Tim Grahl is the marketing brain behind the Story Grid podcast. He has worked with the likes of Hugh Howey and Dan Pink.
Listening to Tim and Shawne on the Story Grid podcast recently got me thinking, not only about writing stories that work – the main focus of the project – but also about marketing books that sell. And marketing books that sell is something that Tim Grahl knows a thing or two about.
I guess it was the podcast that made me purchase Tim's ebook from Amazon: YOUR FIRST 1000 COPIES: THE STEP BY STEP GUIDE TO MARKETING YOUR BOOK. I thought it might be useful to me with this Blog. Hmmmm – time will tell on that one! Anyone who has listened to the Story Grid podcast will know that Tim, despite some pretty impressive achievements in his field is refreshingly arrogance free, and has a laid back persona that is welcoming and inclusive. And in Your First 1000 Copies we find that Tim's persona on the page is equally accessible.
With his work on the Story Grid project with partner, publisher and story charmer, Shawn Coyne, Tim's profile is on the up. Now I've never written a novel (more of that later) but my dad has (more of that later too). I'm sure he'd be the first to admit that like so many self-published writers in an increasingly competitive market, his sales so far have hardly set the world alight.
In Your First 1000 Copies, Tim outlines what he calls the CONNECTION SYSTEM, which basically means that in marketing what we need to think that everything we write is all about building long lasting connections with people and that we do this by being relentlessly helpful.
How to do it:
Connecting with people directly and regularly is key to the Connection System in Your First 1000 Copies and for Tim this means building an email list (do sign up to ours!). The argument is that only email connects you directly with an audience that is already receptive to what you are doing as a writer.
To build an email list you will need: a web presence, an email marketing tool (like MailChimp for example), a clear and prominently placed email sign up form, something to give away.
And of course when your email list grows, you need to keep that connection with relentless and regular content.
One of the sub-headings in Your First 1000 Copies is, tellingly, To blog or not to blog. Tim's answer to this is to celebrate the potential of the blog, but also to warn of the challenges that blogging brings with it. In this book Tim recommends making use of others' platforms as a first priority, be that through columns on major websites, guest entries on other people's blogs, and publication in magazines and anthologies.
Whatever mode of internet presence you choose, Tim's approach to content can be summarised in two words: sharing and adventure.
By sharing we mean to share both what you are doing and what you have. Whether that be extracts, or plans, permafrees, or supplementary resources like reading guides. Long lasting connections depend on being open with your audience. If you think you're sharing just enough, you need to share a little more is the mantra here.
Adventure means that life can be be every bit as engaging as fiction, and that what sharing what we already do – sharing our own learning process – is almost certainly going to land with a lot more people than we think that it will.
If we want people to notice what we are doing we need to be the best influencers that we can be. And just as in the Blog or not to blog section, Grahl suggests that working with other proven influencers can be the best way to build our own following. And how do we get to work with great people like this? By being helpful of course!
Don't ask for help; offer your service.
This is the section where social media comes in. To do that we need to understand our readers or potential readers and give them what they want too. To this end choosing the most appropriate Social Media platform can be key. If you write Young Adult, shouldn't you be on Instagram already?
Don't forget, though, that the best way to connect is always to meet face to face. So go to events and do this whenever and wherever you can. And no, folks, I do not think that this does include Skype.
The final ingredient of successful book marketing is sales, and sales Grahl reminds us, is not a dirty word. In Your First 1000 Copies reminds us to be our own fans. Be positive and enthusiastic about your work. Enthusiasm is infectious.
Make it easy to buy your book. In email communication, give your audience clear and repeated opportunities to buy your book. And don't be afraid to ask for the sale either. Remember that your customers gave you permission to contact them.
They want to know what you have to offer.
Obviously, this article contains a condensed version of the ideas in Your First 1,000 Copies, and to get the full version you can buy the book and read it for yourself. I found the book compelling and the ideas engaging. It's not expensive and it's a pleasant and uplifting read.
As I mentioned at the start, my dad is a self-published author with only limited sales. It'll be interesting to see whether applying the principles of Tim Grahl's Your First 1000 Copies can help him with his next project.
1,000 copies would certainly be a great start.