The Book Marketing Silver Bullet?

I recently read a blog post by Michael Hyatt, the president and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, regarding how to avoid “silver bullet thinking”.

By this he means that we should not try to find a “single” solution to current woes, whether as a corporation, or as a country. Often the solution lies in many small things, along with focusing on the fundamentals.

Here is a quote from him:

Unfortunately, in times of crisis, it’s not just the government that resorts to the thinking represented by this metaphor. Leaders in business and elsewhere are also guilty. Whenever we embark on a quest for a singular solution to our current woes, we are guilty of “silver bullet thinking.”

Examples might include:

  • Trying to develop a killer product that will crush the competition;
  • Employing a new technology that will provide a strategic advantage;
  • Buying or merging with a competitor, supplier, or even a customer;
  • Slashing expenses to the bone; or… the usual favorite…
  • Reorganizing the company.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not against creating great products, employing new technologies, acquiring companies, and all the rest. What I am opposed to is the simplistic notion that one of these items can be the “silver bullet” that fixes all your problems.

In my experience, success is rarely the result of one singular action or break-through. Instead, it is the result of hundreds, if not thousands, of incremental improvements over time. There’s no quick fix.

Why do his thoughts interest me? Because I have come up with a marketing idea for hardcover books that can increase sales. In this sense, I have envisioned it as a “silver bullet” that could give a single, forward-thinking publishing company a strategic advantage.

In fact, I believe so strongly in my idea that I not only filed a provisional patent application for it, but I also presented the idea to a top agent at the 2008 ACFW conference.

The advantages of my patent-pending marketing idea are as follows:

  • Encourages person to person / word of mouth sales
  • Can be used as the cornerstone of a direct advertising campaign to ease future marketing work and cost of publishers and authors
  • Helps the book to spread like an ideavirus

The verdict from the agent? Not what I expected:

  • I had originally envisioned the idea applying to both hardcover and paperback books, but was told that it was more appropriate for hardcover. This is fine, as hardcover books are the ones more likely to have trouble selling due to their higher cost.
  • One issue is that my marketing idea would increase the production cost of the book by a higher percentage than I had envisioned. Now this is not a killer problem, but it may take more convincing to a publisher to try the idea before they would attempt a wider implementation.

The interesting thing is that the agent turned back to my book proposal (Merlin’s Blade, Book 1 of the Merlin Spiral) and said that I shouldn’t let the marketing idea distract from the book, which he considered sellable if the writing is up to snuff. He encouraged me that I should focus on getting a contract with a publisher first, and then present the marketing idea.

This fits well with my own intentions, as I plan on asking said publisher to take royalties that would otherwise be paid to me for my first book (after my agent is paid, of course) and use the money to implement my marketing idea on my own book!

Either way, the long and short of it is that I have learned more about book marketing and what efforts publishers are making, and I know now that my idea is NOT a silver bullet. Although as Michael Hyatt says, it could be one of those important “hundreds, if not thousands, of incremental improvements” that contributes to success.

What is my book marketing idea? Shhhh … only for the ears of agents and publishers!

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