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Book marketing success formula

You’ll be seeing a lot of buzz in coming weeks about Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal by New York Times reporter Nick Bilton.

The official publication date is November 5, 2013, but the publicity machine is working hard now to generate pre-orders. There was an excerpt in a recent The New York Times Magazine and a USA Today news story this week titled “Twitter CEO thrown for a loop.” I’d be surprised if Bilton doesn’t appear on “The Daily Show” or “The Colbert Report,” too.

Many of the book’s reviews will certainly be from well-known, large circulation publications.

Success formula components

Authors lacking the publishing power, connections, and savvy of this book’s publisher, Penguin Group (Portfolio Hardcover), can now turn away, thinking, “Oh yeah, look at what you can accomplish with a lot of money,” or they can stay here a little longer to learn from what we’ll see unfolding for this book.

Why not use it as your prototype for book marketing success? The big publishers know what they’re doing. Do what they do, and you’ve got a shot at something big, right?

Using Hatching Twitter as a case study, here are the components of your book marketing success formula:

  1. Great book. Let’s be honest. Anybody can make their book an Amazon best seller by throwing enough money at the process. But it takes more than that to make headlines with your book. If you want success to be based on merit — if you want to sell cases and cases because people actually like the book — then write a great book.
  2. Fantastic title. Hatching Twitter‘s title and subtitle (A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal) are attention-getting and compelling. If it were titled, “Hatching Twitter: How 4 Friends Changed How We Communicate,” it would strike me as “just another” profile of a successful company. But the real title? It jumps from boring business book to something full of drama, emotion, and intrigue. I’m already sucked in.
  3. Amazing cover designer. I love this cover. The hand-lettered chalk effect in Twitter logo colors on the black background pops. There’s something very appealing about it.
  4. The right credentials. All we really need to know is that Bilton is a New York Times columnist and reporter. That tells us he knows how to dig — and dig deep — for information we won’t find elsewhere. Do you have the credentials you need to sell your book?
  5. Manuscript “surprises” that can drive publicity. These “news pegs” or “news hooks” give you something to pitch to the press so that your book makes news. This week’s USA Today article focuses on a surprising, newsworthy revelation about Twitter CEO Dick Costolo.
  6. Advance planning. The campaign we’re seeing unfold for Hatching Twitter has been carefully orchestrated so that all of the pieces fall into place at the right time. If your book has big potential, start thinking about the publicity campaign as much as a year before your publication date. For example, magazines buy excerpts months before a book’s publication date so that excerpt publication coincides with the book’s launch date.
  7. Experienced publicist. If your book could be the next breakthrough success, consider hiring a qualified book publicist. Ask around for referrals and check references. Make sure that the publicist has experience working with the media outlets you want to target with your publicity plan.

I’m sure there’s more to this book’s campaign than outlined above — including a strong Twitter component — but all of these other pieces need to be in place for the rest of it to work.

We also know that  sometimes you can write a great book that goes nowhere, even with support. And sometimes a crappy book really takes off. Plus, we’re not all New York Times reporters. But with a great book supported by top quality professional resources, almost anything is possible. Great book + great title + great cover = shot at success.

Let’s enjoy watching Hatching Twitter soar.

What do you think of the Hatching Twitter book cover? Do you love it as much as I do?

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  1. I think the book cover is catchy but I’m sure I don’t love it as much as you do. I’m always more drawn to covers built around an image (usually of a human or animal) rather than graphics. While the hatching golden egg offers an interesting image, I had to look a second time to see what the golden ball was doing on the cover. Having said all of that, my writing and publishing background is primarily fiction centered on emotional relationships so that is what I relate to first. I’m much less interested in nonfiction success stories, although they’ve done a good job wording the title. It’s that last word that hooks you: betrayal. That’s what people want to know about. The rest is really commonplace in American corporate biographies.

    1. Thanks, Donna. My expectations for fiction and nonfiction covers are different, and this works well for me for nonfiction. I agree with you on that last word in the subtitle — it’s the one that makes me think that this might not be “just another business book.”


  2. Sandra, I had to look at the cover of Hatching Twitter until I had an ah-ha moment and got it: there was the golden egg, reminding me of the white ovals used by Twitter users who don’t do photos, and a blue tweety-bird. Of course.

    1. Glad you had that “aha!” moment! The image is clever, but there’s something about the typeface that I really like, too!

  3. Interesting piece, Sandra!

    And I agree with your points; they have made every word count on the title, and were savvy to echo the Twitter colors… hopefully that won’t be an IP issue for him down the track, though. I thought initially it could do with a little more “air” (space) around the words, but it’s confronting.

    I look forward to returning to your site.


    Alicia Young
    Author, The Savvy Girl’s Guide to Grace
    WINNER, 2013 New York Book Festival
    WINNER, 2013 Southern CA Book Festival
    WINNER, 2013 Living Now Awards

  4. I won’t repeat the above comments that I agree with, just to say I couldn’t see the significance of a yellow construction cap on the cover. It took awhile to get past that image to an egg. Then it made sense.

    1. Virginia, that’s so interesting! I had to stare a few seconds to see the construction hat you’ve referred to. I wonder if the cover designer got that reaction from others.


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