Book Marketing 101: What Works and What Doesn’t (Lessons from My Latest Launch)

Releasing a book is an interesting phenomenon. By the time launch week rolls around, you’ve been in the trenches with your book for months, if not years. And yet, almost everyone else hasn’t even heard of it yet. So what do you do?

Real Artists Don't Starve Launch - Marketing/PR Summary

Since the release of my most recent book, people have been asking me things like:

  • “When do you find out about the best sellers lists?”
  • “Will you do a book tour?”
  • “Are you happy with the book’s success?”

While I appreciate the interest in my book, those are some of the most misguided ideas on book marketing a person can have. They are also the most common. So what actually works, and what doesn’t, when it comes to launching books?

And if you’re an author, what should your goal be?

In this post, I’m going to share with you what I’ve learned about book marketing, why my goals are different for this book, and what I’m currently doing to promote it (as well as how you can join me).

Don’t try to be a bestseller (seriously)

When Real Artists Don’t Starve released last week, I knew this would be different from previous book launches. With each project I’ve grown as a writer, researcher, and storyteller, and I can honestly say this is my best work so far.

But I also knew this message would be challenging. The goal of the book was not to hit any bestsellers lists but to bring this idea into the world and see how it was received.

So, will I hit any bestsellers lists?

Short answer: I don’t know.

Longer but truly honest answer: I don’t really care.

That wasn’t the goal. Not because I couldn’t do it, but because there are often tradeoffs to achieve such goals. Short-term gain: you become a best-selling author. Long-term loss: you burn yourself and your audience out by talking the book to death before it even comes out.

This was a lesson I learned from Ryan Holiday and Tim Grahl, both who have worked with authors who have sold millions of books. How did all these mega-bestselling authors do that? They kept talking about the message long after the book was “launched.”

I’ve done the big bestseller launch thing, and it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. I’d much rather sell a reasonable number of books every week forever than a ridiculous amount once and peter out from there.

So that’s the goal of this book — and I’d argue should be the goal of every book — sustained sales. In the end, you’ll sell more books, anyway. Isn’t that what “bestseller” should mean, anyway?

Book tours are (mostly) bogus

Will I do a book tour?

No, not really. Unless you’re a celebrity, these don’t work. You sit in a bookstore staring at an intimidating pile of books you hope will sell while random strangers walk up to you, pick up the thing you’ve dedicated the past two years of your life to, while suspiciously glaring at you, then set it down, and walk away.

I’m not opposed to traveling to meet readers. It’s a nice thing to do for your fans, but this strategy in itself won’t sell a lot of books. You’re much better off doing a bunch of podcasts, blog posts, and articles.

Now, does that mean I won’t be traveling this year, speaking at conferences, schools, and other events? Of course not. I love doing that. But I wouldn’t call that a book tour. A tour is something you do if you are on TV or nationally syndicated radio. It’s not something the average author needs to worry about.

You’re much better off staying home and finding new audiences for your message.

How you should feel after your book launch

Am I happy?

This was a question I’ve been asked nearly a dozen times in the past week. And it’s a funny one to answer.

With this book, I decided to try some new strategies and see how they work. But after only a week, I have no idea how well they’ve worked yet. Since I didn’t go for the big bestseller launch, I’m basically delaying gratification. Book sales, as far as I can tell, went well last week. But as far as I’m concerned, I’m just getting started.

So, am I happy? Sure. I’m glad to have the book out in the world and see people are reading it and enjoying it (already over 50+ 5-star reviews on Amazon!).

All I know is I’m not exhausted like I was with the last book launch, and that’s a good thing. It means I have more energy to keep talking about this book.

This, I think, should be your goal after launching a book: to not already be sick of the book itself. I’m not. I really believe in the message of Real Artists Don’t Starve and plan to talk about this for a very long time.

What’s currently working (where you come in)

The goal for Week 1 of a book launch should be to get your fans buying the book, reading it, and sharing it. With my most recent book, it’s been amazing to see so many people posting reviews and sharing photos of Real Artists Don’t Starve on their coffee tables, book shelves, desks, fridges, and grills. I love that.

Honestly, I can say after five books that I’ve never seen so many people in the first week read the book and tell me how much they liked it. That’s pretty cool. So, mission accomplished.

Now on to Phase 2: spreading the word. The best, most scalable way to do this is to get your message in channels that need your message but don’t know about it. So, that means for most of us a lot of blogs, podcast interviews, and maybe some radio spots and TV appearances (if you’re lucky). I’ll be sharing more on these strategies soon. But suffice to say, they’re much better than the above.

Below is a list of all the places I’ve published new articles on my new book as well as recent reviews of it.

(Sidenote: if you buy the book and publish your thoughts somewhere one it, send me the link at jeff at goinswriter dot com and I’ll link up to you here in this post).


Podcast/video/radio interviews

Blogs and reviews

Thank you to everyone who pre-ordered a copy of Real Artists Don’t Starve and helped successfully launch this book into the world. The book is now available for sale wherever books are sold. If you get a chance to read it, I’d love an honest review on whatever site you bought it.

Click here to leave a review if you’ve already read it. And don’t forget: if you blog about the book somewhere, send me the link and I’ll share it.

Paperback party

When you order the newly released paperback edition of Real Artists Don’t Starve, get the following bonuses at

  • Artist edition of the RADS workbook
  • Writer edition of the RADS workbook
  • 7-week book study Facebook group
  • Exclusive discount on Real Artists Don’t Starve Course ($80 off)

What podcasts do you listen to? What blogs do you read? Share your thoughts, feedback, and links in the comments, as well as anything you may have learned from this post.

16 thoughts on “Book Marketing 101: What Works and What Doesn’t (Lessons from My Latest Launch)

  1. This is gold. Thank you!!

    * I agree about book tours being bogus. (And standing behind tables at craft and book sales or in libraries. It’s the norm though, for some reason.)

    * In the RADS FB group I mentioned that I hoped to learn a bit about your marketing methods, so this is pure gold for me! 🙂 It’s like a game plan. Thank you! 🙂

    * Your comment about receiving loads of positive feedback is one I can relate to too.
    I just released my fourth book and it’s already better received than anything I’ve published. Strangers are emailing because someone they know said amazing things about it. How cool is that?! The biggest difference is partly the improvement in skill as you mention, but also that this book was written right from my heart (and it helps that it’s in a genre that has some kind of demand :P)

    Thanks Jeff!

  2. Jeff- Some of what you shared here reminds me of Tim Grahl’s “long game” approach. Even though you have a huge audience already, guest posting/podcasting and continuing the conversation about your book makes a lot of sense. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and continued success!

  3. Agreed. On the “not trying to be a bestseller” thing, I think that has a nuance. People should not make that their ONLY goal and the mere measure of a successful launch. As we know, the bestseller lists are not true “best seller” lists anyways. Most use formulas or considerations that tend to disregard many books that should be on the lists (by sales volume), NYT especially. But there’s nothing wrong with putting a smart strategy in place that sets a book up for a strong launch and increased possibly hitting a list. The real issue is that most authors focus so heavily on the launch they they have no real plan for the weeks… months… years after it. That’s where the real opportunity is (the long game, as you’ve noted). I myself and putting more resources into that as well on some of our projects.

  4. I always thought the “bestseller” thing by itself was a bunch of crap.

    Don’t get me wrong, becoming a bestseller is a great achievement. But to me, writing a book is more like an investment.

    I prefer long term gains (or book sales) instead of a quick stint at #1 followed by a steady slide into Amazon’s digital dust bin.

    I want to write books that keep selling for years not just weeks. Does anyone agree with that?

  5. I don’t know the real stats, and I’m too busy to research it, but…it’s well known that 90% or more of the books published sell less than a thousand copies. Most books just don’t sell that many copies. But, Amazon and Kindle are making it easier than ever. The best thing a new book can do for an author is help build a community, a following. Unless you are John Grisham, the number of sales should not be the only goal.

  6. Being a blogger and reviewer of books, I was thankful to read your honest perspective from your own experience regarding the blog tours. I have been on the other end obviously, signing up to review books – and there’s only so much sharing one can do before you get worn out or feel like a broken record (unless you are paid to do this because it is your paid job? I do it for free…)

    I love how you just tell it like it is. I am currently writing with my head down. In a nutshell, writing what is on my heart and what I believe is useful while not looking to the right or left.

    Balancing learning from others while sticking to the path is key and a message I feel is needed. What do you think? Launch tips will hopefully soon become handy for me. I always learn something when I come here. Thanks for sharing, Jeff!

  7. After spending 6 hours standing outside at a table in our park – in a small town – I was beat. Sold 2 books and 1 card. ( I almost broke even) But I did make good God-incident connections. We’ll see where they go. But now I am trying to focus on the Internet, blogging, using Medium, taking Michael Hyatt’s Platform University. I am a Tribe Writer. Congrats on your book. I have learned something from each one. Just started to study yours. I can’t just read it. I need to study it. Think about it. Write about it.

  8. A long time ago (40 yrs!), I chickened out of going to art school and ended up on a wild ride to becoming a Chinese scholar. Then failed. Then circled back. Now, I have just started to explore writing and self publishing. Having arrived here by learning (every day) how to market my small business (a flea market!) and seeing all the ways that the internet has changed the channels we can use to reach our audience, I feel very hopeful. And I’m old enough to know I won’t starve trying 😉

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