging for around three years, but had done almost no active marketing for it. It was something I did on Saturday mornings as a way to process my week and start to create a public record for what I was working on.
The presenter turned at me and quickly retorted, “That’s a permission seeking question if I’ve ever heard one.”
I walked up to him in the hallway afterwards and pitched him the initial premise for The End of Jobs. It turned out that he’d been considering writing a similar book, but his business was at a place where it didn’t make sense to drop everything and work on a book.
We started hashing out the outline and refining premise in the hallway and I scribbled down everything into Evernote on my phone. I talked with a few other people at the conference who had also thought of writing a similar book and gave me helpful feedback.3
The “Black Box” proposal (9 months to launch)
Whenever I have a product or service idea, or someone brings one up, my first move is always to write a sales letter to one person trying to sell them the idea.
I imagine myself standing in front of them with a big black box behind me and saying: “If you pay me $X, then there is something in this box that will create outcome Y.”
WP Curve, a business I profiled in the book, started by the founder, Dan, saying “If you pay me $69 a month, I’ll fix all your WordPress website problems.” No one cared what was inside the black box (or that it changed over time) as long as the problem continued to be solved.
I can try to sell that outcome to people even if the box is empty and save myself all the trouble of actually making whatever I think should go in the box.
It also forces me to clarify the most important elements – exactly who the product/service is for and the benefits to that person so I know what I’m trying to achieve.
Even though I wasn’t working with a traditional publisher, I wrote a book proposal for that purpose using Jane Friedman’s example here then emailed the proposal to five people (three were in the target market, two were other people who could have written the book if they had the time).
Once they’d read it, I talked to them about it in person or on the phone. Really high friction feedback from a small group of people is much better than a survey to a much larger group, as it can massively shortcut the time it takes you to get to product/market fit.
You can download the whole book marketing plan (including proposal resource) by entering your email below.
Once I had talked to everyone and had a conception for the book, it was time to start writing.
The first draft (8 months to launch)
It took me 8 months to write, publish, and launch The End of Jobs. The first 3 months were entirely spent writing with almost no marketing. I kept up semi-regular writing (once every two weeks) on my site, but largely used that as a way to distract myself from the book when I needed to take a break but still wanted (and had time) to write.
I subscribed to the Anne Lamott school of Shitty First Drafts, which means my goal for the first three months of working on the book was almost entirely driven by word count. My goal was to get sixty thousand words of anything remotely related to the book on the page to have something to work from.
(Pro tip I got from Benny Lewis, author of Fluent in 3 Months: The writing software Scrivener has a feature which lets you set a word count and deadline, and then gives you your daily “quota” to stay on track. Highly recommended.)
While I’m a big fan of blogging a book , I’m glad I didn’t blog the first draft. The voice in the back of my head that’s incredibly self-conscious about what other people think of my creative work was largely silenced knowing that no one was going to see the first draft. That allowed me to write knowing that if anything was prone to being easily misinterpreted without context, I could revise it.
I ended up sending the first draft to five very close friends to get their overall feedback which was helpful for “getting it out of my head”. Because I knew them well, I wasn’t as concerned with showing them the first draft.
A brief word on the editorial process
After I finished the first draft, I took about two weeks off from working on the book to get it out of my head and give the (very kind) alpha readers a chance to go through to make notes.
Once I had spoken to all of them on the phone or in person, I went back and re-read the alpha draft myself and went through a three-step Revision Process. I used the same process after the second and third edits so I’ll only include it once here.
- Re-write the introduction as a lens
I re-wrote the introduction to use as a lens to clarify and define the rest of the book. In much the same way I used the outline before starting the first draft to get clear on who I was talking to, I used the introduction in each subsequent draft to get clear on exactly who my target reader was. I picked a specific close friend of mine that fit into the primary demographic and wrote the introduction specifically to him in order to get the appropriate tone and voice.
This let me get another round of clarity on exactly who the reader was (20-50 year-olds “on the fringe of entrepreneurship” – either they had friends doing entrepreneurial things or had started reading and listening to podcasts on entrepreneurship), what problem The End of Jobs solved for them (why entrepreneurship is not just an attractive career decision, but a smart, safe one as well and how to get started), as well as the tone and voice (intelligent, but accessible).
- Structural Edit
Based on their feedback and re-reading, I did a structural edit to the book, moving around sections so that the book flowed better and had a more logical narrative. I also made notes on specific sections that they particularly liked so I could expand on them.
- Set a deadline and rework the chapters on deadline.
I knew I wanted to get the next draft done in 12 weeks so I worked backwards from that deadline. I identified which sections they liked the most and allocated more time updating and improving those sections in the next revision and discarded or cut heavily from other sections which didn’t strike a chord.
Here’s an example of what my writing schedule looked like for February (5 months to launch) copied directly from my planning document. At this point, I had already rewritten the introduction based on alpha reader feedback, was going back in to do the structural edits, and then rework the chapters from a more “writerly” perspective:
Week 1 – Structural Edit of Parts 1-3
- Monday – Part 1, Section 1
- Tuesday – Part 1, Section 2
- Wednesday – Part 2, Section 1
- Thursday – Part 2, Section 2
- Friday – Part 3, Section 3
- Saturday – overflow
Week 2 – Finish Structural Edit
- Monday – Integrate Antifragile Section and Finish Part 2 Section 1, Start Part 2 Section 2
- Tuesday – Finish Part 2 Section 2, Start Part 2 Section 3
- Wednesday – Finish Part 2 Section 3
- Flesh out part of Final section More Meaning or More Money as Blog Post
- Friday – Blog Post to Editor
Week 3 – Start Writerly Edit
- Monday – Integrate Blog Post and Writerly Edit starting at Part 2 Section 3
- Tuesday – Writerly Edit Part 2 Section 3
- Wednesday – Writerly Edit Part 2 Section 3
- Thursday – Writerly Edit Part 2 Section 3 and rip a section to send as Blog Post to Editor
- Friday – Finish Writerly Edit Part 2 Section 3 and Publish Blog Post
Week 4 – Add Stories/Analogies and Writerly Edit
- Monday – More Money Section
- Tuesday – More Meaning and More Growth
- Wednesday – Integrated Living
- Thursday – Draft Blog Post
- Friday – Publish Blog Post
- Saturday – Promote Blog Post
After I got feedback from my next round of readers, I repeated the exact same process while working with a professional editor.
As mentioned before, this is straight out of the lean startup playbook.
From this point on, I’m going to stick mostly to marketing, but you can see more about the writing process here if you’re interested.
Phase 2: Narrative and tension
On the primacy of tension and narrative in direct response marketing
Stories are perhaps the most powerful tool for affecting change in humans. “The pen is mightier than the sword” is a cliché but, like many clichés, true. The defining moment in the rise of homo sapiens to be the dominant species on Earth was not the neolithic revolution twelve thousand years ago, but the cognitive revolution around seventy thousand years ago.
A homo sapien 100,000 years ago was a largely weak, helpless creature. It was only when language evolved and homo sapiens gained the ability to organize by telling stories that they rose to dominance as a species in a way no prior species ever had.
This same ability to tell stories has fueled consumption and capitalism for the past two centuries. In the words of Seth Godin, All Marketers Tell Stories.
One of the biggest shifts in marketing over the past two to three decades precipitated by the internet, is the increasing role and importance of narrative, story and how those stories are told. This is driven mostly by the democratization of access to storytelling mediums (aka distribution channels like blogs, podcasts, etc.).
In the age of the TV/Industrial complex, you could pay to get your ad seen, and you only had to make it better than the other few dozen commercials people saw. There was limited access to the mediums and you paid for every second you used.
In the age of email newsletters, you may be competing with fifty other messages in someone’s inbox.
The most common (and unhelpful) reaction to this is to bemoan the fractured attention of consumers.
The more successful one has been to change the way you tell stories.
Jeff Walker popularized the sideways sales letter (taking the traditional long-form 50 page sales letter and breaking it up into a series of shorter emails delivered over time) as a way to create buzz and narrative leading up to a launch. He extended the narrative from a single “we’re live” announcement into a story around the product and the brand.
The recent rise of content marketing is simply taking the sideways sales letter to the next level, allowing you to weave a fuller narrative around the product and brand and create a sense of momentum and tension.
To understand what I mean by tension, think of the lead up to your favorite holiday or event. You can feel the suspense in a palpable way and it means you end up talking about it all the time both before, during and after.
In an interview, Clay Collins, the founder of SaaS startup Leadpages, recounted how he was able to use content marketing to decrease the cost to acquire a customer (CAC) by a factor of ten.
Typical SaaS companies do a big release 1-2 times a year and come out with 26 new features each time. Then they hire a large inside (phone-based) sales team to educate prospects on all these new features.
Instead, Leadpages released one feature a week and wrote a blog post about why they did it. In doing so, they could replace 10 inside sales people with one blogger and drop their CAC (customer accosting cost) by 10x.
That’s HUGE. You can break an industry if you can drop CAC by a factor of 10.
Content marketing or blogging your book is essentially like writing a 6-month sideways sales letter and has a similar order of magnitude effects on sales.4
Bottomline: As soon as you know you’re writing the book, start talking to everyone about it in person (not obnoxiously) and start blogging it out.
Once I had a first draft done, I started doing the marketing in parallel with the writing of the book. I would typically do the writing in the morning and the marketing in the afternoon. Oftentimes, the marketing in the afternoon would get pushed out by consulting projects I was working on, but that was roughly my 50/50 product/marketing split.
With that brief conceptual introduction to momentum and tension, below is the 6-month schedule I followed leading up to the book’s release which actually created the momentum and tension for the launch.
6 months out
Publish 2 blog posts each month – Blog post topics pre-book launch focus around the book in some way so as to help build narrative. There were three main topics which all the articles revolved around:
1. Process of Writing the book – “Behind the Scenes” look.
2. Actual Book Chapters – When I found sections in the book that I wasn’t sure if I wanted to include, I would use them as blog posts. If they were well received, I would include them in the manuscript. If they fell flat, I would cut them out.
3. Book Notes – Since I was reviewing a lot of books and reading new ones to cite in The End of Jobs, I had a lot of notes that I could clean up and publish.
I had no specific order for which ones came out when, I wrote whatever seemed most interesting to me at the time as long as it was around the narrative of the book.
Launch early opt-in landing page and Facebook group – I set up a landing page to start collecting emails using Leadpages. I offered everyone that signed up a free book when it launched and invited them to a Facebook group.
I emailed my primary email list (around 400 people at this point) inviting them into the Facebook group for insider info on the book launch process. This gave me a way to segment out the 80/20 (or .8%/51.2%) of people so I could communicate more often and directly with the people that were interested and invested.
I posted there at least weekly with what was going on with the book. This group ended up being the major source for my very early Amazon reviews, as well as supporters for the Thunderclap.it campaign (more on that below).
5 months out
Publish three articles – These are the articles that came out that month.
- Welcome to Extremistan. Don’t Be a Turkey.
- To You Who Wants More Freedom
- On Baking Pie: Why Profit Always Comes First
Identify interview guests – One of the main pieces of feedback I got from the alpha readers was that the first draft of the book was too conceptual and didn’t have enough stories of real people. I had just finished reading Traction and saw how they used experts in specific areas as examples of their traction framework and decided to do the same thing.
I identified twenty people that I thought could expound on concepts from the first draft or add new ones. This, along with a hefty bibliography, was also a move to position myself not as a guru, but as a synthesizer and explainer. I.e. from observing and studying successful entrepreneurs, I constructed the framework and used their stories to explain it.
I picked people that I had a personal connection to, had something relevant to contribute and had an audience so I could reach back out to them to see if they would be willing to promote the book.
Conduct interviews – Based on the plan for draft 2 and reviewing feedback from the reader survey, I determined what questions to ask in these interviews to integrate them into the book.
My favorite podcasts are always ones where the interviewer takes the time to put together really in-depth questions so I tried to do the same. The second half of this interview with Alex Blumberg from the Startup Podcast and Tim Ferriss is gold for asking better interview questions
The big takeaway: there are two keys to good interviews: emotion and narrative. You can evoke those using questions like:
- Tell me the story of when…
- Describe the conversation…
- Tell me about the moment when… (Elicit realization).
- Get emotional. How did that make you feel?
- If the old you could see the new you, what would the old you say?
4 months out
Publish 2 blog posts
- The Commoditization of Credentialism: Why MBAs and JDs Can’t Get Jobs – This became the basis for a chapter in the book.
- Nine 80/20 Principles for Entrepreneurs Learned From Writing a Book – This was about the process of writing the book.
Pick a title – I started by brainstorming a list of 50 possible titles and 50 possible subtitles. Then I narrowed them down to a small list and got readers involved by asking for input and feedback in The End of Jobs Facebook Group.
For the initial brainstorm, I browsed through books and authors I liked reading, as well as bestseller lists in my category (Business) on Amazon as well as on Goodreads. The final title, The End of Jobs, was inspired by Sam Harris’s book The End of Faith.
The subtitle went through maybe 10 different versions before I settled on “Money, Meaning and Freedom without the 9-5” (at 2 am, two weeks before the book came out, thanks to two particularly helpful, generous readers and a bit too much red wine).
Get book cover designed – I used 99 Designs to get the cover designed and followed a similar process to picking the title of posting the new designs and asking for feedback each time. This was particularly valuable for me as I ended up with a strong cover and I have terrible design sensibilities. It was also one of the most engaged conversations in the group pre-launch.
Coordinate early readers – At the end of this month, I had gone through another revision of the book and had a draft to actually send out to early readers. I had around five hundred email subscribers at this point and emailed them to see who would be willing to read the early chapters and got around 70 brave souls to accept.
[You can download the templates I used for the Application and Acceptance Emails as well as my Early Reader SOP and Feedback Form as part of the book marketing plan toolkit below.]
Launch revised introduction on site as opt-in – Once I had revised the introduction, based on the second round of feedback, I added “download the introduction and get a free copy of the book” to the landing page to increase the opt-in percentage.
Phase 3: Eyeballs and urgency
At this point (3 months from launch), I had the draft out to beta readers and my editor, so there was not much work to be done on the book on my part. I devoted the month to lining up the marketing. I went ahead and scheduled myself on podcasts set to come out during launch week. This effectively burned the bridges. If I wanted to change the launch date, I would have to email everyone who had agreed to let me come on their podcast that I wasn’t going to deliver on time which my ego would not tolerate well. Perhaps a more stress inducing than necessary tactic for enforcing deadlines, but effective.
The key to a big initial launch is a pretty simple formula I learned from author and marketer Tom Morkes: tons of eyeballs and a ton of urgency. You want a ton of people looking at the book with a big incentive to buy or download now.
Eyeballs: The thunderclap effect
The basic premise behind the Thunderclap Effect is that you have a limited number of resources to put into marketing the book and you can maximize them by synchronizing them.
Essentially, if you do five podcast interviews every week it’s less powerful than all in the same week because you get all the psychological benefits of the recency illusion and the surround sound effect. It’s better for someone to see twenty posts at the same time in their facebook feed from friends sharing than it is for someone to see them dispersed. When you see twenty people post at once, you have to click.
For me, this was podcasts + guest posts + a well-named program: Thunderclap.it
Urgency can either be done by first offering the book for free and increasing the price, or by offering time-sensitive bonuses.
I chose free because giving it away let me reach out to people and ask for their support. It’s a much smaller ask of people’s personal brand equity. Imagine all the people who would share your book if it were $20? Now imagine if it was $1. Doesn’t change much does it? Now imagine free. Now, there’s a much larger new circle of people you can talk with. It also let me ask people that were already excited about the book (people in the Facebook group) to do something more valuable than just buy the book for $3.99 (such as write a Reddit post or leave a review). It also generated a lot of momentum and let me get the book to the top of Amazon.
Counterintuitively, I believe the book would not have sold half as many copies if I hadn’t given it away for free.
3 months out
Publish 2 blog posts – Blog posts continued for the same purpose of building tension, anticipation and narrative around the book.
- 4 Strategies To Find The Work Only You Can Do (And Why It’s More Profitable Than Ever) – I wrote this mainly as a way to escape the book and get my mind on something else and the idea of “unique ability” is a recurrent one in my writing.
- The Taboo Productivity Trap: On Dealing with Blah-ness – This was the result of scheduling a hard deadline and receiving early reader feedback all in the same week. In short: I thought I was hosed.
Begin pitching and lining up guest posts and podcast interviews for launch
I started by reaching out to people in my personal network, as a huge part of the early traction for The End of Jobs came from my personal friends and network (thanks again!). A very large portion of that was from the Dynamite Circle, a forum for location independent entrepreneurs that I have been a part of since 2012. I started in an apprenticeship role, managing the marketing for their ecommerce business, with the founders of the community for two years.
Over those past three years, I attended five of the events and was a fairly active participant in the forum and offline meetups. The community’s existence basically validates the book’s message. Many of the people I interviewed for the book are members of that community.
In order to line up the interviews, I made a list of target podcasts and topic proposals (The SOPs for this are included in the book marketing plan toolkit). After reading Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mare’s article Getting Traction for Traction Book, I decided to focus primarily on podcasts to try and create the Thunderclap effect (more on that below).
Podcasts are advantageous for a few reasons:
- A smaller time commitment – A good guest post easily took me five to ten hours to put together, even if I was heavily excerpting from the book. On the other hand, a great podcast interview requires more like three to five hours (1 hour of outreach, 1-2 hour of prep, and 1 hour of interview).
- Builds more rapport – I also think podcasting as a medium lends itself to higher conversion rates. I’ve met many podcasters now and I always have a deeper sense of rapport and trust with them from listening to their podcast, as opposed to reading blog articles. So my suspicion is that it’s higher converting to have 1,000 people listen to your podcast interview than read your guest post.
Once I had a list of outreach targets, I sent a personal email to each. I definitely used templates, but still did a lot of crafting for each email so they could tell it was personalized. Even with a template, I spent at least 30 minutes, and often an hour or two writing each outreach email. [The base templates for this are included in the book marketing plan toolkit]
Put together opt-ins/giveaways on website – Set up a landing page with resources list mentioned in the book and require an email opt-in to access it. You can see the landing page I use and opt-in to see the bonuses here. One of the biggest surprises for me with the book was how impactful it was for increasing my email list (over 400% growth within 90 days of launch).
Over 1000 of those emails came from inserting an opt-in at the front of the book and at the end. The opt-in at the front of the book lets people who preview the book on Amazon join your email list without buying the book (you can almost use Amazon as a guest posting platform in that way). If these people get on the email list, they’re more likely to buy the book at some point. I also put the opt-in at the end of the book to give people the next step to take and continue a relationship with them.
Here’s a list of everything I included as a bonus for people that opted-in:
- Full recorded interviews with the ten entrepreneurs featured in The End of Jobs detailing how they launched their own successful businesses.
- Taylor’s 67 must-read business books to fuel your entrepreneurial career.
- 49 tools and templates to save you hundreds of hours when launching and growing a business
- A Ninety-Day goal setting template to translate the book into actionable steps
- Access to a private community to discuss the book and get support from a community of like-minded individuals to inspire, motivate, and assist each other
Get interviews edited – I had an audio producer edit the podcast interviews to include in the book bonuses.
2 months out
Publish 3 blog posts
- Illegible Currency Arbitrage: How to Optimize for What Matters, Not What You Can Measure
- Crafting Marketing Meta Narratives (Or Why I’m Giving Away 339 Hours of Work For Free)
- A Single Word Summary of 188 Books on Entrepreneurship
Set-up sales page on TaylorPearson.me. I went from the quick and dirty opt-in page to writing out the full sales page I have now. It was modeled after:
Record podcast interviews and prepare guest posts – I had to start delivering on all the podcasts and guest posts that I’d lined up.
- When the host is willing, I like to ask for questions or at least a general idea of what they’d like to cover beforehand. I find that I think much better when I write so I tried to spend at least an hour thinking through the questions and preparing before the interviews. This also helped me keep from saying the same thing on podcasts I know had big audience overlaps.
Start preparing book review post and giveaway – I wrote a huge book list post and gave away a free copy of my favorite 67 business books ($1310 worth) using King Sumo Giveaway. This meant going through my reading list and thinking about which books influenced me the most and would be the most helpful to people after reading The End of Jobs.
King Sumo Giveaways is set up to incentivize people to share (you get extra entries for everyone you refer), so I thought I could add a lot of people to my email list. (I ended up getting over 1000 entries, about 700 of which were new.)
Because the links in the post were all affiliate links to Amazon and I thought the additional buzz would sell more copies of the book, I was basically trying to grow my email list and break even. (That is, the additional book revenue and affiliate revenue from Amazon would pay for the books I gave away leaving me at break even, but having added a substantial number of people to my email list. In marketing parlance, I was trying to create a self-liquidating offer: a gift or free offer which generates enough additional sales revenue to cover the cost of the promotion.)
Finish setting-up landing page at https://taylorpearson.me/eoj/ – This is the landing page readers were directed to from the book opt-ins to download the bonuses.
Pick amazon categories. It is generally better for sales to be #1 in a small category than #10 in a big one. It’s also important for branding because you can say that you have a “bestselling” book. From anecdotal reports, the top 3 books in a category sell more than the rest of the top 10 combined (which, given the 80/20 rule, makes sense).
My guidelines for picking a book category were:
- The category must be relevant to your book’s topic.
- The top 3 books are ranked 3000 or worse, AND the top 2 books are ranked 15000 or better. This means there is a good chance you’ll get into the top 3 and the category is relevant enough that people actually look at it occasionally.
I picked one competitive category (Small Business) knowing if I ranked well, I would get a lot of visibility and one uncompetitive category (International Economics) so I would definitely hit #1 and could call the book an Amazon Best Seller.
1 month out
4 weeks out
Send final guest posts and recorded podcasts – Most of the guest posts I did were adapted parts of the book so I cleaned them up at this point and adapted them to the site they were going to be posted on.
Set up Thunderclap.it – Thunderclap.it is the service that lets you coordinate social media shares around a specific time. Instead of asking people to remember to share on your launch day, you can coordinate it so they all sign up to your Thunderclap campaign and automatically send out a message at the same time, in this case during a book launch.
136 people ended up supporting the campaign I set up and it had an estimated reach of 189k people.
I got people to support by downloading my Gmail contacts from the last three years and sorting people into two lists (close friends and acquaintances), emailing them a copy of the book and asking them to support the Thunderclap.it. Here’s an email that I sent to a friend:
Important note: Personalize all the messages. I started from a stock template, but I edited each one to have at least a paragraph of personal text: “Was great seeing you in LA last year, hope your mom is feeling better, let me know when the new website is up!” Whatever. The point is people react differently when they know you spent time personalizing it. I probably spent 30-40 hours sending these emails. In retrospect, I should have spent more. If you’re still on the fence, I’ll let Gary V take it from here.
3 weeks out
Send early copy to influencers for testimonials/blurbs – I ended up launching without any blurbs for the book. I didn’t have the book ready far enough in advance to give people who would have been good blurbs a reasonable time to read the book. From people I spoke with, blurbs seem to have very quick decreasing marginal returns. If you can get 2-3 blurbs with at least 1 being from a major player in your space, that seems to be more than enough. That way you can lead outreach emails with “Hi, my name is John. Barack Obama had this to say about my book. I think your audience would be interested for XYZ specific reasons.” That’s all you need.
Continue emailing personal contacts about the Thunderclap
2 weeks out
I ran the giveaway two weeks before the book launch and timed most of my promotion to go live at the same time as the giveaway. My thinking was that the giveaway would be a more compelling offer on podcasts (pitch to hosts: in addition to doing a good interview, I want to give listeners a chance to win 67 business books). Since anyone that entered the giveaway was notified when the book was free, it seemed like the best of both worlds for readers – get a chance to win business books and I’ll let you know when the book is free.
I focused my initial podcasts on a very targeted audience, and many people messaged me saying they heard me on 3+ podcasts in the same week, creating the surround sound effect. The unintended benefit was that this created a ton of tension and anticipation around the launch since the book still wasn’t out for anyone to read.
Publish Best Books on Entrepreneurship – In order to promote the giveaway, I also wrote a review of all 67 books and used it to reach out to the authors. Because they had written books on a similar topic, there was a lot of potential overlap with people who would like my book. This let me reach out to authors included in the list to share and I wanted to create a long term asset that could drive a lot of traffic similar to Josh Kaufman’s 99 Business Books but more entrepreneurial in design.
Give away early copy of the book to FB group – This let the people most interested get an early copy and have some time to read it so they could leave an honest review on Amazon when the book went live. It would have been better (and I would have gotten more reviews, sooner) to get this to supporters more than 10 days before the book launched, but deadlines.
Continue emailing personal contacts about Thunderclap
1 week out
Pre-write launch announcement – I wrote the announcement which I posted on my site and emailed out to my email list.
Finalize upload to CreateSpace and Amazon page – I submitted the book to Amazon and CreateSpace. In retrospect, there’s no reason not to do this at least a few weeks early and just not announce it publicly however I ran it right up to the wire. If you’re going to give the book away for free, you have to schedule it so do that at least a week in advance.
Finish emailing personal contacts
1 day to Launch
- Finalize Book Launch Announcement and Schedule it
- Put together Marketing/PR Reference Document to send to press
- Host a Webinar for ambassador group – I did this the night before so everyone is excited on launch day
Tuesday – Launch Day
The first day the book was out, I released it to people that signed up to be notified and the Facebook ambassador group. The goal here was to create a little momentum and get 25 reviews ASAP. The psychological milestones for reviews in readers’ eyes are 1, 10, 25, 50, and 100. That way when “cold” readers saw the book on Amazon for the first time, it would already have some review as social proof.
Post New Release Success – Your book should hit “hot & new” in Amazon
Launch day + 1 – AKA Fire All Weapons
- Blog Post on book launch goes live and is mailed to main list and giveaway list
- Change SumoMe Bar to point to Amazon Page
- Post in FB Group to “Review the Book on Amazon if you haven’t already”
- Update Twitter Card
- My book, The End of Jobs, is the #1 FREE non fiction eBook on Amazon Kindle Today! Grab it here! – [LINK]
- Post in any forums or groups you’re a part of w/ reviews and downloads and progress
- Thunderclap.it will go out on this day
- Submit to other groups
- Reddit Giveaways
- Nomads and Bootstrappers Slack channels
- Thank the guy in bootstrappers and ask for a review
- FB Post at the end of the day
- Post in Reddit Entrepreneur and link to Bootstrappers.io
Phase 4: Momentum aka The kickstarter effect
You know when you read really good fiction and you can’t put it down? The plot is moving towards something and the author hints at it but doesn’t let you know. Then by the time it happens, he’s started building towards something else, that’s what I mean by momentum.
At this point all the narrative, tension, and urgency hit a peak. The next step is to try and keep the momentum going, both to see how high it will go and also to extend the tail.
This momentum aspect of narrative is done outstandingly well by the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter.
“Oh my God they already raised $10,000 in the first hour!”
Everyone shouts on social media which leads to more people going to the page, buying and then:
“Oh my God, they hit the $30,000 goal in the first day!” the reporter says before she writes the story.
There’s this tension when you’re watching a Kickstarter gain momentum – how high will it get? Will they add another reward tier?
There’s no platform that does this real-time for books, but you can recreate it using Amazon’s categories.
For the two weeks following the launch, my daily activity was continuing to promote the book by responding to emails, posting the book stats, and sending people thank you notes for all the help and support. I probably (read: definitely) could have made better use of this time, but I was mostly in shock that it kept going.
The week after launch
Launch Day + 2
Email readers and post on social media that book hit #1 in the Small Business Top 100 Free category list:
Launch Day +3
- Email readers and post on social media that book hit #1 Small Business & Entrepreneurship Top 100 Free category lists:
Launch Day +4
- Email readers and post on social media that book hit #1 Small Business and today is last day to download the book for free (Amazon limits free promotions to five days).
Launch Day +5
First day paid, made a few sales at $0.99 – I put a note at the top of the description saying book is at $.99 but only for the next week (urgency).
Email readers and post on social media that book hit #1 in International Economics (less competitive category).
One of the turning points for the book happened Sunday afternoon when a reader who had already given me a lot of suggestions on the marketing made an introduction to Buck Books which emailed their list on Monday and played a big role in driving the book to #1 in Business.
This was something I couldn’t (and didn’t) anticipate, but reconfirmed the importance of the .8% for me.
Launch Day +6
Email readers and post on social media that book hit #1 in Small Business (Competitive Category) Top 100 Paid category list:
Launch Day +7
- Email list to say book hit #1 in Small Business and Entrepreneurship Parent Category.
Launch Day +8
- Post article and email list that The End of Jobs hit #1 in the whole Business and Money category for Amazon.
Post-launch — Continue the momentum
There is a period you have after the launch to capitalize on the virtuous cycle. Because the book is ranking well in Amazon, it will be very timely to reach out to media. Media will sell more books, which will make the book continue to rank well in Amazon, which will make it easier to reach out to media.
I didn’t expect the book launch to go nearly as well as it did so I was ill-prepared to capitalize on it, but managed to get back on track after a few weeks and started reaching out to more podcasts (templates for this are in the book marketing plan toolkit).
I also offered anyone that wrote a review of the book a spot in an article and got a lovely response. Thank you and here you go!
- Book review: The End of Jobs by Ray J Green
- Taylor Pearson’s The End of Jobs a Book Review – Simon on Startups
- Entrepreneurship is More Accessible Than Ever by Jeff Doehler (Analytics Sumo)
- The End of Jobs by Grey Enlightenment
- Book Review: The End of Jobs
- Entrepreneurs and Job Holders by Chuck Harrington
- MHRC Bookclub Review: End of Jobs by Taylor Pearson
- The End of Jobs [Review] by William Petruzzo
- Book Review: The End of Jobs: Money, Meaning and Freedom without the 9-5 by Marie Rocher
- Todd Review The End of Jobs
- The End of Jobs Animated Book Review
My two biggest takeaways from the whole process? Deadlines and constraints are sacred. It’s impossible to overinvest in people and relationships.
You can download the whole book marketing plan toolkit by entering your email below. The toolkit includes all of the following:
- Podcast Interview Template – Used to prepare for podcast interviews of people included in the book.
- Podcast Interview SOP – Checklist for how to prepare mentally and physically for a podcast.
- Podcast Editing and Publishing SOP – A full editing and production SOP originally developed a Top 25 iTunes Podcast.
- Daily Writing SOP for review every day before and after writing to frame the article.
- Writing Tracking Spreadsheet for tracking output while writing a rough draft.
- Early Reader Invitation and Acceptance Email Templates for asking early readers to review the book.
- Early Reader SOP – guidance for early readers on how to read and give feedback.
- Early Reader Feedback Form – For early readers to submit feedback
- Outreach SOP – Process for identifying outreach targets
- Outreach Spreadsheet – Organizing and tracking outreach
- Pre-launch Friend Thunderclap Email Templates
- Pre-Launch Podcast Outreach Templates
- PR/Marketing Document – essential information to send to media/podcasts/etc.
- Post-launch Podcast Outreach Templates
- My two favorite books on writing
- My two favorite books on marketing
- Eight Articles on Writing and Marketing
- Three Interviews on Writing and Marketing a Book
Last Updated on February 2, 2022 by Taylor Pearson
- For the Amazon KDP pros among you, I know you can’t publish duplicate content on kindle. I don’t know specifically how Andy handled this but I did fairly heavy editing to go from blog –> book, however the ideas were still formed in the blog posts. Again, just another iteration.
- I am making zero commentary on religion, merely marketing mechanics and how they’ve played out over time.
- One of the points that I made in The End of Jobs is that lack of a good idea is rarely the problem. Lack of relationships is usually the problem. I have seen many people capture big wins in their careers just by taking ideas that other entrepreneurs can’t work on for opportunity cost reasons. If you are working on a $100 million idea, $10 million ideas aren’t worth your time.
- You can see the impact of being able to extend the narrative in other industries as well. Viewers are going from watching movies to binge-watching Netflix series for example.