Summoning the Gumption

February 19, 2020

By: Lee LeFever

I write books and run a company called Common Craft. I recently moved from Seattle to a rural island. Here, I write about online business, book publishing, modern home construction, and occasionally, dumb jokes.
Photo of desk with glasses and book

Over the last six months, I’ve been mentally preparing to publish my second book. During that time, most of the writing was completed and the process was on track. It felt good to see it take shape. But lingering in the back of my mind was always a voice reminding me that publishing a book means more than just writing it. One of the real challenges, especially for a less established author like myself, is introducing the book to the world. For Big Enough, my next book, marketing the book is the hill I must soon climb. 

For longtime authors like Stephen King or Seth Godin, book marketing is less of a challenge because they’ve spent many years establishing their brand of writing and honing their marketing. Their names are attached to a genre, style, and perspective. Their fans will reliably buy any book they publish because they know what to expect. 

I don’t have that luxury. Big Enough is a book about our business and fans aren’t currently beating down my door to hear what I have to say about the subject. In that context, I’m relatively unknown. This means I have to give them a reason to be interested and that’s more difficult than it sounds.  

I’ve been through this once before. When I published The Art of Explanation in 2012, it needed to be introduced to the world, too. It was my first book, so no one had any expectations regarding my writing. But I had a secret weapon. Starting in 2007, the “explainer” style videos Sachi and I produced at Common Craft became very well-known, with tens of millions of views. We were, to a small degree, internet famous. A book about explanation skills was very much on-brand and expected. It was obvious why I was the person to write it. 

Given this history of video production, my name is most often connected to creativity, communication, and education. And that’s the challenge. In publishing Big Enough, I am re-introducing myself as not only a video producer but an entrepreneur who has a business-focused story to tell. 

The question becomes: how? How, over the next four months, will I change that perception and position myself as the right person for writing this book? 

This is, at heart, a marketing challenge and one that’s not absolutely required. I could write and publish the book without marketing it at all. In this case, the book would suddenly appear on Amazon and bookshelves without anyone expecting it. And it could work. Sometimes a book can do well by simply existing, but I am not willing to take that risk. 

For Big Enough, I plan to throw myself at the marketing beast. My challenge is to learn how to market a book successfully. If I can develop a marketing strategy that fits with my style, I will have a head start for future books. 

Here’s the ideal scenario… Over the next few months, I publish multiple articles, blog posts and videos that focus on the ideas in the book and point people to the book web page. I appear on podcasts and do interviews that promote it. I share links on social media that are retweeted and shared on Facebook. Popular blogs and newsletters write about the book and point people to the book’s web page and sign up to receive a free chapter and be notified when it drops. Slowly but surely, demand builds and people become interested. They tell friends. Readers have been primed for action and on the day it’s released, it makes a splash that puts it in front of even more people and momentum builds from there. That’s the ideal scenario.

For me, that day is May 5th, 2020. My focus between now and then will be on that splash, how high it can go, and how far the ripples will travel. 

Making this happen, even to a small degree, is a challenge that I’m not taking lightly. I’m cautious about turning people away or making a bad impression by selling too hard. To get through it, I am summoning my gumption. It’s up to me, the author, to put myself out there and say, “Order my book. Read my articles. Post a review. Sign up for my emails. Share my posts, please?”

I don’t take naturally to self-promotion or promotion at all, really. But I also feel that my book is something people in my market will enjoy and want to know exists. It would be a mistake to put so much effort into it and just hope for the best. Instead, my plan is to promote it in a style that fits with me and I’m ready for the challenge. I’m ready to experiment and push myself. Most of all, I’m ready to learn.


This post originally appeared in my newsletter, Ready for Rain.

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