The Only Ten Books You’ll Ever Need On How To Market A Book

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You have to take responsibility for marketing your books, no one else is going to do it for you. But you probably don’t know how to market a book. In the age of digital media there’s never been a better time to get the word out and yet marketing a book can seem impossible when you have no experience doing so.

The good news is that it’s anything but, and here Standoutbooks has assembled the only ten books you’ll need to do it.

The books are listed ten to one, with each more important than the last, but the purpose of the list is to only recommend the essential. Each book below is the definitive work on its particular facet of marketing, because we know you don’t have the time to read ten books that all say the same thing.

10. Merchants of Culture – John B. Thompson

Thompson’s book is a historical study of publishing with a heavy focus on applying the lessons of yesterday to the literary marketplace of tomorrow.

While not a must for aspiring authors it’s the most detailed account you can find of what might come next. The way we read, and especially the way we buy content, is constantly fluid. Before eBooks the idea of a demand for non-physical literature was laughable, now it’s a vast and ever growing market.

While no-one can predict what the next innovation will be, or how marketing will change to accommodate it, Thompson’s book is the best way to keep up with the twists and turns to come.

It’s not all speculative theory: Thompson covers the digital and physical market as it stands, and shines a light on how to get the most from them.

Anyone who intends to still be writing books in ten years’ time should own a copy of Merchants of Culture today.

See full description and reviews on Amazon

9. Marketing for Dummies – Alexander Hiam

An essential entry book for marketing, and one that far too many are prepared to skip. While the ‘…for dummies’ series is sometimes played for laughs they give the reader three essential benefits that other books don’t:

  • Vocabulary

Hiam’s book presents the vocabulary of marketing in a concise and easily learnt format.

  • Ground floor philosophy

This is the big benefit. Marketing is one of those subjects that everyone feels they inherently understand, but it’s far more complex than most realise. Marketing for Dummies addresses what marketing is at its core, allowing you to progress from a point of true understanding.

  • Skipping the middle ground

Learning the vocabulary and philosophy at this simple level means you can move straight on to books that deal directly with your marketing needs. There is a lot of literature which attempts to split its time between explaining how and why marketing works and telling you how to do it.

It’s far better to spend a short amount of time with a simple guide to the basics and then move onto guides dedicated exclusively to implementing your new knowledge.

See full description and reviews on Amazon

8. Buy-ology: Truth and lies about why we buy – Martin Lindstrom

Perfect on the heels of Marketing for Dummies, Lindstrom flips the focus from how the seller orchestrates marketing to how the buyer encounters it.

Buy-ology explores the psychology of consumer desire, always with one eye on the practical use of everything under discussion.

See full description and reviews on Amazon

7. Conversion Psychology – Gregory Ciotti

A very short, very close focus on the psychology of phrasing which includes reference to research studies.

Ciotti explores why being ‘cheap’ isn’t always great and how tweaking just a few words in your marketing copy can increase sales dramatically.

Best of all the book’s free.

6. The Forbes ‘Writing a book’ Series: How to market and sell your book in five steps – Nick Morgan

Another freebie, this series is currently available on Forbes magazine’s website.

While every instalment is useful for authors the fifth and final article, available here, provides readers with a five step plan to successfully marketing their work.

Morgan knows what he’s talking about and understands that a wide segment of his audience are unfamiliar and maybe even uncomfortable with marketing.

While the article is a starting point rather than a complete guide it breaks things down into an understandable set of goals. For those who like to have an encouraging checklist stuck above the computer, this is a must.

5. Marketing Literature: The Making of Contemporary Writing in Britain – Dr. Claire Squires

Squires proves her credentials with a book that backs up every assertion with a case study. Bridget Jones’ Diary, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin and Cloud Atlas are just some of the books used to explore methods of marketing.

Squires combines the philosophy of marketing with relevant case studies to prove how and why marketing works, paying attention to the different marketing limits and opportunities provided by different genres.

See full description and reviews on Amazon

4. Marketing, publicising and selling self-published books in Writers & Artists’ Yearbook 2014 – Jeremy Thompson

The Yearbook is an author’s best friend and if you’re writing or have written a book you should own it.

Thompson, who works for self-publishing company Matador, casts an expert’s eye over the ins and out of marketing and selling your own work.

The guide is also packed with the contact information of various publishers, agents and marketing firms.

See full description and reviews on Amazon

3. Contagious: How to build word of mouth in the digital age – Kelvin Smith

Most (if not all) of your marketing efforts will take place online, and the Holy Grail of digital marketing is getting other people to spread the word.

Smith’s book focuses on how to make your content viral, explaining and exploring the features of marketing material that makes an audience desperate to share it with their friends.

Named as one of the top scholars in the field of marketing by The Marketing Science Institute, and with favourable reviews from Forbes and The Financial Times, Smith is well qualified to be doling out advice on perhaps the most essential feature of digital marketing.

See full description and reviews on Amazon

2. How to Market Books – Alison Baverstock

Regarded as ‘the Bible of book marketing’, How to Market Books is an enjoyably ruthless take on marketing your work in a competitive market.

Baverstock writes in a direct style that might unsettle those just starting out on their marketing efforts, however the book is expertly researched and written (Baverstock has experience both studying and working in publishing and online marketing) and anyone serious about selling their work should read what she has to say.

See full description and reviews on Amazon

1. How to Market a Book – Joanna Penn

Penn beats Baverstock to the top spot mainly because of how accessible her work is. In fact the two books complement each other, with Penn’s theory of ‘co-opetition’ providing the Yin to Baverstock’s more cut-throat Yang.

How to Market a Book is broken up into easily understood sections but make no mistake, Penn is as incisive as Baverstock and leaves no stone unturned. Both long term and short term marketing are covered along with book launches, a crucial area many less structured books neglect.

Author brand and identity are also covered, and if any book on the list approaches being a total guide to marketing this is it.

See full description and reviews on Amazon


Marketing is an acquired skill, and I’d urge writers new to the practice not to begin with the later books on the list. Though they contain a great deal of practical information, a grounding in the philosophy of marketing and a healthy understanding of the existing marketplace really do prepare authors for the later practicalities.

Writers taking complete charge of their own marketing is still a relatively new practice, but it doesn’t need to be one which is difficult or frustrating. As with any task the key is small steps and setting achievable goals. Use these fantastic books, take your time, and you’ll have everything you need to not just succeed but excel.

This article is part of a series recommending helpful books for authors: for a reading list on writing a best seller check out –The top ten books on writing that’ll make you a better writer.


6 thoughts on “The Only Ten Books You’ll Ever Need On How To Market A Book”

  1. heads up – double check the link to Joanna Penn’s book. I tried it a few times and it took me to a Joseph Campbell book. which was a good book, but not the Penn book.

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