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Welcome to The Book Marketing Action Podcast with Becky Robinson, Christy Kirk, and guest Dr. Bob Nelson, an established author from San Diego, California. In this episode, Dr. Bob talks about what has worked best for him when marketing his books and how he’s sold over 5 million copies.
Dr. Bob Nelson has published over 30 books and is considered the leading advocate for employee recognition and engagement worldwide. He has worked with 80 percent of the Fortune 500 and presented on six continents. He has been featured extensively in the national and international media including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, CBS 60 Minutes, MSNBC, ABC, PBS, and NPR about how best to motivate today’s employees.
Below is a condensed and slightly edited version of our conversation.
Becky: I’ve heard a lot of great things about you from your publisher, Berrett-Koehler, about how skilled you are in marketing. What has worked the best for you when marketing your books?
Dr. Bob: You’ve got to be the book. The book has to be a part of you. I view the book as extensions of myself, beliefs, thoughts, energies, and that’s important to be able to have the wherewithal to keep at promoting the book over an extended period of time, which is necessary if you’re interested in having a bestselling book.
Becky: So, what are the key activities you’ve invested in over time to bring the book into the world?
Dr. Bob: It’s not any one thing. Sometimes people think I have a Midas touch, but I don’t, I just have a tenacity, energy, drive, and determination which serves me, and the books I promote, well. I read a fun article early in my career, written by someone in publishing. This person said from his perspective that authors want to be published, and when they get a publisher interested in them they feel that they’ve gotten the golden ring and expect the publisher to do everything and make them rich and famous. While publishers are doing a similar version of that, they pick topics and authors who are well-known and have connections and expect the author to carry the weight of the success of the book. Because of this, most books die in the middle.
There is a lot of truth to that, so early on I chose to ask myself, “what can I do to own it and not be an author who blames the publisher?” With one of my first books 25 years ago, 1,001 Ways to Reward Employees, when I was working with a small publishing company from New York, their marketing director said they don’t do a formal plan. I knew they were a strong marketer, but they weren’t going to put it down on paper. So I told them I had a few ideas and asked if it was okay to send to them. They said that would be cute, so I sent them a 60-page document saying this is what I am going to do, how are you going to meet me halfway? I ended up doing everything on that list. When you create a plan and follow through with your plan, it makes it easier for the publisher to get on board.
Tenacity is very important and a part of who I am. The books are extensions of who I am, my values and beliefs. Because of that, I feel very strongly about my book and so when I speak, for example, the first question I always ask myself is, “How can everybody who hears me speak get a copy of my book?” I am not going to speak and then hope at the end a couple of people buy my book. I want to make sure everyone there is going to have a copy. I often ask the conference I’m speaking at to buy the book as a gift for attendees. If they respond with “we don’t have the budget for that”, I often ask if someone else or a company can purchase my book for the attendees. They always respond with, “If we can find someone, yes!” I give the person or company that purchased my book for the attendees a table at the conference, let them introduce me, or give the person/company a shoutout when speaking. I will often sit at their table and sign copies of my book and it benefits both of us because when people are in line they can talk about their company. It’s a no-brainer to find someone to sponsor you. Don’t take no as an answer, but also don’t criticize someone if they say no. You have to roll with it and create a new strategy.
Becky: Wow! That’s amazing. I think a few things stand out to me. You didn’t use these words but when you were talking about your success with media, it seems to me that generosity and adding value is the key to that.
Dr. Bob: I’d have to agree with you. You have to be a giver and not a taker. Talk about what you can do for them and not what they can do for you.
Becky: That’s very powerful. Dr. Bob, I’m going to throw a curveball at you. We always end this podcast by giving people actions that they can take. So, can you give us one or two actions that authors can take after listening to this podcast?
Dr. Bob: Sure! Whatever your book topic is, think who most needs to hear your message. Who needs your book the most? And then, how and where do you find them? Then do that. I do this almost every day. I often take my older books and make them relevant to current topics and issues.
Becky: That’s really good advice. The action is to think about who can benefit from the message of your book and then figure out how to get it to them.
Dr. Bob: Yes, how to reach them. How to reach those people. For any topic, it’s typically going to be finding people that have an interest in this certain topic. How can you do this? Well, there is either a publication or association around it, and both of those track and have a list of names. Sometimes you can call them and buy their list of names to make it easy. I often will hire someone to create that list for me. Once you have that list, you email, call and work your way through the spreadsheet.
Becky: Wow, that’s powerful! I’m taking away a couple of things from this conversation. The first is something you said before we started recording. You said you have to have a plan and work the plan. So, what I’m hearing is that you have a plan and work the plan over and over again, over time.
Dr. Bob: Yes, if the plan is working. For example, if I notice I am speaking at a lot of hospitals, I will start reaching out to more hospitals because there are over 6,000 in America. I have testimonials from the previous hospitals, and not all say yes, but a lot of them do.
To learn more about Dr. Bob and the work he does, visit his website here and follow him on LinkedIn here. Keep a lookout for his upcoming book, releasing in 2021, Work Made Fun, Gets Done. Let us know below if you will take today’s action step. If you have any questions or topics you’d like us to cover, please email Becky Robinson here and Christy Kirk here.