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The World of Marketing 5: The Tyranny of Numbers

Writers trying to sell their books often fail at converting prospects to readers because of one simple aspect of the marketing process: they are going for numbers. When you’re at the mercy of numbers, it can seem as though marketing is impossible. Prospects, whoever they are and wherever they may be, seem to be in control. You are the hunter, pursuing your quarry, without a clue of where to look, except on the wide open plains of Amazon, perhaps. To get control back, you need to free yourself from the tyranny of numbers. The first step is to identify what makes a good book and to present one to the world emblazoned with your prospect’s hot buttons in an enticing blurb and a triggering cover. That’s all covered in my books How Stories Really Work and Become a Professional Author.

The next step is to lay out, in specific terms, what your prospects are going to find in your book. When you determine these criteria, you’re basically saying: ‘I don’t care whether there are millions of you or just three; I don’t care if you read my book or someone else’s. But let’s be clear that my book is about these particular things.’ And list what those things are. This can be a little bit scary. What you are actually doing - if you do this properly - is listing out everything in your book which is unlike any other book.

‘But my book isn’t that much unlike others!’ you might protest. If so, you start from a disadvantage. But you’re probably wrong: on the surface, your book might be similar to many others, but what about beneath the surface?

There’s one thing that no other author can do as well as you, and that is communicate in your voice.

What about your book is purely You and Your Voice?

‘But surely,’ moans that little protester in your mind, ‘surely there will only be a tiny number of people interested in my voice? Shouldn’t I instead be trying to point out how similar my book is to other popular books?’


You see? That’s the numbers tyranny kicking in. You don’t want huge numbers - you want to narrow your public.

There are billions of readers on Planet Earth. You only need a hundred thousand or so of them to become fans to be super-successful as a writer. So, list out 6 to 12 things that are completely unique to your book. You want to show your prospects that no matter where they look, they won’t find these things anywhere else.

When you work out that list, your job is really easy. In your marketing, from now on, you just stress those things, in different ways, over and over again. If you’re feeling up to it, write a piece about ‘Why My Books Are Different’, make a video they’ll watch about it, or have a page on your website that has these things mapped out. That way, instead of you having to repeat it, you’ve put it into your marketing and sent it out. Here’s the big secret of marketing:

Don’t try to sell to everything that moves.

You can waste a great deal of time, energy and money on the wide open plains of Amazon. Instead, create marketing that gets readers to reach for you. That way, the only prospects who will appear on your radar will be pre-positioned, predisposed, and pre-indoctrinated to like you, and want your stuff. You don’t have to impress everybody or have ads that reach seven million people. Instead, you tell the prospect whether he or she is a good fit. You get to be in control.


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