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Jan 12, 2007
Case Study

How Email, Video Turned Book Into a Best-Seller - 4 Strategies for Success

SUMMARY: As the Internet continues to radically change the book publishing industry, authors are taking it upon themselves to promote their works in whatever ways possible.

See how one author turned his collection of marketing stories into a best-seller with a shrewd and inexpensive do-it-yourself campaign using email, a video-linked press release and cross-promotions with other prominent authors and speakers to add a viral element. Best of all, the whole effort took only two weeks to launch.

Plus, how he managed to sell out the book’s first run and is now charging lots more for his speaking gigs.
“Being able to put ‘#1 Best Seller’ in your marketing is absolutely big,” says Dan Seidman, author of ‘Sales Autopsy: 50 Post-mortems Reveal What Killed the Sale.’ “One, it helps sell the actual books in the stores. Two, it aids you in selling your future books to the publisher. That’s why I needed to somehow, someway get the book on an important list.”

Considering the number of books released every week, the task of cutting through the competition is not small. And, due to some late-arriving creative materials and other mishaps, Seidman had to scramble to get his campaign ready after the October release of his new book, “Sales Autopsy.”

Still, Seidman knew he could capitalize on the modest success of his previous book, as well as on columns he had written in marketing publications. His notion of building a linking system with other authors would be rewarding … if he could get them interested.

However, one of Seidman’s top priorities: He wanted to spend no more than a few thousand dollars to promote the book. Could such a small amount of money compete against the bigger publishing houses’ million-dollar media campaigns?

Although Seidman’s publishing house, Kaplan Publishing, did some marketing for the book, it wasn’t anything like the media blitz seen with major book releases. Armed with a list of contacts assembled from speaking and networking at trade events, Seidman wanted to reach out to other sales gurus who might be interested in cross-promotions.

He decided to employ an affiliate-styled system and went to work on getting other marketers, authors and speakers signed up for his plan. Here are the four steps he took:

Step #1. Build list of experts and send emails

First, Seidman hired an assistant to deal with online market research, answer the phone/email and other tasks. For the book’s release during the first week of October, they wrote a press release that included a link to a video presentation by Seidman.

After that, they pored through industry resource guides from organizations, such as the National Speakers Association, to unearth experts who might be interested in partnering for a promotional email.

Seidman followed up some of the emails with calls to help close on new partnerships. A few turned him down, but most listened to the pitch. To those who gave him a chance, Seidman detailed his concept of an ongoing cross-promotional relationship in which the experts helped each other advertise their writings, speaking engagements and other products/services (see example below).

In addition, partners were offered the possibility of making a sales cut off his book via their Web sites, which could be tied into the affiliate program at Barnes & Noble’s Web site,

Step #2. Create publicity campaign

Next, Seidman hired a design specialist to develop the look and feel of his email campaigns and manage the Web site. For email, they went with a layout that included a dominant image of the front cover, a smaller picture of him speaking, several positive quotes from critics and excerpts.

Seidman and his team also created a special Halloween email promotion that incorporated images appropriate for the holiday. In addition, they kept the same design for the landing pages for both emails.

Step #3. Email the list

Seidman pieced together a list of 12,000 qualified email addresses. He accrued many of them over the years while others came from research and renting small files.

Nearly two weeks after the release, they emailed the list to promote the 192-page “Sales Autopsy.” Recipients were offered a 20% discount, as well as a free downloadable PDF or audio files from the experts who had signed onto his partnership program.

Email recipients were driven specifically to to buy the book, a measure to help those partners who were running affiliate programs.

Step #4. Leverage past exposure

Seidman wisely used a handful of past accomplishments in marketing the book. For example, he already had a print/online audience of 2 million readers due to regular contributions for publications such as Agent’s Sales Journal, Advantages Magazine, Leader’s Edge and Health Industry Underwriter, as well as jobs portal

He had also released a book in 2002 called ‘The Death of 20th Century Selling.” While not a top seller, the book created a buzz in the community. In addition, Seidman had written a 24-part comic-book series called ‘The Sales Comic Book’ and produced a video game called ‘Revenge of the Reps.’ The latter two are usually given away as promotions when he speaks at trade shows.

“Things like the comic book and video game have differentiated me from the rest of the marketplace,” he says. “They’ve let everyone know that I am not like all the other authors or speakers.”


Well, something resonated with Seidman’s audience, because ‘Sales Autopsy’ shot to #4 on’s best-seller list for all books (sharing time with Illinois Sen. Barack Obama’s highly-publicized memoirs) and sat at that spot for three days -- Oct. 18, 19 and 20. What’s more, the book spent those same three days rated as the #1 business book available online at Barnes & Noble.

The video-linked press release and the initial recruitment email drew 22 author/speaker partners who went on to inform their opt-in databases. In the end, more than 700,000 recipients found a message about the book in their inboxes, and around 300,000 of those addresses were tapped again for the Halloween campaign.

Best of all, Kaplan Publishing sold out the initial 15,000-run in less than a month, and another 6,000 were sold in November.

“Someone told me that they saw my book at a Barnes & Noble in their city the other day, and it was still in the section for [store-recommended] business books,” Seidman says. “Because of the performance of this book, I think I have either tripled or quadrupled the advance I’ll receive for my next one. It has also allowed me to raise my speaking engagement fees by 67%.”

Not too shabby for an investment of less than $3,000.

Useful links related to this article

Creative samples from “Sales Autopsy” book launch:

Martin Group - the company that handled the email and Web design for the book:

Dynamic Destinies Inc. - the company that helped with the affiliate strategy for the book:

DSM Agency - Seidman’s publishing agent:

Kaplan Publishing Inc.:

Sales Autopsy:

See Also:

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