• mikelmiller09

Updated: 1 day ago

All of us in the book world can learn something from master marketer and best-selling author Seth Godin.

The latest learning opportunity is the launch of The Carbon Almanac: It’s Not Too Late, which he edited. The oversized 8 ½ x 11 paperback has 352 pages of facts and illustrations about climate change. It’s based on an international collaboration of writers and has an official release date of June 21.

Some of Godin’s 30 published books about marketing have been on The New York Times best-seller lists and have been translated into 37 languages. His blog with more than 8,000 short daily posts is one of the most viewed blogs in the world with more than 1 million faithful followers (including me).

Now, he’s using the blog to recruit a volunteer team for a multi-faceted book launch on a massive international scale. I learned about it in his May 17 blog post, which contained this compelling call to action:

We’re inviting you to join our worldwide group of volunteers as we prepare to launch the Almanac in June. Our launch team is forming now, and it’s a chance to be part of something and make a difference. Please check out this page for the details. Thank you.

I clicked that link, which went to a video message from Godin. Then, I immediately clicked to join. The primary reason I joined his volunteer launch team is because I want to see EVERYTHING Godin is doing to launch the book. Learning from a master marketer helps me understand options for promoting books, and I’ll share some insights with people who read my articles.

As you might expect, his publisher Penguin Random House is concentrating on print sales for the book launch. That’s what publishers do. Here’s what Penguin says about the book:

The Carbon Almanac is a once-in-a-lifetime collaboration between hundreds of writers, researchers, thinkers, and illustrators that focuses on what we know, what has come before, and what might happen next. Drawing on over 1,000 data points, the book uses cartoons, quotes, illustrations, tables, histories, and articles to lay out carbon’s impact on our food system, ocean acidity, agriculture, energy, biodiversity, extreme weather events, the economy, human health, and best and worst-case scenarios. Visually engaging and built to share, The Carbon Almanac is the definitive source for facts and the basis for a global movement to fight climate change.

But Godin is going beyond what the publisher is doing. Here are a few quick takeaways from his efforts to build a volunteer launch team:

· He is sending short daily email updates to launch team members with progress reports. The updates ask team members to take specific actions, such as posting about the launch on Facebook and Twitter and other social media. I agreed to do that.

· One update urged all team members to pre-order the Kindle version, which I did.

· One update urged team members to contact independent bookstores and ask the bookstores to stock the print version so they can buy it when it’s officially released. I’m interested in facts about climate change, so I’m going to contact my indie bookstore in Maryland and order a print version as a gift.

· One update asked team members to suggest more ideas to promote the book. I suggested that all of us mention the book launch in our blogs and newsletters and articles we write online. (I’m probably not the first to suggest that.)

IMAGINE THE IMPACT of the international launch effort if thousands of people help promote the launch, and if many of us pre-order the Kindle version of Godin’s book or buy the print version as soon as it comes out.

I’m guessing the impact may make Godin’s latest book another bestseller, and I’ll try to get some screenshots of sales for his first week. Meanwhile, I look forward to his daily progress updates for launch team members.


Personal perspectives: I’ve seen hundreds of book launches in the past 10 years. This is one of the few times anybody has asked me to suggest ideas and help launch their book. I’m pumped.

Some authors alert me to forthcoming releases by using their blogs and newsletters, which sometimes ask followers to comment on cover design. A few authors I know offer to send me Advance Reader Copies and ask me to post reviews when the book is released. Other authors just post something on social media saying the book is available for pre-order.

However, most authors I know don’t tell me anything until the official release date.

Godin doesn’t know anything about me, but he used his blog to ask me and other followers to help with the launch a month before the official release date. His short video hooked me. That’s very effective marketing. And he’s using short daily email updates to keep me engaged in the 30 days before the official release.

His techniques for launching his new book are stimulating my thinking about book launches.

I have about 700 followers on social media, most of whom are writers. And I have about the same number of followers on LinkedIn and Medium and Substack combined, almost all of whom are writers.

That’s not enough to have much impact on a book launch. But my Excel worksheet has email contact information for almost 1,000 of these people, and I'm developing a monthly newsletter. Many writers already have far more followers and email contacts than I do.

So, here are some questions stimulated by my thinking about what Godin is doing:

· How many people would be willing to join me in a “book launch network” by subscribing to the newsletter I’m developing?

· How many would be willing to read ARC versions by authors in the launch network two or three months before publication, and then post reviews on Amazon or Goodreads as soon as the title is released?

· How many would agree to use social media and blogs and newsletters and articles online to promote the launch of books by authors in the network?

· How many would share other suggestions for promoting book launches?

I don’t know the answers to any of those questions. One way to find answers is to begin reaching out to my contacts, starting with this article. If you have comments or questions, post something here or send an email to

If you’re interested in learning more about promoting books, I hope you’ll click here to join my network by subscribing to the monthly newsletter I’m developing. I’ll discuss some more thoughts about book launches in the June newsletter.

P.S. Book marketing professional Tim Grahl specializes in book launches, and he has a FREE webinar scheduled on Thursday, May 26. I’ve learned a lot from participating in his webinars and reading his books about how to sell the first 1,000 copies.

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Updated: May 16

One of the most effective ways indie authors can attract more readers for a book is to use a price discount for the Kindle version. A key question is how to make people aware of the price discount.

For starters, you could decide to rely on social media posts and your email list of followers in addition to platforms such as LinkedIn. Maybe even Facebook ads or Amazon ads. Or you could think about using paid promo sites.

During the first two weeks of May, I’ve seen several price discounts from authors because I follow them on social media and LinkedIn and Amazon. Here’s a sample:

  • A bundle of freebie Kindle titles in a variety of genres by eight members of a Facebook group I help administer. The promo relied on individual authors (including me) to promote the freebie bundle. All of us used some combination of Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Some also sent emails to a few followers, and one author paid to boost her free Kindle title by using Fussy Librarian and Kindle Nation Daily.

  • THREE separate promos for extensive collections of free eBook downloads in the crime and thriller genres. Both promotions used BookFunnel as the promotion and delivery mechanism and one of the authors, Dan Petrosini, posted the promos on LinkedIn.

  • A 99-cent promo for a book about balancing financial goals and happiness. The author, Canadian financial journalist Andrew Hallam, targeted FB groups where he is a member. He also has a paid BookBub promo scheduled this month.

All of the authors had the same objective—to attract more readers. They used different communication channels to make people aware of the price discount. Each channel has advantages and limitations (see perspectives below).

The preliminary results indicate that genre, price, and paid promos affected the results of these price discounts for Kindle books.

  • Genre is always a major factor in Kindle price discount promotions. Readers might be more interested in fiction about crime and thrillers and adventure than they are in nonfiction.

  • Price is a key factor. Freebie offers usually attract more downloads than 99-cent price promos.

  • Paid promo sites can boost downloads. For the bundle of freebie Kindle titles involving eight authors, the data from Jinx Schwartz show she attracted more than three times as many downloads as an author in the same genre who didn’t use paid promo sites.

A major reason to offer price discount promos for Kindle titles is to steer readers to other titles by the same author. To accomplish this, almost all authors include hyperlinks in the back matter of Kindle versions that go directly to Amazon. Some authors also include glimpses of forthcoming books, along with links to websites and blogs and newsletters.

The bottom line is that every author wants more readers to become better known. Attracting more downloads via price discounts often results in more reviews on Amazon. More reviews may help boost future sales. And some readers may become faithful fans anticipating the next book in a series by an author.

Try it. You may like the results.


Personal perspectives: Beyond attracting more readers, price discount promos can briefly boost Amazon's rankings in niche categories.

Hallam’s Kindle title jumped to #2 in paid sales rankings in the niche category for Budgeting & Money Management on the first day of his 99-cent price promo on I don’t have the data on the number of units sold, but the paid sales ranking was #1,201 in the overall sales rankings. One online calculator estimates that represented 172 units sold in a single day.

Two of the titles in the Kindle bundle I described above jumped to #1 and #2 among free titles in the same niche category of Sea Adventures Fiction. Data from Schwartz show she attracted more than 2,000 downloads during two days, and data from Lock show she attracted more than 600 downloads during the same period.

The same price discount bundle boosted my Kindle title to #1 among free titles in the niche category of Travel Reference, even though I attracted only 16 downloads.

Data from Carmen Amato, who proposed and managed the Kindle bundle project from start to finish, show a total of more than 1,000 downloads for the two titles she included in the bundle. I don’t have screenshots showing the impact on Amazon rankings in her niche categories. And I don't have the final data or screenshots from the other four participants in the Kindle bundle,

Social media channels and platforms such as LinkedIn don’t cost anything to post promotions (unless you buy ads). But independent data show that organic reach and engagement rate are relatively low compared to paid promo sites and email. For example, my promo posts on Facebook and Twitter for the Kindle bundle received only 18 views and 8 likes. That indicates the posts by other authors for the same promo boosted my visibility beyond the reach of my posts.

As an alternative, BookFunnel is a highly effective method for delivering a free eBook to readers. It’s independent of retailers, so free downloads via BookFunnel don’t register in the Amazon stats for free downloads. However, an option in BookFunnel enables authors to collect the email addresses of people who receive the free downloads. You can't do that with freebie downloads resulting from social media.

That’s how I got a free copy of The Barrow Case by Petrosini, who is a LinkedIn connection. I don't have data about how many downloads he attracted. You can learn more about BookFunnel in this article by Reedsy, which also explains the cost if you want to use a freebie to attract newsletter subscribers.

Later this year, I may test BookFunnel to offer one of my backlist Kindle titles free to attract subscribers to the monthly newsletter I’m developing. That’s what Petrosini did. That's also something that book marketing professional Tim Grahl recommends.

I welcome your feedback based on your personal experiences with using Kindle price discount promos. Just post a comment or send an email to And I hope you’ll take a minute to join my network and receive regular updates about publishing and promoting books.

Thanks, and best regards.

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  • mikelmiller09

Almost every writer dreams of publishing a book. But unless you get a publisher to underwrite all costs, you’ll have to pay to publish your book.

Unfortunately, the dream of having a published book is so tantalizing that many writers become victims of publishing scams by a “vanity press.” And traps in vanity press contracts to publish a book can turn the dream into a nightmare.

Let me tackle the subject of paying to publish books. What I know is based on information from book marketing professionals, examples from authors, and some personal perspectives. Hopefully, it will help you understand some options for publishing and promoting books.

One perspective about vanity presses comes from Allyson E. Marchate, a LinkedIn connection who is a book marketing strategist. She recently shared an article on LinkedIn with the catchy title “Friends Don’t Let Friends Use Vanity Presses.”

The article is from John Doppler, who heads the Watchdog Desk of the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) and therefore knows his subject very well. His article focused on two visible negative outcomes of using vanity presses, with data to substantiate his findings:

· Amazon sales rankings are often low for vanity press titles

· Many books published by vanity publishers have very few Amazon reviews

Another valuable perspective comes from the folks at Reedsy, who published a three-part series of articles this spring about problems in using vanity presses. The first part identified some specific vanity presses to avoid, and the second part compared vanity presses with other types of book publishing. The third article in the Reedsy series was an author’s guide to avoiding publishing scams.

As Reedsy discloses in the first two articles, vanity publishing is BIG business. Some of the “Big 5” publishers own some of the world's most prolific vanity presses. Xlibris and Author Solutions, both vanity presses with bad reputations, are subsidiaries of Penguin Random House. Simon & Schuster owns Archway Publishing. Who knew?

Perhaps the most important points in the Reedsy articles involve traps vanity presses sometimes hide in the contract language that starry-eyed writers can easily overlook. Here’s part of what Reedsy says:

“…they may nestle a term in the contract that gives them the exclusive rights to publish, reprint, and even sell the rights for future editions of your book to other publishers. This allows them to trade your creation while cutting you out of the process altogether.”

That means you may find it very difficult to regain ownership rights, even if the vanity press fails to publish or market your book. That’s a heartbreaker.

There’s a link in one of the Reedsy articles to a website with a detailed discussion about the reversion of rights. It’s written by Victoria Strauss, co-founder of Writer Beware®. The article by Strauss focuses on legitimate traditional presses and small presses, and the process to get a vanity press to release the rights may not be as successful.

Sometimes, even publishing contracts with legitimate publishers contain legal jargon emerging authors don’t completely understand. ALLi has an article explaining the most common terms in publishing contracts.

Bad things can happen during the reversion process with vanity presses--things that may require lawyers and lawsuits and lots of time and money. That’s my definition of a writer’s nightmare.


Personal perspectives: Scammers at vanity presses market dreams to writers. Period. Paragraph.

They dazzle authors with dreams of a big potential market for a book. Then, they require authors to pay for a minimum press run of hundreds and hundreds of copies to get a "volume discount." They try to con authors into buying a package to “market” and “distribute” the book, and charge even more to warehouse the books while waiting for bookstore orders.

But vanity press book marketing is almost always a scam. One writer I know is an avid collector of foldable hand fans, the type society ladies carry in pocketbooks and open to cool themselves in summer. She bought an expensive turnkey package from a vanity press to publish and market an impressive book with her imprint and 300 photographs and illustrations.

But the Amazon listing shows it has only three ratings in 16 years and has a sales rank lower than #5,500,000. I can’t find her book anywhere else online, even at mega resellers like AbeBooks, Book Depository, and Book Outlet. She showed me stacks of boxes with unsold books that have been sitting in her house for years because the monthly warehouse charges became unaffordable. Ouch.

A highly-popular option for paying to publish is self-publishing. The author is responsible for all costs to produce the book, make it available to online retailers like Amazon, and promote the book. Some indie authors minimize costs by performing most or all tasks by themselves. Other self-published writers, including me, pay freelancers to handle some tasks.

Because self-publishing can be a hassle and detract from writing, some indie writers prefer to hire a company to do everything. Some use “hybrid” publishers that charge for a full package of services and offer modest royalties (see footnote). Some authors pay custom book publishers to produce books to establish subject matter expertise.

Let me say right here that many full-service companies that charge authors to publish books are legitimate and reputable. One example is the Jenkins Group, which is a custom book publisher using the publisher name Authors pay all costs of publishing a book, but the Jenkins Group's core business is very different from “vanity presses.”

Many of the books they publish are for authors who want high-quality print books to promote subject matter expertise. An example is The Endangered Customer: 8 Steps to Guarantee Repeat Business by Richard R. Shapiro, head of the Center for Client Retention in New Jersey. The Amazon listing says the book is published by Shapiro’s center and the front matter of the book identifies the Jenkins Group as the project coordinator.

How do you find a reputable company to pay to publish your book? The ALLi website has a searchable list of service providers with ratings ranging from excellent to “watchdog advisory” warnings. (ALLi rates the Jenkins Group as “recommended.”) Doppler has also published a book that is an extensive guide to the best self-publishing providers.

Reedsy offers access to hundreds of reputable freelancers. As an example, the 2021 marketing book written by Reedsy co-founder Ricardo Fayet has the publishing imprint of Reedsy, which did the typesetting, and he credits an editor and cover designer in the front matter. I plan to use some Reedsy services for my next book. (ALLi rates Reedsy as “excellent.”)

Footnote: Hybrid publishing is a different model for paying to publish, and it has become popular in recent years. I’m researching an article discussing the pros and cons for authors, so look for it soon.

I welcome your feedback based on your personal experiences with paying to publish books. Just post a comment or send an email to And I hope you’ll take a minute to join my network and receive regular updates about publishing and promoting books. Thanks, and best regards.

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