Unconventional Book Marketing Tactics: How Jay Papasan Sold Millions of Books

Posted on Aug 23, 2023

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Written by Chandler Bolt

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Jay Papasan Unconventional Book Marketing

Jay Papasan knows a thing or two about selling books. As the vice president of strategic content for Keller Williams Realty and co-author of several bestselling books, including The One Thing which sold over 3 million copies, Papasan has an unconventional approach to book marketing.

In a recent podcast interview, Papasan shared some of his unusual tactics for selling millions of copies – tactics that went far beyond just focusing on the initial launch period. From leveraging airport bookstore placement to building a long-term email list, Papasan emphasized the importance of thinking creatively when it comes to book marketing.

Here are some of the key tips Papasan revealed in the interview:

Focus on Four Audiences, Not Just Readers

Many authors focus exclusively on marketing to their target readers. But Papasan advised thinking more broadly about the four core audiences for any book:

  1. Readers
  2. People who buy books for others (e.g. executives who purchase books for their team)
  3. Media (journalists, TV producers, podcast hosts, etc.)
  4. Booksellers

By developing tailored strategies to reach each of these groups, you can multiply the impact of your marketing.

Sell Books in Bulk for Business Buyers

One unconventional strategy Papasan used was selling books in bulk packs of 10 copies directly to business buyers. He revealed that nearly 50% of the sales for some of his books came from these bulk orders, targeted at executives and real estate offices who wanted to share the book with employees and agents.

The key is reserving the rights in your publishing contract to sell bulk orders through your own website and channels. Then actively market these special offers to corporate buyers who can quickly take 100 or 500+ copies at a time.

Pay for Airport Bookstore Placement

Papasan leveraged airport bookstores like Hudson News to land on their exclusive bestseller lists. This involved paying for prime placement at high traffic airports to gain exposure and boost sales.

Once a book hits the Hudson News bestseller list, you get free placement going forward. And books purchased at Hudson count towards national bestseller lists, so it can push you over the edge there too. Papasan treated it like a loss leader, tracking sales carefully to make sure the incremental sales justified the upfront placement fees.

Keep Promoting with a Slow Burn Approach

Instead of focusing solely on launch period sales, Papasan emphasized the need to keep actively promoting books week after week, year after year. Tactics like consistent email marketing, events, and podcast interviews kept his books selling for the long haul.

Papasan revealed that ongoing podcast promotion in particular helped reinvigorate sales of The One Thing a full year after launch, creating a slow burn effect.

Build an Email List and Community

In his overall book marketing strategy, Papasan said his biggest emphasis was on the email list. He said you’ll sell 50 books to your email list for every 1 book you sell through social media. By building an engaged email list over time, you can directly notify fans of anything new.

This strategy gives you control and reduces dependency on any single platform like Amazon or fluctuating bookstore placements. A newsletter also allows you to prime your audience by sharing excerpts or related content leading up to a book launch.

5 Tips to Increase Your Book Sales

Based on Papasan’s unconventional wisdom, here are 5 tips any author can apply to sell more books:

  1. Identify and create targeted offers and marketing angles for your four core audiences – don’t just focus on potential readers. Figure out how your book can provide value for executives, media contacts, booksellers, and other influencers as well.
  2. Consider selling your book in bulk packs directly to corporate buyers through your own ecommerce channels. You may be leaving lots of money on the table by only selling single copies.
  3. Analyze high-traffic airport bookstores like Hudson News and potentially invest in paid placement to boost visibility and sales. The upfront cost could pay for itself through incremental sales.
  4. Commit to ongoing book marketing, PR, and content creation every week – don’t go quiet after your initial book launch. Find cost-effective ways to continually nurture your audience.
  5. Start building your email list today. Use your book as a magnet to attract subscribers by sharing exclusive updates and content. Email marketing drives more book sales than any other platform.

Watch from minute 25:30 if you want to know Jay’s secrets for standing out and marketing your book.

Unconventional book marketing tactics

Jay Papasan has found great success by embracing unconventional book marketing strategies that focus on long-term nurturing versus short-term launches. By taking the road less traveled and tailoring creative tactics to each book’s core audiences, he has uncovered a formula for selling millions of copies over time. Aspiring authors should study his approach as a model.

The Papasan playbook

Papasan’s tactics defy conventional author wisdom in several key ways:

  • Long-term nurturing over launch period. Most authors focus heavily on maximizing initial launch sales. Papasan continually markets books over multi-year horizons.
  • Tailored creative tactics per core audience. He develops unconventional marketing tactics tailored to each of his books’ four core audiences.
  • Multi-channel outreach. Embracing diverse marketing channels like podcast interviews, speaking events, email newsletters instead of relying solely on Amazon.
  • Iterative testing and optimization. Papasan continually experiments with new ideas and optimizes the most successful tactics.

By taking the road less traveled with these types of creative, audience-focused book marketing tactics, Papasan serves as an inspirational model for how self-published authors can find their own path to selling more books over the long-term.

Book Marketing podcast playlist:

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