Category Archive for Book Marketing

Lessons From a Book Launch, Part 1

My eighth book, Guerrilla Marketing Goes Green: Winning Strategies to Improve Your Profits and Your Planet (co-authored with Jay Conrad Levinson), was released just over a month ago, and I’ve been completely consumed with launch activities for several months leading up to the release.

Working with a major publisher for the first time in 18 years, I’m keenly aware of the publisher’s high expectations, and doing what I can to make waves. Here’s a bit of what I’ve done:

The partnership strategy

One of the most powerful marketing strategies I advocate in the book is to form alliances with others who are already reaching your key market. And taking my own advice, I put together several alliances in the project. First of all, I brought my co-author in: Jay Conrad Levinson, “the father of Guerrilla marketing,” is a marketing superstar with not only an extremely well-known brand but also a large and well-oiled marketing machine. From reading some of his other books, I had a feeling this concept of Green marketing would resonate with him. He was delighted to be part of this project. And that made it a much bigger book from the publisher’s point of view, and thus gave us considerably more leverage in negotiating a contract. Wiley has been great to work with, and I think part of the reason is that they see this as an important book. Oh yes, and when I asked them to do the book on recycled paper, they said, sure.

Next, I sought a charity partner for the launch. I brought in Green America, which is perfectly aligned with the philosophy of the book. It’s an organization that supports Green, local businesses.

And finally, I went out to my considerable network of bloggers, e-zine publishers, and such, and offered them the opportunity to benefit from promoting the launch: first, by submitting a bonus and getting exposure to everyone who registers as a buyer—resulting in a package of over $2600 worth of extra goodies that anyone who buys the book (no matter where they buy it) can get with a couple of clicks. And second, by launching a membership program in conjunction with the launch, and offering commissions on any sales of that program. So they had two incentives to participate, and these make it sweeter for  buyers of the book as well as for the marketing partners.

What are the results of these three partnerships? On my own, I have access to about 10-12,000 people (depending on how much overlap there is between my newsletter subscribers and my book buyers). Bringing Jay in added 84,000 people. Adding Green America added 94,000. And adding the bloggers/publishers reached another 800,000. So I went from the 10,000 people I could reach on my own to 988,000. In other words, I could reach almost a million people through partnerships. And those partners and their networks are spreading the word even further; as of February 23, exactly one month after the publication date,  hits on Google for “Guerrilla Marketing Goes Green” (exact match) were an extraordinary 1,140,000. I don’t think I’ve ever been involved with anything that got a million hits on Google before.

What did these partner campaigns cost me? Almost nothing. The only things I had to pay out were to cover a few hours of my assistant’s time to set up the infrastructure (less than $200), and the results-based payment to the charity partner. All the rest was just time and creativity.

Partnering was only one strategy in this launch. Tune in next month for more takeaways from this campaign.

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Website Models for Writers, Part 1: Shel Horowitz's Book Marketing Tip, Dec. '09

For authors and publishers, certain ways to structure a website make particular sense. Lets explore six different models (three this month, and three next month): Resource sites, author sites, publisher or series sites, buy-my-book sites, blog sites, and salesletter sites.

Common Elements

For the first four of these six, certain common elements could be:

•            A navigation mechanism

•            Pages that create interest in your book(s) and/or you as the author

•            Pages that market the author to the media and to meeting planners, schools, bookstores and libraries

•            Pages that market your book to resellers

•            Materials that others can freely use on their own websites, e-newsletters, and print publications (thus spreading you to new audiences)

•            A blog that you can update on your own, at any time (some whole sites are nothing but a blog; see the fifth model)

•            Schedule of appearances (if you can keep it current—personally, I find it easier to do this in my newsletters)

•            Archive of past newsletters

•            Some way of keeping in touch with visitors

•            Feedback mechanisms: contact information and forms, order forms, comment pages, etc. (Warning: Never put your e-mail address as a text link on your website; the spam robots will collect it and you’ll be sorry! I recommend web-based contact forms)

•            Links to other relevant websites

•            A site-wide search tool (Google has a particularly nice one, and it’s free)

Let’s look more closely at the pages that generate interest in you and your book; they should offer…

  • Solid information that will save or earn the reader money, solve a problem, learn a new skill, address a pressing desire (e.g., lose weight, find a mate, de-stress), shed light on historical or current events, etc.
  • Excellent entertainment
  • A brush with celebrity

Resource Sites

When people search on the Web, they’re typically looking for specific information about a topic. If they find your site while they’re searching, you hope the high-quality information you provide will convince them to buy—or at least sign up for your newsletter so you can sell to them later.

To set up this type of site, create a few dozen pages on your topic. These are fun sites to do and easy to gain traffic but they can get out of hand pretty quickly, because there’s so much good stuff out there.

You can see examples at < > (my site on having fun cheaply, with arts and travel magazines and frugality resources—which gets at least 50,000 visits every month these days) and <> (my general business site). Both of these sites actively promote my books but also attract a lot of traffic that will never buy, because they just want the specific information they came for

Author Sites

A site to promote your ” brand” as an author. It should let readers get a sense that they know you personally, as well as, of course, introduce them to your various books. It may or may not have a direct-selling component.

This kind of site is also an ideal place to set up a fan club.

My wife’s site at <> is one of these

Publisher or Series Sites

Similar to the author site, but promoting the book series or entire publisher line. Typically, these present a catalog page, with tiny book covers and brief descriptions; when you click on the cover or description, you get much deeper information about the book.

Condensed from a much more in-depth section in Shel Horowitz’s seventh book, Grassroots Marketing for Authors and Publishers.

Why Covers Matter: Shel Horowitz's Book Marketing Tip, Nov. 09

I was just beginning to think about what I’d write about this month when Jim Cox’s column crossed my desk. Jim has tons of good resources for authors and publishers on his website and cheerfully gave me permission to reprint here.

Guest Column: Why Covers Matter
By Jim Cox, Editor, Midwest Book Review

I’ve had the pleasure of being one of the annual Audies Award judges for a good number of years now. But this year there was a new twist — most of the award categories were being offered to we judges as computer downloads instead of our assigned category audio book CDs arriving in the mails.

I don’t have a laptop computer that I can sit back in an easy chair with to listen to hours upon hours of audio book recordings. Neither am I familiar with iPods or whatever it is that is sticking out of the ears of so many young people these days. What I usually do is listen to the audio books I review (including those that I once-a-year annually rank and pass judgement upon) while I’m working at my desk, driving around in my car, taking long walks, or retiring to bed in the evening.

So this year I passed upon most of the categories and volunteered for one that I’d never had before: Package Design. Ranking and judging audio book submissions entirely upon how they looked.

I took an hour to go over the entries carefully and make preliminary notes on the pros & cons of their respective packaging. Quite a change from assessing their contents!

But it did prompt me to reflect on how important packaging is when it comes to the commercial viability of a book — any book, any genre, any category, any format — and any author!

Simply stated, people judge books by their covers. And by people, I mean far more than the general reading public browsing through a bookstore or a library trying to decide what they’d like to choose from all that is being offered them. I also mean book reviewers, wholesalers, distributers, retailers, and librarians who are faced with the same decision.

How very often I’ve seen a lot of an author’s labor go into the writing of a book only to have a poorly chosen cover or badly executed packaging design crush any chance at commercial success.

Authors getting published by the major conglomerates have very little say in what the art departments of a Random House or a Simon & Schuster determine the ‘packaging’ of their book will look like. Self-published authors have the sole say for what their book will look like. Between those two extreme points on the decision making scale are most of the small press published authors. So if you as an author are being published by a small or independent press, get involved in the decision making process to assure that your book will not be handicapped in the market place by flawed artistic concepts, inferior execution of design, or slip-shod attention to the thematic relevance of what the artwork will be with respect to the content of the book being packaged with it.

When it comes to books, the two reasons for a badly designed or poorly executed packing I most often encounter is that the author and/or publisher didn’t have the capital to invest to produce a professionally competitive cover, or that they had some friend or relative that dabbled in art and they felt obligated to oblige.

Please believe me — if you as an author or a publisher find the book packaging to be distasteful, or substandard the chances are that your otherwise prospective buyers will too.

Bottom line — Spend as much time an energy on the outside of your book as you did on the inside.

Resources and Approaches to Get Big-Time Publicity: Shel Horowitz's Book Marketing Tip, Oct. '09

Last month, we talked about the mindset to craft an effective pitch. Now, how to actually get in front of the journalists you want to cover you.

  1. Use media query services that aggregate reporters’ requests for sources. There is no better way to get publicity than to hit a reporter who’s desperately looking for someone exactly like you in order to finish an article. I use HARO, PitchRate, ReportersSource and some others I can’t remember, none of which cost anything. In the past, I’ve also used ProfNet, which has a significant cost. I’ve had far and away the best success with HARO and ProfNet. Several of the media lead sources also post leads on Twitter. You’ll want to follow (in  alphabetical order) @helpareporter, @pitchrate, @ProfNet, and @reporterssource
  2. Use social media sites to follow reporters on your beat, and build relationships (gently and without pressure); pitch only when you’ve established yourself as credible and your pitch is directly relevant to what they’re working on
  3. Send a press release that’s NOT “I’ve written a book” but that focuses on the attitudes we discussed last month. Some sample headlines I’ve actually used for my clients:
  • Pro-Anorexia Sites “Danger to Children,” Says Expert
  • Moveable Historic Action Figures Awarded BEST CLASSIC TOY of 2009: Industry Newcomer’s First Release Joins Yo-Yo, Crayons, Other Long-time Favorites
  • Teenage Partisan Who Fought the Nazis Lives to See Her Story Told—On Film and In Print
  • Ethics Expert: As an Ethics Warrior, Spitzer Must Meet a Higher Standard (this was not for a client but a news tie-in for my own book, Principled Profit)

Of course, I go into much more detail in my seventh book, Grassroots Marketing for Authors and Publishers,and in several of my other marketing books too. Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First has a particularly nice section on building relationships with reporters.

Seven Mindsets to Get Publicity for Your Book: Shel Horowitz's Book Publicity Tip, Sept. '09

Have you been cited in places like the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Christian Science Monitor, Woman’s Day, Entrepreneur, and the top trade publications in your industry?

I’ve been in all the above–several times each. I’ve also been in hundreds of lesser known publications.

If you’d like that kind of ink, your pitches and press releases have to reflect the reality of the newsroom: overworked journalists sort through a mountain of information, mining for the nuggets to share with their readers, often under severe deadline pressure.

Here are a few approaches that tend to work:

  • Solve a problem/ease a pain point/make people’s life better
  • Expose some hidden truth that can change people’s thinking or behavior
  • Tie in to a current and immediate news story or trend
  • Provide a deeper “back story” on a news topic—or on a celebrity’s life
  • Dip into your personal journey to show how you overcame adversity, did something really unusual, or separated yourself from the crowd in some other way
  • Win an award, achieve a big milestone, etc.
  • Create a catchphrase or buzzword that so perfectly captures an idea that it enters the common language

Next month: specific tools you can use to make your pitch. Note: my seventh book, Grassroots Marketing for Authors and Publishers, offers six entire chapters on effective publicity. Click on the book title to order your copy.

Can You Pounce On A Breaking News Event?

Guest Post By Scott Lorenz

[Editor’s Note: This article has three important lessons I wanted to highlight: 1) follow news events and tie your book and/or your author in–legitimately, don’t force it–to breaking news; 2) if there’s a news event you know will happen eventually that has such a tie-in, do the advance prep; 3) old books can get good play under the right circumstances. This article was published previously in Fran Silverman’s Book Marketing Newsletter and is used with the gracious permission of the author.

–Shel Horowitz, author of Grassroots Marketing for Authors and Publishers]

Can you pounce on a breaking news event? Not everybody can, but if your subject has breaking news potential then you’d better be ready to take advantage of it.

One such opportunity presented itself to Westwind Communications on February 19, 2008 when Fidel Castro announced his resignation. One of my author clients has a gorgeous coffee table photo book on Cuba and has made 40 plus quasi illegal trips to the island nation. He’s an American citizen and expert on Cuba.

Having pitched this book and his story to all major media from Good Morning America and Nightline to Syndicated Radio, all of the big media outlets said–I’m not exaggerating–“Sure we’ll cover it–when Fidel dies.”

So, like vultures circling above, we’ve been waiting for every slip, fall, missed parade, bad medical report about Fidel so that we could jump on the opportunity. It finally came at 5:30am on the morning of February 19, 2008 with the announcement of Fidel’s resignation. That was almost as good as the dictator passing on! Less drama but still worth covering since it announced a change in power of the United States’ long time nemesis of 50 years.

So, I dusted off the release about Fidel’s death that had been sitting in wait for two years, changed the headline to reflect his resignation, and a few other items and out it went to my carefully maintained and targeted list of media contacts and put it on the wire by 6AM while everyone else was still sleeping.

The result was outstanding. CBS Radio immediately saw the release, set up an interview that ran in Detroit all day and night. Then National Public Radio set up an in-studio interview as did WJR and WCSX radio. Print media got into the act with interviews in The Ann Arbor News, Detroit News, Observer & Eccentric and Oakland Press We even got interest, but unfortunately no story since the book was not newly released, from the Wall Street Journal.

Then, one of Amazon’s Top Ten reviewers asked for a review copy, which, by itself could create a ground swell of book sales. (thousands have already read his review A travel writer from MSNBC wanted to get Kenny’s expert advice on traveling to CUBA and the media inquires are still coming in. Interestingly enough, three producers and reporters called me after they got to their office and found out that Fidel had resigned, needed a Cuba expert, did a Google search and found my press release on top of the Google News section.  I love technology!

This whole operation was a success because I constantly monitor the news and set Google Alerts to watch for key news items. And, of course, I had the release ready to go. Everything was thought out, my client was ready–for 2 years. The gun was loaded, cocked, and ready to fire.

And you know another upside of this? I can still use a version of my original “Fidel’s Death” release later! Don’t think bad things about me, somebody somewhere might have your obituary already written too!

When should you send out a press release? My acid test is that if it’s newsworthy and if it’s timely and useful to the reader, send it. It’s that simple.

There are many factors to weigh when considering the need to send out a press release. As a publicist I have sent thousands of releases over the years and while there are no hard and fast rules, the most important factor is that you’ve got to make sure it’s newsworthy and useful to the reader. Anything else and it’s just a waste of time for the members of the media.

So what press release do you have in your hip pocket? Are you ready when breaking news hits?


Scott is President of Westwind Communications, a public relations and marketing firm. He has handled public relations and marketing for numerous authors, doctors, lawyers, inventors and entrepreneurs. As a book marketing expert Scott is called upon by top execs and bestselling authors to promote their books. Learn more about Westwind Communications’ book marketing approach at or contact Scott at or by phone at 734-667-2090

Can an Org Use Your Book? Part 5: How to Approach the Organization

When you craft your pitch to the organization you want to partner with, keep these things in mind:

  • Focus your inquiry/pitch not on why you want to do this for yourself, but on how it will benefit the organization (please see Part 3 of this series if you need to remind yourself of those reasons)–and on what you can bring to the table to help them, over and above the donation (for example, how you can get them media exposure, how you can open up a new volunteer pool and/or fundraising channel among your workers, how you can get other businesses to donate time, money, or goods and services)
  • Come across as thoroughly professional, as some one whose association with the organization adds value to that organization–this should be reflected not only in the quality of your book, but also the quality of your presentation
  • Even if you will be donating money to the organization, remember that dealing with your needs could add stress and hassles to the lives of the busy staff and volunteers–so do everything you can to smooth out any rough places for them, and to be as pleasant as possible to deal with. After all, you want them to sing your praises, to want to work with you again, and to recommend you to their colleagues
  • Be flexible if you get requests for custom covers or other things you might not expect. Accommodate when possible, but if there are costs to you, it’s not unreasonable to ask the organization to pick up the extra cost

My Quandary = Your Opportunity

You might have heard that the rights to my award-winning sixth book, Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First, got picked up by John Wiley & Sons, and it forms the basis for my eighth book, Guerrilla Marketing Goes Green (co-authored with Jay Conrad Levinson). The new book will include all but, I think, two chapters of Principled Profit, plus some 20-25,000 words of new material. Wiley will publish it in 2010. I’m especially proud of this  because, following an e-mail introduction by one of Wiley’s business authors,  I landed the deal and negotiated the contract myself.

This is the latest honor for a self-published book that also was republished in India and Mexico, won an Apex Award for best book in the PR/Marketing world, has been endorsed by 80 entrepreneurs and marketers, and sold 1000 copies to Southwest Airlines. It’s certainly not unheard of for a self-published book to be resold to a major publisher, but it doesn’t happen every day, either.

I know I’m the author so I shouldn’t brag. But the amount of wisdom and great advice packed into 160 clear and readable pages is astounding.

What sort of ideas are we talking about?

  • “Nice guys” (of either gender) finish *first*, not last
  • Strong ethics and an attitude of service can slash marketing costs to almost nothing
  • Customers, vendors, and yes, even competitors can and should—and WILL—become your unofficial salesforce, if you do right by them
  • Embracing Green principles can build you a whole new, extremely loyal—and much less price-sensitive–market
  • The most important sales skill isn’t about selling at all, as most people understand it
  • The world is an abundant place for those who understand it—if you approach your business with the right attitude—and why that means market share is often the wrong metric to look at
  • You’ll learn a great deal of very specific material that you can put into practice in your own business. A few of the highlights…

    • Why your competitors’ success not only isn’t an obstacle, it can actually help you succeed (Chapter 8 )
    • How “biological marketing” enables you to reap hundreds of times more than you sow (Chapter 4)
    • Why smart, customer-centered marketing succeeds when ordinary sales techniques fail (Chapter 2)
    • How to turn your marketing from an expense to an income stream—not just from its results, but for the very act of marketing (Chapter 14)
    • How to convert your customers, complementary businesses, and even competitors into your Sales Ambassadors (Chapter 8 again)
    • Why the customer experience is a more powerful testament to your brand (whether positive or negative) than all the slogans and logos and advertising and marketing materials in the world—and how you can harness this to benefit your business (Chapter 11)
    • How to stay honest and true in your copywriting while boosting your response: 4 trigger points, 10 keys to include in your copy, and 12 “helper” elements to construct successful marketing materials (Chapter 13)
    • Six specific ways to highlight your ethical commitment in your media publicity and other traditional marketing (Chapter 12)—and 12 specific marketing tools that work well for ethical marketers (Chapter 14)
    • How to leverage your marketing skills to make a huge difference in the wider world—to help create the type of world you want to live in (Chapters 15, 16, and 18)
    • 56 specific resources for further exploration, plus 20 copywriters who can make it happen for you (Chapter 19)

    But my problem is…my contract with Wiley forces me to stop selling Principled Profit by the end of this year. And I still have quite a few left. This was a groundbreaking book when it came out—one of the only voices showing that ethical business not only made good moral sense, but good business sense as well. While there are more resources in this area than there used to be, it’s still really hard to find this sort of solid, practical advice on both the theory and the implementation, in a nice, easy-to-read format that anyone can put into practice.

    To put it another way, Principled Profit shows you how to find the *value* in your *values.*

    So I’ve got a deal for you!

    Want a copy for yourself? Take $5 off the original $17.50 price. Visit to order this remarkable book. Just visit and enter the code, GET5OFF.

    Copies for your list and network are an even better deal. Full cases of 68-72 books at just $6 a copy (rounded to 70 per box), plus shipping at cost. Note that only eleven cases are available, though–you’ll want to act fast. This is absolutely the lowest price I’ve ever offered on this book.

    To make it even sweeter, I have bonuses for you.  Use that discount code (GET5OFF) to also get my two newest e-books:

  • Painless Green: 110 Tips to Help the Environment, Lower Your Carbon Footprint, Cut Your Budget, and Improve Your Quality of Life—With No Negative Impact on Your Lifestyle (just what it says—easy Green stuff you can implement immediately
  • Web 2.0 Marketing for the 21st Century (an in-depth look at Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and more)
  • Again:

    Can an Org Use Your Book? Part 4 What Kinds of Books Can Work for Organizations? Book Marketing Tip, April, 2009

    Just to peek at the tip of the iceberg; many others are possible

    • Local history (great for a bank, Chamber of Commerce, etc.)
    • How-to (very helpful to manufacturers and distributors/dealers who need to train people in their product)
    • Health and wellness (drug companies, hospitals, practitioners)
    • Business theory (Southwest Airlines bought 1000 copies of my sixth book, Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First–what I heard back was that the company president wanted to give them to people he wanted to impress)
    • Travel/destination (Chambers of Commerce, attractions, airlines, travel agencies…)
    • Coffee-table art book (whatever company, industry, or institution is being profiled)
    • Cookbook/food book (food manufacturers, restaurants, gourmet or specialty grocery stores; Dian Pfeifer, author of “Gone With the Grits,” sold 15,000 to cereal maker Quaker, which manufactures grits)
    • Fiction (tie-ins with locations, genres, equipment, cars…)
    • Parenting and child-rearing (schools, play equipment and toy manufacturers, early-childhood education industry, counselors, even law enforcement–in my seventh book, Grassroots Marketing for Authors and Publishers, I cite the author of a book on bullying that had been picked up by several police departments)

    Keep in mind that you can not only sell entire books (especially if you can offer a custom cover so the sponsor’s name is on the front), but also pieces (as booklets, special reports, audios, etc.).

    This series will continue with part 5, how to approach the organizations. And as a bonus, part 6 will apply what you’ve learned to bulk purchases in the corporate sector.

    Can an Org Use Your Book? Part 3: How Orgs Benefit by Partnering With You

    Before we get to this month’s tip: Two Important Announcements From Shel

    1. In these tough times, I want to do my part. I’ve just released some things to save you money: A brand new e-book called Painless Green: 111 Tips to Help the Environment, Lower Your Carbon Footprint, Cut Your Budget, and Improve Your Quality of Life—With No Negative Impact on Your Lifestyle — and a website where you can get that e-book and all my books at a discount:

    2. If you haven’t gotten your book done yet, or you know someone looking to become a published author, my new coaching program can help: Shel Horowitz’s Exclusive Ethical Expert Book Publishing Program. I’ll be announcing this in my speech Saturday at Willie Crawford’s Birthday Bash in front of several hundred people, but I wanted to let you have first crack. Especially since I’m offering it at a reduced price this first time out, and because the number of available seats is sharply limited: I’ve told the conference planners to stop taking offers when we reach 30 seats at the Gold level, and only FIVE at the Platinum level, which includes private coaching from me.

    And now, on to this month’s tip:

    How Organizations Benefit by Partnering With You

    It’s absolutely vital to understand how an organization will benefit from your book <i>before</> you make the initial contact–because you must answer that question in your proposal letter. This brief adaptation from Grassroots Marketing for Authors and Publishers provides some possible answers:

    The key question to ask yourself is this:
    How does this organization genuinely benefit from using my book?
    There are many possible answers; finding the correct answer may be the key that will turn your prospect into a buyer. Usually, the correct answer will involve drilling down with “so what” questions, until you find ways to either increase sales of the organization‘s products and services and/or increase the organization’s status in the minds of its customers, prospects, employees, vendors—and in some cases (especially to counterbalance negative publicity) the general public. Among many possibilities, the organization might want to:

    • Show people how to use the organization’s product or services in creative or expanded ways.
    • Establish its own expertise and/or disseminate its ideas to a wider audience.
    • Demonstrate a commitment to the community (as when a local bank sponsors a history of the town).
    • Overcome bad press.
    • Show off the organization in time for an important anniversary or milestone.
    • Woo lucrative clients, investors/donors, or business-venture partners with interesting and useful gifts.
    • Use the book for internal training.
    • Convey a point of view about a hot-button issue of the day (for instance, a organization might give out copies of a book to legislators, regulators, or policy makers).
    • Demonstrate that it is a caring and concerned organization willing to help.

    One I don’t mention in the book is more important these days than ever before: create (or supplement) a revenue stream through product sales.

    Rather not wait until the end of June to get started? Grab copies of my award-winning books, Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First, and Grassroots Marketing for Authors and Publishers. Use this link to get the paperback editions at the discounted price of $41.95, combined (plus shipping), or this link for the e-book editions at just $34.95 (no shipping charge). Between those two books, you’ll get lots of ideas on how to form win-win partnerships that move quantities of your book. ). Of course, you can also buy just one book, at the usual price.