Monday, 24 March 2014

Top Marketing Books to Read

By Iola Goulton

If you follow my website, you’ll have noticed I’ve been posting reviews of marketing books over the last three months. This post is a brief summary of all those reviews (with links), along with my recommendation of the two books any savvy author should buy and read (and why):

Recommended Reading

How to Market a Book by Joanna Penn

The best book I’ve found on the basics of marketing as applied to books, and includes dozens of useful web links. It can be read at any stage of the writing and publishing journey, but the earlier you read the book and apply the lessons, the better. Applicable for self-published and trade published authors. Click here to read my review.

Let’s Get Visible by David Gaughran

Explains the Amazon algorithms (the way the computer programmes select what goes on the best-seller list and what books are recommended to customers). Understandable and actionable. Best for self-published authors who are about to publish on Amazon, or those who are already self-published through Amazon. Small publishers will also benefit from reading this, as they too need to maximise their exposure on Amazon. Click here to read my review.

Suggested Reading

How to Get Good Reviews on Amazon by Theo Rogers

For those who are about to publish or who have published. My only complaint with this book is that I didn’t think to write it myself. A solid batch of Amazon reviews is seen as an essential part of the marketing plan, and this book will show you the best ways to get reviews. Click here to read my review.

Let’s Get Digital by David Gaughran

Some of the information is outdated (even though it was only published in 2011), but still provides an excellent introduction to why authors should consider self-publishing, and how. An introduction to Let’s Get Visible. Click here to read my review.

The Extroverted Writer by Amanda Luedeke

Written by a literary agent, so useful for that perspective, and targeted towards the almost-published author. I found the most useful information was in the Kindle sample—the rest of the information is available free on her blog. Click here to read my review.

10 Keys to ebook Marketing Success by Karen Baney

Good, apart from the awkward spelling mistake on the first page (just before she starts talking about the importance of good editing and proofreading). She has some good tips on promoting and pricing a series, but despite having an MBA, she doesn’t seem to understand that there’s more to marketing than promotion (a mistake I see with a lot of self-published authors). Click here to read my review.

Is $.99 the New Free? by Steve Scott

Short and to the point. The information is good, but nothing new. Click here to read my review.

Your First 1000 Copies by Tim Grahl

Good information, but seemed to focus on non-fiction authors who already have at least a couple of books on sale. I see this as being of limited use for first-time fiction authors. Click here to read my review.

Not Recommended

The Book Publishers Toolkit

A series of essays from members of the Independent Book Publishers Association. Interesting enough, but the articles are fairly broad-brush and in some cases contradict each other. Only worth reading as a free download. Click here to read my review.

How to Build a Powerful Writer’s Platform in 90 Days by Austin Briggs

A step-by-step process to build a writers platform in the 90 days before your book launch. Unfortunately, the editing and reviewing processes are cramped into too short a timescale, which makes me question the whole concept. Click here to read my review.

How to Launch A Christian Best Seller Book by Lorilyn Roberts

Only useful if you are considering joining the John 3:16 Marketing Network, in which case it’s an essential read. Just be aware that the advice isn’t always good, and in some cases actually goes against the rules and guidelines of online communities such as Amazon and Goodreads. Click here to read my review.

Advanced Book Marketing by EJ Thornton

In fairness, I didn’t actually read this (which is why I haven’t written a full review). It was recommended in a blog post I read, so I downloaded the Kindle sample which was rather too self-congratulatory for my tastes. However, my major issue was that it was it was published in 2009, before the advent of Kindle Direct Publishing, which means any information about publishing is so outdated it is useless. The rise of social media will have rendered much of the information on marketing equally outdated. This was also the most expensive book I looked at. I’m happy to spend $3.99 or less and risk a dud, but not $9.99.

What is your favourite marketing book? Why would you recommend I read it? And what books on marketing have you read that weren't helpful? Why not? 

By Iola Goulton. I am a freelance editor specialising in Christian fiction, and you can find out more about my services at my website (, or follow me on Facebook (, Twitter (@IolaGoulton) or Pinterest (

I love reading, and read and review around 150 Christian books each year on my blog ( I'm a Top 25 Reviewer at Christian Book, in the Top 1% of reviewers at Goodreads, and have an Amazon Reviewer Rank that floats around 2600.


  1. Im not a writer but enjoyed your post can you tell me what is John 3:16 Marketing Network I have heard about it and heard it has some interesting ideas but no idea what it is.

    1. It's a network of Christian authors working together to promote each other's books. It's a great concept, but—if the book is anything to judge by—falls apart in some aspects of the implementation.

  2. Hi Iola,
    I'm pleased to see I have a few of your recommendations already, and enjoyed them too. Now I may pick up the others.

    1. Good to hear! Although I suspect reading the titles is only the first step ... now you have to do something to put in action what you've read.

  3. Thanks Iola for a great list of resources.

    1. Thanks, Jeanette. I hope you find them useful.

  4. Iola, thanks for providing a comprehensive overview of a number of popular marketing books. It's interesting how the changes in publishing have dated the information in a couple of books. You also bring up an interesting point about how there is a difference between marketing and promotion.

    Do any of the books cover how to quantify marketing outcomes? It's all very well to undertake a whole lot of marketing and promotion activity, but how does an author really know if their marketing efforts are worth it? Sometimes I wonder if authors, in general, spend too much time on marketing and promo. Would they be better off investing more time in writing their next book? The balance between promo and writing time will be different for everyone, depending on their circumstances.

    1. Return on investment ... that's a good question. No, it's not something I've seen addressed in any of these books. I suspect there are a couple of reasons for that:

      1. We might not like the answer, so we don't ask the question. There's a "technical" term for this reaction: burying your head in the sand

      2. Good marketing is a combination of push and pull activities. Push is easier to quantify (e.g. I sent an email to 1000 people and got 10 sales as a result, or I spent $300 on a Bookbub promotion and got 300 sales as a result).

      But research (e.g. from Goodreads) suggests readers don't buy books based on advertising or direct email (unless they are already a fan of that author). Readers buy books based on recommendations from friends—real life friends, online friends, book reviewers they trust. And that's hard to quantify, because it means it's not your marketing efforts selling your books: it's your fans.

      The other thing missing from a lot of this information is that it's based on non-fiction (the Karen Baney book is the main exception). I believe the key is connecting with readers—and most authors seem to be connecting with other authors, which is only useful if other authors are your target reader.

      Would authors be better off investing more time in writing their next book? Certainly. All the statistics on author earnings show the more books you have on sale, the better you do (as a whole, and per book).

      If you've only got one book for sale, write the next book. If you've got ten books and they aren't selling, perhaps you need to look at why. That could be promotion ... but it could also be bad product (e.g. not edited), priced to high, or not available in the places where your readers shop.

    2. Iola, great answers! Book sales provide a dollar amount for your overall return on investment. The problem is how do you break it down and work out the cost-effectiveness of each marketing activity. Cost involves both money and time that could be spent doing something else.

      Connecting and interacting with readers in our target market is definitely an important aspect of our marketing plan.

  5. I really like the idea of connecting with people to encourage the sale of your book. It seems so much more personal. I have always found that being able to explain what the story is about helps. This is rather funny as the blurb does this, but I guess hearing from the author's mouth carries more weight!
    Then again, you can only be in so many places peronally, so you do need other ways to make folk aware.

    1. Rita, thanks for commenting. I think the author's word, in person, does carry weight, because when you talk about your book, you bring a passion the written word lacks. I remember being told that around 80% of communication was non-verbal, with only 4% of it being our words, yet too often we are forced to try and sell based on the 4%.

  6. Marketing is definitely the hardest part of the writing journey as far as I'm concerned, so thank you for your excellent list of resources.

    1. I think one of the reasons marketing is harder is there are no hard-and-fast rules. What worked for someone else might not work for you.

  7. Thanks Iola. Great recommendations and discussion in this thread. The best advice I've heard so far in regards to marketing, (and it's in no way all inclusive of the best wisdom out there) is write the best book you can. Then write a better one. For someone in my position, it's enough to keep me learning and writing. But I'll be looking out for your recommendations.

    1. Absolutely, Dorothy. I mentioned this in my post last week. If your book is lacking, the reviews will reflect that, and then no amount of marketing will sell the book.

      But this list will provide you a starting point of what to read when you get to the stage of getting a contract on that first book (or in that period between completing the first draft of a novel and starting the revision stage).

  8. Iola, thanks for this post. I particularly enjoyed Jo Penn's book. All based on her own practical experience and covers off a bunch of areas besides the obvious ones that many don't. I'll get to David Gaughran's soon.

    I also like your comment in your reply to Narelle - best thing a newish author can do is keep writing new novels.