Seth Godin’s Marketing in 5 Steps (for Authors)

by | Dec 10, 2018

Lucky me.

I just received an early holiday present from Tracy, Seth Godin‘s latest bestseller, This Is Marketing.

Seth Godin has been a “companion” for the last 10 years, and his short, pithy, and often surprising blog posts have taught me plenty about marketing and, even more important, how to think about the connection between marketers and their audience.

Although I’m only partway through the book, I can already see that like his previous bestsellers, Godin is—once again—re-orienting our approach to marketing in the online world, bringing us right up to date with what’s working today.

It takes incisive thinking to be able state complex ideas in a short, simple way that anyone can understand, and that’s long been one of Godin’s appeals.

Near the beginning of the book, the author sets out what he calls “Marketing in five steps.”

This short list presents such a valuable conceptual overview of the marketing process, I thought it would be worthwhile to elaborate on his ideas and see how they apply to indie authors trying to market their books.

Marketing in Five Steps for Indie Authors

In the following list, I’ve used Seth Godin’s text, then added commentary to each item:

  1. The first step is to invent a thing worth making, with a story worth telling, and a contribution worth talking about.

    book marketing

    • A book “worth making” is one that makes a unique contribution to your readers, one that delivers on what it offers. Godin mentions a “story” connected to your product (book, in this case) and this is critical to marketing. People respond to stories. Why did you write the book? How did it come about? What obstacles did you face? They all go into your story.
  2. The second step is to design and build it in a way that a few people will particularly benefit from and care about.
    • It’s important to know who you are writing for, the part of the population that will be thrilled about your book. If you make those people very satisfied, the rest of your marketing will be suffused with authenticity. Your book will be grounded in the wants and needs of this audience.
  3. The third step is to tell a story that matches the built-in narrative and dreams of that tiny group of people, the smallest viable market.
    • In marketing we often say we want to get into the conversation already taking place in a prospective readers’ mind. Story is what resonates, what connects us to the archetypal storylines running throughout human history. Knowing your own story, and the story behind your book, gives you the ideal insight into how to market it.
  4. The fourth step is the one everyone gets excited about: spread the word.
    • After you’ve walked the first three steps, have your message and understanding of your market honed, then you can reach out through social media, launch planning, interviews, and all the other ways we bring attention to our books.
  5. The last step is often overlooked: show up—regularly, consistently, and generously, for years and years—to organize and lead and build confidence in the change you seek to make. To earn permission to follow up ad to earn enrollment to teach.
    • Anyone who has run a popular blog, a long-lived podcast, a regular newsletter, or any other form of published content will tell you that only over time can you build a true and lasting relationship with your readers. Over time you deepen your relationship to your craft, and to the goals you share with your community. The ongoing conversation you have with people is a demonstration of your own commitment to your values and your willingness to be a leader.

Seth Godin always stresses the importance of being of service to your chosen community, being animated by a desire to serve.

Whether you plan to use lots of videos, Facebook Live broadcasts, interviews, written articles, paid ads, or any other form of marketing in support of your book sales, understanding these five steps will give you a firm grounding in the real connection you have with readers.

“Marketing is our quest to make change on behalf of those we serve, and we do it by understanding the irrational forces that drive each of us.”—Seth Godin

This post contains affiliate links.

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  1. Mia Riggs

    very useful tips on marketing for authors. great book

  2. Ernie Zelinski

    I haven’t read this new book but I have to do so real soon. Here are some of my favorite words of wisdom from Seth that he has posted on his blogs:

    “Books work as an art form (and an economic one) because they are primarily the work of an individual.”
    — Seth Godin

    “Your success and prosperity are too valuable to depend on crowd funding or lottery tickets.”
    — Seth Godin

    “Low price is the refuge for the marketer who doesn’t have anything more meaningful to offer.”
    — Seth Godin

    “When you do work that matters, the crowd will call you a fool. If you do something remarkable, something new and something important, not everyone will understand it (at first). Your work is for someone, not everyone. Unless you’re surrounded only by someones, you will almost certainly encounter everyone. And when you do, they will jeer. That’s how you’ll know you might be onto something.”
    — Seth Godin

    “I am not a brand You are not a brand. You’re a person. A living, breathing, autonomous individual who doesn’t seek to maximize ROI or long-term brand value. You have choices. You have the ability to change your mind. You can tell the truth, see others for who they are and choose to make a difference. Selling yourself as a brand sells you too cheap.”
    — Seth Godin

    “Criticism is difficult to do well. Recently, we’ve made it super easy for unpaid, untrained, amateur critics to speak up loudly and often. Just because you can hear them doesn’t mean that they know what they’re talking about. Criticism is easy to do, but rarely worth listening to, mostly because it’s so easy to do.”
    — Seth Godin

    “It certainly makes no sense to try to convert your biggest critics, because they’ve got a lot at stake in their role of being your critic.”
    — Seth Godin

    “If you borrow money to make money, you’ve done something magical. On the other hand,
    if you go into debt to pay your bills or buy something you want but don’t need, you’ve done something stupid. Stupid and short-sighted and ultimately life-changing for the worse.”
    — Seth Godin

    “Trading in your standards in order to gain short-term attention or profit isn’t as easy as it looks. Once-great media brands that now traffic in cheesecake and quick clicks didn’t get there by mistake. Respected brands that rushed to deliver low price at all costs had to figure out which corners to cut, and fooled themselves into thinking they could get away with it forever. As the bottom gets more and more crowded, it’s harder than ever to be more short-sighted than everyone else. If you’re going to need to work that hard at it, might as well put the effort into racing to the top instead.”
    — Seth Godin



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