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Publicity or Content: Which Do You Need Most?

When does publicity translate to book sales? Typically, there’s a slow burn: your book is mentioned for a long, long time—months before it actually goes on sale. Delayed gratification can be meaningful! With this seed planted long ago in people’s minds, your book suddenly appears anywhere and everywhere when launch month comes.

However, there’s a powerful myth that needs debunking, and that myth is that publicity is what matters most for book sales.

Too often, writers hinge all of their hopes on media attention, which is variable, unscientific, and often, something our egos long for, but readers don’t care about as much as we think.

What makes a reader pull the trigger? Belief in your credibility and interest in your ideas—and not necessarily because a television host or journalist said so.

Here’s another insight:

The factors a buyer considers are often the same as those a publisher considers when evaluating an author’s work for publication. Media recognition is a nice-to-have. But it’s not a need-to-have.

Content, however, is a necessity. And this can be delivered in a number of more quantifiably proven formats, such as:

  • A newsletter: A consistent, engaging, subscription-based forum through which a dedicated audience looks to you for regular, valuable content.
  • Articles: With book review coverage shrinking, the media often looks for pre-baked, well-written articles they can simply roll out. Worry less about giving out valuable ideas for free, and more about the benefits you’ll see in increasing exposure for your ideas (and your book!) through proven thought leadership.
  • Courses/Training/Speaking: Publishers are looking for books that can “backlist,” meaning, if you have a training program that you bring to companies, or a course where the book is part of the curriculum, you’re guaranteeing your book’s long-term value.
  • Controversy: Here’s a fun, counterintuitive one. It’s not necessarily the number of Twitter followers you have, but your Twitter savvy in putting your book at the forefront of controversial conversations, which can create a viral word-of-mouth effect. But this can be a slippery slope, so pick your controversy wisely and address it professionally.

Combine any or all of the above with a media outreach effort, and that’s when things can really take off.