• Bookstore
  • Profile
  • Cart
  • Search

“We will always want more,” and other existential lessons from the BK Marketing workshop

Sarah  Modlin Posted by Sarah Modlin, Editorial Intern.

Sarah Modlin is currently Berrett-Koehler's lucky Editorial Intern and an English major at Kenyon College. At school she focuses on feminist literary theory and at Berrett-Koehler she focuses on fielding Jeevan's banter.

“We will always want more,” and other existential lessons from the BK Marketing workshop

The initial goal of the BK Marketing Workshop was to set a tone somewhere between hope and despair.


In a dimly lit event space at 8:30 am a bunch of bright-eyed authors, groggy publicists, and curmudgeonly editors gathered at a weekend conference to hear some expert opinions on one burning question: how the #*&% do we sell niche non-fiction business books in this day and age?


In answer to this question, five crucial facts were reiterated over and over that I genuinely did not know before my inside glance at the publishing industry...


Upon my arrival at Berrett-Koehler Publishers a mere 3 months prior to this workshop, I was made keenly aware of the marketing component of editorial work and the Ten Awful Truths About Book Publishing. So it was no surprise to me that one of the first things that the opening speaker of the marketing workshop said was: we will always want more. An author is always going to want more marketing support from his or her publisher, and vice versa. This acknowledgement elicited some laughs but, as Steve Piersanti would say, I think it really hits bedrock.


If you don’t have a following, your book is a shout into the void. Oof this was a reality check for many based on the groans that could be heard following the words “twitter” or “personal responses to Amazon reviews.”


At Berrett-Koehler, a book’s success hinges on the symbiotic relationship between author and marketing department – neither can thrive without the support of the other. The marketing workshop is our way of nudging authors and potential authors towards the scary realm of blogging, social media, email lists, bulk sales, and the promoting an ultimately terrifying agenda: that sales depend on personal relationships.


As a complete newcomer to this process I had as much to learn as anyone else attending the conference, but if I could give one takeaway from the workshop it would be this: your book is nothing without you. Seriously! As icky as it feels to be writing this – selling books is about working your connections. Networking has now become social networking and you’re only worth the number of people who read your monthly newsletter.


We at BK can absolute adoooore your book. We can tell everyone we know about how much we love your book. We can desperately hope that your book will succeed. But we can’t sell your book to your mom. We can’t sell your book to the people who commented on your latest blog post. We can’t sell your book to those people who were really inspired by you at your last speaking gig. Only you can sell to these people. As an author it is on you to build a respected personal brand, and to garner excitement for your ideas. We can package those ideas in pretty words and organize them into exactly 192 pages and put a nice cover on them, but the ultimate success of your book is up to you.


Very few books are sold because a reader walked into a real life physical bookstore, saw a book on a shelf, thought the title sounded applicable to her life, and then bought the book. If this is what you think is going to happen you are living in an alternate reality. Books are largely bought and sold on the internet, which means you have to somehow make people willing to search amazon for your book specifically. Finding and fostering those followers was essentially the number one topic of conversation this past weekend, but it all comes down to this: people buy books from people, not from publishers.


tl;dr – come to the next BK Marketing Workshop! If you are interested in further reading, check out Online Marketing for Busy Authors.


David Marshall
David Marshall

Brilliant insights, Sarah!  Much appreciation for sharing.

August 6, 2016