Online Book Marketing – The Old Model vs. the New


Recently I surveyed a group of several hundred authors. There was only one question: “What’s your greatest challenge with marketing and selling your book(s)?”

The results were as follows:

~ 38% knowledge
~ 33% time
~ 17% money
~ 7% fear
~ 5% other

It’s not surprising knowledge ranked the highest with time a close second. When most authors dream of their book being read by people around the globe, they often forget one small detail; they have to do most of the marketing.

It’s one thing to publish a book and something completely different to market and sell the book. Both require knowledge and time.

As the author, your job is not only to write the book, but also to figure out as many ways possible to promote it as possible. This doesn’t mean you have to do all the work, but it does mean you need to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s going on.

With the onslaught of Kindle, the process of getting a book to market, plus promoting and selling it is much easier than ever before.

Add to that an author’s ability to utilize a variety of free online methods to market, what was once a major roadblock to success is now simply a matter of planning, implementation and follow through.

I’ve been involved in various types of book marketing for well over 15 years. Everything from back-of-the-room sales, email marketing, social media, webinars, teleseminars and word-of-mouth have been among the many avenues I have used to generate sales.

In 2004, I was introduced to a revolutionary way to sell lots of books and rank incredibly high on the world’s largest online bookstore: Amazon.  These campaigns were appropriately dubbed Bestseller Campaigns.

The process consisted of the author inviting several joint venture (JV) partners to join in on their book launch to promote the author’s book.

Each JV would contribute a bonus gift that could be redeemed upon someone purchasing his or her book from The buyer would then be taken to a private web page where they would input their order number which gave them the option to opt into each partner’s offer to access any, or all, of the gifts.

This was a win/win/win.

The author won because lots of people promoted the book. The buyer won because they got incredible value for the price of the book. The partners won by gaining massive visibility for their bonus offer and increased opt-in subscribers.

After participating as a joint venture partner in three campaigns I launched my own book, The Law of Achievement, in 2005.

With a lot of planning, effort and tenacity the book became a bestseller on Amazon. It was #1 in several categories and #4 overall beating out Freakonomics, The World Is Flat and the The Da Vinci Code over a period of about a week.

In the “early” days the idea was to secure 50 to 100 partners. Each would offer a bonus gift that the book buyer would receive upon submitting proof of the purchase. Each partner agreed to promote the book on a specific day in order to spike sales of the book.

Although the concept was great, problems arose when the quality of bonuses was not monitored.

Another problem was when several campaigns were going on at the same time. What was once a highly specialized way of launching a book promotion campaign became an everyday occurrence.

Yet another problem was the lack of integrity by some partners. It was extremely frustrating when a handful of partners who had agreed to participate fully would conveniently forget to do a mail out on the day of the launch.

With some partners, regardless of how much they were reminded and given the marketing information, they would not follow through as agreed upon.

This not only hurt the launch, it was unfair to the partners who did all they agreed to do. You see, each partner would gain visibility in front of thousands of potential buyers because his or her name and bonus were listed on the book sales page.

What was once a highly valuable way of marketing became extremely common and incredibly overused. These campaigns contributed to information overload.

I refer to the type of campaign I just outlined as the old model. It’s not that the old model doesn’t work anymore, but it’s certainly not as effective as it used to be. In some cases it can actually be counterproductive.

This is not to say these types of campaigns are completely a thing of the past. If done with a market that is not familiar with this type of marketing, this strategy can still work extremely well.

However, for markets that are oversaturated, the new model is much more effective and costs a heck of a lot less in money, time and human resources.

The last full- blown campaign I coordinated was in 2010. Although we did achieve our outcome, it took much more effort than in the past, opt outs were higher than in the past and the process just didn’t work like it previously had.

I was determined to figure out a simpler way that gave me a great result. Then it hit me; it’s not that the bonus strategy didn’t work; it is the types of bonuses being offered that would determine the success of a campaign.

I tested my theory with a very simple and low-key campaign for the Kindle version of 101 Ways to Get Your Foot in the Door, a book I coauthored with three other entrepreneurs in 2006.

It didn’t take long to realize I had hit the nail on the head. In a matter of hours the book reached #1 in several Kindle categories. Not only did I sell hundreds of copies, rankings were great, visibility for the book was stellar and the backend opportunities for sales of my other products and services was evident.

I created a simple model that was very streamlined and easy to implement. Not only would it take a lot less effort to implement, it could be done quickly and the backend opportunities were plentiful.

The process was such that I created a very high value bonus that was directly related to the topic of the book. In the case of my book, 101 Ways to Get Your Foot in the Door, I offered a one-hour teleseminar to anyone who purchased the book within a specified period of time.

It was amazing how responsive buyers were to one high-quality bonus. Actually, much more so than they had been with a hodgepodge of dozens of bonuses.

After my own success, I implemented this process for a client. Her book was published about five years ago. The topic is very evergreen which means it is as timely today as it was when the book was first published.

The bonuses she offered were an MP3 of an interview she did with an industry expert, a one-hour bonus teleseminar and a downloadable report she wrote. All were very specific to the book she was selling.

Within a few hours her book hit #1 in every single category it was listed in.

So here’s what you do.

  1. Upload your Kindle book on Amazon
  2. Decide on the bonus or bonuses
  3. Develop the sales page and marketing material
  4. Determine how and when the bonuses will be delivered
  5. Market your Kindle book and resource
  6. Buyer completes an opt-in form, which includes the order number
  7. The process is automated
  8. The bonus is delivered
  9. Establish backend and ongoing opportunities.

The key to success is to have a responsive subscriber list or tribe you can reach via social networks.

Another aspect of a successful launch is to begin immediately to plan your book launch. This needs to happen before you have your book on Kindle. The sooner you begin, the more likely it will be you will experience amazing results.

I’d love to know about your experiences with book launches in the comments below…either as the purchaser of a book that is being launched, or your thoughts on doing one of these types of launches for yourself.


Kathleen Gage
Kathleen Gage is a marketing strategist and business consultant who works with consciously aware entrepreneurs who are experts in their field. We work with our clients to help them fully identify their expertise, their market (tribe), gain massive visibility, and package their knowledge into various information products and services.
Kathleen Gage
Kathleen Gage
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What do you think about this post?


  1. Kathleen, this is insightful and totally AWESOME! When’s the last time you heard that phrase?

    I like your simple Kindle market approach because its not complicated nor focused on ripping $$ from the pockets of authors/writers. I’ve bought into recent Kindle $$ programs and am blurred by all the techniques, tricks, and tweaks. Yours is refreshing.


    1. When you mention “Launch” are you referring to a full blown offline launch?
    2. If doing a launch how would having actually physical copies of books benefit or stifle the launch?
    3. What are your thoughts about interviewing an expert and how it might affect one’s own reputation with our members/clients? How do we get around not making ourselves appear as the lesser expert…does that make sense?
    4. For your suggested “one-hour teleseminar” (assuming webinar would be the latest mode of meeting nowadays) do you recommend we host it (have one or several experts) or do it as THE expert?


    • These are great questions. When I refer to a launch it definitely can include offline strategies. The world of online marketing is constantly changing so to rely solely on this for a launch may not be the best choice.

      Physical copies are great to have on hand. You may get requests by the media, meeting planners or potential partners.

      Interviewing experts is a great idea. And remember, people make assumptions based on who you do associate with.

      On the teleseminar/webinar question – both.

      Thanks for your thoughtful questions

  2. Hello!

    Great idea for new-style book promotion. I’m wondering if there’s any particular software (or WordPress plugin) that you use to collect buyers’ name, e-mail and (most importantly) that Amazon order number to make sure they’re a real buyer?

    Thanks in advance;
    Bill S.

  3. Yep! I did very similar. Worked well.

    Only I did a slightly different spin because my goal was sustainable ranking and sales so I wanted legitimate reviews more than just a quick flash of sales.

    I gave the book away to my list as a thank you. This created a ton of “Amazon Certified Buyers”.

    The following month I offered my list a bonus webinar as you describe to all people who got the book and left a real review that said something of substance.

    Very similar to your strategy only slightly different end goal.

  4. Very useful, Kathleen, but I wish you’d expanded a little more on the technicalities of “Decide how and when bonuses are delivered.” What are some of the delivery methods? Perhaps a future post?

  5. Sweet System…. Having a flow chart that lays it all out like that is going to be extremely useful, nothing makes things easier than having a good system in place before you start working.

  6. The flowchart is brilliant Kathleen! Simple, yet brilliant. This is the model I’d decided on for the official launch of my latest book… which has been put on hold due to being slammed with work. 😉 But it’s nice to know I’m on the right track!

  7. What a brilliant model for a book launch Kathleen. Simple but very powerful. Thank you for sharing your flow chart blueprint – seeing the visual is really helpful. I had a lightbulb moment when I read that there were more powerful results, by offering a ‘customers only teleseminar’ with the author. Not only does that make our lives easier as we aren’t spending weeks lining up free gift offers that require our readers to subscribe to many new lists, it illustrates that what readers are most interested in is connecting with the author and diving in deep with the content.

    • Simple is the name of the game. Thanks for all the comments. I’m thrilled everyone is finding as much value in the process as I did when I discovered how simple it can be. I have been traveling all day and when I turned on my computer I was glad to see all the great comments.

  8. Awesome! Love this tip Kathleen, I’ve been working with bestseller launches with authors, and also doing a bit in tele-seminars and I’m looking for fresh new ideas in both models. Usually we give the stuff away, I love giving the gift away after the purchase, and also I’m really looking forward to playing with a new tele-seminar model I’m working on for higher live listeners and sticky repeat clients..

  9. Lynne Klippel says:

    As always, you are right on the money Kathleen! The old model of driving a book to best seller status on Amazon was great in its day but it’s now a bit tattered an worn in most markets, especially self help, spirituality, relationships, entrepreneurship….in short most of the traditional non-fiction markets.

    The beauty of your new book marketing model is that it is fresh and it furthers the bond the author creates with readers by providing a high value bonus with purchase directly from the author instead of overwhelming them with 100 things from others. In our busy world, removing overwhelm is a gift that readers appreciate!

    • I remember several conversations we had Lynne. We both realized things had changed dramatically. Fortunately, we were both willing to change with the times.

  10. Love the flow chart, Kathleen. I’m currently working with 3 clients on publishing their Kindle ebooks and have been discussing the process above with each. Thanks for laying it out so clearly. This will help so many online entrepreneurs who are confused and overwhelmed by the Kindle sales process.

  11. We’ve also seen this happen in the telesummit arena. Exciting models become everyday and the engagement and effectiveness drop, though they can still be leveraged and introduced to new markets. I love the process map for this ‘new book launch’ Kathleen, focused, streamlined and less is more.

    • Oh yes, you said it Adela! As a veteran of the telesummit world (as I know you are too) we’ve really had to discover new ways of making this format fresh and new.