Success Stories of Book Marketing Wizards: If You Want to Be Paulo Coelho…

Even the biggest authors don’t rely on traditional media to break out their books.

In the past several decades, Paulo Coelho has sold more than 140 million books worldwide and is the all-time bestselling Portuguese language author. His most recent book, Aleph (Knopf, 2011), was featured on the front page of The New York Times’ Arts Section. But despite this prime feature and his already profound reputation, the book, initially, couldn’t break the Amazon top 100.

So the famous author of The Alchemist, at 65 years old, exercised creativity, focusing his time and energy on social media, even to the extent of refusing major national media interviews. “From a marketing perspective, one of the worst things that could happen is that you get on Oprah, but you don’t have a website and campaign sequence up that can capture and convert all that interest.”

In one particular marketing coup, Mr. Coelho was invited to participate in a live phone interview with Brendon Burchard, the founder of Experts Academy.  What a complete misfit this would seem: a site proposing to train a “new class of millionaires?” A business site where novelists are seen as experts? Mr. Burchard was amenable to seeing it this way.

In order to hear the interview, applicants were required to register their information–like their email addresses.  Within a week, Paulo’s book was #1 on Amazon and #6 on The New York Times bestseller list. Using Nielsen BookScan, Paulo was able to see that the vast majority of the sales came from his interview with Brendon.  Not only did it boost his sales, but Paulo now had the contact information of his interested followers, allowing him to call them to action in the future, or be in the know for new releases.

“I am trying to tell my publishers worldwide that I don’t need to give interviews in major media to sell books. This is a big shift for them, but they are coming to my point of view. I decided to give no major media interviews with Aleph’s launching, and the results were astonishing: the book made the bestseller lists all over the world, except the UK. Intuitively, I was investing a lot of time in my blog, and I can reach peaks of over 200k viewers per day.”

By the numbers:

  • 5,652,816 Twitter followers
  • 9,295,931 Likes on Facebook
  • Blog can reach 200,000+ viewers a day
  • Over 140 million books sold

The tactics that helped make his recent title a #1 bestseller:

  • Has invested time and energy into his blog, Twitter, and Facebook (all authentically his own)
  • Paulo ran a video contest called Aleph, the Video in which the first place winner would receive $4,000 and a computer.
  • The book was featured in The New York Times.
  • Made podcasts about the writing of books (the first one reached 48,000 YouTube views in 3 days).
  • An interview with Brendon Burchard, which required listeners to register their information, and could therefore be targeted and reminded about the book.

In the new world of content, where blanket exposure may be more important than niche exposure–think Facebook and Pinterst–authors need to market beyond obvious outlets, a fundamental principle of my marketing consulting work. Can a novel be an allegory for current affairs in the news, giving it it more publicity potential? Can a book on health and wellness offer insights to those looking to get out of a job slump, gain a more positive attitude, or forge a new a career? All it takes is imagination: of which authors have plenty.

By Matthew Schroth with Lucinda Blumenfeld

Research for this article was largely drawn from “The Tim Ferriss Effect: Lessons from My Successful Book Launch” a brilliant article by contributor, Michael Ellsberg. The rest of our opinions are our own.

Next week, we return with marketing tips from YA superstar, Amanda Hocking.

Richard Cohen

"The highest compliment one can pay “How to Write Like Tolstoy” is that it provokes an overwhelming urge to read and write, to be in dialogue or even doomed competition with the greatest creative minds… That Mr. Cohen is an editor, that his love of literature comes in large part from awe in the presence of better writers than he, is no small matter. His love is infectious, and regardless of how well he ends up teaching us to write, that is miracle enough." — Stefan Beck, The Wall Street Journal

“An elegant, chatty how-to book on writing well, using the lessons of many of the world’s best writers . . . [Cohen] draws on plentiful advice from past and present literary titans. . . . The process of gathering advice from prominent contemporary authors such as Francine Prose, Jonathan Franzen, and Nick Hornby gives Cohen the opportunity to tell any number of amusing, often discursive stories about great literature and authors, mixed with the writers’ own observations.” — Publishers Weekly