A project of Tim Grahl

YOUR FIRST 1000 COPIES: the step-by-step guide to marketing your book by Tim Grahl

Sharing Too Much and Obscurity

This is an excerpt from Your First 1000 Copies: The Step-by-Step Guide to Marketing Your Book by Tim Grahl.

Is it possible to share too much great content? I know many authors that have wrestled with this question. You may be wrestling with it too. It’s definitely a common question, one driven by the fear that somehow you will give away so much content that nobody will be motivated to buy your books. As a partner to many authors and now an author myself, I completely understand this fear and why you have it.

Although this fear is legitimate, it is small and pales in comparison to the more important concern: releasing a book that nobody knows exists. As Cory Doctorow, bestselling author and founder of Boing Boing, said, “Obscurity is hard to monetize.” Obscurity is the enemy that you should be worried about above all others. Therefore, hiding everything you create until it’s bound together in a book is not a smart idea; you will be quite lonely when you start looking for readers once the book is published.

The solution is to share, and share widely. And deeply. And too much. Share until you become afraid that you’re sharing too much, and then share some more. Sharing your content freely and publicly gives something concrete for readers to engage with and share, which introduces them to your work and allows them to become excited by it so that you can invite them to go deeper.

In all my experience working with authors, I have never seen or heard of an author that lost a huge amount of sales because they shared too much. Even when Adam Mansbach’s illustrated book Go the Fuck to Sleep got released online in its full format, it only drove sales higher. More recently, Timothy Ferriss partnered with BitTorrent, a massive online file sharing network, to package his latest book The 4-Hour Chef with bonus content into a massive media bundle for free download. The result: two million downloads that drove 250,000 additional sales.

The bottom-line: Sharing is how you build your platform. You can’t build an effective platform without it. If you hide all of your writing until it has a price tag on it, you’ll never create trust-based, value-driven connections with readers that naturally lead to book sales. Instead, you’ll be stuck scurrying around trying to sell your book using all the overly aggressive tactics we’ve all come to hate. But if you start with sharing, you allow connections with readers to build and develop over a long period of time. This approach, the Connection System approach, protects you from needing to use the desperation tactics many authors suffer from.

The benefits from sharing your content wide and far can be tremendous. Having worked with and studied hundreds of authors, here are a few of the common themes I’ve observed:

  • The authors that give away the most valuable content build the fastest followings.
  • Giving away your best work is a direct path to building a lot of connections with readers.
  • Making your content widely and freely available is the most consistent, sure-fire way of building attention for and engagement with your platform.

Sharing a lot of content freely and widely may always make you feel a bit uncomfortable. You’re right to have that feeling, just don’t let it consume you. Remember that the best rewards in work and life are reserved for those that embrace their discomforts and push forward. If you’re afraid of sharing too much, keep it in perspective with the risks of obscurity. Obscurity is far, far worse. Do everything you can to climb out of that dark hole.

6 Responses to “Sharing Too Much and Obscurity”

  1. Ryan Holiday says:

    Timothy Ferriss also hired Ryan Holiday, a publicist and marketing guru, to market his book. I'm sure he didn't come cheap. Sharing helps if people know about and are interested, however, most authors/musicians can throw all the material they like at people and it will not make a difference if there isn't any marketing muscle behind it.

  2. Cheri Lasota says:

    I have found free effective when first offering up my debut novel, Artemis Rising, though I feel that effectiveness dissipating over time. Free can also make potential readers question a book's quality, though I'm not sure how that jives with Artemis, since at the top it lists the awards the book has gotten. I'm finding a home at Wattpad where I can offer up free excerpts of my offerings plus I posted a free short story in it's entirety.

    I still think "free" works in a lot of cases. Just not always and not as often as we were able to do a couple of years ago. (Case in point: KDP Select's diminishing returns.)

  3. Jenny Sidlik says:

    Tim, loved the article. Does this theory apply equally to fiction and non-fiction equally? I am a currently working on one of each and plan to use a variety of methods to promote them.

  4. Jenny Sidlik says:

    Tim, loved the article. Does this theory apply equally to fiction and non-fiction equally? I am a currently working on one of each and plan to use a variety of methods to promote them.

  5. Clever bit there, having this post be an excerpt of your book. This is helpful to hear again, thanks!

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