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