Whenever I talk about book marketing, I reference running. My most often-repeated phrase about book marketing is that book marketing is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Since book marketing and marathon training/running have consumed a lot of my time in the last six years, it’s easy for me to draw parallels.
In celebration of the completion of my 6th marathon in just over four hours, here are six things you can learn about book marketing from reflecting on distance running.
#1 Both distance running and book marketing require training and preparation.
Most marathon training plans recommend that you allow 16 weeks of focused training before running a marathon, with caveats that you need a strong base of running before embarking on a training program. This exactly mirrors what I suggest for authors. Anyone who wants to market a book should have an established platform first, building connections as far in advance of their book’s publication date as possible. Then they should begin at least 4 months in advance with a focused, strategic approach to launch.
#2 No one said the journey would be easy.
Without being negative, I attempt to prepare authors for the overwhelm they often face in marketing their books. Marketing/selling books is NOT easy. It’s difficult. It requires focused, consistent effort. Even if you haven’t run a marathon, it doesn’t take much imagination to agree with me that running a marathon is not easy (click the link to read me contradicting myself about marathons being easy), even for the most seasoned athlete.
#3 The journey includes many moments of ease, celebration, and joy.
While book marketing can be challenging, most authors find some aspects of book marketing that they love. Planning a book launch often includes getting in touch with people in your extended network, sometimes reconnecting after many years. Renewing relationships can bring great joy. Authors are surprised by the outpouring of support they receive throughout their book launch journeys. As authors experiment with different marketing approaches, most find something to enjoy, whether the pleasure of sharing their work on podcasts or the gift of writing articles and guest posts in the quiet solitude of a coffee shop.
When I run, I experience many moments of ease, when I can focus on cruising through the miles while appreciating the cheering crowds, the beauty of nature, and the humor of the spectators’ signs.
#4 You run more effectively when you run the mile you’re in.
Before my race Sunday, one of my running buddies gave me this last minute advice: “Run the mile you’re in.” Such wise advice — for running, book marketing, or anything. It’s important to be awake to and present to the moment/stage we’re in. While running, I can get discouraged if I think about the miles I’ve completed that weren’t as fast as I’d hoped. Or I can overwhelmed if I count the many miles still left to run. But if I focus on the moment I’m in, I can find joy in and attend to doing my best in that moment.
For anyone marketing a book, there are steps and stages to the process. Worrying about what you didn’t do before or feeling anxious about what’s ahead prevent you from doing what you can in the moment you’re in. Figure out what you can do each day to make progress on your book marketing and let go of the rest. Run the mile you’re in.
#5 Don’t forget the fuel.
I learned early that fuel is important. When I’m running distance, I take in calories about every five miles to ensure that I have energy to go the distance.
For authors marketing books, it’s critical to remember to find ways to fuel your passion for your message. Whether it’s taking time off for silent retreats, scheduling encouraging calls with other authors, or incorporating exercise into your busy schedule, every author needs to find their fuel and invest in self-care.
#6 Book marketing is a marathon, not a sprint.
If I tried to run at my absolute top speed, I’d burn out in only a few miles and never make it to the finish line of a marathon. To run a long distance well, I pick a pace I can sustain for the entire 26.2 miles of the marathon.
By the time authors complete their manuscripts and begin to turn their attention to building audiences for their books, they are often depleted. As they begin to think about book marketing, they are fully focused on launch. While launches are important in creating initial excitement and momentum, most books are not overnight-successes. Any author who wants their message to reach extensive audiences needs to prepare for a long run.
Authors who sprint bring all their energy and investment in one short burst. Authors who enter the marathon of book marketing prepare themselves for focused, consistent effort over a long period of time, years even.
Bonus Lesson #1 I’ve now run 6 marathons and my team and I have launched more than 100 books. What I’ve noticed is that each time gets a little easier. I had more confidence going into this marathon than I have others because of past experiences. I enjoy the race more because I know what to expect and how to fuel. I have mental toughness to get through the last miles because I can remember past experiences and draw on past successes. Each time we launch a book, we bring the learning of the previous launches, which increases our confidence in supporting authors.
Bonus Lesson #2 When you apply focused, consistent effort to any endeavor, you will get better. Despite the fact that I’ve aged since my first marathon in 2014, I keep improving my in my pace and enjoyment of running. With book marketing and platform building, authors see incremental improvements to their results and satisfaction as they invest effort in building networks, reaching audiences, and promoting their content.
Are you ready to run?
I am the founder/CEO of the Weaving Influence team, the author of Reach: Creating the Biggest Possible Audience for Your Message, Book, or Cause, and the host of the Book Marketing Action Podcast. I’m a wife and mom of three kids, and I enjoy running, reading, writing, coffee, and dark chocolate.