There is something that nearly everyone does wrong once they’ve published their non-fiction book.

It’s something that will lead to people looking right past your book and on to the next one.

It’s something that will lead to your advertising being mostly useless, which will therefore lead to your wasting all of the money you spend on marketing your book as a whole.

It’s something that will ensure that you never sell any copies.

It’s something that will have an adverse effect on every other aspect of your success as a thought leader as well.

Photo credit: cleong / / CC BY-SA

cleong / / CC BY-SA

This article, like anything worth reading in the world of non-fiction, will eventually lead you to a solution. It will provide you with an idea that will possibly challenge your way of marketing your book and compel you to take different actions in response.

But take a look at this article so far. Up until that last paragraph, did I talk about this article’s solution? Did the title of the article do that?

No and no. You’re now reading this part of the article because you had to click in order to get this far. You had to act. And you didn’t act because I gave you a solution.

You acted because I presented you with a problem that you have an interest in solving.

If you’re an author, you don’t want people to look past your book. You don’t want your advertising to be useless, or to never sell any copies. But none of these things are solutions. These are all problems that you are facing in your struggle to get the word out about your book.

If you’re a non-fiction author, then you are likely putting out a book that either teaches the reader how to do something, speaks to an issue in our culture, or somehow provides an insight into the significance of some aspect of humanity. These are, of course, very broad functions, but the one thing that they all have in common is that the instruction, commentary, or insight that these books are offering are all a solution to something. By consuming the book, your readers will somehow be empowered to think about or act on a problem in a more informed and learned way.

So then, what’s the issue?

If you look at any number of different passages of sales copy for books, or interviews that authors give, or any number of other passages meant to promote a book, most promotional content makes the cardinal sin of…

…talking about the book.

Stay with me here.

Promotional copy will talk about the book, and the solutions that the book provides. A diet plan. A workout plan. An interesting new theory. An “amazing insight.”

The book is a solution, and we want people to buy the book. So, being the egocentric people that we are, we think that just because we published a book, other people are going to want to read it.

But this isn’t true. No one, other than your spouse and your mother, want to read your book.

They want to solve their problem.

sea-man-beach-holidayA person isn’t interested in your revolutionary new diet book; they’re interested in losing weight. They’re not interested in your amazing insight; they’re interested in how your insight will help them. And you didn’t read this far because you’re interested in reading my article.

You read this far because you don’t want to publish something that won’t ever sell any copies.

If we delved a bit further into the diet book example, the mistake would be to lead with the solution…

“This diet book is unlike any other plan you’ve ever seen. You will learn about the best products, the best support, and the best community for going on a diet and sticking to it.”

…instead of the problem:

“Do you show up at your family reunions mortified by how much weight you’ve gained? Do you starve yourself in public only to binge-eat in private?”

The second one hones in on what causes the prospective buyer pain–shame and embarrassment. And it’s the alleviation of these painful feelings that will compel them to buy a book, not the solutions.

Most people commit the fatal flaw of marketing their book by first talking about their book and the solutions it holds. But your success at promoting your book will be defined by how well you get people invested in solving the problems it promises to solve.

And, when you’re the one who has gotten them to want to solve that problem in that particular moment, they will act. They will click, they will read, they will buy. And then, all of those dollars you’ve spent on marketing your book will be a worthwhile investment.

Because you position your book through their problems rather than your solutions, they will want to hear everything you have to say.

Curious about whether to pursue a traditional deal or self-publish? Check out my cheat sheet here.


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