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S2/E14: Sell Your First 1000 Books by Tim Grahl (Creative Live)

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I’ve been meaning to get to Tim Grahl’s books and class for a while. In part, because of something I’ve heard many times from a variety of sources: If you wait until you have a book to promote to start working on your author platform and networking, you’re late to the game.

Tim Grahl has been working with authors for about a decade. Along the way, he has worked directly with authors at all stages of their careers, from debut authors to authors at the top of the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post bestseller lists. At one point five of his clients were on The New York Times Bestseller List at the same time.

His own book, Your First 1000 Copies, launched strong, hitting #1 in all of its categories and selling thousands of copies. At the core of his marketing philosophy is to be “relentlessly helpful,” and he is only too eager to share his hard-won experience with as many writers as possible. Grahl also hosts a terrific podcast called The Book Launch Show, which is available on most podcast platforms.

Book Launch Show

Three Things

1 You Likely Need to Revisit Your Definitions of “Marketing” and “Promotion.” A large percentage of writers skew introverted, which only makes this topic that much trickier. Add in the overall “Eww!” response many of us feel towards the slick and smarmy approaches that we’ve all been on the receiving end of at one time or another, and you have a situation where a lot of writers, just don’t want to “go there.” But if you shift your thinking, you can not only avoid the smarmier techniques but also actually enjoy(!) marketing and promotion. At the heart of this are two key concepts. First, you must think of marketing as the opportunity to be helpful to your audience. If you shift your thinking so that you’re thinking of ways to address what your (potential/current) readers might want or need, you’ll also automatically generate opportunities to connect with them as people and not just buyers. This alone can help you avoid the tedious and ineffective “Buymybookbuymybookbuymybook!!” approach. Second, you must be a fan of your own work. This is no time to let the inner critic rule the roost. You must be willing to believe that your own work can entertain, comfort, challenge, and/or inspire your readers. Otherwise, you’ll never be able to comfortably take any promotional activities, no matter how well-intended or nuanced.

2 There Are Stages to Marketing. Like everything else, you crawl before you walk before you run. For starters, start your marketing efforts now. This is a little like that maxim: “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second-best time is now.” The best time to have begun your marketing efforts was at some point before now. The second best time is right now. Grahl suggests that if you wait until you have a book to promote, you put yourself in a position where you have to work harder for fewer opportunities. Within the marketing process, which Grahl calls “The Connection System”, there are three major components: Outreach, Content. and Permission. For a more in-depth explanation, check out his site. For now, here’s a thumbnail sketch copied directly from Grahl’s webpage on The Connection System:


“What I saw over and over was they had something working in each of these three categories:

  1. Outreach: The act of moving people from not knowing you exist to knowing you exist.

  2. Content: Providing a way for people to get to know you and your writing.

  3. Permission: A way to stay in contact with people long-term.”

3 You Need an Email List. If you only take away one thing from this episode and Tim Grahl’s class, he wants it to be this. Grahl hammers this point home dozens and dozens of times. For starters, it’s just about the only marketing tool that you have nearly complete control over. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, etc. all have policies that can change and leave you without access to your audience. Then there’s the much higher return on investment (ROI) that email lists deliver. He uses the results from one of his more famous clients, Daniel Pink, to drive home the point. At one point, Pink had 200,000 social media followers and 50,000 email subscribers. (I know. I’m jealous, too.) When they launched Pink’s newest book, they were able to track his sales results from their different campaigns. For every ONE book Pink sold through his social media efforts, he sold SIX to campaigns targeting his email list.

*Hack: Put a popup email list signup form on your website. Have it appear within 20 to 30 seconds after visitors arrive at your website. You should also adjust the settings so that once they’ve signed up for your email list, they don’t see the signup form again. You’ll also want to make sure there are additional opportunities scattered throughout your webpages for visitors to signup for your list. Analytics on page visits, social media likes, etc. don’t mean squat if you can’t reach out to your future fans! He recommends using PopUpDomination.com.

Quote: Grahl drives home the point that while we may or may not get time to scroll through our social media accounts, most of check our email every day (often several times a day). And while most of us interact with only a tiny percentage of the posts of the people we follow, we have some level of engagement with almost every email in our inbox. Admittedly, some emails get more attention than others, but they rarely get missed completely.

If I send an email, then I’m showing up where your attention already exists.” Tim Grahl

Grahl’s class is long, weighing in at more than ten hours. But it is incredibly well-spent time. There are more hacks then I could begin to include here, as well as better explanations about many of the concepts I’ve touched on today. It comes with a variety of resources, including:

  1. Workshop Companion Workbook (PDF)

  2. Class Presentation Slides (PDF)

  3. Outreach Tracking Template (Excel File)

  4. Analytics Tracking Spreadsheet (Excel File)

  5. The Insiders Book Launch System (PDF)

  6. How I Wrote the Book (2 PDF files – Guide and Links)

I would absolutely recommend this class to any writer, since the days of simply writing and leaving the marketing and promotion of your books to agents and publishing houses are all but gone. And if you’re even contemplating going the Indie Publishing route, this class is a must.

T here are lots of other great writing classes in CreativeLive that you can check out, but also classes around the subjects of photo/video production, money/life management, art/design, crafts, and music/audio production.

You can access CreativeLive classes in multiple ways:

  1. CreativeLive streams free courses every single day.

  2. Also possible to buy your courses. This one is listed for $49 (on sale from $98).

  3. Also possible to get all access passes. $39 a month or $149 for annual pass ($12.41/mo).

I’d say most classes will cost between around $15 and $75, but some fall outside that range. Right now, CreativeLive has a $15 coupon for both of us!

I hope this was helpful to you! Next week I’ll be applying this same approach to Jennie Nash’s class “The Inside Outline: For Writers Who Love to Pants or Plot.” The class is offered on the Teachable platform through Jennie’s company, Author Accelerator.

Unsettling Reads Podcast Image - Apple S

One more piece of exciting news: Fellow author Robin Knabel and I have launched a new podcast called, Unsettling Reads. Every other Wednesday, we’ll be offering spoiler-free reviews of books from the crime, fantasy, horror, literary, mystery, sci-fi, suspense, and thriller genres. Additional book reviews are also available on our website www.UnsettlingReads.com.

To find out what I’ve been working on, visit www.HDairBrown.com. Sign up for the email list (wink!), and I’ll send you a free story every month. Just one email a month. I promise not to inundate you. I hate a pesky emailer!

Until then. . .

Happy writing, people!


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