The 10 Real Secrets of Nonfiction Publicity

by Richard Campbell

You’ve written a nonfiction book. It’s up for sale on Amazon and hopefully in bookstores everywhere. Now you wonder what to do with it. Maybe it will sell millions of copies on its own merit. Or thousands. Not likely. Hundreds? Maybe. Your book deserves better.

Just look at the dozens of book marketing titles, each with its own angle. Social Media is the answer. Being famous is the answer. Powerful content is all that counts. Answers, answers, and more answers. None of them tell the whole truth.

Here are ten real secrets of nonfiction publicity that many people ignore. They are essential ingredients towards creating a real bestselling nonfiction title.

One of the most formidable ways to attract attention is by creating a marketing hook.

This is a short phrase that entices the reader onward. Rob Eagar is author of Sell Your Book Like Wildfire, considered THE bible of book marketing. Rob tells his clients: “Use the ‘What if I told you…?’ question to create an effective hook. For example, I always get an author’s attention when I say, ‘What if I told you never tell people what your book is about?’ They give me a quizzical look, because I grabbed their attention. Then, I say, ‘Never tell people what your book is about. Tell people what’s in it for them.’ Now, I know I have their attention.”

Credibility comes mainly from traditional publishing.

Think of this when planning to self-publish. Having a book published by a recognized company will give you greater access to the Barnes & Nobles of the world. It will make speaking engagements easier to book. The influencers of the world will be more inclined to hire your expertise. Yes, you can potentially earn more money by going on your own, but to do this you must have an entrepreneurial mindset. You need to be a marketing whiz.

Make connections daily.

Contact potential clients. Ask friends to introduce you to people they know. Jack Canfield, co-creator of the Chicken Soup series, has what he calls the Rule of Five. Every day, religiously, you need to connect with at least five influencers. Be relentless with this. It will pay off in the end with you creating your own luck.

You need to create an email list.

Having a website is not enough. Without that contact information, nothing else will work. In fact, many publishers and agents will not take you on as a client unless you have a strong, targeted email list. For example, if your book is about the pros and cons of retirement, you will need to target people in the 55+ range. Having several thousand targeted ‘contacts’ of a particular demographic profile suggests that many will buy your book when it is released. Without them, your website will not have the power to draw business. Create a strong email list before spending your time on social media advertising. Once you have set the email list process in motion, ramp it up and attract more readers by creating free website content. Examples include short newsletters, special reports, white papers, podcasts, and teleseminars. Then offer low to moderately priced content before offering an expensive product such as a major e-course. Remember to always under-promise and over-deliver.

Social media can play an active part in building your list.

An entire industry exists to help sell your products in this manner. But always remember that users of sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Pinterest are not necessarily there to ‘buy.’ It’s their social time. They don’t like to be sold to. Building their trust is most important and that takes time and effort. Many authors spend too much of their time and energy juggling content between platforms. They end up feeding a beast that chews up words and time relentlessly.

Amazon features a remarkable site called Author Central.

This is your opportunity as both a traditionally published and self-published writer to create a personal Author Page. You can post your biography, photo, blogs, and links to your website. Best of all, your book is featured for easy purchase. Why is this site so important? It helps promote your book and makes you easier to find. Plus it’s free.

Speaking engagements sell books.

This is where many authors must step outside their comfort zone. Join Toastmasters. Start off with local clubs and groups. Do it for free until you learn the basics of public engagement. Speaking gigs can lead to referrals—and at one point you can begin charging. An added bonus is that you can also make money through back-of-room sales of your book.

Hiring a publicist isn’t always the wisest investment.

It can be extremely expensive and the ROI is often difficult to determine. Yes, it may generate some initial media interest but that soon dies down. The energy leaves the building. Before hiring outside help, always ask: What books similar to mine have you promoted in the past? Being your own publicist can be your best investment in time.

Come from a place of giving.

In one way we live in a kinder, gentler world. Free access to the internet has led to an expectation of sharing. Don’t horde your knowledge. Give away as much as you can. Be generous. It will always come back to you. The same can be applied to media interviews. Producers don’t want to sell your book. They are looking for something that will interest their audience. It’s all about ratings. So give them what they need.

Ultimately, you will need to reframe your idea of book promotion.

In his book, “Your First 1,000 Copies,” Tim Grahl redefines marketing as: “The act of building long-lasting connections with people.” The world is growing less tolerant of self-serving hustle selling. You are not marketing your book to make a fortune. That’s the unlikely reality. You are selling it because you are passionate about what it can bring to readers. Believe in what you wrote. Own it. Live it. Sales will follow.

Bonus: Forget trying to make your book a Number 1 Amazon bestseller.

It’s an artificial measurement that respected publishers and literary agents don’t always take seriously. For example, Amazon has a “Pets” category. There’s a sub-section on Pets and Animal Care. That’s where you might easily have an Amazon Best-seller, even if for just a few hours. Invest your time wisely.

Richard Campbell runs his own life-story writing business in Ontario, Canada. As co-author of Writing Your Legacy: The Step-by-Step Guide to Crafting Your Life Story, published by Writer’s Digest, he teaches these concepts to students around North America. He also offers enrichment classes on life-story writing with a major cruise line on their transatlantic crossings. Richard can be reached through his website,

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One thought on “The 10 Real Secrets of Nonfiction Publicity

  1. dcaraz

    Richard Campbell offers solid advice for authors facing the task of marketing their published work.
    Despite Cambell’s focus on nonfiction, these marketing suggestions seem equally appropriate for promoting works of fiction. I loved Richard’s emphasis on maintaining our passion about we have written. The point about Amazon’s Author Central was a valuable surprise. My sole discomfort is the assumption that in order to gain any sort of following, writers must first be willing to become full-time self promoters and public speakers who continually publish newsletters, blogs and other web content. Campbell may layout tried and true means to book selling success, but I have my doubts that most people who are motivated to write also possess the urge to immerse themselves in all the mentioned aspects of self-promotion.