Tim Grahl. 2013. Your First 1,000 Copies: The Step-by-Step Guide to Marketing Your Book. Lynchburg: Out:Think Group.
Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra
The word on the street is that less than 5 percent of self-published authors sell 1,000 books. Most sell none at all which means that the first book sold, even to your mother, is a critical threshold. Thus, when I noticed a book entitled—Your First 1000 Copies by Tim Grahl—it got my attention and I bought a copy.
“This short book will solve that problem [knowing how to sell] by providing a clear, actionable and proven system to author platform building…A platform is whatever plan and method you use to connect with your readers and sell books, whether it’s traveling the world to speak, hand-selling to friends or building a popular blog.” (ii)
This is a big promise for a small book so what is the plan? Grahl calls it his “connection system” which he describes as:
“Our journey into online platform building will start with the best way to get Permission to communicate regularly with your fans. Then we will discuss how to engage your readers through Content that you will make freely and widely available. Once you have permission and content, we will examine how to find and connect with new readers through Outreach. Finally, we will talk about how you use Permission, Content, and Outreach to naturally and ethically Sell your books.” (iii)
A couple of very interesting principles are mentioned in Grahl’s system. For example, the idea of permission means that this system is not your traditional marketing framework which assumes that you are selling to people that you do not personally know at any level. Fans know you and you know your fans at least well enough that they have trusted their personal email address to you. In fact, Grahl redefines marketing as two things: ”(1) creating long-lasting connections with people through (2)…being relentlessly helpful” (8-11) They are willing to trust you in this case because they have read your free content and identified with it helping solve one of their problems.
After a chapter about marketing, Grahl’s book is organized around how to apply these principles in your own connection system. Let me turn to each in turn.
Permission. After reviewing options in social media, Grahl highlights developing an email list as an author’s first priority (27). Two reasons stand out: (1) you as author control the list and (2) people read their email daily. With other social media, access to your contacts is controlled by a firm which may or may not allow you direct access and people are much less committed to actually reading the content provided.
Grahl suggests using an email service—MailChimp, Aweber or Constant Contact (28)—and suggests making the signup process both obvious and compelling. He sees the most obvious signup mechanism as a popup box, delayed 20 seconds to assure that your website visitor is actually engaged, not just passing through (36-38). He sees compelling content in your newsletter as the primary way to keep readers engaged and willing to come back (38-39).
Content. Free is everyone’s favorite price, but authors know that free can be costly. Grahl sees 3 reasons why free content is essential:
- It allows people to interact with your content before signing up,
- It gives other bloggers, journalists, and other publishers something to link to and publicize your work, and
- It gives search engines, like Google, something to index so that people can find your work (51-52).
In other words, your free content helps make your work discoverable and gives them a reason to want to. Grahl suggests focusing on content that will not grow stale over time (74) and building on top of other people’s platforms, like blogging on LinkedIn (55).
Outreach. Grahl sees outreach as necessary to growing your platform. How exactly do you find new readers? (80-81) A key component of this outreach is empathy—“the intellectual identification or vicarious experiencing of feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.” (82) The reason empathy is key is because it allows you to serve your fans in ways that we keep them coming back for more and your influencers to want to work with you in achieving your goals (87).
Sell. Once you have permission from your fans, you have offered them compelling content, and have demonstrated that you serve their needs, they will be willing and hopefully eager to hear about your products. At this point, Grahl advises authors to be enthusiastic about their own work—be your own fan (113). If this advice sounds easy, try working for a year or two on a writing project and still be as excited about it as you were the first day! If you are not enthusiastic, then who exactly will be? When you are excited, then your fans will pick up on your enthusiasm and asking for them to buy your book will come easier.
Grahl suggests offering the first 10 percent of your book online as a teaser to get readers interesting and asking for more (115). He suggests a “call to action” page with blurbs, a photo of you and a short bio, and hyperlinks to purchasing the book (116). If you are like me, this is not what your call to action page looks like, but Grahl makes the case that a call to action page should ask you to buy the book, give details, and be presented multiple times, although perhaps not all in the same way.
Tim Grahl’s book, Your First 1000 Copies, is a helpful and readable guide to how to market a self-published book. Grahl’s approach is believable because he works as a marketing consultant to authors and cites numerous cases studies taken from his own clients’ experiences. His focus on email marketing also lends credibility to his advice because anyone who has tried to market books knows how hard it is to make online sales. In my own experience, about 10 percent of my books are sold online and the other 90 percent are sold in person—in other words, as a new author you are selling yourself, not your books, to most of your readers. Consequently, I expect to adjust my marketing strategy in view of having read Grahl’s book. I expect that you will too.
 I recently reviewed one of Grahl’s clients: The Heath’s Stick to Communication (http://wp.me/p3Xeut-1zK).