When promoting a book is also about selling a new idea…

Is it an idea, a book or both?  I have this conversation with authors and publishers all the time.  It is one thing to pitch a mystery novel or a book on weight loss.  It is an entirely different approach if what you want to sell is a new concept or a new spin on something we all know.  Let’s break it down with one of the more difficult “idea” categories using some of my favorite tools when I was an economics major in college.

Eraser Clip Art

Faux Title Study I: Dominating the Widget Market for Investors

Let’s say you are publicizing a book about investing in the widget market.  Your book describes the market, it’s history, sample strategies, tips, potential outcomes, etc.  It is a prescriptive book that can help people make money from widgets, and in general help them learn more about the stock market.

You would likely employ a strategy that included a “top ten strategies/tips” list, soliciting radio interviews, pitching long lead magazines and soft financial publications for the average investor, trying to get on a morning TV show or other talk show that features self-improvement topics, getting involved in social media networks about making money in the market, and more.

With this book you have a clear direction, clear advice you can impart, and a community online and involved in traditional media that is always interested in how to be better off financially.  Now let’s look at the other side of the coin.

Faux Title Study 2: Dominating the Widget Market in a Changing World

This book is similar to the first in that the author talks about the market and history of the widget industry.  He will also probably share some case studies of investors both successful and unsuccessful as a way of illustrating the changes.  Theories of the future of widgets and why things are or are not improving will be in the book.  The conclusion may be more gray than black/white and the author will present a picture of what things are going to look like and perhaps ways we might adjust to allow for a more (or less) volatile environment.

I’m sure you are getting where I am going with this.  Title 1 is a clearer “how-to” offering whereas Title 2 is based on a hypothesis and theory based on research and/or data.  There may be some takeaways in terms of what one might do, but it will be implied rather than described in a list of “tips”.

Clearly these are simplistic examples, but I run into this all the time.  The thing is, we almost always want to try to promote the theory the same way we would promote the prescriptive, and it just doesn’t work.  First of all, authors who are writing about theory usually have a combination of academic and applied credentials and they generally don’t want to give people “advice”.  The kind of interview where “tips” are the goal is often awkward for this kind of person.

The other author loves giving workshops and presentations about how to do things better. For her topic, how we got here isn’t as important as what we are going to do about it.

In an ideal world it might be nice to have the two books and two authors to promote at the same time.  It would make for a fascinating discussion and we would all come away from it with a way to make things better.