What’s At The Heart of Book Marketing?

A few weeks back, I held a poll for you to vote on my next blog post series. Here were the results:


Book marketing won the day! (Though I still plan to do the other options.) So thus begins my series on Book Marketing. Let’s jump right in, shall we? Today we’re tackling the word “marketing” versus platform, brand, and advertising. How is it different, where are the similarities, and what is the purpose of marketing after all?


Marketing, in short, is defined as getting your book into the hands of its intended market.

Platform, according to Amanda Leudeke—a well-known agent in the CBA market—is:

“…a number. If you add together all of your Facebook fans, all of your Twitter followers, all of the people who attend your speaking engagements, and so on, you get your immediate platform.” — Amanda Leudeke, The Extroverted Writer

Basically marketing is about people. Platform is about numbers. Or, if you want to flip it: platform is a number and marketing is how you get those numbers.

Marketing is something you do. Platform is something you have.

Only your publisher–and maybe your agent–is really interested in your platform. When you publisher asks if you have a platform, they just want to know that if you were to shout about your book through a megaphone, there are people who will hear you.


Your brand is basically what you’ll be marketing. But it’s not your book. That’s outdated marketing. Your brand is…YOU.

Your personality, your authenticity and–eventually–your books. But the brand is you. Your name. Your passions and quirks and pursuits.

The messages of your marketing are going to be centered around you and the things you care about.

This is the entire theory behind an “auto-buy” author. Have you heard that term before? It means an author from whom you will automatically buy whatever they write. For me, that’s Marissa Meyer and Mary Weber and Jill Williamson. I not only love their writing, but I love what they’re doing as authors. I’ve grown to like them and how they’re personal on social media and seem to care about their readers.

This is what brand is all about. You don’t have to worry about “coming up” with a brand or a slogan or a mission statement. You don’t have to worry about having a color-coordinated website that matches your clothing—I’ve seen people do this. Sure, that has its benefits, but it takes a lot of energy that can often be better focused on writing.


We are not going to talk about advertising today. Because advertising is boring and math and is hopefully something your publisher will do for you. 😛 Unless you’re self publishing. Then you should talk advertising…but not with me.

In short, advertising is where you pay money for some sort of exposure. Think Facebook ads, Twitter promotions, etc. That’s not your job as an author.

If you’re self-published or with a smaller publishing house, you will do your own advertising if you want. Personally, I only ever pay for an ad once–maybe twice–a year. And that’s on FB during a book launch.

But advertising is a whole different beast and I don’t like to mix it with marketing. Sadly, it frequently does get mixed with marketing…and that’s one reason the word marketing is so distasteful.

So let’s try to fix that nasty taste in our mouth…and get to the heart of marketing.


We know that “marketing” is getting a message out, but modern marketing is doing it in an engaging, interesting way. You have to think about our culture and the things your reader craves.

We. Crave. Authenticity. Because we live in a culture that is currently all about fake. Advertising, free stuff, photoshop, billboards, consumerism, etc. And we’re sick of it.

When Jesus came to earth as a man, he entered a similar culture. The Pharisees were promoting a holier-than-thou lifestyle. The temple—a place that was supposed to be holy and a place of worship—was made into a local Wal-Mart. Interaction with God became more of a ritual than the relationship it could have been.

Jesus showed up with a message of hope–of salvation that people didn’t even know they needed. He contradicted the culture. He was approachable and didn’t shun people. His method?

  1. He started with fellowship with the Father.
  2. He continued to fellowship with the disciples. He got deep with them. Taught them. Poured into them.
  3. That relationship & authenticity was spread by the disciples…to the public. it attracted other people. They wanted to hear Jesus’s message. People followed Jesus for who He was, and then they accepted the message.

Jesus spread His message through relationship. And the times he said “Buy my book!”–people listened to Him and were interested in his message because they knew him. They trusted him. And they knew he was sharing this message for them and for their good. Not just for himself.

Hubby and I treat college ministry this way as well. We –> pour into the student leaders –> who reach the students on campus through small groups and authentic interaction.

This is the same thing we want to do with our marketing. Author –> tribe –> reading community.

Tribe. That is the heart of marketing. (Tweet this.)

No matter how many ads exist or billboards or giveaways or sales…the proven best way to spread the word about a book (or about anything) is word of mouth. Ask anyone—a marketer, a publisher, a publicist, etc. Word of mouth is the magic potion that we can’t control. And the only thing we can do to help word of mouth is to have a community around us who believes in us and our story and our pursuits…and spreads the word.

So, with that, I think marketing needs a new name:

And that’s what we’ll cover next time. 🙂


What has frustrated you about marketing? (Either things you’ve seen, had done to you, or think you have to do.)
What comes to mind when you think of a tribe?





About Nadine Brandes

Nadine Brandes is an adventurer, fusing authentic faith with bold imagination. She never received her Hogwarts letter, but rest assured she’s no Muggle (and would have been in Ravenclaw House, thank you very much.) This Harry Potter super-nerd has been known to eat an entire package of Oreos (family size) by herself, and watches Fiddler on the Roof at least once a year. She writes about brave living, finding purpose, and other worlds soaked in imagination. Her dystopian trilogy (The Out of Time Series) challenged her to pursue shalom, which is now her favorite word (followed closely by bumbershoot.) When Nadine’s not taste-testing a new chai or editing fantasy novels, she and her knight-in-shining armor (nickname: “hubby”) are out pursuing adventures.
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  1. One thing that is frustrating about marketing is trying to figure out how to get online sales. I sell books to people I see or know in other places but online marketing isn’t working for me.

    • I think the key is relationship. You’re able to sell books in person to people you know. People you can talk to and be real with who want to support you. So you need to approach social media the same way. Being real and building acquaintances and a following who are interested in what you’re doing. And one main way they become interested in what you’re doing or writing is by becoming interested in YOU. 🙂

  2. Great post! But I kept thinking that those flower stems were asparagus … hmm, maybe I’m hungry. 😉

  3. Awesome advice, Nadine! And particularly helpful for me since I’m looking ahead to the first publication. Anyway, I had a question on marketing. Or maybe this falls into the category of advertising? What do you think of blog tours for a book’s release? I’ve seen a ton of authors do this, especially those who are self-publishing. Are they a helpful use of time during a book launch? Thanks. 🙂

    • Thanks Hannah!

      I think blog tours are brilliant! I know a lot of authors who have done this and done this successfully. They’re definitely helpful, especially if their blog has a good reach. It’s always helpful to have new people spreading the word about your blog to their audiences that you have not yet reached. 🙂

  4. I have a B.S. in Business Marketing, but one thing I’ve found since graduating is that marketing is a lot harder in practice than in theory, especially when a lot of the theory in the classes you were required to take focused more on how huge corporations do marketing and all you ever wanted was a small business. I don’t yet have a book finished to publish, much less market, but I do have some marketing experience from my Etsy shop (EruvandiCrafts #shamelessselfpromotion). One of the most frustrating things about marketing my shop is trying to find my target audience and actually getting them to follow me on the various social media. Just yesterday I was asking on the Etsy forums what I could do better with my twitter marketing and they’re all like, “You need to do a promotional tweet of one of your items at least once a day and you must interact with you followers frequently and provide them content they care about.” I’m like, “I’d LOVE to interact with my followers more frequently, but 3/4th of them are spam and click bait accounts that are run by a computer!!! *excessive frustration*” :/

    Perhaps I’m looking at it with rose colored glasses, but I honestly think it would be easier to market as a published author (which I hope to be someday) because at least then, your followers follow you because they really do want to connect with you and not just your product. Also, Twitter’s and other social media’s algorithms connect you to other bookish people when you post about books, but when you tweet about selling things it connects you with other sellers instead of buyers. *more excessive frustration*

    • I do think it can be a bit easier marketing as a published author because your product is something personal and emotional that you can be passionate about. Whereas a lot of other products–while they excite you to make and to sell–can be harder to deliver or share in a personal manner.

      Ugh, I hate those Twitter bots! Just make sure to keep interacting with the non-bots. 😉 (I’m sure you already do.)

  5. Polaris Northstar

    Great post Nadine! Looking forward to more from this series (I voted for this;)!

    What has frustrated you about marketing? (Either things you’ve seen, had done to you, or think you have to do.) I hate it when people (not you) spam inboxes with only their product (and by spam, I mean every day! That happened to me once. I unsubscribed. But the emails kept coming 0.0).

    What comes to mind when I think of a tribe? Warring Celtic (or Native Amarican) tribes ;p

    • I think the series posts will go up twice a month. 🙂

      I too hate spam, and I guess that’s what frustrates me about marketing–the people who are telling others that “to market, you must spam.” That’s why it needs another name. The name “marketing” is too convoluted now, when it can really be a wonderful and fun thing. 🙂

  6. Great post…will be keeping my eye open for the next one 🙂

    What frustrates me about marketing: I’m with Polaris Northstar. Those people who only tweet, IG, or FB about themselves. Please smother me with a pillow if I ever become ‘that person.’ *quickly runs to see what was the last thing posted*

    Tribe = my peoples

  7. This was an awesome post, Nadine! I was excited to see that the marketing series had the most votes – I was looking forward to hearing your advice on that topic! I’m not published (YET, yet 😉 ), but I’m working on building up my social media platform. I loved you using the example of Jesus! That was super neat, I’ve never thought about it that way.

    Again, thanks for the wonderful post!

    • That’s great that you’re still working on building up your social media platform! That’s exactly what you should be doing. 🙂

      Glad you enjoyed the post! <3

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