Virality in Books

I am starting to hear authors and publishers saying they are going to become experts in paid advertising on Google, Facebook and now Amazon. I certainly think it is something to experiment with around growing your customer base for a book but it should be is a singular activity.

Andrew Chen posted a piece on paid marketing and how it damages many startups:

The key insight here is that Paid Marketing is tricky to grow, at scale, as the primary channel. It’s highly dependent on both against external forces – competition and platform – as well as the leadership team’s psychology when things get unsustainable.

Obvious keywords are quickly bid up by competitors.  Moving into the long tail of terms doesn’t have enough volume to drive real growth.

Chen suggests that virality is the answer.  Build an offer that encourages others to share and engage with it. Dropbox added folder sharing and their affiliate program that let users give and get extra disk space.  Slack pushed team channel creation on their platform. The great thing about these offers is they are built completely with the context of the product.  They are also very hard to replicate.

I wonder what virality looks like in books.

  • You need a book that people are proud to share with others.
  • The book could have an assessment to help me see better how I fit with others (i.e. StrengthsFinder 2.0, How The World Sees You).
  • It needs to be easy to tell someone else about.
  • Available in many format and all the places you would expect to find them.
  • The book pull together a group of people like nothing before it.
  • The unique nature of the book matches conditions in the market and in culture (i.e. Fire and Fury, Fifty Shades of Grey, Purpose Driven Life, Dr. Atkin’s New Diet Revolution).
  • A book being the right way to deliver the idea.


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