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Passion, People and Principles

Self-Publishing: Patience, Buzz and Marketing

post # 424 — August 29, 2007 — a Strategy and the Fat Smoker post

I’m frustrated!

One of the attractions of self-publishing, I hoped, would be to put things on a faster track than is normal with publishing houses.

I have never quite understood why it takes them fully nine months from the time you hand over a manuscript until the official publication date.

I’m beginning to understand. By self-publishing, I can get my books physically produced in a small number of weeks, and theoretically at least, listed on Amazon immediately. That would be one option.

However, it’s now becoming clear that the campaign to bring it to the audience’s attention is going to take a lot longer. All the advice I am receiving, from both traditional book PR experts and on-line blogging PR advisors, is that I should allow time for the marketing before the book is available, not afterwards.

Apparently, media outlets have already (late August) received galleys of forthcoming books to be published in January. They would be unlikely to consider looking at a book submitted now that was publishing earlier: it wouldn’t allow them the time (given how many others they have to look at) to consider it. To even have a chance of review in major media outlets, I am told, I should plan publication for my book in, say, January.

So, it appears that the long lead-times I have experienced in the past may not have been publishers’ inefficiency, but a response to the way mainsteam media works.

What’s also interesting is that my “internet and blogging” advisors basically say the same thing: serve the blogging community by giving them the chance to review and comment on the book before publication. Allow plenty of time to build the buzz.

In a way, it feels paradoxical. Surely, I think to myself, it would be better to get some attention when people can actually respond and buy the book! Don’t you lose effectiveness if people can’t buy it when they read about it?

Friends and advisors point to what happens in record and movie marketing: word of mouth is terrific, but a great opening weekend really helps!

A really interesting description of how a current top best-seller (The 4-hour work week) was marketed is given here.

Of course, since my book (STRATEGY AND THE FAT SMOKER) is all about having the patience to bet on the long term and defer immediate gratification, I should be able to understand all this. But the truth is that I wrote the book because I find delayed gratification hard, not easy.

I’ll keep you posted on what I learn about marketing my book. Meanwhile, I wouldn’t complain if you wanted to build a little buzz for me!

Anyone else been through this? Any views on pre-release marketing versus post-release marketing?


Dean Fuhrman said:

Being a reader who would like to read your new book I feel your pain, too. Although in an entirely different way. Very interesting stuff to consider, and very understandable. Best of luck to you on the adventure. Hope to see you book in few months.

posted on August 29, 2007

Karen Morath said:


I think you might be forgetting who you are. You’re the guru. Build it and they will come (and they will want it now)

Karen Morath

posted on August 29, 2007

Doug Ferguson said:


You might want to take some solace in the notion that January might actually be a good time to release your book. The start of the year is generally a time of resolution making about health, personal habits and business. So, you could be hitting the market when minds are naturally tuned to the subject.

Sorry that your gratification has to be delayed.

posted on August 29, 2007

Coert Visser said:

Hi David, I’d love to see you challenge that piece of conventional marketing wisdom and proof it wrong by publishing your book, do marketing post release and sell it well. I bet it would sell well whichever way you’d publish it. I am curious what your final decicion will be. Coert

posted on August 29, 2007

Larry Gourley said:


I think the experience of Jay Cross with his book “Informal Learning” may be instructive. He developed the book online with ongoing continuous feedback from readers who follow trends in the fields of teaching and learning. By the time the book was published, it had generated a great deal of buzz and received wide coverage.

posted on August 29, 2007

Coert Visser said:

Hi Larry, I think David already kind of does it like this, doesn’t he?

posted on August 29, 2007

Stephen Downes said:

What you are pointing to is a very tight relation between book publishers that publish books and the mainstream media that review them.

What persuades the media to review the book is the guarantee of an advance look (the same thing works for music and television shows). This way, there is no competition from independent or noncommercial media.

The publishers also prefer this approach, because it guarantees that the mainstream media will look almost exclusively at commercially published works, and not at self-published or independent works.

You can’t opt out of part of the system and expect the rest to work for you. It was designed very specifically to prevent competition. They are not going to make an exception for you, no matter how much of a guru you are.

posted on August 29, 2007

Phil Gerbyshak said:

Curious…what are you trying to do with your book? Get a traditional best seller? Build an audience who loves you? Hope that people who’ve never heard of you before will buy your book? Feel good about the fact you self-published and didn’t give in to the traditional publishing machine?

I ask because there is no one way to do this. Take Kevin Eikenberry’s new book Remarkable Leadership, published by Jossy Bass, a Wiley imprint. There must have been a few galleys that went out to a few folks early, as I saw 3 or 4 full book reviews of the book before it was available for purchase. But the majority of the books that he sent to folks like me (I endorsed the book and am a friend of Kevin’s) is he picked 1 day for a “best seller” campaign where he and many of his fans/friends/partners could all send an e-mail to their newsletter lists and ask them to buy the book and get free stuff AFTER the book was available on Amazon.

Other books I’ve seen go with no galleys, and all push from the authors, and they’ve done very well. Ted Demopoulos’ What nobody ever tells you about blogging and podcasting didn’t get books out to the folks he interviewed for the books until months later..and he just announced it’s in it’s 5th printing.

So my advice is this…Do what feels right. Don’t worry about what others think. If the book is great, and no doubt it will be, the timing won’t matter, as long as it feels good to you.

Good luck David! Let me know how/if I can help.

posted on August 30, 2007

John JEnsen said:

David, I cynically think that the existing system is about getting books sold, not getting them read and used. I remember reading a chapter in a best-selling author’s book where he admonished a budding author for being stuck on writing a perfect book. The best-selling author asserted that he focused on selling rather than being perfect. While that philosophy does work to some degree, it reveals a lot about the system of writing books. Too often, books have great, and very attractive, proposals without data to support the theories. Many of the best-selling books are more marketable than practical.

I do not know how many people have all the right books on their shelves but have never bothered to read them. To confess, I have The Trusted Advisor on my bookshelf, and have only read a small portion. We all have good intentions but have not taken the time to extract the value from the books. It takes time to digest the data and new paradigms proposed by those books that are worthy of reading. Who has that time these days? But at least other people see that you by the best sellers.

The book industry just has to produce material that looks good on your shelf. However, I don’t think that is what makes a difference, and from what I have seen and heard you are interested in making a difference. So is the book the best method, for your efforts, to do that? On the other hand, is your book a bridge to other methods to make that difference?


John Jensen

posted on August 30, 2007

Lance Dunkin said:

Who do you want your blog readers to reach with some buzz David? What are your primiary and secondary target segements?

posted on August 30, 2007

Kim Hillman said:

Hello, David.

Absolutely everything you’ve read and heard is true, and it doesn’t just apply to books. It also applies to websites and blogs, as well as movies and just about anything else created for the public.

But, there is a way to get your readers hooked before your book comes out, and keep your book’s title in front of them or at least remind them of it’s content. It’s called a booklet.

A booklet can contain an excerpt from your book and be given to your audience well in advance of the book’s release. This helps to create a waiting market for your book, and gives you actual people to contact when your book comes out, or better, yet, get payment in advance and send them the full size book when it becomes available.

Another thing a booklet can do is replace the book idea completely. Booklets are fast to write and affordable to produce, and because they are short and to the point, readers and reviewers alike appreciate them. Booklets are an easy way to get into print fast for the first time author, as well as a means of promotion for the seasoned author.

A booklet means no more waiting, and they don’t require the buzz that a book does when you know how to market them.

Just something to think about!

Kim Hillman

CEO of Up and At ‘Em Publications


posted on September 1, 2007

David (Maister) said:

This is a really great discussion – thanks to everyone for their comments. A decision has been made – and I’ll share it with you soon!

posted on September 1, 2007

Wally Bock said:

Some years back I had a conversation with Dan Poynter. He’s the author of the self-publishing manual and also a friend. Dan pointed out that if you want to have a best seller, the pr details and timing seem very important. But if you’re after a solid “backlist” book that sells consistently for years, then having a great product and having books out there are all that seems really important. I also remember asking Tom Peters, about ten years after In Search of Excellence how one got a best seller. His advice: “Write a great book. Promote it till you puke. Get lucky.” I think of those two conversations as I’m receiving emails from another friend who is in the middle of the release of his latest book. He’s doing one of those “game-the-system” promotions to get a high ranking on Amazon so that he can claim he’s got a “best seller.” It all makes me wonder if the “best seller” appellation has become devalued.

posted on September 4, 2007

David (Maister) said:

Wally, I think you are on to something important here. Aiming for an instant “bestseller” is such a low-probability event that you really can’t depend on it. Aiming for a solid long-lived book that continues to sell over time has always been a more sensible (and successful) strategy for me. Which, of course, doesn’t mean I won’t give the “big initial hit” at least a try – but I’ll do it keeping the likelihood of success in perspective.

posted on September 4, 2007

Steven Pearce said:

Really want to endorse Kim’s point about booklets, and to suggest that ebooklets have great potential. I’m not sure that there is an audience for full-length business books of any kind these days. (I seem to remember you, David, saying you given up on reading a while ago!) But short, punchy ebooks on a specific business subject can circulate around huge audiences – especially if you give them away. Brian Clark’s excellent site copyblogger has much sage advice about this. If you want complete control over timescale as well as format, and the potential to have your ideas “go viral”, the ebook is a terrific tool. My own free ebook is here, and in terms of time, effort and money expended I think the leverage I’ve achieved so far would be difficult to secure via any other publishing channel. Happy to discuss lessons learned off line!


posted on September 4, 2007