For 21 years I’ve been marketing my services.
My book pushed me into the realm of product marketing.
By self-publishing my book Teenage Wastebrand: How Your Brand Can Stop Struggling and Start Scaling, I got to create, produce, and market a product.
People ask me how long it took to write the book.
My friend and writing expert Anne Janzer dislikes that question. She would say I’d been “priming the pump” – preparing to write and exploring the subject – with my newsletter articles for years.
This is true. Does that count as book writing time?
I’ll tell you that from the moment I made the decision to write the book to the day it was published was three years and three months. (Forgive me Anne!)
Three years and three months isn’t long when I think about it, but going in I thought it would happen faster.
Boy was I naïve.
Shepherding the book through creation, production, and initial launch felt like having a separate business or another child.
My emotions ranged from euphoric highs when I hit milestones like finishing the first draft, publishing, and selling my first copy, to despairing depths when my laptop died mid-revision and the first two graphic designers I hired did not work out.
I celebrated the milestones.
The equipment and hiring failures, and the time delays they caused, hit hard.
Here are 10 marketing lessons I learned or relearned on my book journey.
1. Target a specific audience
For an author, this translates to “write to someone.” Before I drafted a word, I crafted an ideal reader persona.
My ideal reader is a business owner who did not study business in school and who recoils from marketing jargon. He likes sports and enjoys American culture. (Yes, I chose to target men.) He is smart, dedicated to his business, and reads to self-educate.
The persona steered choices I made for the book — the business owners I interviewed, the stories I told, the cultural references I made.
Focusing on an ideal reader enabled me to write as if I was talking to him, with language that would engage him and details that would interest him.
Has my book appealed more widely? Yes.
Women and business-educated readers have enjoyed it as well as readers in England, Ireland, India, Canada, France, and Spain. Many of my readers share at least one of my target persona’s traits, like being a business owner.
I’m thrilled to have these readers! I needed to write to my target persona though to ensure my writing would resonate with my ideal reader.
2. Get expert guidance.
My first act in writing my book was to hire my developmental editor, Chantel Hamilton. As the title implies, Chantel helped me shape my book.
What a winning decision! I learned so much from her. Her guidance elevated the quality of the book in a way I could not have alone.
3. Hire the right team.
In addition to investing in an excellent developmental editor, I also hired a copyeditor, proofreader, graphic designer, and indexer.
Writing and marketing are my strengths. My team helped me deliver a quality product by playing to theirs.
4. Back up your work.
Yes, this is a marketing lesson. If you are a creator and lose your product, you have nothing to sell.
If you lose your customers’ information, your orders or your correspondence, you can be set back, disappoint customers, and lose business. Create backups regularly and store them offsite.
When my laptop melted in April 2020, I was in the middle of the manuscript’s second revision. Thankfully, one of my multiple backups had the most updated version.
5. Get audience feedback.
My developmental editor helped get the content of my initial manuscript in great shape. Beta readers read my manuscript and provided feedback that made it better.
Early readers got an advanced copy of the book. Some had suggestions that improved it further. One may have saved me from being sued by a Hollywood studio. Another’s sensitivity helped me avoid turning some readers off.
My thanks to all of them!
6. Quality matters.
This book reflects on me and my brand. I delayed the launch to make the changes I mentioned above because I wanted to deliver the best book possible.
When Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature did not display my ebook properly, I pushed their technical team to fix it. It took several weeks, but my persistence paid off.
To self-publish printed books, I rely on two print-on-demand services, Amazon and IngramSpark. I reviewed author copies from both companies in advance to ensure they printed correctly.
When IngramSpark delivered hard cover books with crushed corners and misaligned dust jackets, I pressed them for better quality replacements.
I won’t distribute substandard copies.
7. Production and marketing are both full-time jobs.
Most companies have full-time employees dedicated to one role or the other.
What made me think I could do both?
Did I mention I was naïve?
I was intrigued to learn the production process. I’m glad I did. My appreciation for everyone in a production role – their patience, attention to detail, and planning skills – has soared.
My mistake was underestimating the time and energy that production would take. I was not able to line up as many marketing activities as I had hoped prior to my launch date.
8. You can’t please everyone, so you’ve got to please yourself.
This lesson may seem to conflict with #1, target a specific audience.
Here’s the thing. Even within a specific audience, opinions differ.
I conducted research on four different titles for my book, pitting one title against another.
My research results split. Down. The. Middle.
Without a marketing research background, I might have pulled my hair out.
Instead, I read every comment. Only one title incited emotion: Teenage Wastebrand.
Some raved about it. Others panned it. Some confused it for a book about teenagers.
Love it or hate it, Teenage Wastebrand got attention and generated feeling.
I’ve had more than one high-profile marketing expert advise me against the title, but I stuck with it because I liked it and in the three seconds I had to grab someone’s attention, it worked.
Similarly, some people admire my book cover and others dislike it. At least one person despises it.
As the child of an artist, I know art is in the eye of the beholder. (Thanks Mom!)
After developing and testing different designs, I went with this one because I liked it and so did enough other people to give me confidence it would work.
9. Ship when the product is ready.
Fans of Seth Godin will recognize this advice. Seth says, “Ship before you are ready, because you will never be ready.”
Perfectionism is a bane I conquered earlier in life.
While my quality standards are high, I also knew that if I kept tweaking the book and waited until I had every marketing opportunity I wanted set up, I might never publish.
The book might have had a bigger launch if I had waited, but I have already helped many business owners.
That was my goal.
My interpretation of Seth’s advice is: Don’t wait to help your audience if you can help now.
10. Good will abounds.
Friends, family, colleagues, and connections delighted me with their support.
My book club and my fabulous friend Carlos Oramas sent flowers the day I published.
Many bought books. Readers have reached out to share how much they enjoyed the book and how it has helped them.
Some posted reviews on Amazon. (Thank you!)
Social media connections congratulated me, commented on my posts, and shared my news.
One reader finished the book in a weekend and recommended it to another business owner he thought could benefit. I find that the highest compliment!
The book has led to invitations to book clubs, to guest posts on blogs, and to podcast interviews.
I’m grateful to every reader, reviewer, interviewer, friend, family member, colleague, and connection who has helped in any way. Thank you!
I’ve Just Begun
My book is young. I’m still producing and marketing it.
The large print version will debut in September. I’ll be recording the audiobook then, and expect to publish it later in the fall.
The marketing will go on for years. I’m hoping to do more in-person events. Meeting readers face-to-face brings the greatest joy.
And while all of this is happening…I’ll be keeping my eye out for my next book topic.
You may think I’m crazy, but I want to do it again!
P.S. I’m having a blast on my podcast interview tour.
Click on the show name to listen to my most recent interviews:
The Marketing Book Podcast with Douglas Burdett. Doug is renown for his indepth interview preparation. He had a field day inserting movie sound bites into our conversation.
The Business Storytelling Podcast with Christoph Trappe. Christoph and I talked about why company leaders and founders need to be involved in the branding – it’s not just a marketing department initiative.
Team Storey with Stephanie Storey. Stephanie delved more into my personal history and asked about my experience writing the book.
Extra Innings with Jay Myers – I interviewed Jay for my book, so it was fun for us to switch roles. Our conversation included advice to up-and-coming entrepreneurs.
Just for Fun
I borrowed lesson #8, “you can’t please everyone, so you’ve got to please yourself,” from Rick Nelson’s “Garden Party” song. Click here to watch him perform it.
If you love to read as I do, you may enjoy this 10-question Reveal Your Character! quiz. My results revealed I’m Galadriel from The Lord of the Rings. This may be where my similarities with Cate Blanchett end.
Which character are you?