Don’t Sell Books, Spread Ideas

If you try to sell a book, you will fail. We don’t need more books. Our shelves are full of them. What we need are world-changing, revolutionary ideas. Don’t assume you need a publisher and a book contract to change the world. You can start spreading your message now.

Spread Ideas
Photo credit: shutterhacks (Creative Commons)

There’s too much information in our world; we are overwhelmed by it. So don’t talk to me about your book. Talk about what matters to me. If you solve a problem, you win. You’ve got our attention. Now, we’re listening. Now, we’re willing to pay you for something. Until then, you’re just another voice.

If you challenge the status quo, people will rally around you. We want to be inspired; we’re yearning for it. This is what we’re all  looking for, not another book to buy.

If you will be inspiring, people will pay attention. You can then use that influence to sell a product, launch a program, or create an event. If you’re a writer, you can finally get published. You’ll probably actually sell some books, too, now that you have permission. The hard part, though, is getting it.

Once you find an idea that resonates with an audience, there is still work to be done. The tough part is earning the right to be heard. You have to compete with all the other voices that are vying for people’s attention.

The best way to break through the noise is to give away something of value for free. If you can charge for it, don’t. Be generous. This will attract the trust of an audience, which is priceless. Once you captivate an audience, you can lead them wherever you want.

How does this work?

Technically speaking, you trade a freebie (something like an eBook) for permission. This can be an email address, a Facebook “like,” or whatever medium suits your audience.

Then, use those contacts to create a list that allows you communicate with them, building a relationship over time. Eventually, you can offer your product, core message, or whatever.

This can’t be a bait-and-switch, though. The offering must be connected to the freebie. If you do this, people will buy from you and keep paying attention. If you keep adding value, you never lose. (Neither do they.)

Already have a book? Great. You’re 10% there. Now, you just have to get people to care about it. Here’s how:

  • Use an excerpt of your book and turn it into a powerful manifesto that spreads. Encourage early adopters by inviting advocates to give you feedback and shape the project.
  • Share the manifesto with friends and influencers who will tell others.
  • Through relationships, build a tribe around the idea. This is not about selling anything (not yet); it’s about changing the world.
  • Participate in communities that care about your message. Be extremely generous towards them — offer free advice, helpful tips and opportunities, and free advance copies of the book for reviews.
  • Reward people for paying attention. Ask questions to keep their interest.
  • Create stuff that helps people.

Once you’ve done all of the above, you’ve begun the hard work. Now you can lead your tribe. Of course, it helps to know where you’re going.

Whatever you do, don’t try to build a business by selling books. It doesn’t work like that. Publishing is, as Seth Godin says, an “organized hobby.”

If you want to make money with it, forget about royalties and get an idea to spread. That’s what I did here.

How have you seen a manifesto used to spread ideas? What other models work? Share in the comments.