If You Write it, They Will Come (or will they?)

(The third in a series of 3 articles about Author’s Blocks)

Author’s Block #1: The Author Centric Mindset.
Author’s Block #2: The Magnum Opus’ Syndrome

This post is about book marketing… but first a story… Jody invested the last 26 painstaking months writing her ‘magnum opus’. She regularly stayed up into the wee hours and arose early doing endless rounds of rewriting and editing. Her friends and family began to wonder where she had gone. But they understood — she was writing her ‘magnum opus’. Then, after laboring over the precise wording for the title that would speak to her target readers (she had a reader-centric mindset); agonizing over every detail in the cover design; and proofreading the interior layout for what seemed like the hundredth time, she was finally ready to publish!

She had carefully chosen her publisher and had plunked down over three thousand hard-earned dollars for publishing her printed book. Then the day she had been anticipating for so long finally arrived. She was so excited!

Her book went ‘LIVE’.

She watched and waited… and waited.

Then she heard something.


No one was there to buy her book.

It briefly went to #57 in an obscure Amazon sub-category thanks to her family and friends. Jody’s book, as good as it was and as well intentioned as it was, hardly registered a blimp in the sales rankings.

It was a sad time for Jody. And what made it even sadder is that it could have been avoided. You see, Jody suffered from the third of the 3 Author’s Blocks — the ‘If You Write it, They Will Come’ Approach.

You’ve probably seen the 1980’s movie, Field of Dreams where Kevin Costner plays an Iowa farmer who hears a mysterious voice one night in his cornfield saying “If you build it, he will come,” and feels the need to act. Despite taunts of lunacy, Ray builds a baseball diamond on his land. Afterward, the ghosts of great players start emerging from the crops to play ball, led by “Shoeless” Joe Jackson.

If You Write it, They Will Come

Maybe at one time you heard a voice inside saying you should write a book about that. Like Ray, you may have felt the need to act despite your inner taunts of lunacy and varying degrees of support from those around you. Did you stop to think who will buy my book and how will they ever hear about it? You probably did but decided to press on.

Write it and they will come, repeated the voice.

Surely if the Universe or your inner guidance told you to write this book then people would find it and read it. And if the Universe also provided the link to ‘download’ the manuscript from the ethers, wouldn’t it also orchestrate a rush of sales by sending eager readers to your Amazon page?

No such luck.

As publishing coach, Nick Stephenson says, you only need to work on two things to be successful as an author:

  1. Your books
  2. Your audience

Over 90% of books published sell less than 100 copies. Why? Two simple reasons:

  1. It’s a lousy book (not usually the main reason)
  2. No audience (more often the culprit)

Achieving success as an author means (a) writing, and (b) building an audience to sell to. That’s it.

Writing and Marketing are Parallel Processes

Jody’s book launch would have had a much greater chance of success had she built and audience before she published her book. Guy Kawasaski, the author of APE (Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur) makes this point clear when he says that writing and marketing are parallel processes. Kawasaki advocates spending an equal amount of time building your audience as you do on writing your book. I agree.

“Wait a minute!” I hear you say. “I can barely carve out enough time to write my book, let alone find an equal amount of time to build my audience. Besides, won’t my publisher handle the promotion for me? Furthermore, marketing is my least favorite thing to do. I suck at it and it it feels icky.”

There are three objections here. Let’s look at them one a time.

1. How do I find the time to build my audience?

It’s tough to find time. We’re all busy. I get it. But the question is, “How will you reach the people who need your help and wisdom unless you have an audience first?” The answer may be that you have to take time away from writing your book and dedicate that time to audience-building activities. This might mean that your book takes longer to write but that’s okay — at least when it comes out there’ll be people wanting to buy it.

We can all find a few more hours in a week. Maybe it means getting up earlier or staying up later. Cut back on TV time or social media. Stop looking at your phone!

In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey teaches that focusing on the things that are important and not urgent (like building your audience and writing your book) will pay off in the long run because they won’t turn into things that are important and urgent (like trying to drum up readers after you launch your book). As Covey says, “Make the main thing the main thing.”

2. Won’t my publisher handle the book promotion for me?

Keep dreaming. Publishers (I’m talking about both New York publishers and hybrid publishers) are not generally very effective at promoting your book. Their expertise is in book production and distribution. Publishers love to work with authors who already have an audience (also referred to as a platform) because they know that 90% of the marketing effort falls on the author’s shoulders. That’s why publishers pay large advances to established authors and famous people for the rights to their books — because odds are they will get a return on their investment fairly quickly.

But for new or relatively unknown authors, most publishers don’t do much more than list your book on their website, send out a press release and give the author a marketing to-do list. The ball’s back in your court.

3. What if I suck at marketing?

It’s quite common for creative, spiritual and empathic people to be reluctant to promote themselves. It can feel icky (and therefore should be avoided or left to professionals).

But what if instead of promoting yourself you shared your advice and wisdom with others? Sharing is easy and comfortable. Doesn’t that feel better?

5 Practical Ways to Build Your Audience While You’re Writing Your Book

There are so many ways you can share your insights and experiences with others — ways that feel good to you and feel good to your audience. Below are some concrete examples. My advice is to pick ONE of them and start doing it. You may need to ask someone to help you get set up but once the initial set-up is done it’s easy to maintain on your own even if you’re not tech-savvy. Once you have one of these in place then you can commit to another one — but only start one at a time so you don’t get overwhelmed.

1. Write a Blog

If writing comes easily to you and you have lots of content and new ideas then writing a regular (weekly or bi-weekly) blog post is an enjoyable way to build your audience. Your readers will enjoy and even look forward to your entertaining, inspiring and/or practical posts and share them with others. It’s easy to set up an opt-in box on your blog to turn your readers into subscribers so that you can send them an email each time you put up a new post (and when you release your book). Guest blogging on other people’s popular blog sites is another way to reach new readers.

Tools needed:

  • Domain name for your blog ($12/year). Or set it up on your existing website (free)
  • Website hosting plan (about $5/month)
  • Email marketing system such as Mailchimp (free for up to 500 subscribers)

2. YouTube Videos

If you’re comfortable on camera and love to express yourself verbally and visually then this is your medium. Start by creating short videos on specific topics that solve problems for your audience. Name each video something like this: “How to overcome….” or “3 Ways to Stop…” or “3 Keys to More…” Then post them on YouTube. You can also post your videos as blog posts on your website and Facebook. You can go one step further and transcribe your videos into written blog posts and convert the videos into audio files too.

Advanced tip: YouTube allows you to insert links into your video description and into the video itself that you use to direct people to your opt-in page (see next tip below).

Tools needed:

  • YouTube account (free)
  • Smartphone
  • Tripod (be sure to have the phone sideways, not vertically for your videos)
  • Website for your blog (optional)
  • Outsource transcribing and audio conversion offshore through Fiverr or other online ‘gig’ site

3. Opt-in Page

This is something you can set up once and only update occasionally. We’ve all had the experience of entering our email address to receive a free resource. Now it’s your turn to collect some email addresses! Click here for an example.

Tools needed:

  • A free gift to give away in exchange for the email address such as an eGuide (PDF), audio, video, eBook, recorded webinar, etc. Make it a digital gift rather that does not require your time to deliver (i.e don’t give away a free coaching session).
  • Domain name for your website or landing page (or set it up on your existing website) or use a template-based system such as LeadPages
  • Website hosting plan (about $5/month)
  • Email marketing system such as Mailchimp (free for up to 500 subscribers)

4. Webinars

If you have specific knowledge about something, you could create a webinar to share your insights and advice with others. Here is an example of a live webinar that I recorded and have now turned into a free resource for aspiring self-help authors. Offering a live or recorded webinar is a specific example of the Opt-in Page strategy above.

Tools needed:

  • Webinar content (could be a presentation by you or an interview with an expert guest)
  • Zoom account ($15 – $40/mo) to record the webinar
  • Domain name for your website or landing page (or set it up on your existing website) or use a template-based system such as LeadPages
  • Website hosting plan (about $5/month)
  • Email marketing system such as Mailchimp (free for up to 500 subscribers)

5. eBook

An eBook is an excellent way to share your content and build your email list at the same time. How? By including clickable links to your opt-in page, blog or YouTube page in your eBook, you can easily convert eBook readers into email subscribers. These links can be included in the first few pages of your eBook so that people can click on them from Amazon’s ‘Look Inside’ feature even if they don’t buy your eBook!

You can also give away your eBook with Amazon’s 5-day free campaign. On the eBook Bestseller Bootcamp I’ll be sharing a stealthy technique I used to add over 3,000 email subscribers in one week just by giving away my eBook.

An eBook also makes a great free gift for your opt-in page and can be used as a bonus gift when you are supporting other people’s marketing campaigns. For example, my colleagues, John Tighe and Christine Kloser have donated their eBooks as bonuses for the participants in my Bestseller Bootcamp.

  • eBook
  • Domain name for landing page (or set it up on your existing website) or use a template-based system such as LeadPages
  • Website hosting plan (about $5/month)
  • Email marketing system such as Mailchimp (free for up to 500 subscribers)

There are many other creative and fun ways to grow your audience including hosting your own Podcast or Tele-summit, being a guest on someone else’s Podcast or Tele-summit, creating and launching an online course, collecting emails when you speak at live events and workshops, and of course building your following on social media.

You’ll notice that I haven’t mentioned social media so far and there’s a good reason. It’s been shown time and time again that the key to a successful book launch campaign is the ability to reach people via email. Social media is a useful supplemental medium (and so are paid ads on Facebook and Amazon) but email is still the most powerful marketing tool there is. That’s why my five platform-building methods above all emphasize collecting email addresses rather than ‘Likes”.

“Go The Distance”

In the movie, Kevin Costner’s character hears another voice whispering, “Go the distance.” And that’s my closing advice for you when it comes to writing your book and building your audience before, during and after it’s released.

Go the distance.

Write it and they will come

Geoff Affleck is a 5-time #1 bestselling author and creator and facilitator for the eBook Bestseller Bootcamp for aspiring self-help authors.

Author’s Block #1: The Author Centric Mindset.
Author’s Block #2: The Magnum Opus’ Syndrome

Read more posts

Post a comment below. I’d love to hear our thoughts on this.

8 Comments on “If You Write it, They Will Come (or will they?)

  1. Great article Geoff! So succinct and informative-these are gems ever one really needs in the platform building potential minefield. I started my journey of platform building [before I even had a website..which is finally finished BTW] with a paid deal for a landing page and a discounted rate – $2oo per month for CRM via Infusionsoft. Just one problem , I didn’t have the one-two hundred thousand subscribers to merit using [or probably hiring someone?] to use Infuionsoft. So thanks you for your easy to follow-always spot on how-to advice to help us all save time and money.


  2. Great article regarding building our audience before we publish the book. Love all the tips. Thanks. It seems I am doing everything backwards, but so glad to have your guidance.

  3. Thanks Geoff, very valuable information that saves me many hours of trying to work it out for myself.

  4. Thanks Geoff for the 3 articles. Very insightful and valuable information. Makes the journey easier and smoother especially for starters.

  5. I used to belong to the Tribe of Magnus Opus. Was I filled with grand opinions of myself and my perceptions of the Universe? Or was I so overcome by the minute figures of the human race in the midst of the pictures of planets and galaxies, so vast they were mind-numbing to my thoughts: especially of the words, ‘Outer Space’. Well, as I sat on the verandah, looking at the Eucalyptus trees, I realized how a small observation, that held wonder and fascination, could keep me content for quite some time. Likewise, other people too would like to think on beautiful things as in ‘micro’. Magnus Opus took a different road after that.

  6. These three articles are excellently written. Thanks, Geoff. However, in “5 Practical Ways to Build Your Audience…” you say, “it’s easy to add an Opt-in box” (Is it? I have no idea how to make one. I’ve wanted to know how to do that for ages. I hope this course will show me how). And your “Click here for an example,” does not lead anywhere, except to a sign that says, “Oops! This page cannot be found.”

Comments are closed.