Huffpost Small Business
THE BLOG

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Chris Hurn Headshot

A Journey Into the Multiple Levels of Hell (or How to Publish Your First Book)

Posted: Updated:

On Oct. 1st, I released my first book, The Entrepreneur's Secret to Creating Wealth. It was a long four years in the making, but don't worry, I'm not going to try to summarize it here. Instead, I want to share some insights about writing and marketing a book in the year 2012.

The modern publishing industry is a bit broken. If you're considering writing a book for the first time, expect to do most of the heavy lifting to market it.

How I Wrote My Book

 

I was to be the first author of the Inc. 500 Press, an imprint of Greenleaf Publishing in conjunction with Inc. magazine. After steering one of my companies onto the Inc. 500|5000 list of America's fastest-growing companies three years in a row, Inc. executives and I felt entrepreneurs needed a better (and more comprehensive) vehicle to tell their stories. Plus, I've known for some time that a book could be a "nuclear business card" for my business -- becoming a published author is a way to gain instant credibility with potential customers.

However, writing 1,500-word blog posts and articles for industry publications wasn't quite the same as writing a 65,000-word book. As a serial small business owner, I learned firsthand that when you're growing multiple businesses, it's easy to place that next chapter on the back-burner.

Quick to realize my lack of free time and procrastination perfectionism problems, I attempted the ghostwriter "short-cut." Twice I found myself thoroughly disappointed with results of two separate drafts; my voice wasn't being properly represented. Like "actual" ghosts, a decent manuscript for me was simply non-existent.

Eventually, I had my light-bulb moment to buyout my agreement with Greenleaf so I could try something different. Better to actually finish the book, I thought to myself, than allow my unfinished manuscript to languish and continue the self-flogging. Greenleaf Founder/CEO Clint Greenleaf was a gentleman (who has since become a friend) and agreed to let me out, provided I pay for the licensing fee. I quickly did, and then went down another path with another friend, Adam Witty of Advantage Publishing, to "talk-my-book."

I found that literally talking through the contents of my book with Witty's team in recorded audio sessions, instead of sitting down and articulating my thoughts into cohesive chapters, to be much easier for me. Long-story short, I finished my manuscript, edited it multiple times, and then jumped feet-first into the antiquated book publishing and marketing arena.

Before this experience, I never realized a book finished in early summer would take until October to arrive in bookstores, and that's considered lightning fast! That was just the start of my education -- I've spent much time in study hall lately.

Publishers drool over themselves for the chance to market a new book from James Patterson or Stephen King. But as a newbie, I was afforded no such help; I would have to transform into a one-man-band of self-promoting moxie.

What Does it Take to Promote a New Book These Days and What Can Budding Authors Learn From My Experience?

 

Probably like many other successful businesses, I have an in-house mailing list (emails and physical addresses). Over the years, approximately 67,000 people have opted-in to my company's internal email database to receive information from our business (usually e-newsletters, inspiring client stories, and video blogs). Launching a sustained marketing campaign to these folks and our corresponding 46,000 social media connections seemed natural to me. Since I'm already in regular contact with them, these are the people most likely to buy my book. Building a list like this, if you don't already have one, is a smart strategy for budding authors.

But how could I promote the information in my new book to the millions of potential readers who aren't yet on our list? This would take some work.

Our company reached out to others with their own lists/followers/audiences to help promote my book. We sent these targeted opinion leaders a promotional kit which included, among other things:

  • Pre-written emails, tweets, and posts for Facebook, LinkedIn and Google Plus
  • A PDF of the book
  • Lists of endorsements
  • The brief Amazon.com description
  • Press releases
  • My resume
  • A list of possible narratives
  • Images of my book
 

We also made an electronic press kit for media professionals and book reviewers. Sending someone an organized variation of this promotional kit makes promoting your book "plug-and-play." Identifying relevant bloggers, journalists and others with large social media followings to send our information to -- along with simply asking them to interview me -- has proven very fruitful so far. Be proactive when promoting your book; don't wait for the phone to ring. Unless your name is John Grisham or J.K. Rowling, it won't.

I also hired a publicist to launch a print-media campaign and secure TV and radio interviews. I let my existing public relations folks (one focused locally and one focused nationally) know about my book launch and the specific advice I want to promote. All three distributed press releases and all "hits" we get are then re-purposed across our social media channels to increase exposure.

Fewer and fewer people use direct mail these days, citing printing and postage costs as the deterrence. However, that also means less competition for your audience's attention. Mailing business postcards or envelopes isn't prohibited or blocked, unlike the abysmal delivery rate of most emails these days. We mailed 35,000 oversized postcards (6" x 9" -- the actual dimensions of the book) to the small business advisors on our list, with the book's entire cover on one side.

I do a fair amount of speaking around the country, but it seemed impractical and inconvenient to travel around with copies of my book to show others. Instead, we created a miniature version of the book, equivalent in size to two business cards joined and folded-over with the book cover on one side, key endorsements in the middle, and ordering information on the back cover, along with details about our charitable promotion.

My book speaks to entrepreneurs and their advisors, so I added a charitable component to its sales to stoke word-of-mouth. God knows we're in dire need of more entrepreneurs these days, and my mission has always been to help them. I chose to donate all net proceeds of multiple-book sales (two or more copies) to the Young Entrepreneur Foundation. This organization helps teach today's students how to become tomorrow's entrepreneurs. I hope most buyers of my book will buy not just one, but two or more copies -- one for themselves and others to share. If there's a way to align your book with a charitable organization that's relevant to your book and something that you're passionate about, it's a win-win-win.

Some other book self-marketing strategies I highly recommend include:

  • Host a book launch party (maintaining a contact list helps with this, too), where attendees can chow down on hors d'oeuvres and adult beverages for free -- as long as they have a copy of your book and/or receipt of purchase.
  • Create multiple-sized ads for remnant ad space in select publications read by your target audience.
  • Change your company's Facebook page and your personal profile image to include and promote the book.
  • Consistently ask those who buy your book to post reviews to Amazon.
 

I realize most authors don't have a "back-end" or other business toward which their book can drive incremental revenue, so not everyone can economically employ all of the tactics and strategies I've mentioned. But some are certainly less expensive than others, and definitely advisable. It would truly be hell to produce something as intimate as a book -- especially one meant to help others -- only to see near-non-existent sales.

Any author thinking the sheer-brilliance of their written words will leap off the page and "speak for themselves" is delusional. Plenty of great products and services (books as well) go unnoticed because they're not marketed (and the reverse is also true). Authors would be wise to bone-up on their marketing skills and understand that only a well-marketed book has a chance of becoming a well-known book. There's nothing unseemly about this if you really want to introduce your book to the world.

I hope this post can serve as the start for your book-marketing blueprint.