My rating: 5 of 5 stars † in time.
A caveat to start: I’ve been a fan of Tim Grahl’s work for a while. And this is a good starter for his basic ideas. (I don’t get rewarded in any way to write this just so you know.)
At first, I attacked this as the word of a high priest and found myself flailing a bit—there is a lot to do here.
To help myself out, I signed up for some of his other content, some free, some paid (he is a book consultant, so I can’t fault him for getting paid), but these just piled even more on the mountain of WAY TOO MUCH TO DO.
† But, I did find a way to tunnel through to the other side. More on that at bottom.
In this slender book, Grahl has written a handbook for a method to connect with readers for the long term. A way of approaching marketing that isn’t salesy. Rather a way of helping strangers get what they want, and so doing, getting what you want—fans who buy your books.
The book starts off explaining what his kind of marketing isn’t and gives examples of how writers have been frustrated by not having a way to talk to fans.
Then, he presents his version of marketing—which he breaks down into three parts:
- content and
- setting up a way to talk to people
- creating good stuff to give away
- then giving it away to engage readers, while offering them a chance to get more even more good stuff they want, including your book.
See, since you’ll be giving away stuff related to your book the people you attract are interested in what you are writing, and willing to pay for the good stuff. (Which you are writing, correct?)
There is a lot to absorb here, but one great thought regarding giving writing away—“would you rather give too much, or be obscure”?
Think about it: which is worse? Toiling away, unknown to the world, hoarding your all your precious words, which no one will hear, let alone pay for; or giving away some, or a lot, of it, and having people ask for more, for which they will then pay?
Bottom line: writing a book is easier than selling it. By a long shot. But this books gives one a path to follow. Most of the examples are non-fiction and work best for non-fiction writers. After all, what can a fiction writer be an expert in that can then lead to reading about a made up world in another universe? History? Sociology? People reading fiction aren’t down for reading history books or survey courses in soc.
A fiction writer has to do more work with the ideas here—and subtle change the helping part to “being relentlessly helpful in assisting people who would enjoy reading it to be able to find it.”
A non-fiction writer can give a lot of content away in the field their book is about. This builds the writer’s expertise, which also drives followers, which then provides a built-in market for the book.
Fiction doesn’t have that built-in content market. A Perfect Blindness is “a rock’n’roll fantasy,” which opens wide the lives of three people as they try to make it in the music industry of the late 80s early 90s Chicago. While that’s the plot, the stories are about identity, and how “we are all just the misunderstood characters in the stories other people tell themselves.”
I can’t really post articles about how we form our identity and become a go-to expert in psychology to then sell those folks a book about twenty-somethings striving to make it in the music industry. Don’t work.
Neither can I really build my expertise as a musician working 35 years ago, playing clubs that no longer exist on obsolete equipment. Might be a curiosity for music historians, but this is fiction. What good would that do? It’s authentic feeling, but I’m not a historian.
And being in your late twenties now is not like the pre-iPhone/dialup AOL pay-by-the-hour days. It’s a different universe.
Being an expert in these things isn’t useful for me. Sure there are some genres where experience in, let’s say in law enforcement or espionage will lend authority to the book, but people aren’t really looking for a documentary; only authenticity. The overlap is far smaller for fiction than non-fiction.
But, that doesn’t mean the tools and ideas here are useless. Hardly. They are very useful. But a fiction writer needs to adapt. This isn’t gospel: It’s a map, with lots of options.
By the way, I have listened to or watched a lot of his video and audio content, and while I can say much of his advice is a better fit for non-fiction writers—such as the building a following and your expertise on a blog or with social media—than for fiction writers, much of the nuts and bolts of ideas here work for us Fiction Folks. One just has to adjust the ideas a bit.
The one I liked the most is the “Ultimate Author Platform.” † I learned a hell of a lot about mailing lists and WordPress—it’s the tunnel I followed to through the mountain of way-too-much-to-do. I still have piles of things to do, but it’s no longer an indomitably high mountain.
He has other stuff to check out. Give him a google.
This book lays out the basics. With patience, it’s a solid foundation.