I was going to make today’s post a little sneak preview of the call I’m doing later this afternoon where I will divulge the secrets of 3 of my favorite and insanely successful bloggers and nonfiction authors (which you can sign up for HERE).
I started by writing about one of the heaviest hitters of them all, Seth Godin, and got so sucked into his story of how he became a bestselling author many times over that now there’s no room for the others because I would like to leave the house at some point today and I’m still in my robe as I write this.
But his ideas are so interesting and different that I had to share them all with you. As you read them, you’re unauthorized to think, well, he knows about computers and he has a big list and he’s already an established writer – all of his ideas can apply to you no matter where you’re at if you get creative.
This afternoon on the call, I’ll go into some other methods that other people used, but right now, it’s Sethapalooza.
This post is taken from a video I watched of Seth’s presentation from O’Reilly Tools of Change for Publishing Conference, New York City, NY, February 11, 2008 called 10 Bestsellers: Using New Media, New Marketing, and New Thinking to Create 10 Bestselling Books
After talking his publisher into letting him give 1/3 of this book away for free, Seth spent $400 building a semi-crappy website for it and told people to send him an email and he’d email them the first 1/3 of the book for free. He did this in one really long email that, in several places, said click here if you’re tired of reading this and you’d rather just buy the whole book. That’s all he did to market it and ¼ of a million people took him up on the free sample, then enough people bought it to make it a bestseller. (If you’re already freaking out that you could never reach that many people, check out my post on driving traffic to your blog HERE) In hindsight, he wished he’d said “I’ll send you something every week the rest of your life until you die,” and continued selling things to these same people, but alas, he didn’t.
TIP #2: GIVE YOUR ENTIRE BOOK AWAY FOR FREE
Because this book is all about the concept that ideas that spread that win, he decided to focus on the spreading and give it away for free. He went out and spent anoather $400 on another semi-crappy website and told people they could download the whole book for free on a PDF file. Millions of people went ahead and downloaded it for free, and loved it, but hated reading it in that format. So he printed up a hardcover copy that he sold for $40 on Amazon and in limited distribution at a few other places and it became an Amazon bestseller because everyone already knew about it. He talks about how the book was a souvenir – if people like an experience, they want a souvenir to keep. This is how he thinks you should look at books.
TIP #3: MAKE IT SUPER CHEAP AND DO IT BEFORE ANYONE ELSE DOES
This book was an ebook about website design that he sold only at Amazon for a couple of bucks. Because it was one of the first ebooks on this topic and was cheaper than anything else out there, people were willing to try it out and because it was awesome, the word spread and more and more people bought it. He talks about how volume has to be one of your goals. The more a book sells, the easier and easier it becomes to sell more because of word of mouth.
TIP #4: DON’T DO IT THE TRADITIONAL WAY
I just realized I forgot to make note of which book this was and instead of sift through the video again for who knows how long until I find it, I’m just gonna go ahead and leave it out. All you need to know is that he decided to go the traditional route with this one, dropped a wad building a fancy website, put ads on it, put up billboards in San Francisco, basically played by book publishing rules and it didn’t do that great because, as he says, he didn’t focus enough on using some of these other tools that had brought him such huge success before.
TIP #5: USE PACKAGING THAT SCREAMS “LOOK AT ME!”
This time around he decided to self-publish and get crazy with his packaging. He started by publishing an excerpt of the book in Fast Company Magazine , a magazine he was a columnist for that had 1/2 million readers, and offered everyone a copy for free if they sent in 5 bucks for shipping and handling. He stated that there were only a limited amount of copies and mailed the book out in a purple milk carton. Not in a box, just in the milk carton itself, so that when people got it, it became a conversation piece. If it was sitting on their desk at the office or their table at home, people had to ask “what the hell is that?” He mailed out 5 thousand, all of which had the URL to his website on the carton itself next to some copy explaining that if you wanted your own copy for free, you could only get them in bulk 12 at a time. So you had to send in 5 bucks for shipping and handling each, but the book itself was free. This way, people would get their copy and give the other 11 away, thereby spreading the word and starting a conversation about his ideas.
TIP #6: MAKE THE BOOK THE FOUNDATION FOR YOUR BLOG
This one was all about his blog. He built a blog talking about marketing, elaborating on the ideas that were in the book so that anyone following his blog eventually wanted to buy the book to get his original ideas. He based this on the method the Freakanomics guys were using. Today they blog about stuff that’s not even in the book, but if you get into their blog you’ll want to learn about the foundation of what they’re talking about and buy the book.
TIP #7: FIGURE OUT HOW TO BE MUTUALLY BENEFICIAL
Books sell much better when other people write about them than when the author writes about them. So if you write content that will hugely benefit people, they’ll write about it because it’ll make them look good (sort of like what I’m doing right now). With this book he decided to do this in person and go on a book tour. He posted on his blog and said he’d come to your city and give a talk if you organized it and guaranteed to get 500 people in the room. The people who set up the talks made no money but increased their status in the community by organizing the them. Everyone of them has written Seth and told him how those connections helped them immensely. With this method he helped his fans, spread the word and sold thousand of books.
TIP #8: JOINT VENTURE WITH OTHER PEOPLE AND GIVE IT AWAY FOR FREE
This is one of the best ways to increase your exposure – piggyback on other people’s lists. For this book Seth hired someone to contact bloggers who wanted to host a podcast to join him for an hour long conversation. He asked them to invite all their readers, thereby getting Seth new exposure, giving valuable content to the blogger’s readers, making the bloggers look like superstars and then created another cheapo website to send everybody to where the podcasts were given away for free.
Here’s a short recap of all these ideas:
• Books are souvenirs – there’s nothing in a book that you can’t get online for free anyway so if you make the content good enough, people will want to own a copy.
• Permission is the only asset – deliver messages to people who want to get them. If they don’t hear from you and they complain, that’s permission. You want to appeal to your perfect audience and provide them with valuable content, not inflict yourself on people who aren’t your target market.
• Conversations are marketing. If you can make people talk about what you’re doing because you’re writing brilliant stuff, then you win.
• Words for readers, not readers for words. You’re not in the business of finding readers for your words. You need to find words for your readers. Once you build the permission base, ask yourself what do my readers want next? When you have a dedicated list, go out and find things they want to read about and the word will spread.
• Blogs work. It’s the nature of dripping ideas into a place where they can spread. Ideas online will spread. If you’re an author who doesn’t have an idea that will spread, you shouldn’t write the book.
• It’s not about selling books. Focus on putting out great ideas, then focus on creating interest and excitement around those ideas and the books will sell themselves.
Authors are idea merchants. Ideas that spread win. Free ideas spread faster. The way you monetize is buy selling souvenirs. This, she is the Seth Godin credo.
And now I’m going to get dressed.