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photo courtesy Flickr’s Express Monorail

Today, I want to explore two things many writers dread doing, but that plenty of successful authors actually do:

  1. Overtly ask people to buy your book.
  2. Repeat that request again, and again, and again.

I’ll bet you are cringing already. You are thinking one of two things:

  1. “I am TIRED of hearing authors push their book on me in obnoxious manners. Come on Dan, this is the age of “permission marketing,” where the likes of Seth Godin preach of selling books by aligning with your audience, not pestering them.”
  2. “I do NOT want to become a salesperson. I am a writer, a creator. I want to retain my integrity as I share my work with the world.”

I hear you, and I will address both issues in the post below. Let’s dig in…

IF YOU PUBLISH A BOOK IN AN EMPTY FOREST, WILL ANYONE BUY IT?
The world is crowded. With modern media, there is so much vying for our attention. We are all busy: working, writing, raising families, attending to friends, keeping a home, and pursuing hobbies. Your book – as good as it is – is born into a world that is trying to filter things OUT. A world where many people are swamped, underwater, over-scheduled, and barely making ends meet.

Yes, these same people are looking for joy. A respite. A wonderful escape or solution – something that perhaps your book offers them. But getting them to pause for a moment to discover it can be akin to crossing a crowded 8 lane highway just after a Justin Beiber concert let’s out, in the faint hope that there is something worthwhile on the other side of the road.

Walk into a bookstore tomorrow (if you can find one,) and slowly stroll to the very back. While walking past the rows and rows of books, be mindful of how many individual books you pass. Those published over the course of decades. Get to the back shelf, get down on one knee, and pick up a random book on the bottom shelf, one in which only the spine is facing out.

Imagine, this is your book on the day of publication. Consider all of the effort it took to find this book, all of the distractions you moved past JUST while in the bookstore.

Sheepish about marketing your book? I COMPLETELY understand that. It is scary. As adults, we often have a hard time admitting we are scared. But it’s daunting – a whole new skillset that can even threaten what we feel our identity is. We don’t want to be that classic image of a used car salesman. We want to wake up surprised that someone we greatly respect found our work, and is sharing it with their ultra-cool friends.

We want magic to happen.

But in order for people to take action (to perhaps consider buying your book), they need to become aware of it. They need to make an informed decision.

REPETITION WORKS. REALLY, REPETITION WORKS.
Obviously, there are all kinds of studies and opinions about why repetition works in marketing.

In the age of social media, repetition can be valuable because of the way we actually use social media, which is to say: in the moment. If fellow Writer Unboxed contributor Yuvi Zalkow has a book coming out (and by sheer coincidence, he does), I may want to Tweet about it. So at 4:35pm ET on a Tuesday, I send a single Tweet telling my Twitter followers about it. And you know what, I feel good about myself for doing it. I feel like I have supported an author, and I pat myself on the back, give myself a little high five, and feel I lived up to all of my mother’s hopes and dreams for me becoming a good little boy.

But at 4:35pm ET on a random Tuesday, how many people see that Tweet? The more I watch successful authors, and successful marketers of any type, the more I see how they use repetition to get their message out there, build awareness, and encourage their audience to take action. But of course, there is GOOD repetition, and BAD repetition.

Okay, let’s dig into an example…

I like Michael Hyatt. He was the Chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, a literary agent, and is the author of The New York Times bestseller Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World. Recently, he shared a post on his marketing process. He didn’t mention repetition though. I tried to go back to May/June on Twitter, but their archives don’t allow me to. So I will use another product he is promoting as an example here: a tutorial he created on how to setup a WordPress blog. I believe the underlying goal he has is to get people to sign up for website hosting via Bluehost via his affiliate link, of which he gets a financial cut. Notice the dates of each of the Tweets, and the different marketing messages he shares:

https://twitter.com/MichaelHyatt/status/250016781467525120

That is 57 times over the course of 70 days.

I am NOT picking on Michael. I like Michael, his work, and the way he connects with people. I am merely using him as an example. In fact, I think he is a GREAT example because of the genuine connection he has with his audience.

He mentions Bluehost 33 times in the blog post he links to above, each time with an affiliate link. Again: repetition, repetition, repetition.

What is interesting, is that during this same period, be began exploring the idea of DECREASING frequency in his blog. But of course, he repeated the message on Twitter in a number of ways:

And you know, all of this is fine. Here’s why…

AN AUTHENTIC VOICE MASKS BOTH THE MARKETING MESSAGE AND THE REPETITION, IF YOU DO IT RIGHT

A great lesson we see from Michael is that marketing becomes less intrusive if you do it with a more authentic voice, framed around a conversation with your audience.

Traditional marketing techniques are often based on human behavioral cues that are buried within us. The STYLE in which you choose to use these techniques is often what separates one era of a marketing from another. Look at some of the most genuine and authentic folks online who have ANYTHING to sell. Even when they do it in the most down-to-earth manner, you will often see them using classic marketing techniques that have been used for decades, but are masked by the style in which they use it.

I see things like this so often (I just made this up, by the way):

“I just know that you can reach your potential, and I’ll bet you can feel it in your bones. Join me with a group of AMAZING creative folks for this weekend bootcamp to FINALLY give you the life you always dreamed of. I’ll be there, and I can’t wait to sit with you by the fireplace and, once and for all, work through the barriers holding you back.”

Things like this can be laced with marketing techniques hidden just below the surface. But the overall style, tone, platform, and level of trust someone has with the speaker can mask that. All this to say, sometimes I see writers shrug off proven marketing strategies because they don’t understand how to translate why they work, to the personal style that they have.

Awhile back, I posted an analysis of Seth Godin’s Kickstarter campaign, showing how he used traditional marketing tactics to encourage you to give him money. That is another good example of someone’s personal style and the way they connect with their audience masking what are otherwise traditional marketing tactics.

So how do you feel about repetition in promoting books? How is this done well? How do people mess it up?

Thanks!
-Dan

About Dan Blank

Dan Blank is the founder of WeGrowMedia, where he helps writers share their stories and connect with readers. He has helped hundreds of authors via online courses, events, consulting, and workshops, and worked with amazing publishing houses and organizations who support writers such as Random House, Workman Publishing, Abrams Books, Writers House, The Kenyon Review, Writer’s Digest, Library Journal, and many others.