Episode 382 – Book marketing with Karen Williams

Karen Williams

‘I thought it was going to be a 20% update and I think the content has changed by about 80%.’

This might sound familiar to anyone who’s sat down to update their book. But this conversation isn’t just for you if you’re considering a second edition: Karen Williams is talking about her bestselling Book Marketing Made Simple, and this conversation is packed with insights and ideas for marketing your business book from day 1. 

From tactical tools to timeless principles, discover best practice in modern marketing – including thoughts on AI – and the enduring joy of writing buddies and post-its.  



Book Marketing Made Simple website: bookmarketingmadesimple.com

Karen’s website: https://librotas.com/ 

Karen’s podcast: https://librotas.com/podcast/

Karen on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/karenwilliamslibrotas/

Alison on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/the-alison-jones/

The 10-day Business Book Proposal Challenge: http://proposalchallenge.com/

‘Kickstart Your Writing’ Workshop January 2024: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/666359076937

WriteBrained: A 28-day exploratory writing adventure: https://pi-q.learnworlds.com/course?courseid=writebrainedcourse

Ginny Carter’s FREE 5 Principles of Writing a Self-Help Book course: https://pi-q.learnworlds.com/course/5-principles-writing-self-help-book

The Extraordinary Business Book Club on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1447064765612358/

Alison Jones: This is brilliant. I’m here today with Karen Williams, who is The Book Mentor at Librotas. So over the last 10 years, she’s worked with hundreds of coaches, experts, and leaders who have a story to tell or a message to share. Taking them through the whole process of writing a book from idea to final manuscript and launch and beyond, as we will be talking about today, so that their book helps them to attract more clients, raise their credibility, and show up in a bigger way.

Karen herself is a TEDx speaker and the best selling author of 10 books, 10 books!, most recently the second edition of Book Marketing Made Simple, which is the one that I’d particularly like to talk to you about today, Karen.

But first of all, welcome back to the show.

Karen Williams: Thanks, Alison. Thank you for having me back, again, for the third time, I think it is.

Alison Jones: Some sort of record, isn’t it? Well, you’ve always got such interesting stuff to say, Karen. And there’s always a new book. I mean, that is quite impressive. I do want to talk to you about your book writing process at some point, first of all, I want to talk about book marketing, because I mean, that’s what people are tuning in for, isn’t it?

First of all, why did you write the book?

Karen Williams: Well, I originally wrote the book back in 2017. It became a bestseller. It was one of my most successful books. But things change, don’t they? Over the last six years, or last year, it was on my list of things to do. It never happened. And when we came into this year, it was like, I really need to update the book.

Because, you know, the principles of marketing haven’t really changed. You need to have a really clear message. You need to be able to get it out there. You know, you’ve got to market it well, and you’ve got to use the right media. But actually so much has changed in the book world, the book marketing world over the last six years. I just needed to update it.

And that’s really where it all came from. So I sat down in March, took myself away for a week to write the book, realized there was more to do than I thought it was going to be.

Alison Jones: This sounds familiar.

Karen Williams: I thought it was going to be a 20% update and I think the content has changed by about 80%. Has increased from about 53,000 words to 64,000, it’s gone up by about 20 percent as well. So the book has changed hugely in that time.

Alison Jones: And I do want to drill in to the specific sorts of changes that you noticed and what you realized had to go in there. But I want to back up just for a second because you and I both know that for many people, writing a book is exactly that. They think once they’ve written the book, the job is done.

And it’s kind of heartbreaking when you have to explain to them that you have now successfully completed part one of this process.

Why is marketing, why is it such a huge thing?

Karen Williams: Well actually one of the biggest things I wanted to do with this book, the updated version, is to remind people, I’ve changed the subtitle don’t ask me to quote it, it’s not quite embedded in my mind yet, is to make sure people market their book from the moment they start to write it.

Because I see, you probably see this Alison, we see so many people who get to the end stage, they suddenly panic because they’re publishing their book, when actually marketing needs to start at day one, even before they put pen to paper, even before they’ve got a plan.

Alison Jones: Just when you’ve got an idea, socializing it and building up the community around it.

Karen Williams: Absolutely. And that’s one of the things that, although I focus on it in Book Marketing Made Simple, the first edition, I wanted to make more of it. And I wanted to give more strategies because it’s all well and good saying to people, you need to be on social media. But then they can be a rabbit in the headlights, can’t they? Because they can think, okay, I need to be on social media, but what on earth am I going post?

Alison Jones: Now what?

Karen Williams: So I wanted to give people ideas of how they could use it, and just some prompts to help people to post more effectively if they’re going to use social media and blogging, and podcasts, and video, and webinars, and all of the other things that people could do to get their book out there.

So that was the reason for the update really, and for Book Marketing Made Simple.

Alison Jones: Yes, and that in itself is a really interesting point, isn’t it? Because I mean, you list so many brilliant, straightforward, really practical strategies in your book. It’s not just kind of do this. It’s like, this is how you do this and these are some really specific ways you can go about it and that’s marvelous.

And there can be a bit of a sense of, Oh, crumbs. I’ve got to do everything now, so how do people know which out of these things they should do and what’s too much, when you actually start losing the benefit of what you’re doing?

Karen Williams: It’s a really interesting question, when I interviewed someone for my first book, he said, pick three strands of marketing and do them well. And it’s a philosophy that I take through my whole business. And I think once you’ve got something working, you could layer something else on. So it doesn’t have to be three things only, so I’ve been doing email marketing ever since I started out in business. So that’s pretty seamless for me. So I can add, I’m setting up my own podcast at the moment.

So you can add extra things, extra dimensions, to the mix when you’ve got something working. But to pick the ones that work for you depend on two things really, where do your readers hang out? Your ideal readers, how are they going to find you?

If they’re not listening to podcasts, don’t do a podcast. If they’re not watching video, you know don’t do videos. If they’re not on Instagram, don’t do Instagram. And it’s also where you feel comfortable as well. If you don’t feel comfortable in front of video, don’t do video. So it’s just that, I suppose it’s just that blend of where people can find you, but also what you do and what you enjoy doing.

Alison Jones: It’s almost a sort of mini ikigai isn’t it? It’s where people are, what you do well, what you love doing, what’s actually going to cut through the noise, it’s a really good way putting it. And I mean, you said you sort of sat down and thought it’ll just be a 20 percent update and here we are with, you know, 80 percent of the book substantially rewritten.

I’m going to guess that people who set up their marketing strategy in 2017 probably haven’t replaced 80 percent of it actually. So I guess what changed and what do we need to be, maybe one or two things, that people really need to look out for if they haven’t refreshed their marketing for a while?

Karen Williams: What’s changed, I think, is people use so much social media so much more. I don’t think it’s necessarily changed, but I think it’s become much more of a tool. I think what’s changed with AI and when we met up, when we had a conversation face to face fairly recently, we talked very briefly about artificial intelligence and the impact that that’s had, not necessarily on marketing so much, but a little bit.

But I think from a marketing point of view, there’s new tools out there, you know, tools that we can use to actually help us to define the right keywords and categories to list our book on Amazon, through to tools that can help us to market and also tools that can help us to promote the book. So I’m thinking about content tools like Medium, Substack, things like that, that I don’t know if they were in existence six years ago, I certainly didn’t include them in the first edition, I don’t think they were.

Obviously things have evolved. I did e-zine articles, I think I mentioned in the first edition, when that’s moved on quite a lot, things have moved on a lot. So it’s tools, it’s techniques and it’s new ways of looking at things. And obviously podcasts have increased so much more over the last six years, become much more popular than they were back in 2017.

Alison Jones: Yes, there’s a huge amount, isn’t there? And it’s interesting, when we were speaking, it was Karen Skidmore’s Momentum event that I saw you at most recently. And we were talking about AI and that balance between using AI, but not delegating your thinking to it.

Karen Williams: Yes.

Alison Jones: And I think you brought that out really well in the book, that you can use it as a tool. What was it Grace Marshall called it? An infinite intern.

Karen Williams: It’s a really great research tool. You know, if I find that I’m writing something and it feels a bit clunky, I just use ChatGPT to help me because I know what I want to say. I know how I want to say it and I just put it in and sometimes it comes up with something that’s wonderful. Sometimes it comes up with a load of rubbish, but that’s okay. But you have to then bring your own voice into it.

So it’s certainly something that, I probably could have included more on AI. But obviously it’s such an evolving, developing topic that again, with marketing, you just can’t capture everything, you know, so another example, Alison, is Twitter. I mentioned Twitter a lot in the book.

Alison Jones: I was thinking that when I was reading it. I was like, ah, beaten by events again. Yes.

Karen Williams: I know, I know, I know. And so it got to the stage last week when we’re doing the, at the time of recording this, we’re doing the final sort of typesetting proofs, and so I’ve added a sentence in now because, you know, they might change, Elon might change his mind and go back to Twitter, who knows?

We can’t keep up with technology and we just have to, I think with our books, we have to set them as current in one moment in time and just appreciate that things can change and things can evolve. But it’s been a great learning for me and also some of my clients who have asked me about, how do you cope when new social media platforms come out? How do you balance that? Because you have to stop somewhere with a book.

Alison Jones: Yes, and I guess the other thing is that you yourself, I mean, expert though you are in pretty much everything you’re talking about here, you’ve actually done that really smart strategy, which I love, of bringing in other voices. So you’ve asked people who are particular experts in a particular field, like SEO optimization, for example, to contribute.

Tell me a little bit about the thinking behind that, I guess also the logistics behind that.

Karen Williams: Well I did it for the first edition, so when I was revising this second edition I looked at who had contributed before and what other voices, so I re-sought permission to use articles that had already been published. And I also wanted to reach out to other people who I knew had more wisdom to share.

So that’s really where I just reached out to people I knew. I know people I work with just to find out if they’re willing to contribute. So it really was having a conversation. They’re going to be part of the first series in my podcast as well. So at the moment, I’m organizing interviews with them, which enables them to go a little bit deeper into the topic they’ve shared. I know a lot about marketing. I don’t know everything. I don’t claim to be a website expert, an SEO expert. I know a little bit, I can get by. But I do believe in using and working with experts. So it made sense to bring in other people who know so much more than me, rather than, and also it enables us to all promote the book together. So it’s that partnership in terms of getting the book out there.

I’ve also included, I’ve got so many more case studies now and client examples. So again, it’s just bringing those in. It’s just added gold dust, I think too. I know a lot, but there’s other people who know so much as well.

Alison Jones: And it’s, you bring out there the kind of multi layered benefits of that, which I love. The book itself is better because you’re bringing in expertise, you build up your network of peers and people to go to and people who will then shout about the book on your behalf as you talk about the book as a network is so important.

And then you’ve got that profile raising thing is that, you know, here you are ready made community for your podcast when you launch it. So it’s so powerful, really lovely.

And for yourself with the writing, it’s something you do as part of your job now. You are probably unconsciously competent at it, but I’m going to make you think about it for a moment.

How do you do it and what is it that you most love or you find most frustrating or enjoyable about it?

Karen Williams: Okay. How do I do it? I work best when I take myself away from my working environment. So go away for a week, have some time away. I work best. So I think with my last couple of books, I’ve taken myself away for a week in the UK where I’ve either gone with a friend or gone by myself actually with the intention of writing, because I work so much better when I don’t have distractions and when I go away to write, you know, I take my food, I make food in advance, everything is prepared, so I literally just have to sit down and write. Walk, write, swim, whatever I can do to move my body as well as writing, so you can’t sit all the time.

So I enjoy writing, I have to have a plan, and that’s what I tell my clients to do, that’s probably what you tell your clients to do as well, Alison.

You have to have a plan, you have to be really clear on what you’re writing, who it’s for, and what’s in each chapter, so there’s a lot of that that goes on.

Alison Jones: Yes.

Karen Williams: I suppose what frustrates me is when you do set aside time to write and things just don’t pop into your mind and that’s where something like ChatGPT can help because it can help you get over that writer’s block. And I think that’s one of the things I found this year is that if you do sit down with a blank page, or actually you shouldn’t sit down with a blank page because you should know what you’re planning to write next, really, and then obviously that helps, but if you do feel stuck or the words aren’t flowing, you know, there are tools like that that can assist the writer. And I suppose that’s the thing that frustrates me, is when you know that you want to write something.

But I’ve also got strategies, I had to think something through this morning, so I went out for a walk because I knew that in my mind, the best way I can actually, you know, I can sit with a piece of paper, but the best way for me to do it, and of course you can do the six minute writing sprints as well, of course, we know that, Alison.

Alison Jones: It’s so powerful, isn’t it? And it’s interesting, we’re talking about all these different kinds of intelligence, there’s your own instinctual intelligence and almost your physical intelligence, you know, so when you’re walking the ideas come.

There’s this sort of sitting and sprinting exploratory writing stuff. There’s also other people’s intelligence that you can draw on but also use to kind of amplify your own, you know when you’re having conversations with people and suddenly ideas that are co-created that you’d never come up with on your And then there’s the artificial intelligence, where you can turn to Chat GPT, what are people asking about this topic? And you generate a list of things that just get you started.

I think knowing that you have all those at your disposal, and I guess, understanding which is the right one to reach for right now.

Karen Williams: Yes, because you just said, you know, having conversations. So I do like going away with, I often go away with my friend Cheryl, and we’re both normally writing, but we still connect. We connect over a walk and we talk things through and if one of us is stuck, we help each other out. And that’s joyous as well, you know, to be able to have that conversation.

Alison Jones: Yes. I hadn’t really thought, like, Bec Evans is my go to sort of writing buddy. And something, I mean, I love, I live for the coffee breaks, I’ll be honest. But there’s also something really powerful about just looking across Gladstone’s Library and seeing Bec working that kind of brings me back to focus on the page.

There’s something about doing it in community or, you know, in partnership with someone that really helps you focus.

And in terms of the tools that you use, let’s get really down and dirty. Do you just open a blank word document and go, or, you know, how does it go?

Karen Williams: Pretty much. Yes, yes, pretty much. I know some people use Scrivener. I don’t. When I did purchase Scrivener and I looked at it and went, it’s another thing to learn. And I like a Word document.

Alison Jones: I’m a bit like that.

Karen Williams: I’m old school like that, I’m old school Word document, pad, pen, post it notes. Loads of paper, plan it all out, dump it into a Word document, create a structure. And then also multiple Word documents, when you’re moving things around. When you realize something doesn’t quite fit where it needs to fit, so you move it somewhere else so you don’t lose it. Having various versions of Word documents.

But I like it all in one place, and I can see the progress. I can see the word count going up, down, changing all the time.

And I know where I am with it, with a Word document. So I’m old school, I’m afraid.

Alison Jones: And actually that, I mean, it sounds trivial. You sort of said it in passing, but it’s huge, isn’t it? It’s actually knowing where you’re at because I’ve had so many people, I remember talking to somebody the other day and he, you know, he said, I’m not quite sure how long it is. Looked, added up all the chapters that he’d written separately and went, Oh, actually it’s 200,000 words.

Yes, that’s too long. That’s a multi volume set, yes, but if you have it in a single Word document, and you’re using Word styles so that you can navigate it nicely.

Karen Williams: Oh, absolutely, Word styles are so important.

 So I’ve got a template I create for my clients which has got all the Word styles, because not everyone’s technologically minded as well. I have it all set out. Sometimes it blows people’s minds and I do have to do a video to tell them how to use it. But I’ve had clients who have had multiple documents, you know, piles of paperwork on their desk, where they’ve got multiple… no, I can’t work like that. I’m a very organised person. Well, I like to be organised, shall I say.

So like to…

Alison Jones: …I like think I’m organised.

Karen Williams: yes.

Alison Jones: Brilliant. You’ve probably given it to us already in there, but I’m going to ask for it anyway: I always ask my guests for their one best tip. So if somebody’s just about to set off on this journey, what’s the one thing that they need to be aware of or they need to try before they go any further?

Karen Williams: I would say get really clear on your idea before you write anything. get really clear on the idea. What is it? What’s the big idea behind your book? And ask people before you get started. So that’s really the most important thing. If you don’t have that idea and you don’t know what problem you’re solving, what new information you’re providing or what angle you’re taking with it, you’re going to start writing and then you could then restart writing and restart writing.

So that helps and obviously then have a plan, but have that really strong idea. Test it out before you start writing about it. So that’s my biggest tip.

Alison Jones: And it’s an absolutely brilliant tip. And, it’s one of those things that you say, and it makes complete sense, but you know, this is what you do in a sense. So if somebody’s going, how, how do I get clear on my idea? Just give them a little bit more, you know, some ideas about how you help people get clear on their idea.

Karen Williams: Really talking it through. I think for me working with a lot of business experts is what do they do already? So if they are a stress management coach and they’re writing a book about parenting, there’s a mismatch there unless they’re moving into a new niche. So it’s really focusing on, what do they do already? What collateral, what IP have they got, intellectual property have they got already that links into their book?

So we’re not looking to reinvent the wheel, we’re looking at making it as simple as possible, as easy as possible. You know, it’s not exactly the most easiest process writing a book, but what do they do already that they’re known for and how do we build on that through the book?

So that’s really what I explore with people and the very first thing I ask people is what is your vision? What is your goal? Because if you know the end point is X, we can then focus on how they can reach X. So really it’s just about how that idea enables them to do it. So if they want more speaking engagements, want more clients, want more corporate opportunities, what ultimately does that book open doors to? When you know that, it makes it easier to actually hone that idea or tweak that idea.

And sometimes people start and the idea changes, evolves, they do some research and that’s okay, but you’ve got to start. There’s that fine line between starting before you’re ready and not starting. And you just have to just go for it sometimes and know that things might evolve and change.

Alison Jones: Yes, take a lean approach. This is your working hypothesis and yes.

And what’s really interesting as well, just looping right back to sort of where we started, is when you’ve got that clarity and when your book is supporting what you’re doing in your professional and personal development, more generally, not only is the writing easier, but the marketing of the book is easier because then you’re marketing the whole business.

Karen Williams: Absolutely, and that’s what it’s all about. And that’s what Book Marketing Made Simple is all about. It’s about how do you market you, your book, and your business at the same time.

So with social media, it’s not just about marketing your book, it’s about marketing your business. And actually if you do all right as, you know, if you do everything well as you write your book, it means that you could always get clients from your book before you actually publish it.

That’s what I really encourage people to do, is look at how they can open doors to opportunities, or things along those lines. So the book can do that whilst you write it, and you don’t have to wait a year, two years, to reap the rewards. You can actually reap the rewards now when you do it well.

Alison Jones: So the writing of the book can fund the writing of the book.

Karen Williams: Absolutely, yes and I talk about that a lot through my programs. So that’s one of the things I’ve tried to bring into this second edition.

Alison Jones: Yes, brilliant, thank you, great tip and great practical application of that tip too, thank you, it’s a bit greedy.

And you probably know as well, in fact, I know you know because you’ve had to come up with two before, what book would you recommend, it gets harder doesn’t it when you come on for the third time, what book would you recommend that people who are listening should read if they haven’t already and you are not allowed to name any of your own, as you know?

Karen Williams: So there was a, I think everyone finds there’s a book that they would love to have written themselves. And one that came to mind when I was thinking about this earlier is Daniel Priestley’s Key Person of Influence. I love that book.

Alison Jones: It’s such a good book.

Karen Williams: Really talks my language. It’s a lot of the stuff that I say to people but I think what Daniel does is brilliant. You know, he’s got an amazing business. He’s an amazing person. But that is my favorite book of his. So yes, definitely one I recommend.

Alison Jones: And of course, one of his key principles, one of his P’s, is publish.

Karen Williams: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Alison Jones: Yes, and of course he’s a former podcast guest as well. I always remember at the Business Book Awards one year, he was giving the talk at the intro and he said something that I have quoted shamelessly ever since, which was something about the world doesn’t necessarily need more books, but the world needs more authors.

I just thought that was such a great way of putting it, it’s about that process of writing that changes you as a person, that deepens your understanding and your knowledge and your clarity and you know, all the things we’ve talked about.

Karen Williams: Yes.

Alison Jones: Absolutely brilliant. Thank you so much, Karen.

Now, if people want to find out more about you, more about Librotas, more about your work as a book mentor, more about your books, where should they go?

Karen Williams: Librotas.com. L i b r o t a s.com is the best place to find me.

Everything that I do in terms of the writing, the planning, publishing, well, not publishing, more of the marketing launch stuff, all of that can be found there.

Book Marketing Made Simple can be found at bookmarketingmadesimple.com, which is one of the things that I always recommend.

Get the URL for the book so then you can quote it and it makes it so much easier.

So, yes, you can find me, I’m on all the social media platforms.

Alison Jones: Of course you are.

Karen Williams: Search for Karen Williams, The Book Mentor, and you’ll find me.

Alison Jones: And when’s the podcast coming?

Karen Williams: This summer, the podcast is, I’m planning the interviews. I think I’ve got the first interview with one of your authors actually Ginny Carter, that’s the the first interview that I’m doing, very, very soon.

But it’ll be launching probably before this one goes out, actually.

Alison Jones: Excellent. Well, this one will be going out when Book Marketing Made Simple comes out in September. So, I will have a chat with you before it goes out and I will get the URL, the link on the show notes, along with all those others. So, extraordinarybusinessbooks.com if you are driving and you haven’t got a pen to hand and you don’t want to cause a crash.

Brilliant. So good to talk to you again, Karen. No doubt see you in a few months time with the next one.

Karen Williams: Ha, not for a while, not for a while, Alison.

Alison Jones: Take a break now, but thank you so much for all your wisdom. It’s just a pleasure to talk to you.

Karen Williams: Thank you.

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