How A Teacher Spread His Message And Became A New York Times Best-Selling Author

Jolly Roger

Today’s guest post is by Dave Burgess, who successfully self-published his non-fiction book ‘Teach Like A Pirate’  —–

Teach Like A Pirate Book

‘Teach Like A PIRATE’ 
Increase Student Engagement, Boost Your Creativity,
and Transform Your Life as an Educator

This remarkable book hit the 2013 New York Times Education Books Bestseller List, and schools are now ordering in bulk. It’s been translated into 3 languages, and launched the author’s international speaking career.

Dave Burgess marketed the book almost entirely himself, an extraordinary feat, and reveals how it was done in this post.

But first… let’s answer a key question many readers ask:

Where Did The Book Idea Come From?

Dave is a history teacher at West Hills High School in San Diego.  He’s also a part-time magician specializing in stand-up comedy magic.

In a ‘light bulb’ moment he realized that the rapt attention he gained while entertaining could also be used in the classroom to increase engagement and improve learning.  He chose ‘Pirates’ as his attention-grabbing theme.

cannon firing

For example, math students in any school would be far more engaged if the teachers ran costumed ‘Pirate Math Battles’ in class.

Noisy! Yes, and a far more memorable way to learn than by reading numbers on a white board.

Teach Like A Doctor!

‘Teach Like A Pirate’ is actually about using any type of hands-on engaging activity in the classroom.  A real-life example is from 3rd grade teacher Amanda Pickens in Texas.  Her task for the day was teaching ‘Word Contractions’.

Boring subject?  Not when re-framed as ‘word surgery’!

word surgery

This class will never forget what they learned in this lesson.

I’ve read several reports of teachers applying this approach with the result that children are in a mad dash to get to the classroom.

Dave Burgess has graciously agreed to write the following post to help both fiction and non-fiction writers by revealing the marketing discoveries he’s made on his voyage to a bestseller.

Over to Dave…

How I SPREAD The Word About ‘Teach Like A PIRATE’

Dave Burgess PortraitI hope this post serves as a compass that leads you in the direction of whatever treasure you choose to pursue as an author.  

I’ve tested many marketing tactics, and have chosen the acronym ‘SPREAD’ to show how I spread the message.  I’m very interested to hear what you think of my way of marketing.  Please do leave a comment.

Dave Burgess

S= Start

Writing, self-publishing, and marketing a book can seem overwhelming and lead to ‘analysis paralysis.’  But you don’t have to have to have it all figured to start.  Just open up a document and start writing.

writing a book

If you’re struggling with feelings of overwhelm, I highly recommend reading my post Eating an Elephant.

In life, you don’t get an opportunity and then decide to prepare for it; you prepare and then make it happen. Nobody opens the door… you knock it down.

What can you do today that will lead you further towards your goal?

P = Professional

Self-published doesn’t mean amateurishly published!  You need to invest the time, money, and energy to make the best and most professional product you possibly can.

Pirate GoldI conducted intensive research into the industry.  I read every blog I could find on self-publishing.

Jonathan’s site is a perfect example of a place where authors can find an absolute treasure chest of ideas and strategies.  You can trust a pirate… there is gold to be discovered here.

I studied a wide array of marketing books. I listened to endless podcasts. I researched printers, cover designers, and graphic designers. I hunted for, found, and hired an amazing editor to take my book to the next level.

Self-publishing is incredibly fulfilling because it allows you to direct every aspect of your project and to exert complete control over both the message and how that message is packaged and brought into the world.

But it also pays to be aware that no amount of marketing can make up for a poor product. What you produce will be a reflection of you, so you want to take the time and effort to make it truly exceptional.

R = Relentless

Whether you choose to sign with a publisher or to self-publish, one thing doesn’t change: YOU will be the most important marketer of your book. (Given that reality, I highly recommend self-publishing and keeping all of your hard earned profits.)

Bestseller Labs - Social Media

Just like I tell teachers, “It doesn’t matter what you say if nobody is listening.”  You have to invest the time and energy to build an audience.

Platform building should ideally start well before you write your book and will continue for well after it is published.  It’s more than a year after my book was published and I’m working harder on building my platform right now than I did in the first month of release.

Self-publishing success is definitely not a sprint; it’s a marathon.

If this were easy, everybody would have a best-seller.  I’m more than willing to tell you that I’ve worked my butt off to accomplish this.  I traveled to speak anywhere that would have me for 7 years before I wrote the first page of the book.

This allowed me to craft my message, to discover what resonated with my crew (my audience), and to hone my presentation skills.

It also made the book better.

What do I mean by relentless?  Here is a partial list:

• I was relentless about building my list and collecting emails everywhere I spoke.

Blog and eBooks

• I blogged for over two years before I started the book in order to connect with and serve my crew.

• I was willing to speak at major (and not so major!) educational conferences for free (actually, at my expense) in order to gain exposure and spread my message

• I regularly give the book away on planes, in airports, and to anyone who shows an interest in the message. Your book is the single greatest business card you will ever have. You should give it away freely.

• I donate it as a prize at educational events all over the nation

• I hold surprise contests and guerilla marketing campaigns at major conferences, even some that I don’t personally attend.  (Ask me about the Teach Like a PIRATE Human Scavenger Hunt sometime!)


• I Skype into college classrooms that are using my book as a text

• As @BurgessDave on Twitter, I have a hashtag (#tlap) for the book and have created a place where like-minded educators from literally all over the world can connect and collaborate

• I have supported multiple offshoot hashtags such as #wltlap (world languages), #scitlap (science), #sstlap (social studies), #tlapmath, and over 15 other #tlap hashtags specific to schools and districts

• I’ve made surprise visits to schools using my book

• I join Google Hangouts with educators participating in book studies


• I do podcast interviews

• Appear in multiple webinars

• Speak at TEDx events

• Present at Edcamps

Basically, if someone wants to talk about Teach Like a PIRATE, I’m relentlessly willing to make myself available.

WARNING! This next sentence may be the most important of this whole post.

I don’t do all of this just because I want to sell books, I do it because I have an evangelical zeal for delivering my message.

I have a mightier purpose than selling books.  I’m trying to transform the lives of educators all over the world and help them create amazing lessons that are life-changing experiences for their students.  The famous line from the Field of Dreams was, ‘Build it and they will come.’

The same is true of your platform; build it, and be of service to it, and the book sales will come.

E = Engage

If you don’t like people it is highly unlikely you will see success as a self-published author. People talking to people is what has sold Teach Like a PIRATE.

You need to actively engage in as many different channels as you can.  Most importantly, that engagement must be authentic.

MegaphoneWhen I look at the social media presence of many authors, I see a common mistake.  They use their feed like a bullhorn rather than a conversation or a chance to add value to their community. “Like my page.” “Buy my book.” “Visit my Amazon link.” “Leave a review for me.”  All completely self-serving.

I want to be seen as a valued member of the communities I engage with and build relationships while I’m there.

If your only purpose of engaging in any particular community is to sell something, then you shouldn’t engage with them at all.  A lack of authenticity will destroy you, and rightly so.

A = Appreciate

I am filled with gratitude for the way Teach Like a PIRATE has been received and promoted within the educational community.

When someone writes about my book, recommends it, or sends me a message concerning it, I sincerely thank them.  I know that seems obvious.  Unfortunately, I’m not sure it is common.

I know the success of my book can be directly attributed to the positive word of mouth advertising of countless loyal members of the #tlap crew from all over the world.  It is my pleasure to connect with them, meet them when I can, and try to show the utmost appreciation I have for how they have helped me share the Teach Like a PIRATE message.

D = Differentiate

There are more books being published right now than at any other time in history.  How are you going to stand out from the crowd?

Just like the Teach Like a PIRATE philosophy encourages teachers to create lessons that ‘hook’ students, you have to be unique and find ways to develop a message and a brand that draws people in almost magnetically.

Dave Burgess as Pirate

The PIRATE brand was specifically designed to be easy to remember, easy to spread, and fun.

It isn’t uncommon for groups of teachers to be dressed up in pirate garb for my programs and for there to be pirate decor.  Whole schools and districts have adopted the PIRATE theme for their school year.

As a speaker, I have differentiated myself by using magic, costuming, entertainment, and an outrageously high-energy performance style.

I want to over-deliver and have audiences ready to knock down walls when they leave.  I want to be different.  I want to be what Seth Godin refers to as a purple cow.

Even the book itself is different.

I was asked to sell the rights to it recently and the condition was that they were going to change the name and cover.  What?  After years of branding around Teach Like a PIRATE? No way!

You want something that helps you stand apart from your competition. You can’t be average, in fact, you can’t afford to just be good and expect to be successful. You have to be AMAZING!

As I said at the outset, I hope this post serves as a compass that leads you in the direction of whatever treasure you choose to pursue as an author.

I wish you total success as you navigate the rough seas of the publishing world.

Dave Burgess Signature Photo
Guest article by 
Dave Burgess
Author & Teacher

This is an emotional subject for writers.  Which part of this post resonates with you the most? What difficulties are you having marketing your book? Please do leave a comment.

Notice:  This article is  copyrighted material.  © Copyright Bestseller Labs. Reproduction of brief snippets of this article with a link to this site are permitted, but it may not be reproduced in full anywhere without the written permission of Jonathan Gunson at

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  • Jen Paulson says:
    February 12, 2014 at 11:41am

    Hi Dave
    Congratulations on the bestseller!
    What stood out is where you said self publishing is definitely not a sprint; it’s a marathon. So good to hear. I have published 3 YA fiction books as a series with the same rock band hero. The first one was 4 years ago. After a lot of work (with Goodreads free giveaways and KDP free) my book sales are growing at last. Any ideas on how I could use rock music to push the books more ‘relentlessly’?

    • February 12, 2014 at 6:43pm

      Hi Jen,
      Thank you!
      Yes…it certainly doesn’t happen overnight does it! I know many have referred to Teach Like a PIRATE as an overnight success…not even close!!
      It’s amazing how it seems all of the work we put in is getting us nowhere but then it will hit a tipping point and explode. People only see the explosion…they don’t notice the years of work and sweat equity you put into building your platform. I wish you continued success with your YA series. I love the idea of a rock band hero and it brings to mind many branding ideas. From a rock music video trailer for your series to t-shirts and swag. It is also tailor-made for a fun theme for events, signings, and readings. You can rarely catch me on the road without my Teach Like a PIRATE gear on and it never fails to draw questions which in turn allows me a chance to discuss the message.
      Drop a link to your books, Jen…I’d love to see your work.

  • February 12, 2014 at 10:47pm

    Hi Jonathan and Dave, thanks for sharing this with us. For me the most resonant remark is that we need to have a central message and to stay on that message – even fiction writers must be clear about this. Perhaps I should say especially fiction writers as our central themes are more obscure. I’m still working on finding my core message and very glad to be reminded. So thank you!
    PS I used to lecture at a university and often thought how much more engaging it would be if I had some stand-up comedy talent – I did get them laughing and engaged (mostly). They seemed to like it best when I made a fool of myself.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 13, 2014 at 9:05am

      No doubt Dave will have his own reply to this, but yes, totally yes re your identifying “Having a central message” & “Staying on message”. Apart from well drawn characters and story lines, core message is central to higher quality works of fiction, which are invariably deeper and more enduring if the author actually has something to say.
      ~ Jonathan
      P.S. I’ll wager that I’d win more points in a competition over who can be a bigger fool in a public arena. :) But I’ll keep doing it irrespective – all in a good cause.

    • February 13, 2014 at 9:40pm

      Ha! Yes…humor is definitely a secret weapon of successful teachers and presenters. I try to embed it in all of my presentations. I completely agree with you about staying on message. This has been something I’ve gotten better about in interviews and podcasts and I continue to try to shape my message in such a way that I can clearly deliver it in a wide array of formats and time lengths. It’s a work in progress…as are most worthwhile journeys, I suppose.

  • February 13, 2014 at 8:58am

    Always good to see how others have done it, thank you. Keep the great nuggets of information coming!

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 13, 2014 at 9:07am

      Hi Keith
      All good. I hope your literary creation ‘Ennatarian Dreams’ continues to go well Sir.
      ~ Jonathan

    • February 13, 2014 at 9:42pm

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Keith. The best part of this is it has brought my attention to Jonathan’s site which has amazing content. Trying to digest it as fast as I can.

  • February 13, 2014 at 9:10am

    good morning, gentlemen!

    I love this post. It’s excellent for steering writers to what counts. SPREAD will be my new mantra, to be read on post-its at strategic places all around my apartment. I’m already carrying out most of what you advise, but it’s good to hear it again from an author for whom it has evidently worked.

    With regard to RELENTLESS, I’ve carved out more time for marketing, joined author networks and am hashtagging my fingers dry with appetizers such as:

    MUT@TUS: lyrical, raw, rich, layered. Utterly visceral. #funny. Delicious, sinful #hot #IAN1 #valentine #loveit #ASMSG #Fiction #Goodreads


    Brainy little nympho reaps 5-star #reviews. Trouble-maker. #MustRead #Fiction #amazon #valentine

    I build reader reviews back into my tweets. I also take the time to think up catchy slogans (tweets are short and people are busy!)

    Saying Thank You is very important, as you say! Yesterday, tweets promoting my novel, Mut@tus, were retweeted to over 200K viewers. Thanks to everyone who likes and shares! I have three works of fiction, each getting excellent reviews. Applying SPREAD will enable me do what I love doing most, only better.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 13, 2014 at 9:42am

      Thank you! Your enthusiasm is totally infectious – I suspect Dave will be bowled over. I checked out Mut@us to see what the noise is about. Absolutely beautiful cover art, although I wonder if it actually obscures the content?
      ~ Jonathan

    • February 13, 2014 at 9:45pm

      Thank you, Joan! Crafting messages in 140 characters is definitely an art form and, it appears, one that you have mastered. You have me curious…I’m off to check out your work. Thanks for commenting.

  • February 13, 2014 at 10:38am

    Fine,every writer must be creative marketer,sell or sink!

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 13, 2014 at 11:11am

      Yes, that’s pretty much the reality. But if by ‘selling’ you mean badgering people, then that is not a useful path.
      It’s better by far to build a core group of readers who love your work and spread the word, for it is word of mouth recommendation that sells books in the end. (See what Dave Burgess says about this in the post.)
      Assuming your books are well written and have reader appeal, then it is perfectly feasible that this will begin to happen. But it does require effort to get it going. i.e. The author’s task is largely to ignite the flame of word of mouth. The good news is that it is not necessary to hand-crank the sale of every book ad in finitum.
      ~ Jonathan

  • February 13, 2014 at 10:43am

    Relentless! Yes, that stood out for me, and I really paid attention to your words about engaging genuinely with your audience. I am behind the game, trying to develop a web presence for my Ebook ANSWER THE CALL, but I now have a web developer redoing my site (not live yet). Just learning about Facebook. I am recently retired, so now will have more time for marketing.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 13, 2014 at 8:11pm

      ‘Relentless’ stood out for me too. Persistence plays such a huge role – in both writing and marketing.

    • February 13, 2014 at 9:51pm

      Thanks for pointing out the importance of that “R” word. It’s exciting to hear that you’ll have a new site up and running and that you’re getting your feet wet in social media. I can tell you that social media made all the difference in the world to me and in my ability to spread my message. I wish you the best with your venture, as well!

  • February 13, 2014 at 10:48am

    I have made a Coffee Table Book in size 9.5 inches x 14 inches. The Book is on ‘The Great Life of Buddha’. So far no body has come up with such a book covering the entire life of Lord Buddha which started in 563 BC. The span of HIS 80 years of life and beyond is depicted through very High res. 3D Photographs with its historical descriptions. Each page has One photograph and its caption. The entire Book has 300 such pages.
    Besides English, I wish to publish this Book to 18 countries and in their languages where there are 488 million Buddhist followers. Such proposed countries are China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, Hong Kong, Philippines, Taiwan etc.
    This book can also be sold to any willing person/s or institution at a price and shall be the sole property of them and they can print, translate and sell.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 13, 2014 at 11:03am

      This book is a highly significant project. What you’ve essentially outlined is the basis of an agent query letter. I’m not familiar with your market, although the great advantage to you is that it’s huge and very clearly defined. (All those who revere Lord Buddha.) So it would pay to put some time and research into finding a literary agent or a publishing manager in those territories who can help to place this book for you where it can be distributed according to your plan.
      ~ Jonathan

    • February 13, 2014 at 9:55pm

      Best of luck with this unique and interesting project. It’s exciting that your book may fill a void in a market with huge potential. It sounds like you have created a work that fits the “Differentiate” of my SPREAD acronym very well.

  • February 13, 2014 at 12:00pm

    Hi Jonathan Gunson,
    Like hundreds of thousands of people, I am also a big fan of yours and always read your posts with great anticipation, I find your posts full of practical tips and guidance.
    I felt encouraged to read your PPS that you will like help if any one approached you with some marketing problems. So here I am!
    I have published ten ebooks on KDP amazon.come, more coming. But I think I have been drowned some where for I am completely undiscovered.
    I am a sixty seven year old woman, an ex-professor of English but I don’e seem to understand online marketing much despite my best efforts to glean some knowledge from the internet. Here are the two spheres which cause real problem
    1. I don’t understand exactly how I should select the keywords for my books, fiction as well non-fiction.
    2. I don’ understand exactly how I should get any reviews for my books. Everywhere it is written reviews area must.
    Could you please help me in this?
    And despite you overwhelmingly busy schedule, could you possibly just have a look at my books on I will be so delighted as well as thankful to you! I can’t pay for all those professional services, so I make my own covers, too.
    Hoping you will read it and help me.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 13, 2014 at 8:40pm

      Kind remarks noted thanks. I’d like to help more authors more directly, but as you’ve guessed, it isn’t feasible time-wise. So I write this blog and make info-products instead as way of getting the word out to as many as possible.
      Re marketing: My advice is to become expert at just one thing at a time.

  • February 13, 2014 at 12:23pm

    What a wonderful guest post! I agree that having zeal for your topic is important, but you have to be able to communicate that zeal in an engaging way. You are doing that very successfully and giving the rest of us great advice. You say writing a book may be a marathon. But writing, self-publishing, and marketing a book is an Ironman Triathlon.

    I’m co-writing a book on entrepreneurship (“The Purpose is Profit: Secrets of a Successful Entrepreneur from Startup to Exit”), and we plan to self-publish. Building the platform while writing takes a lot of time and energy. Funny thing, it’s not just like a triathlon, it’s like starting a business! (

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 13, 2014 at 8:12pm

      “But writing, self-publishing, and marketing a book is an Ironman Triathlon.”… Never a truer word spoken!

    • February 13, 2014 at 10:02pm

      Ha! A triathlon, indeed! Well said. You are exactly right that it is like starting a business…in fact, in order to self-publish that is exactly what I did. I still have quite a learning curve to figure out all the ins and outs of corporate records, filing requirements, taxes, etc. If anything ever feels overwhelming to me, it is the paperwork and organizational skills required. I wish you the best with your upcoming project. Entrepreneurship is near and dear to my heart.

  • February 13, 2014 at 12:25pm

    P.S. I have a question. I thought self-published books could not become NY Times best sellers. How did you do it?

  • D A says:
    February 13, 2014 at 12:26pm

    Great information! I think useful to traditionally published authors as well. The myth is that by getting an agent and publishing deal, writers think they don’t have to do any of this themselves. It’s a harsh (new?) reality but there’s far more work before and after actually writing a book than people realize.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 13, 2014 at 8:44pm

      Exactly so. The REALLY hard work begins once the book is finished.
      ~ Jonathan

    • February 13, 2014 at 10:07pm

      Thanks! Yes, I think that is a very common misconception that plagues authors who sign publishing deals. Once they finish the manuscript they think the ball is in somebody else’s court and they can relax and cash checks. If only that was true! Actually, I’m glad it isn’t…I will admit to loving the game and I’m glad to have the opportunity to call my own shots.

  • February 13, 2014 at 12:39pm

    Dear Dave and Jonathan
    Thank you for your inspiring message. I guess many of us need a lift now and then. Since my own book was published my focus has shifted from writing to marketing and I’ve been looking at the way my fellow writers are doing that. Some of them are far too much in your face, but the above blog (like all your blogs, Jonathan) is quite different. I’d like to use Dave’s quote about ‘The Field of Dreams’ in one of my own Facebook posts (acknowledging both of you) if I may, because it is bound to inspire every writer who’s starting to have doubts.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 13, 2014 at 8:45pm

      ‘Doubt’ is our greatest enemy. Never let him in your door Sir.
      ~ Jonathan

    • February 13, 2014 at 10:13pm

      Thanks for your kind words, John. Please feel free to use the line in your post with a link to Jonathan’s site. A significant part of the last third of Teach Like a PIRATE addresses doubt, fear of failure, and an unwillingness some feel to truly embrace their mighty purpose and pursue their dreams. Since writing the book, I have come to realize that people in all walks of life are battling some of the same dragons. Best of luck to you and your project.

  • February 13, 2014 at 12:53pm

    This guest post by Dave Burgess was super interesting to read. I especially like his genuine calling to help fellow educators. And Jonathan, I especially liked it when you wrote in your comments that authors should never badger people. There has to be a sense of camaraderie and engagement with the reader/audience. Great post and comments. Thanks for sharing.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 13, 2014 at 8:46pm

      Genuine community is vital to marketing.
      ~ Jonathan

    • February 13, 2014 at 10:17pm

      Thanks, Barbara! I’m disheartened when I see the social media feed of some authors. It is about making connections, having conversations, and contributing to the community. (I did a double-take at that last name of yours!)

  • February 13, 2014 at 1:03pm

    Hello David & Jonothan,
    Wow! such an inspiring read, I particularly liked it when David said, not just to sell but to communicate my mesage.
    Im Debbie, Mum to Harri a 12yr old author, H.G. Sansostri with his book
    ‘The Little Dudes Skool Survival Guide’ this book came out in Oct 2013, and is also on Amazon.
    The reason Im getting in touch is because, Harri was bullied, so he answered his bullies by writing a book to help other kids and also to communicate a message of speaking out and standing up to your bullies. He does ‘author talks’ in schools twice monthly, talking to children about how his book came to be, school life and bullying isues and how he found his solutions etc. The children love his talks and he always signs away lots of copies at the end.
    He works really hard in his spare time on twitter, facebook (all book related) and he does weekly blogs on his website. I would love to help him more with his mission, but honestly dont know which way to turn? bookstores say that his book has to be more well known to consider putting it in their stores? So how can it be more well known if its not put into bookshops? Please, please any advice would be greatly appreciated?. We are self published too.
    Many thanks to you both
    Kind regards Mum to a talented young man H.G. :)

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 13, 2014 at 8:53pm

      Harry’s story is inspiring! Love this part “The children love his talks and he always signs away lots of copies at the end.” That must do his self esteem the world of good.
      Re Marketing and book stores. Well… they might eventually take the book, but have you thought of putting it on Kindle? Harry faces exactly the same issue as all other authors, but his doing the rounds and speaking as you describe sounds remarkably like Dave Burgess’s approach. Thing is, the issue he faces is the authors life: 99% write a whole string of books before becoming known. But fortunately he has the years ahead of him to steadily build.
      Kind regards

    • February 13, 2014 at 10:26pm

      What an inspiring comment! I love your son’s project and as a teacher it definitely resonates with me. Anti-bullying programs are on the rise and I think there is a real market for this kind of project. He has clearly handled the “D” of SPREAD with his age and the fact that he has been a victim of bullying. I’m unbelievably impressed that he took this experience and turned it into a positive and one that will help countless other students.
      As a source of hope, my book is STILL almost completely unavailable in brick and mortar stores. The publishing world has changed and the gatekeepers don’t hold the power they used to.
      I plan to take a look at Harry’s book and please connect on Twitter. I have a lot of connections with teachers there who may be interested in what he has to say.

  • Jody says:
    February 13, 2014 at 1:07pm

    Not only is this blog exciting for writers, but for teachers too. I’m going to order How to Teach Like A Pirate for my son who teaches high school in Carrollton, TX. Your enthusiasm is contagious.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 13, 2014 at 8:01pm

      I bought it too, (kindle) read it from ‘cover to cover’, although paper book expressions sound weird when applied to Kindle! I am working on a children’s publishing project so the advice in Dave’s book is proving to be an Aladdin’s cave.
      ~ Jonathan

    • February 13, 2014 at 10:30pm

      Thank you, Jody! I hope your son loves it. I really appreciate you getting the book for him. I’m often in TX…maybe he will be able to catch a live event.

  • February 13, 2014 at 1:22pm

    I love the idea of giving away books. I published an e-book on one of the most important and obscure subjects on the planet. I’m going to POD 500 books so that I can give them away. I’ll ask for reviews when the feedback is positive. Thanks, mark

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 13, 2014 at 8:03pm

      Great strategy. Builds that early stage core group of readers.

    • February 13, 2014 at 10:37pm

      I think this is a wise move. I NEVER go anywhere without a few copies and I absolutely treat them like business cards. The impact of meeting an author and having them just take the book out, sign it, and give it to you, is powerful mojo and creates a spirit of reciprocity. Not only that…it’s a story! It is a moment that will very likely be shared. All good for dreading a message!! I’m constantly trying to convince authors not to be misers with their books.

  • February 13, 2014 at 1:26pm

    First off, as a parent, I’ll be getting a copy of that book! Second, great advice! When writing and marketing, I try to divide my day into sections. I have the first part of the day for me and my target audience(working on the current WIP, blog posts, articles, and such) and then the second part of the day is for my “author karma” (spreading the word for other authors in book spotlights, Facebook shares, and Retweets).

    It is sad to see how often authors are just shouting at their fans and followers to “Buy My Book” instead of having actual conversations and cultivating a true following. It’s not just a waste of time, it’s rude and will have the opposite effect.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 13, 2014 at 8:04pm

      “author karma” LOVE that!
      ~ Jonathan

    • February 13, 2014 at 10:49pm

      Fantastic comments, Dana!! I wholeheartedly agree with you. Your thoughts on “author karma” are powerful. The division of your day is interesting to me and something I’m trying to get better at.

  • February 13, 2014 at 1:42pm

    Jonathan, I really enjoyed reading your post and was inspired by it. I am a pediatric physical therapist and new author of a book for parents of children with developmental gross motor difficulties. The name of the book is Your Baby Can Do This!. Thanks for the motivation.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 13, 2014 at 8:55pm

      Motivated me too!
      ~ Jonathan

    • February 13, 2014 at 10:52pm

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Cherrick. I wish you the best with your project, which sounds unbelievably important to your target audience. Definitely a message worth spreading.

  • February 13, 2014 at 1:49pm

    Yo, Jonathan. Great guest post! I’m glad I’m on your email list that lets me know when you’ve posted something special. I’m so busy I could easily miss it. Hint: if you’re not on Jonathan’s list, you are sooo missing out. Sign up!
    My thoughts?
    One non-fiction book with an obvious theme and a built-in colorful brand lights up the marketing path like a halogen bulb. Might not make marketing any easier to DO, but certainly makes it less complex to figure out WHAT to do. Seven fiction books with a variety of themes–sacrifice, the healing power of forgiveness, internal vs external beauty–is more akin to hacking through a dark jungle by the glow from your cell phone. The driving purpose of my writing is to wrap Truth in powerful, believable, empathetic stories–which doesn’t readily translate into a cartoon character or a colorful marketing campaign.

    I believe marketing fiction is a lot harder than marketing non-fiction, but even so, Dave’s method of getting the message out still applies and I appreciate the SPREAD acronym to drive home the essential points. Fiction writers have to start, be professional, relentless and engaging, just like non-fiction writers. The differentiating is tougher, though. A lot tougher. But the single most important point he made applies to ALL writers: why bother to talk if nobody’s listening? Easy or difficult, simple or complex, marketing holds the keys to the Kingdom of Readers. Even if I’d cheerfully crawl over six miles of broken Coke bottles and rusty Spam lids to get to Readers–and I would!!–marketing is what will unlock the door to where they live.
    Thanks so much, Dave, for sharing your success story. It’s encouraging to the rest of us–little yellow writer minions that we are–to see you make it to the top and to hear how you did it. I wish you continued success.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 13, 2014 at 8:09pm

      This is fantastic:
      “The driving purpose of my writing is to wrap Truth in powerful, believable, empathetic stories.” It means you have something to SAY. Many do not realize how powerful this for both creative and marketing reasons.
      ~ Jonathan
      P.S. Your comments always shimmer and glitter. My eyes light up when I see your name. “Aha, a 9e comment.”
      P.P.S. Hope you’ve got over jet lag.

    • February 13, 2014 at 11:15pm

      Thanks for your comments, Ninie. I think you are right…there are some crucial differences between marketing non-fiction and fiction. The map has definitely been made clearer by the fact that I have a very easily defined target market…educators. I’m thankful you were able to gain some insight from the post and wish you the best as you make your way across that broken glass. You definitely don’t make it in this business without some cuts, that’s for sure.

  • February 13, 2014 at 2:24pm

    I found your post on Bestseller Labs most enlightening. The one element I find missing from most book marketing strategies is DESIRE.

    I have a burning desire to write. I write about romance because human desire intrigues me. So much romance is focused on the young and yet love knows no age limit and desire does not appear to wain as do other aspects of our physical being.

    My first novel is about middle-aged romance and the very human desire for companionship. I am using valentines day this year to run a KDP select FREE download.

    If your only purpose in engaging is to sell something, then you should not engage with them at all. Lack of sincerity will destroy you.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 13, 2014 at 9:28pm

      I sense your fiery passion. It will carry the day in the end.
      ~ Jonathan

    • February 13, 2014 at 11:21pm

      I love that you’re taking advantage of Valentine’s Day for a promotional tie-in! This is a technique that I share with teachers, as well. What is going on in the world around us that I can use to create a hook…a way to draw students into our lessons? Valentine’s Day? The Winter Olympics? The Academy Awards? March Madness? In fact, I wrote a post last year called Repurposing March Madness. It’s just a way of looking at the world around us and searching for opportunities to engage.

  • Pam Long says:
    February 13, 2014 at 2:25pm

    I’m with Joan. SPREAD will be my new battle cry! There is so much to read and process out there for the writer/author that is looking for good, SOLID advice and guidance. Jonathan Gunson has never led me wrong so I was excited to read this article as well. I am an “old dog” but am learning many new tricks as a result of this insightful marketing advice. Thank you both for helping pave the way for the rest of us that want to share our stories with the world!

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 13, 2014 at 9:30pm

      It takes the Dave Burgess’s of this world to brightly illuminate what is actually common sense.
      ~ Jonathan

    • February 13, 2014 at 11:23pm

      Thanks, Pam! I feel blessed to have discovered Jonathan’s site through this process and definitely plan to frequent it often from this point forward.

  • February 13, 2014 at 2:45pm

    What do you do if you don’t have a “message,” so to speak? What you’re promoting is socially beneficial – people should know about it. But most fiction isn’t about a subject that writers feel an evangelical need to spread – not that it’s meaningless, of course, but the message is generally secondary to the entertainment value of the book. Some of your truly inspired approaches seem as if they might not work so well for fiction – any ideas on how to modify your ideas for other types of writing?

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 13, 2014 at 9:04pm

      The ‘message’ doesn’t have to be gigantic, seminal and evangelical, but sometimes is simply a moral that underscores the work. e.g. “Love conquers all” “Persistence pays” “Be true to yourself” “Don’t be over influenced by your peers”. I could go on. Most authors don’t CONTRIVE to put these types of ethos in a book – it usually occurs naturally from what you feel anyway – in the same way that most works of fiction are semi-autobiographical. i.e. Even if they tried to, an author cannot ever entirely hide their inner self from the reader.
      ~ Jonathan

    • February 14, 2014 at 12:02am

      Hi, Lori. I think that bringing joy and entertainment to your readers…letting them escape from their lives and travel to the world you have created is very powerful and significant. It is certainly worthy of that evangelical zeal. I have been transformed by many books I’ve read in ways difficult to describe. The written word in all of its forms carries unbelievable weight and influence. I wouldn’t shortchange the impact of fiction to change lives…or at least brighten them at just the right time. Best of luck with your projects. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment.

  • February 13, 2014 at 3:15pm

    Relentless, yes, and for me, sticking to your guns (or swords, as the case may be) regarding your brand, message and overall principals. As writers, I feel we’re too quick to give away our power and ownership of our hardwork. I applaud your decision to stand behind what you’ve created, and not giving in to a publisher’s suggestion of name/cover change. Well done, and thanks to you and Jonathan for sharing the message.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 13, 2014 at 9:05pm

      I’m with you, lock step.
      ~ Jonathan

    • February 14, 2014 at 12:10am

      Thanks, Debbie! Having complete control of this project and delivering my message completely unfiltered was of the utmost importance to me. I could tell you some crazy stories about what some have wanted to do the book. Many wanted to tone down the critique of the over-emphasis on standardized test scores and many more wanted me to make it sound more “academic” and less personal. This book WAS personal! I see it as part inspirational manifesto and part practical road map and I refused to let that message get altered in the pursuit of a publishing deal. It was the best decision I could have made. It is EXACTLY why it has resonated with teachers out there in real classrooms teaching real kids.

  • February 13, 2014 at 4:19pm

    Congratulations, Dave! Not just on the bestseller, which is fantastic, but on “revolutionizing” teaching. My wife and I are both former teachers and we “taught like pirates” too! It’s so great to see a teacher excited about engaging students and taking this message to the stuffy old educators. Keep rocking their boats with your pirate ship! LOVE that you’re doing this!

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 13, 2014 at 9:07pm

      I suspect (& hope) the entire teaching profession will move to this – one way or another.
      ~ Jonathan

    • February 14, 2014 at 12:13am

      Wow! Thanks, Dylan. I really appreciate your support for my message. Thank you, also, for the time and energy you and your wife spent changing the lives of your students. Great teachers have an impact that is vast and beyond measure.

  • February 13, 2014 at 5:02pm

    Hi Jonathan!
    I requested you to please help me a little in the online marketing of my ebooks that I published on KDP My ten ebooks seem to have sunk undiscovered. I hope you read my request and reply with your mighty helpful guidance.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 13, 2014 at 9:08pm

      Received, thank you.
      ~ Jonathan

  • February 13, 2014 at 5:18pm

    I’m so glad I came across this post. It contains such awesome strategies I’ll use as both a writer and a teacher. My biggest challenge as a writer right now is building my platform. Time is a precious commodity of which there is too little. There are some great suggestions in here as to how to build up a community, or crew, that I hope to use. As a teacher, I’m always looking for innovative ways to reach students and make the most of my time with them. Dave’s book looks like a tool that should definitely be included in my arsenal of awesome ideas. Thanks for a great post with some excellent advice for both the teacher and writer in me.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 14, 2014 at 2:12am

      Yes, building your community is the key. A core group who will spread the word, and also keep you motivated.

    • February 15, 2014 at 6:42am

      Thanks, Renee! I hope you love the book…I’d love to hear your thoughts after you dive in. A huge section of the book is dedicated to crafting engaging lessons and I think it is a resource you’ll enjoy returning back to many times.

  • Charity Parkerson says:
    February 13, 2014 at 5:20pm

    Awesome article. I especially love the bit about liking people. The ability to engage people online is an important skill.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 13, 2014 at 9:09pm

      Engagement … yes!

    • February 15, 2014 at 6:43am

      Thanks, Charity…I couldn’t agree more.

  • February 13, 2014 at 5:22pm

    Loved the word relentless! Strikes a chord. I agree with Dave’s formula. I spent a bundle getting the right cover and branding, editing, publishing, etc.

    I feel as passionate about helping marriages become lush and lively as Dave does about making teaching engaging and relevant. After 30+ years treating couples on the brink, I finally wrote a book – Discovering a Dynamic Marriage – (with companion workbook), for couples building on their strengths rather than endlessly recounting their seemingly insoluble problems.

    I went into it thinking the most receptive audience would be those who are most concerned about divorce – the faith community and organizations focused on families. I spent my first year marketing to deaf ears. I was so discouraged. Where I finally found my audience was in the mental health profession. Therapists like myself who work with distressed couples were starved for a new model structured so that couples spent their energy building the relationship they want, rather than in making the therapist feel their pain and frustration…and we DO!

    Now that I have identified the who of my audience, I would like to know how to find a source for the conferences where they gather to learn the latest and greatest. Like Dave, I am willing to go anywhere and speak to anyone. Anyone have a clue where to start?,

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 13, 2014 at 9:20pm

      Sometimes the simplest ways are the best.
      To discover the relevant conferences, type into Google a ton of variations on ‘Marriage Therapy conference’ or ‘marriage counselor conference’ and other relevant phrases, and study the results. Pretty soon you’ll see a pathway appear that you can follow to home base, or at least to people who can inform you of what you need to know.
      ~ Jonathan

    • February 15, 2014 at 6:50am

      Hi, Joy. I’m so glad to hear you have found a passion-based project, as well. My journey is not unlike yours in that I was speaking about this topic and working in the field for a long time before I sat down and wrote the book. The exposure and connections that I have garnered by speaking at a wide variety of educational conferences was what initially kick-started my platform. I think you are headed in the right direction by looking for conferences in your field. Best of luck in spreading what is a truly important message.

  • February 13, 2014 at 5:56pm

    E = Engage

    Hi Dave,
    Thanks for an outstanding post. Every word is important to me as a writer.

    You really grabbed my attention with ENGAGE! When I look at the way many writers use Twitter to directly promote products I believe that their methods cause people to “not” buy rather than to buy.

    I strive to improve my platform every day by using information provided by people like Jonathan Gunson and Dave Burgess. Keep the great posts coming. I look forward to the next one.

    Tom Drummond – Author

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 14, 2014 at 2:13am

      Always welcome :)

    • February 15, 2014 at 6:53am

      Thanks, Tom! I really appreciate the kind words. Social media is something we could all do a little better, for sure. I’m looking forward to Jonathan’s next post, as well! What a great collection of resources and advice for all of us.

  • February 13, 2014 at 6:38pm

    I see the message. Do something to really interest, involve and connect with your readers. We’re all people, experiencing the great journey of life. Thank you for sharing yourself, Dave.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 13, 2014 at 9:11pm

      Connection is all.
      ~ Jonathan

    • February 15, 2014 at 6:54am

      You are absolutely welcome…I was honored to be asked to share my story.

  • February 13, 2014 at 7:07pm

    I admire your energy, Dave. I think you are quite right about the need to be AMAZING in order the have “success” in sales. Like the days before indie publishing, I think only a few will reach that standard. But we should all aspire to do our best.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 13, 2014 at 9:26pm

      Amazing yes, but I feel there’s an equally crucial element that needs to work in parallel when it comes to book marketing… ‘persistence’ of which Dave is a master.
      ~ Jonathan

    • February 15, 2014 at 6:56am

      Thank you, Thomas. Seth’s thoughts on needing to be a “purple cow” have always resonated with me.

  • February 13, 2014 at 7:08pm

    Love this post, thanks. I self-published my memoir last year, “Unlikely Memories and Two Amnesias” and have been terrible about keeping the marketing going. It’s selling on its own because the topic is unusual, but I could do more. This post was a great kick-in-the-pants for me to dig deeper into relentless. Thanks!

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 13, 2014 at 9:21pm

      Best of success with your memoir.
      ~ Jonathan

    • February 15, 2014 at 6:58am

      Thank you! I’m glad to hear it lit a fire. Best of luck with your memoir!

  • February 13, 2014 at 7:10pm

    Thanks Dave and Jonathan for sharing this post with us.
    You’re on point there re: it’s a marathon – but the rewards are there if the hard work is done beforehand in producing a well scripted manuscript, and building a platform.
    Congratulations Dave – your book’s content and style sounds terrific! Hook those students – make it magical, make it fun –

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 13, 2014 at 9:22pm

      The word ‘magical’ stands out in your note. Agreed.
      ~ Jonathan

    • February 15, 2014 at 6:59am

      Yes! School can be so much more than what it has traditionally been for students. I don’t want to make it bearable…I want to make it amazing!

  • February 13, 2014 at 8:02pm

    Thank you Jonathan for sending this and Dave for writing it. It’s a great article with very valuable information, especially for someone like me who is almost ending a first crime novel (one of a 3-book series). I have so much information stored in my brain and my laptop about crime, editing and publishing that it’s overwhelming.

    I love that you hit on the ‘loving people’ talk. I like people and can intermingle when necessary, but as a loner I prefer my time alone. As a visual artist all my life and the past fifteen to twenty writing too, I spend many hours alone feeling guilty I should be with my family more. Having done many speeches on stages for business over the years, I can do it, it’s just not who I really am. So I got into social media kicking and screaming, but I made it. I do thank everyone who notes my website, follows me, etc. But I do have to work on the ‘conversation’ part of the social media.

    Thank you again for this information. I will re-read it and make notes. Much continued success to you. It’s a very important message you are getting out there. I truly believe children are bored in school because of the presentation–which you have proven. Congrats!

    Best, Gippy Henry

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 13, 2014 at 8:23pm

      Crime novels are irresistible to me – basically solving a mystery as away of revealing character. I might add that your life mirrors mine in a way…. an artist (check) writer (check) feels guilty she should be spending more time with family (check), but perhaps everyone feels that particular guilt.
      One the social front – I’m an extrovert on steroids. An great intermingler / ice breaker…. but only when I choose to be. Most times I stay out of sight! The great thing about ‘social’ media is that surprisingly, because it’s online, it also suits introverts. They don’t HAVE to reply, and if they choose to, the response can be thoughtfully considered.
      ~ Jonathan

    • March 8, 2014 at 3:18am

      Thank you, Gippy!! I wish you all the best with your crime series!

  • Tracey Delaney says:
    February 13, 2014 at 8:18pm

    I’ve been on quite a difficult personal journey and have only just (after six months) found the energy and enthusiasm to start my writing again. I dropped all my blogs, twitter feeds and connections that I’d worked hard to build but ….well, that’s life isn’t it and you just pick yourself up, dust yourself off and go for it.

    I have (almost) three novels written but they all need a good solid editing (and then some) but I am working with a fantastic editor who is also my mentor and the transformation is quite incredible.

    It’s posts like this that make me believe all my efforts won’t be for nothing; that I CAN DO IT and achieve my goals. But, like many others, the whole marketing effort is more than daunting and yet out there is so many great pieces of advice (your blog, Jonathan is often my first port of call) and here again, you bring a brilliant guest speaker who has selflessly shared the fruits of their (considerable) labour.

    Thank you to you both

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 13, 2014 at 8:27pm

      Editors are GODS. :) Dave Burgess also has a great editor. And do see post by my editor Jane Johnson. She’s inspiring too.
      ~ Jonathan

    • March 8, 2014 at 3:22am

      Hi Tracey,
      Thank you for kind words and for taking the time to read and comment. It’s amazing what the right editor can do for our projects. I’m so glad you found one you enjoy working with…I can’t imagine how I would have navigated the process without my editor, Erin Casey. Best of luck with your projects!

  • Nasreen Rich says:
    February 13, 2014 at 8:38pm

    Inspiring article, that shows that self publishing works as long as you have a great book, work very hard and never give up. I have a lot to learn about using social media, but expect it could take over your life, so its vital to keep motoring ahead to get the draft finished. Thank you

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 13, 2014 at 9:13pm

      Re the writing-marketing balance: Of my available ‘author time’ I split it into 70% writing/creative and 30% marketing.

    • March 8, 2014 at 3:28am

      Very true!! I try to do as much as I can in those “unseen moments”…on planes, standing in lines, waiting for an appointment. It can be a form of avoidance and procrastination from writing without some discipline and structure.

  • February 13, 2014 at 10:10pm

    Congratulations – great teaching guide – more teachers should try it! The marketing aspect of any self-published (or other) book is always the most work – even if it has taken you years to write your book! I think if any author wants to make money, doing marketing full time is a given! Great tips in this article – and you make no bones about it – it is definitely hard work!

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 14, 2014 at 2:15am

      I imagine your ‘animal ABC’ books are a rare treat.
      ~ Jonathan

    • March 8, 2014 at 3:31am

      Thanks, Maureen!!

  • February 13, 2014 at 10:22pm

    Hello Jonathan, how’s it going mate?
    My new book I Want To Live, Volume Two, is out in another two or three weeks. I got fed up with being ripped off with self publishing firms so decided to take a course in formatting and proofreading, my new book will be going on to in the very near future. I’m withdrawing my other three books from self publishers, The Twilight People, By Land, By Sea and I Want To Live, part one – all on Amazon book and Kindle and am re – releasing them myself. I got another seven newspaper book reviews and I will then take it from there, along with my Linkedin Facebook and Twitter accounts, where I have almost 25 thousand followers, . Have you any idea Jonathan, how the Lulu royalties are dished out? I would appreciate you in – put into this mate, hoping to hear from you, regards, Patrick…

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 14, 2014 at 2:16am

      Lulu is OK, but you’re on your own with them. I would get your books back onto Amazon Kindle again. That’s where the mass of buyers are.
      ~ Jonatghan

      • February 14, 2014 at 3:57am

        Thanks Jonathan,
        they’re already on Kindle Jonathan, and another is going on this week, have you any idea what what way they work with the royalties, the percentage, are they a subsidiary of Amazon? Cheers mate…

  • February 13, 2014 at 10:52pm

    Jonathan, Dave, what a great post! Thank you both for bringing it to us! Each step of the SPREAD acronym is amazing and inspiring.

    My book, “Sailing to Ithaca: a year’s journey, nurturing body and soul,” should be back from the editor any day. Writing it while living it was the best experience of my life. But the publishing process and marketing is way down on the buttom and often feel drained of energy.

    I love people and I know readers will be touched by my words, but I am not good with large groups or the techie stuff of internet. At the age of 68 and with family of 4 generations to help and support, my time is also scarce. I am good with one to one relationships and that is what I strive to do, supporting the other as much as possible, dispite my many limitations.

    Reading the comments others left here was interesting as well. I share the insecurities and limitations of some. I am happy and excited about the enrhusiasm and energy of others.

    Congratulations Dave on your success! It seems you planned your books journey very carefully for a long time and now you are harvesting its fruit. I, on the other hand, I wrote the book first without even thinking of publishing and then came the idea that if even a handful of people are touched by it, I will be satisfied. But now I want more.

    I plan to give my kindle version away to everyone I know, hoping that they would buy a physical book when it is printed. A friend was telling me that no one bought a copy of her book, since they all had the e-book. Any thoughts on that?

    All best to both of you!!!!!

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 14, 2014 at 2:19am

      Sounds like a very personal work. So it will have a heart. And, it’s true that once folk buy the Kindle version they won’t bother with print – not surprising, considering the huge price difference.

    • March 8, 2014 at 3:36am

      Hi, Katina. Your book sounds fascinating!!
      As for your comment about being with one to one interactions…I think this totally translate well to social media!! People who can communicate through social media and still sound conversational and…well, human…are more likely to be successful. I would just treat your interactions there like you really are just talking to one person over coffee. Best of luck with your project!

      • March 8, 2014 at 3:38am

        Throw a “better” into that first sentence and it will make sense!!

  • February 13, 2014 at 11:17pm

    Hi Dave and Jonathan

    Thanks so much for all the encouragement. It’s something that we need to keep on hearing. I’m just starting off with my first novel, Goldmine Experience, and am working on building that platform.

    Wishing you all the best,

    • February 13, 2014 at 11:26pm

      You are welcome, Jan. Thanks for reading and commenting. Best of luck with the Goldmine Experience!

  • February 13, 2014 at 11:57pm

    Thank you Dave, and Jonathan: a wonderful message; thanks for taking the time; for the reminder and the inspirataion.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 14, 2014 at 2:26am

      Very cool ethos you have for your author blog; “Things That Make Life Better (inside… and out)”
      ~ Jonathan

    • March 8, 2014 at 3:41am

      You’re welcome, Daniel. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  • February 14, 2014 at 12:47am

    “WARNING! This next sentence may be the most important of this whole post.

    I don’t do all of this just because I want to sell books, I do it because I have an evangelical zeal for delivering my message.”

    Dave, thank you. That statement resonates with me more than you could believe. I failed high school English, my teacher/year master suggested [in front of the entire year] that I forget my goal of writer/artist and get a job at KMart as that was the extent of my capability. In an attempt to assist Aussie farmers with a financial donation, I wrote and illustrated 5 books for children. Those books, I believe found success purely because they were from my heart. Much to my surprise they were placed into every QLD primary school, preschool and library, the universities use them in their education faculties and a couple of other incredible things have happened as a result of these books.
    As far as marketing goes I have no idea what I did.
    I really enjoy reading Jonathon’s blog, I find it inspirational, educational and very understandable :)

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 14, 2014 at 2:22am

      “Get a job at KMart.” ? What on earth is a teacher doing making such a discouraging, asinine statement. Creatives can take time to emerge. Now you are. Really great to hear.
      ~ Jonathan

    • March 8, 2014 at 3:46am

      Hi, Jacque!
      Thanks for mentioning what I truly do believe is the biggest secret of my success. I would never have been able to do this if it was just to sell books and cash checks.
      Unbelievable and inexcusable comment from your teacher…but not the first time I have heard something similar, unfortunately. Congratulations on your success with your passion projects and I wish you the best.

  • February 14, 2014 at 1:59am

    Great post, Dave, and thanks, Jonathan, for all your work on this site.

    I’m now writing my third novel in a series that doesn’t really fit cleanly into a specific genre. It’s anti-political, funny, has some optional eroticism (readers need to choose to go to a particular file on my website to read that bit) and is now getting tangled up (fictionally and iconoclastically) in some of the One World Government conspiracy theories (repeat, fictionally, NSA!), and at 67 years old, I’m being as relentless as possible in gently promoting the first two, which set up the third and fourth (aiming for 2015) ones.

    For my purposes, it seems to be going okay, as I’m not aiming for bestseller status. In fact, I ‘d be happier with 1,000 smart people reading the books than with 10K not-so-smart ones. And it does seem to be developing a growing cultish following.

    When the third and fourth ones are finished, I think I’ll be very glad that I’ve written under a pseudonym, especially if they get “above the radar.” (Always have Salman Rushdie in the back of my mind).

  • February 14, 2014 at 5:27am

    For me, the take home message in this is just to ave fun with social media. For me it’s felt a bit unnatural, but the key is clearly just tohang out, meet people, and be yourself. Writing fiction means it’s hard to find a focus. I think maybe in order to find that focus the bridge is probably to relax and just have a good time meeting people.

    Thanks for the great post!

  • February 14, 2014 at 12:59pm

    Hi Jonathan!
    I was so pleasantly amazed to note that you have actually read my comment and bothered to reply to it, And that, too, with such wisdom filled guidance! It is so heartening to realize that such an intensely busy person as yourself is so very helpful and considerate!
    Thanks a lot for telling me about that train-wreck post. I read it and agree with your advise two hundred percent. I will try to learn one thing at a time so that my writing does not suffer. At present I am writing two books of fiction and trying to digitize a non-fiction book of philosophy (Science and Religion-an Identification) that I wrote when I was seventeen.
    Once again, thanks a million times!

  • February 14, 2014 at 1:43pm

    Hi Jonathan and Dave, thanks for waking me up (again!) to what I should be doing outside of writing – not diddling about on emails and following red herrings, but focusing on trying to build a platform.
    As with other fiction writers who are not in a cult genre (as sci-fi or fantasy etc) I realise it is harder to know exactly who and where to reach. At the moment I am doing talks to small local groups such as Rotary Clubs, U3A etc and making myself available to book groups, but although I really enjoy the interaction, and folk seem to appreciate me giving them of my time, it isn’t likely to spread the word very widely. (Especially living in a widespread geographic area with a total population of only c 70,000) Having come into writing seriously a little late I don’t want to have to wait 10 years to get anywhere, and I definitely want to target my activities to make the best use of my time. So clearly social media should be important for me. I do link with groups online, but most groups I’ve found are peopled by authors like myself, rather than readers. While we can be supportive of each other it is the reading public I want to get to know and engage with. I guess I need to be more creative in my thinking – sadly there aren’t any pirates in my book! Pity…

  • February 14, 2014 at 1:52pm

    PS I’m having problems with Amazon listings at present, despite contacting them several times. – I am mainstream published, so can’t change anything on my book page myself. And apparently the publisher doesn’t have direct access either, not being an Amazon Advantage member. Unlike most books on Amazon the book description has been put away down the page with both the book details (no of pages, publisher, ranking etc) and my author page above it. This means that readers would have to scroll quite far down to find out what the book is about. On the UK Kindle page the book description isn’t there at all. What is there is repeated mention of reviews by professionals – Jeffrey Archer (yes the JA) and Penny Smith. While obviously I’m pleased their recommendations are there I feel it looks very unprofessional to have them repeated. Any suggestions as to how I can get the Amazon pages sorted out? (I’m tearing my hair out over this and have already spent 2 full days phoning and emailing. I get ‘don’t worry we’ll get this sorted’ messages, but nothing changes.)

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 14, 2014 at 10:23pm

      You’re not the first to have these types of issues. I’m afraid that at this level of complexity only Amazon can help you. One suggestion: It might pay to ask if your publisher can become an Amazon Advantage member just so they can communicate. Here’s an article about the pros and cons.

  • February 15, 2014 at 5:09am

    Hi Dave and Jonathan,
    Thanks for sharing this. “Authenticity in messaging” is definitely what resonates with me. I try and book readings wherever possible – libraries are always accommodating, and some have even offered to pay! Great opportunities to introduce people to the history of the Chinese in Canada, and the long-term impacts of historical discriminatory legislation. I hope governments can learn from this, so they will not repeat history.

  • February 15, 2014 at 10:56am

    I read this article with great interest and came back very enriched, very informed.
    Thank you Jonathan, thank you Dave!

  • February 15, 2014 at 12:10pm

    Thank you, Dave Burgess, for putting this sentence in there as well: “I have an evangelical zeal for delivering my message.” I must admit my #1 motivation is the urge to tell stories and I tend to take that for granted as I’m busy on social media and busy figuring out new ways to connect to readers and authors and others. This takes time and in the mean time I want to remember that of all the goals I may have, ONE goal is being achieved every day: the writing itself. In that one sentence, the whole secret of your success may hide. It’s a good thing yout put it out there and remind me, once again, of how important that is.

  • February 15, 2014 at 2:25pm

    And in response to your question, Jonathan: the most difficult thing for me is to find enough time to develop “stuff to do” when it comes to marketing. I have developed some promo material that is entirely in synch with my crimenovels and my main character — that’s not the most difficult part. The difficult part is to proceed and keep on doing that, and learn how it can be done better. It takes time, just as Dave says in his post. The amount of “stuff to do” that Dave actually did, is astonishing. Hats off! Thumbs up! Very motivating, all that energy!

  • February 16, 2014 at 12:00am

    Great piece. Confirms much of what I already believed and do practice. I have a lot of irons in the fire, but I believe that down the road they will pay off.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 16, 2014 at 5:54am

      You have the attitude down perfectly; This field is an investment.

  • February 18, 2014 at 2:09pm

    Great post, Jonathon, and thanks for your enthusiasm in motivating the rest of us!

    Congrats with the bestseller, too, and for not selling out to those who would buy your rights and basically turn your work into something else. It’s a sad indictment on the publishing industry that they would erase the very soul of your book, the years of passion and commitment…

    What you say in your post isn’t rocket science either; it’s about 100% commitment, go for gold rather than bronze; communicate with people, be genuine. I like to think I’m doing all those things. The real thing to frighten me is the hours – years – you put into promoting your self and your project before even putting ‘pen to paper’…. Woah!

    At least with my debut novel, I’ve been holding back its publication, by trying to spread the word through social media, my blog posts – which are all generally related to the book; even the title of my site is that of the book – and any other way I can think of…

    You fill me with hope, tinged with a little bit of fear too, which is good, I guess. Refuse to be overwhelmed , I must remain.

    Thanks again, Jonathon, great stuff!


    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 19, 2014 at 11:33am

      Onwards I say!
      ~ Jonathan

  • Michael says:
    February 18, 2014 at 5:32pm


    This was an excellent guest post by Dave! As a teacher, I was inspired by Dave’s example. As a writer, I was reminded that this takes time and energy to be successful.

    I have a question for you. If you write a series, can you start with a low price and gradually increase your price or should you have one set price for each book?


    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 19, 2014 at 11:32am

      It’s often a good idea to get things going with a low price – even free with KDP on Amazon to get people hooked. The best low prices are .99 cents and $2.99 (Not $1.99, that seems to be a dead price.) In the end however, I would raise the prices to reflect the value. If they’re good, they will sell.
      ~ Jonathan

  • February 21, 2014 at 7:23pm

    Loved Dave’s guest post. As a teacher, newly self-published novelist, and marathon runner, I hear what he’s saying. All of us are in the same “pirate” boat/ship, and it’s full steam ahead or run aground. Only two months since the publication of my debut novel, “On the Edge of Dangerous Things,” and I can see that after my family and friends have dug deep to help me out, it is going to take some doing to get new readers. I will download free publication. Thank you for putting it out there for struggling writers like myself.

  • jmorise says:
    February 22, 2014 at 7:07pm

    As a former teacher, I found your idea superb.
    Teachers are always ‘on stage’ and I performed many times to keep my students engaged. It worked too.
    I began writing my first YA manuscript as I taught. Finished it twelve years later. Been re-working it these last two years. I look forward to publishing.
    Thanks for the advice.

    J.M. Orise

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 23, 2014 at 11:24am

      Those words ‘on stage’ should ring a familiar chord with Dave Burgess.
      ~ Jonathan

  • February 23, 2014 at 8:13am

    A great article and the SPREAD guide will be very helpful.

    Totally agree that your quality of product and being loyal to those who have supported you.

    Iv’e found ‘paralyis through analysis’ a bit of a killer and finding ‘time’ to regularly update social media.

    Being bold & brave and contacting schools to do free ‘readings’ was a big step for me in trusting the ‘experts’ feedback to keep going (experts = children like my stories & characters).

    The biggest thing Iv’e learned is helping others, helps me and there’s been some lovely help and friendships formed along the way.

    Iv’e also learned to ‘join the dots’ in my social media, connect things together better/constantly. There’s still a way to go, some gaps but every now and then Iv’e hit the right note at just the right time and the ‘spread’ has seemed effortless.

    Learning to be focussed and relaxed, remembering it’s supposed to be fun aremy ways of ‘sticking at it’.

    I’m going to buy the book and use the Pirate approach, ‘modelling’ what’s been done before.

    Thanks for your knowledge and it’s great to see such a great response given the need for change in how kids are taught. My maths teacher was called Mr Mistry and it was indeed a ‘mystery’ to me!

  • March 3, 2014 at 6:45am

    Pirates steal and students need to have their attention stolen away from the unnecessary.
    All success to you.

  • March 4, 2014 at 5:46pm

    Hello Dave and Jonathan, Remarkably GREAT post to read today and so helpful to me as a chronic procrastinator. As I read the word PLATFORM, I thought ‘oh great, now I have to have a platform and probably a youtube and whatever else’ ….ad nauseum.

    Just then my yellow lab stepped up to my desk to let me know she wanted to go out and sit by the pool. I said, “Wait until I finish reading about the Platform. And you, you’re my platform.” After a long pause, there it was. My very own live in platform. As we discuss the book together on a youtube video, I answer her questions…along with her very own voice over!!!

    Thanks to you both for this sudden swoosh of an idea for a platform. The labrador who takes off her own harness. The labrador who visits the Pope. The labrador who adores an audience and one day may tell her own story.

    There is definitely work to be done. By the way, I got my first speaking engagement. Just not sure how to sell an ebook after the talk. Do I say it’s online and here’s the link? Thanks again!

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      March 4, 2014 at 10:25pm

      Clever, clever idea Jeanie. Keep us posted as to how it goes.
      Re Platform. Yes can be a hassle. Read this post – it will give you the relief you seek.
      ~ Jonathan
      Re your ‘speaking engagement’ and spreading the word: Collect everyone’s email address, and promise to send them the link to your book. You can pass around a simple clip board for everyone to add their email.