How to market a book when you don’t want to do anything

By | September 11, 2017

I’m working on life bucket list item #6 (write a book). I told you about the writing part of the book, which is super fun. I mentioned the publishing parts which has its moments of fun, but is mostly asking other people to do things you can’t. The final part is telling the world that your creation exists and suggesting they check it out. Market it.

Right. Marketing. From the very beginning, I’ve been super fuzzy on the market park of the book.

Who are you talking to?

Steven King suggests writing with your “ideal reader” in mind. My ideal reader is someone who likes to read the crap that I write. That’s not really a category on Amazon though.

Honestly, I don’t know who would benefit from reading my baby. I can tell you what I did, but I’m not sure how useful my story is. I’m single with no kids and travel a lot with almost no belongings, so my experience of the world is maybe not relatable or transferable to most of you. And yeah, I made a rather healthy amount of money when I worked as a lawyer so it’s probably easy to dismiss me.

A stall at the spice souk in the UAE.

I’ve reread this quote often while writing my book.

I suggest that the only books that influence us are those for which we are ready, and which have gone a little farther down our particular path than we have got ourselves. I suggest, furthermore, that when you feel that you could almost have written the book yourself—that’s the moment when it’s influencing you. You are not influenced when you say, ‘How marvelous! What a revelation! How monumental! Oh!’ You are being extended. You are being influenced when you say ‘I might have written that myself if I hadn’t be so busy.’
– E. M. Forster, “A Book That Influenced Me,” from Two Cheers for Democracy

If you want to do this early retirement thing, at the end of the day, it has to be you who figures it out. You have to design your own life with your available resources and circumstances. I can give you a road map, but I really suck at directions.

If you’re already at the place in life where you’re doing this, then you don’t need my book. You could have written it. We know all this stuff already. And if you’re not in the place where you’re doing this, well, as a personal finance geek, I would advise you to read about it for free. Get yourself to a place where you are doing it. There’s no need to shell out any money to learn because there are a crap ton of free resources out there.

That’s not to say that I don’t love my book. I do. I deeply, madly, thoroughly, truly love this creation of mine. She’s beautiful and I tell her every day. But, I am also acutely aware of her flaws. I read somewhere recently “Don’t stop until you’re proud.” I love the idea of that, but if I adopted that mantra, I’d never do anything. That’s just not how I’m built. I love my book, but I’m not sure how good it is. I’m so antsy and ready for it to be born, but I’m also terrified of it being out in the world.

Playing kubb in Wyoming while waiting for the totality

How much is a copy?

To say that I am unmotivated to market this thing would be a massive understatement. I thought about giving it away for free, but I don’t think people value something as much if they get it for nothing. You signal your own worth.

Or something. I don’t know. I’ve told you many times that I have no idea what I’m doing.

My initial impulse was to price it as low as I possibly could. If you were going to buy it, I wanted you to be happy with the purchase. I wanted to under-promise and over-deliver. I thought about my own buying habits. If I bought a book for $4.99 or under and hated it, I wouldn’t feel that annoyed. If I bought it for $4.99 or under and loved it, I would feel lucky. Gratitude and not annoyance are two traits I actively try to cultivate, so that price spoke to me.

But everything I read warned me against this impulse. Everyone I talked to chided me for this inclination. Don’t undervalue your work. People will take your advice seriously if you price it accordingly. Most people aren’t like you and have different definitions of a bargain.

The total solar eclipse. It was nothing like this in person; I’m just rubbish at taking pictures.

Eventually, I picked a price point at which I would purchase the book if (1) the library didn’t have it or had a long waiting list for it and (2) it were a book club selection or a book I really wanted to read. $7.99.

$7.99 for the e-book, anyway. The print book is available for $12.99. I can always change these prices in the future too, I guess.

A cherry on top of the sundae that is my life would be seeing my book in libraries. Tween-Thriftygal loved the library. She volunteered there in the summers. She was a bit of a nerd. Also, if I’m being perfectly honest, I don’t know that I would buy this book if I weren’t the author. I purchase perhaps two books a year, so my bar is stupidly high. But, I would most definitely and absolutely borrow it from the library.

I plan to put it on IngramSpark and ask a few of my libraries to buy it. If you don’t want to buy it, but still want to read it, maybe you could ask your local library to get it after it’s out. There’s normally a place on their website where you can request books they don’t have in their catalog.

Are you going to make any money off it?

I hope I make money off this book because I still really like the idea of making money, of feeling secure enough to cross “be a writer” off my life bucket list, of buying more VTSAX when it inevitably drops, of donating billions to charity upon my demise, of telling my dad I have non-investment income.

I hope to make money, certainly. But not enough to make it a priority. All the marketing research I’ve done tells me to increase the value of my “brand.” Use the social medias to engage. Spread the word and build the hype. Ask every person you’ve ever met for their help. Shout at the world to pay attention to you. Other not fun-sounding stuff.

The reason I didn’t go the easier route of using a publisher who knew what they were doing was so I wouldn’t have to do these things when they asked me to. I’d rather spend my time feeling grateful for the readers I have than plotting for more. And, theoretically, I already have enough money to be happy. I don’t need this book to earn.

Found in Guatemala.

I’m not convinced this is the right approach. What’s the point of writing books that nobody reads? I love hearing about and discovering new books and I’m sure other people feel that way, too.

I’m afraid to do the math to see how many books I would need to sell to break even. The harsh truth is that most books do not sell many copies. Especially self-published authors. Especially first-time authors. And first-time, self-published authors who hate the idea of marketing? Well, maybe members of your family will buy a few copies.

I’m afraid to do the math, but then I did the math because how could I not? The answer is roughly 1,400 copies through Amazon e-books or 1,600 paperbacks through Amazon. Earlier this year, I turned down a publisher’s advance of $1,500. If I sell 1,700 e-books through Amazon, my decision to turn down the publisher would become a financially-sound decision and not just an emotionally-sound one.

1,700 seems like a cheeky number to request from the Universe when it’s already lent me so much, so I’m not requesting anything. The reward is in the doing.

“Write another book” is the marketing advice that I love the most. This first book might not be profitable, but maybe my ninth or seventeenth book will be. I’ve already created several lists relating to book number two. Onward and upwards!

31 thoughts on “How to market a book when you don’t want to do anything

  1. Brad

    This is exciting! I can’t wait to read it! Thank you for sharing your internal dialogue. On many subjects, you put into words so many things I think myself. You are an inspiration, Anita. I wish you all the best!

  2. Hugo

    You write the book for people with a dream. There will be lot’s of them. Although not all will want, or be able, to live their dream. The can read their dream 😉

  3. Dennis Cahillane

    The vast majority of people don’t read business or self-help books because they are going to follow the advice of the successful author. It’s more like reading a romance or fantasy novel, they just want to get lost in an exciting story of another life that has nothing to do with who they are. Do you think Mr Money Mustache has such high web traffic because all of those people actually sold their SUV’s and bought a bike, like he exhorts them to? If you want think of it as being cynical, but market your book to people who visit MMM, lifehacker, etc. And of course to your followers on social media and your email list. Marketing an information product is about finding the people who have consumed similar information many times before and selling it to them.

    1. Thriftygal Post author

      I think it’s hard to think outside myself and my own buying habits. I read self-help books for how to make my life better. But, I think you’re right that it’s not the right mindset for marketing.

      1. Dennis Cahillane

        every entrepreneur is like that at first. it seems rude to acknowledge that you are special, in that you make big plans and follow through on them. (like FIRE and all the self-discipline that entails.) But most people aren’t like that, they just dream and don’t put in the hard work.

  4. Herman Hudson

    You are selling a lifestyle and one that everybody wants. Publish the book!!

    1. Thriftygal Post author

      It’s coming! It’s still at the formatter, but I expect draft four from them today. Everything takes so much longer than I realize! It’s coming though. One week? Two weeks? 7 years? It’s coming!

  5. AdventuringPNW

    I had a lot of those similar thoughts just typing some random stuff into the computer about our family adventures. Then I thought, who cares if I enjoy it that’s all that matters. It sounds like writing a book has been an incredibly challenging experience, not to mention so many new things to learn.

    You rock Anita!

  6. Sweta

    Just wondering if all of your money in your portfolio is allocated to VTSAX or do you have some small percentage in stable assets like bonds and cash? Sorry if I didn’t use some of those words correctly I am somewhat new to investing. Thanks! Will definitely be buying your book.

    1. Thriftygal Post author

      I have a very teeny percentage in cash that’s quickly dwindling and a slightly larger teeny percentage in the vanguard total bond market index fund and the vanguard REIT index fund.

      1. Sweta

        Thanks for your valuable financial advice, I am also new and apprehensive about investing, since I am unfortunately not very knowledgeable as I would like to be about these things. I wish I was as organized as you with the data. I am ready to jump in though. Do you invest through the website and also what would be a good price to buy? The website often leaves me feeling extremely overwhelmed!

  7. Sandy Nielsen

    I love your writing style! So honest, refreshing, and funny! I wish I had known about, or even imagined on my own, the concept of retiring early when I was younger. I still use your ideas to help us along even now in middle age, and I have at least twice referred to you when advising my young-adult kids to save. I’d buy your book most definitely, and seriously, I already know I’ll love it and recommend it to everyone!

  8. Nicole

    For marketing, you might try reaching out to book bloggers (like myself) to see if any would be willing to review your book in exchange for a free copy. Some independent bookstores might be willing to host you for a book signing. Good luck! I’ve been following your adventures for a while and find your blog super inspiring.

    1. Thriftygal Post author

      Thanks, Nicole! Anyone who has emailed me asking for a copy for review purposes, I’ve happily agreed. I’m just uncomfortable soliciting.

  9. Salec

    You’re already marketing. Having and expressing the love for your work is precisely how it is supposed to be done. You’re marketing beautifully.
    In terms of finding your target audience, just do what you do and see who listens. Since I retired, I’ve been writing a travel blog on how to live on a minimum wage budget and my audience found me. The same will happen for you. 😊

  10. zeejaythorne

    I would be delighted to read it! I’m having similar issues with the book I’m working on. Marketing takes so much time and I have lots of important things to do.

  11. thingsthatsparkjoy

    i will benefit from reading your book! =) yes, true that your salary was likely a whole lot higher than mine but the way you planned and saved likely had a lot to do with your success as well

  12. Paul Reece

    Can’t wait to see your book on Amazon. I like hard copies! I will buy one for me and one for the local public library.

    1. Thriftygal Post author

      I’m clapping in delight! If it’s not too much trouble, can you send me a picture of it in the library with the bar code and all that?! (When it happens). 🙂

  13. steve poling

    Each book you have out there will have something unique to offer the general public. And the general public will respond at a given (low) rate. It’s as if you’ve dipped a line in the water and drawn out a fish.

    Your readers who do not toss away the book in disgust will want another and go looking. Since they know what they’re looking for this will be easy. Consider the people who are buying your book. You’ve achieved the goal of making something they love. What did you do in their shoes? If you’re like me, you bought another of her works. Thus you should expect repeat business. Welcome your new tribe member. Offer them cookies.

    When you publish a second book, that’s a 2nd line in the water that’ll draw out new fish. It can draw fish who swam by the bait on the 1st hook. The fish will see that this isn’t a one-hit-wonder. And the appeal of the 2nd book will be distinct from the appeal of the 1st book that’s still out there. Your tribe will expand to include those attracted by 2nd book’s offer.

    When you publish subsequent works, the process of the last paragraph compounds. You know, like the way compound interest works. With each work the appeal of your brand extends into a new dimension of the public mind-space (whatever that is). Your tribe grows to the point where it starts to manifest network effects. A virtuous cycle emerges and soon you are in Croesus-mode. (Iterate until your catalog exceeds that of Barbara Cartland. Don’t google her picture.)

    So, please write that 100th book. Because that will have meant you’ve finished your 99th book, that means you’ve finished… (Feel free to sing 99 bottles of beer on the wall while writing.)

    1. Thriftygal Post author

      Excellent excellent comment! My favorite line: “So, please write that 100th book. Because that will have meant you’ve finished your 99th book”

      It’s the journey. The journey.


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