– day 2 –
What Every Bestselling Book Has in Common
Why do people buy books?
The short answer: because they have a problem and your book is the solution.
Maybe they’re looking for ways to start or grow a business.
Maybe they don’t feel comfortable with their bodies and they want to lose weight.
Maybe they’re bored, and they want a great fiction book to entertain them…
Whatever the case, people buy books because they have a problem and they want to solve it.
The problem (for us publishers) is most authors don’t approach the book writing process this way.
They think: I have a great idea for a book and I’m going to write it. If it’s good (which it is because I’m writing it) then people will buy.
Sadly, this is rarely the case.
According to Neilson Bookscan, in 2004 80% of self-published authors sold less than 99 copies of their book.
Take that in for a moment…
Imagine spending months or years writing your book, only to sell a few dozen copies (probably for less than $10 a pop).
After expenses (whether Amazons cut, or the publishers cut, or the bookstores cut), most of these authors probably made much less than $500 publishing their book.
There must be a better way…
What separates the unsuccessful 80% from the successful 20%?
The thing that separates the average majority of authors from the exceptional minority is this:
Successful authors treat their book differently.
Todd Satterston is an author, entrepreneur, and founder of 1-800-CEO-READ.
His take on books is entirely different from the masses.
Instead of treating writing or publishing like an artistic hobby, he does the opposite. According to Satterston, “Every book is a startup.”
If Todd Satterston is right (and I believe he is), then this means we need to treat books like we do startups.
So how do startups work?
Well, before a startup begins building something, they start with a plan.
Specifically, the most successful startups develop some form of business model before they get to work creating whatever it is they create.
They do this because a business model gives startups a measurable objective, clarifies the path to success, and helps the startup know if they’re heading in the right direction.
Authors and publishers need the same thing for their books…
Enter The Book Marketing Canvas.
The Book Marketing Canvas is a business model for your book.
Note: this document is color coded and marked with a number because I’m going to walk you through each section today.
The Book Marketing Canvas is something I’ve taken from the tech startup scene and adapted to book publishing. Specifically, I borrowed Ash Maurya’s Lean Canvas – a tool that MANY successful startups have used to build successful, million dollar businesses – and modified it to work for books.
The purpose of The Book Marketing Canvas is simple: to guide the development, marketing, and sales of your book.
How The Book Marketing Canvas Works
The Book Marketing Canvas is broken down into 9 major sections:
- Administrative information
- Target Audience (who this book is for?)
- Early Adopters (who will be your first 100 customers?)
- Marketing, Sales, and Distribution Channels (how will you reach your early adopters and target audience?)
- Problem (what is the problem or pain your reader has?)
- Solution (how does your book solve the problem or alleviate the pain?)
- Metrics for Success (how do you measure success for your book?)
- Unique Sales Proposition (what makes this book unique in a way that matters)?
- Price and Expenses (how do you plan to price and sell your book? What type of overhead or expenses are necessary to achieve the desired goal?)
In this lesson, I’m going to walk you through each section.
NOTE: for teaching purposes, I’m using a real life case study as our example: The 7 Day Startup by Dan Norris.
By using The Book Marketing Canvas for Dan Norris’ The 7 Day Startup, we were able to generate 12,000 sales at launch, and over $2,000 USD in the first month (that number has increased since).
Here’s what the launch numbers looked like:
I find that I learn better through examples, so I hope you find this equally useful.
DOUBLE NOTE: the best way to learn is through application, so please download a copy of The Book Marketing Canvas and fill it out for your book as we go through this less (If you’re starting from scratch, that’s okay – The Book Marketing Canvas is a living document and you can come back to fill in the gaps as you go through this free training series). Let’s get to it.
#1. Administrative Info
The top section of the “Book Marketing Canvas” is all basic but essential information. This should take you about 57 seconds to fill out:
- Marketing / book launch consultant – often, this is the same as a publisher, but if you’re self-publishing, you may want to hire someone for this
- Title – if you don’t have a finalized title / subtitle, don’t worry. Just put in a placeholder (the names of my books change up to the time of launch – so just use a working title while you’re creating your book)
- Launch date (this is bolded / emphasized because it’s arguably the most important! Everything worthwhile needs a ship date because it will provide the forcing function you need to create, package, and launch your book).
- Formats (how do you plan to roll this book out? PDF? Kindle? etc.)
#2. Target Audience
Who is this book for? Who do you expect to read, enjoy, and share your work?
This may be the most important question of the whole “Book Marketing Canvas.”
After all, if you aren’t precise about who you’re writing for, how can you reach them?
How can you determine your book sales page copy or design?
How can you properly market or sell to them?
In this section, you want to get clear on who your target audience. Some questions that will help:
- Who are you writing your book for?
- Who is your ideal readership / reader segment / customer segment?
- How do they refer to themselves (not how do you refer to them)?
Sometimes it helps to think in the context of the genre or type of book you’re writing (or in reference to a specific book that inspired yours, or one that you drew inspiration from).
If I’m writing a fantasy novel, maybe my book is for Game of Thrones readers. If I’m writing a non-fiction self-help book, maybe my target readers are Tony Robbins fans.
The more specific, the better as we’ll come back to this list when we package, price, and launch our book.
#3. Early Adopters
Who are your early adopters? Who will be the first 100 readers to buy or pre-order your book?
Next, we want to find out who among your target audience (reader segment) will be the first to click “buy.”
Whether you’re giving your book away for free through the Amazon platform, or selling directly to customer using a platform like Gumroad.com, this section can’t be stressed enough.
Early adopters are the most important group of people for a book launch (or any launch, really).
These are the excited readers, the top 3 – 5% of your audience who will buy on proof of concept alone (oftentimes, simply because your name is associated with a project) and spread the word about your book.
You need to identify specifically who these people are.
So if in the last section we decided Game of Thrones readers would love our book, are we part of any GoT book clubs or forums? CAN we join them and be a part of them? Could this be the best venue to seed the book?
One of the easiest places to get early adopters for any new book (or product or service) is from your email list.
If you have one, this group should be on your ‘early adopter’ list and you should lean into them to share and promote your book.
If you DON’T have a list, everything should be focused on how you can begin building a list before your book launches by approaching the appropriate targeted readership and reaching the early adopters of that group.
For Dan’s launch, we knew his blog would include early adopters. But we also knew we could find people passionate about this subject in:
- Targeted FB groups (on business startups and entrepreneurship)
- Sites like Reddit.com, Ozbargain.com, Producthunt.com (anything business / tech + deal related)
- Through similar blog and podcast platforms
The key with this section is to be SPECIFIC and not gloss over it…in fact, if you need to put individual names, do it!
Again, this section needs to be detailed because it’s going to allow us to develop our marketing and promotional campaign initiatives when we eventually launch.
What problem or pain does your reader have?
Once you identify exactly who your ideal reader is, you’ll need to clarify what your book is about and why your readership should care.
This means identifying the main problem your book is solving.
Clarifying the problem helps with sales page copy, newsletter copy, and ultimately: activating your reader segment. When an author articulates a problem the reader has in the language the READER uses himself (often subconsciously), it triggers trust.
For The 7 Day Startup, we were focused on solving the problem of our target demographic or readership (wantrepreneurs), which was this: that aspiring entrepreneurs don’t know how to start a business the right way.
Dan wanted to provide a simpler, more straightforward process aspiring entrepreneurs (wantrepreneurs) could follow to find similar success to his.
For fiction, generally you’re solving the problem of boredom – people read fiction because they love to escape into a new world. The only major consideration is that of genre (sci-fi readers may not care about fantasy, and vice-versa).
How does your book solve the problem?
Once we understand the problem we’re solving, the next question is: how do we actually solve it with our book?
A book is a medium to exchange an idea. In that respect, it’s a lot like YouTube, or a blog, or Twitter…but with a big difference: a book allows us the space and length to dive deep into a subject. That means the solution to the problem we’ve identified ought to be something that benefits from this, not detracts from it.
Have you ever read reviews on Amazon where people say: could have been summed up in a blog post? If you’re solving the right problem with the right medium (in this case, a book), you’ll never see these comments (except from the outlying haters, but you can safely ignore them).
For The 7 Day Startup, Dan kept his book fluff-free – a short, powerful, and most importantly, ACTIONABLE read, complete with a half dozen bonus materials to help you start a business from scratch in 7 days.
This was due largely to the help of some early reviewers (pro-bono readers read and gave editing feedback to Dan) and having a professional editor on staff.
#6. Marketing, Sales, and Distribution Channels
How will you actually REACH your target audience and early adopters?
Next to identifying the target audience for your book, this is the most important part of The Book Marketing Canvas. It doesn’t matter if you write the best book in the world if no one reads it.
Conversely, there are plenty of poorly written books that become bestsellers. The differentiator? Finding a cost-effective way to get in front of your target market (readers and early adopters).
More technically, we’re talking about sales and marketing channels.
These are the mediums we’ll use to reach people who are interested in our book so we can share it with them.
A few examples of sales and marketing channels:
Amazon.com – the biggest online retailer in the world and also the premiere online marketplace for readers (they dominate the ebook market right now), which means if you put a book on Amazon, Amazon itself will act as a sales and marketing channel (if you can rank high on their platform…more on this in a future lesson)
Guest Blogs / Podcasts – this is the best way to get MAJOR traction for your book. Getting featured on guest blogs, podcasts, or newsletters is the single best driver of new sales outside of your personal platform (see email newsletter below). I’ll talk more about how to setup guest blogs and podcasts for your book launch later in this course.
Email Newsletter – arguably THE most powerful medium. An email list is a list of emails (of course) from people who have given you permission to contact them. If you have 100 or more people who have opted into your email list (signed up / asked to be a part of your newsletter, etc.), then you have enough people to make a difference when your book launches. When I launched my first paid book (well, actually, I offered it as PWYW, but still), I only had 160 subscribers. Yet in the first month of release I made $500 from my book. This would NOT have been possible without having a list of people with whom I had permission to share my book.
Facebook.com – if you have a FB page, this is a great way to reach potential readers.
Twitter.com – like FB, if you have real Twitter followers who want to hear from you, this is a great way to reach them and share your book
Google+ / LinkedIn – like FB or Twitter. Great for reaching your target audience.
Ambassador Group – this is a group of people who have signed up to share and promote your book when it comes out. I’ll show you how to build, assemble, and lead an ambassador group later in this course.
#7 Metrics for Success
What is success to you and how do you measure this?
Don’t skip this step.
No matter what your goal, it’s important to identify which metrics are important so you can measure how well you’re doing. I remember my first phone call with Dan about his book.
I had suggested various ways to turn his book into a massive revenue generator.
Here’s what Dan said: “I’m giving this book away for free and you’re not going to change my mind.”
That was fine.
It helped me identify exactly which metrics we should focus on (reach or impact), and which we should not (revenue).
We ultimately decided that reach would be the number one goal, which dictated the platform and process we’d use to launch the book. We chose to release The 7 Day Startup on Amazon’s platform because it allowed Dan’s book to be consumed by the broadest possible audience.
Had we given his book away for free on wpcurve.com, it wouldn’t have reached quite as broad an audience.
It’s important to note too that Dan’s blog and website – because he had a loyal fan base of readers and supporters – would have been the perfect platform to generate more revenue (more than through Amazon) if he had wanted to, but that wasn’t his goal.
So as you can tell, your goals will dictate the metrics for your success, and therefore the way you measure success.
#8. Unique Selling Proposition
What makes this book unique in a way that matters and why should people care?
To wrap up the midsection of the The Book Marketing Canvas, you must identify exactly what makes your book unique.
The question you want to ask yourself (because your reader will be asking it subconsciously) is this:
Why should I take time out of my busy life to read this book, when there are thousands of other books I could read (let alone shows I could watch, movies I could rent, concerts I could enjoy, etc….)?
Here you want to figure out what allows your book to stand out in a very noisy crowd. This reason will be different for every book. It could be one of the following:
- Is it your credentials and positive testimonials you’ve received from big names in your industry?
- Is your book the only one in a niche that is under-served in the Amazon marketplace?
- Is your book packaged or designed differently in a way that adds incredible value to the reader?
- Or is it something else entirely?
Whatever makes this book stand out from the crowd (in a way that matters) gives you your edge.
We want to identify this edge so we can exploit it when it comes to promoting your book.
#9. Pricing and Expenses
Finally, in the bottom section of The Book Marketing Canvas is the more technical side of the book launch:
- What is your overhead for this book? How about for the book launch itself?
- What are your individual expenses (you need to get paid, right)?
- How do you plan to price your book and through what channels (Amazon will take 30 – 65% of your royalties, for example, which can dramatically cut into your bottom line)?
It’s important to note that while these two factors are related, they are entirely independent of one another.
It’s more than possible to sell an entirely digital book, which has close to zero marginal cost and very low overhead, for $300 – it just takes good marketing (and may require you to structure the book less like a book and more like an eCourse or training platform).
On the other hand, a conventional trade paperback can only sell within a narrow price range (around $5 to $20, max), so we better do our due diligence to figure out if this book is even worth writing or selling in the first place.
Dan was adamant about not selling The 7 Day Startup for profit, so we basically just ignored this part.
However, since Dan was planning to purchase paperbacks to hand out at conferences and give as gifts, I collected some basic Createspace print on demand costs for reference.
Your particular situation will depend primarily on goals (see number 6 above), and target audience (number 2).
Wrapping Up + Next Lesson
So this concludes day 2 of “Launch Your Book to Bestseller.” If you haven’t yet, download a copy of The Book Marketing Canvas so you can begin filling out the business plan for your book.
Next lesson, I’m going to cover The Bestseller Book Launch Sequence…a step by step process for turning your book into a bestseller on day 1 of your launch.
Keep an eye out for an email that says: [Day 3] The Bestseller Book Launch Sequence (or how to set your book up for massive success)
Your Turn (Homework!!!)
Still with me?
Leave a comment below and let me know:
- Who is your target audience?
- What is the PAIN your target audience has?
- How do you plan to SOLVE this pain or problem?
This exercise will help you get clarity on your book launch…and I’ll be reading and responding to every entry, so consider this free consulting that I normally charge $3,000 – $12,000 for (true story).
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