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Get caught up on the 4S series here: 4S | Self | Story | Support | Sales

Selling your books is a process that quickly gets out of control, leading to confusion, indecision, overwhelm, and then shut down.

The cause is too much information, too quickly, and at the wrong time. 

Authors (and everyone else on the planet) are consumers of information, but consumption also requires digestion and integration–the most important part of learning

So all those podcasts you binged about author marketing were a colossal waste of your time if you don’t digest and integrate what you heard. Did you go out and DO the thing you learned about, let it sit for a bit, and then come back to analyze it?

If the answer is no, you just wasted your time. When the time comes for you to do things, you will have to learn it again because the first time you consumed but didn’t allow the information time to stick.

The same rule applies to structures, foundations, frameworks, methods for selling books. What someone else does won’t necessarily be right for you. Just because some guy is famous for marketing books doesn’t mean it will be the magic solution to your sales problems. Or because some Facebook group is obsessed with ad strategy, sharing tips, tricks, and rants about ads all day, doesn’t mean ads are right for you.

The number one thing you need to do when creating your marketing plan is to get curious, get comfortable with risk, and get listening to your intuition.

The most effective way to sell more books is to create a marketing plan that you are excited to implement. The most impressive sales techniques in the world won’t sell you a single book if you don’t show up—or worse, show up half-assed and confuse people.

If your goal is to sell books, what’s the path of least resistance between the book and the reader? This trail will look different for everyone.

Everything you do will fall under one of these four categories, and the goal is streamline, simplify, and eventually automate/outsource.

One of the biggest problems I see with authors in all genres is the slow shift away from being a writer and toward becoming a marketing expert. I’m guessing you didn’t start writing with the goal of accidentally changing careers half way through?

The four tiers of an Author Marketing plan are Vision, Strategy, Tactics, and Gimmicks (not all gimmicks are slimy, I promise).


Your vision is just for you—the ultimate goal, the dream, the state of being that you’re after in your publishing career. Where do you want this journey to take YOU? If you’re unsure, write your Vision scene.

The typical day scene is a written account of a day-in-the-life of you, the author. There’s a reason it’s a typical day and not a special day too. It’s easy to imagine the day your book comes out, or the premiere of your movie/show, but those dreams are also too specific and not a representation of your inner success and happiness.

Think to the future, if everything went your way and you got all the things you wanted, what would a typical day in your life look like five/ten years from now. I’m guessing it doesn’t involve you obsessing over ad copy? Dig into this scene and write it down as if it were a scene in a novel. When you write down your goals and dreams, they become that much more real—more attainable.

Don’t hold back, but don’t get too carried away either (we all want million-dollar book deals). Stretch your vision of who you want to be (not just what you want to get) and how you want to exist in this world but start today. Start where you are right this second. You don’t need to change your circumstances, core values or personality to become a successful author. And you can’t change the facts of your life/the world right now.

Write the details and experience your success in the way that feels right for you and your life. Grab your Dreams to Goals Guide to dig into this exercise.


Your strategy is your big picture view or map of how you’ll make it to your vision by providing your audience with a magical experience. This is where your readers become important in your marketing.

How will you show up? Where will you be? What is the path you’ll take your readers down? What landmarks of your life/writing are essential for your readers to see?

Often the word strategy gets tossed into things like ads, funnels, opt-ins, and the like, but in truth, none of those things is an author strategy by themselves. Your strategy is the engine, how all the bits fit together to make the whole machine work. The purpose of an engine is to drive a car. The goal of your marketing strategy is to sell books.

Your strategy also includes your reader journey. You need to understand how readers browse and buy books, move through the process, and build your marketing strategy around their needs while remaining true to you.

Easy, right?


A tactic is one small, focused effort to gain a specific result. So the overall goal is to sell books. A tactic is to release a free story to get people on your email list. The free story is the tactic, and the specific result is more people on your list, the big picture is that they’ll eventually buy your book.

There are hundreds of tactics to try and test, to mix and match. Your job while creating your marketing strategy is to fill it with tactics that work for you, your readers, and your time—not with what others tell you to do. I’m not saying ‘don’t trust book marketers’, what I’m saying is they don’t have a magic framework no matter what they might promise you. So don’t try to cram yourself into someone else’s vision.

The only absolute I have when marketing is never lead your reader into a dead end.

This phrase is repeated to my authors over and over again.

The secret to creating effective tactics that support a solid strategy is the LOOP EFFECT. Every call to action should take your reader on a journey back to you.

What does this look like in practice?

The simplest is the end matter of your book (yes, your end matter is a marketing tool not just a thing you need at the end of a book). When someone buys your book and reads it, is that the end of the line? Or do you have a link to sign up for your email list, get another book from the series, or join your discussion group? The link in the back of the book brings them back into your world–it completes the loop.

Every tactic you employ to expand your readership, grow your following, or sell your book should be AFTER you’ve thought through your loop. What are you asking readers to do? And how are they directed back to you after doing it?


A bad reputation follows the gimmick around like a shadow, but gimmicks themselves aren’t gross, the people who misuse them for selfish reasons are.

A gimmick is simply a way to get fast results with minimal effort. Unethical marketers use tricks and bribes to pad numbers and create false promises to get self-serving results but at the core of a well used gimmick is reward.

Giving away a $50 gift card is a gimmick. You’re relying on the basic fact that most people like getting free money. But the reward is so open-ended that the goal isn’t to provide real value to readers, it’s to get as many people to sign up as possible regardless of what they need. Misused gimmicks are selfish marketing because you care more about your numbers, ranking, profit, or status than you do about offering readers something they will need/want.

How I recommend authors use gimmicks is to serve their existing readers by rewarding them for their support.

Let’s say you have 500 people on your email list, and your next book is about to release, but there isn’t a lot of buzz happening even though your launch strategy is in place. You can whip up a quick gimmick that will help boost the buzz plus offer the people who are already supporting you a reward for their efforts.

Send out an email and ask your subscribers to share your release with their followers on social media and send you a link to the post. They’ll be entered into a draw for $50 for each platform they share on up to three platforms.

Important Note: You cannot use this to get reviews, that goes against Amazon’s terms of service. Getting more buzz around your book sure, but you cannot reward readers for reviews.

It’s quick and dirty, but instead of being greedy about it and trying to get numbers through manipulating strangers, be strategic and reward those who already support you.

Your road to selling books to readers will be full of vision, strategy, tactics, and gimmicks. They should work for you and make you excited to show up for your readers.

Each one will inform the other, but if you keep these things centered in your mind, your marketing plan will almost create itself:

  • Start where you ARE, not where you wish you were
  • Fill your strategy with things you’re excited to try
  • Always lead your readers back to you using the LOOP EFFECT
  • Reward the readers you already have with gimmicks, and forget about your vanity metrics
  • Remember that your best marketing strategy is always the ONE YOU’RE ACTUALLY GOING TO SHOW UP FOR

Feel free to check out our DIY resources HERE or learn ways to work with us HERE.

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