From the Archives: “Determining What Book Readers Want”

Welcome back to our Tuesday segment, where we’ll be revisiting some of our most popular posts from the last few years.  What’s stayed the same?  And what’s changed?  We’ll be updating you on the facts, and taking a new (and hopefully refreshing) angle on a few timeless classics of Self Publishing Advisor.


[ Originally posted: July 20th, 2010 ]

Your book content – fiction, non-fiction, children’s, religious – naturally presumes a value to readers intending to be entertained or learn something from your work. How do they decide they want to read your book?

They don’t. You do. Sound like an incredible power? It is. Its name: Marketing

When Thomas Edison turned 16 do you suppose he wanted a Tesla Roadster? Probably not. In order to want something you need to know it exists. One definition of marketing is convincing a a mass of people to want what you have. That puts you, the author of your book, in the cat bird’s seat. Who knows your book better than you, after-all.

How readers know about books has changed a great deal over the past decade, and my guess is that trend will continue. With Amazon, Twitter, Podcasts, Bookfinder, etc. we no longer rely on a single-minded source for telling us about books. A good CEO (the self-published author) knows how to leverage the expertise of others and delegate work. Consider the long-term. Research self-publishers with ongoing marketing support and services. Being published is rarely even enough.

– by Kelly Schuknecht

“Readers are not sheep, and not every pen tempts them.”
Vladimir Nabokov, Lectures on Literature

“Why are we reading, if not in hope of beauty laid bare, life heightened and its deepest mystery probed? Can the writer isolate and vivify all in experience that most deeply engages our intellects and our heats? Can the writer renew our hope for literary forms? Why are we reading if not in hope that the writer will magnify and dramatize our days, will illuminate and inspire us with wisdom, courage, and the possibility of meaningfulness, and will press upon our minds the deepest mysteries, so we may feel again their majesty and power?”
Annie Dillard, The Writing Life


When we talk about knowing what we want and making our readers want it to, it’s not quite the same thing as the sales pitch for selling a car. (Although sometimes I envy car salesmen their confidence.)  When we talk about selling our readers on our book, we’re talking about something more grand and with farther-reaching effects–we’re talking about selling that reader on a dream.  We’re not simply marketing, as nice and simple of a descriptive term that might be. We’re in the business of changing the trajectories of peoples’ interests … with nothing more or less than the power of words.

know what you want

Which is not to discount the profound importance of marketing in the world of self-publishing! Marketing isn’t optional for the self-publishing author–it’s absolutely vital. How else will new readers know that your book exists? How else will they know where to track it down and buy it?

You can’t sell readers on a dream if they don’t know it exists.

So how do you keep your marketing strategy from dipping into the hazardous waters of the car salesman’s sales pitch? Several thoughts:

  • Be authentic. We dislike car salesmen as a stereotype at least because we’ve been taught to perceive them as fake.
  • Actually care. Care about your reader. Remember, writing and selling a book isn’t just about your bottom line. It’s making sure your book is received by its ideal audience at the ideal moment. Money is great, but it shouldn’t be the sole purpose of what authors do–and your readers can sense when it is. Prioritize your readers’ needs by putting yourself in their shoes. What is their native habitat? Where do they feel safe? How can you reach them where they already live?
  • Be engaged. You might not be able to respond to every tweet and Facebook comment you receive as an author, but making an effort to respond to readers regularly on the platforms they love is a great signal that you’re not some aloof writer who’s out of touch with the world you live in.
  • Give back. There are a lot of fun ways to do this that drum up your marketing base, too–giving is, in fact, necessary to receive. Consider giveaways, donations, free webinars or live chats, and all of those other ways in which you as an author can interact with your readers in a way that’s fresh and honest and mindful of their needs.

Remember, too, that marketing doesn’t have to be boring. You’re not selling a car. You’re selling your book. And your book is amazing!

Thanks for reading.  If you have any other ideas, I’d love to hear them.  Drop me a line in the comments section below and I’ll respond as quickly as I can.  ♠


ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog,

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