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© 2003 by Shel Horowitz,

Once upon a time, people went to bookstores when they wanted to buy a book. Or at least, that was the theory. Actually, non-bookstore channels have been a big part of book sales for decades—at least since people like Joe Karbo ("The Lazy Man's Way to Riches") back in the 1960s.

For my own books, whether they were self-published, done with a small commercial house, or by a New York conglomerate, I've found that selling direct is more secure, more financially rewarding, and far less hassle than sweating out the returns game with the bookstore channel.

All along, I've sold through speeches (I love getting paid to do my own marketing), over the Web (the first of my four websites went live in 1996), to clients at my office, who stare at a rack of my work throughout their entire appointment, and through an extensive effort to create "buzz."

The great thing is that *anyone* can generate buzz. Three of my techniques:

  1. Be a source or guest for conventional media. I've been quoted in Reader's Digest, the New York Times, Woman's Day, Bottom Line, the Wall Street Journal, Christian Science Monitor, Los Angeles Times, Inc, and dozens of other well-known and obscure publications (see a detailed list at <>). I'm also a call-in guest on at least a dozen radio shows per year. Whether or not I sell a lot of books directly through these interviews, I definitely create a lot of buzz (search for my name at Google and see for yourself)--and the best interviews sell a number of books through my websites or toll-free numbers.

    Here's my "secret weapon" for getting coverage: a service that sends source queries from journalists working on stories. (Find out more at
  2. Find your niche on line, and participate actively. There are literally hundreds of thousands of "communities" online: virtual watercoolers where people gather to talk shop: mystery, historical novel reading groups, professionals in every line of work. Find a group whose audience is the same as your book, and participate often. I currently participate in three groups for small press publishers (a primary market not only for my books but for my copywriting services, a group for Internet marketing professionals, three for professional PR and copywriters, and several others. Yes, I spend an hour or two per day keeping up with--and participating on--these lists, but the impact on my business is huge.
  3. Distribute content. Articles, book excerpts, blogs...if you write often enough about a subject, you become an expert. And you can find dozens of websites, discussion groups, print newsletters, 'zines, even radio shows—all hungry for well-written, informative material. You get "paid" with a few lines of blurb and contact info.

For my new book, "Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First," I am adding two things to the mix: a network of independent representatives who will sell my book on commission--thus reaching new networks I've not been able to reach on my own--and aggressive pursuit of corporate sales. I just had my first success with the latter: 1000 copies to a prominent airline. And that means the book is already profitable before it rolls off the press! 

–Copywriter and marketing strategist Shel Horowitz is the author of six books, including "Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First" and "Grassroots Marketing: Getting Noticed in a Noisy World". His Web sites at and offer over 900 useful articles, including six years of archives of his free Monthly Frugal Marketing Tips. To contact Shel about your next marketing project:



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