Negative Is Positive

Sometimes the positively best way to promote a book is by being negative. Why?

Not every book is for everyone. When you try to sell a book to everyone, you often end up selling it to no one. Without a focused audience, the people the book was really meant for are likely to miss it completely.

As I’ve written here before, “One can typically sell more books by going deeply into a niche than one can by skimming the surface of a broad audience.”

One of the best ways to obtain focus in promoting a book is to make clear who the book is not for. It may seem counterintuitive, but it works. Roy Williams calls it choosing whom to lose. He gives a great example of an ad that chose to lose bargain hunters and posers.

It grabs attention:

“If the lowest price is all you’re after, this isn’t the camera for you.”

Then it gains credibility by being candid:

“It’s not the sleekest, prettiest one in its price class. No one is going to tell you how cool your camera looks. The upside is that it takes far superior pictures.”

Finally, it reinforces the focus, as Canon did here:

“No one ever replaces their PowerShot S500. Go to your local pawnshop and see if you can find one. We’re betting you can’t. But you will see several of that ‘prettier’ camera available cheaper than dirt. So if you’re looking for a great price on a sleek-looking camera, that’s probably where you should go.”

The same could be done for a diet or money book, for example: “If you are looking for a quick fix to your money/weight problems, this book is not for you.” It sounds risky to take this approach. But with a plethora of money/diet books out there, you have to make yours stand out. Narrowing your audience can be just the solution to improve your sales.

Williams seeks to narrow his own audience with his conclusion. For me it does the job. He says: “I promise that targeting through copy works. But do you have the guts to do it?”

Author: Andy Le Peau

I've been an editor and writer for over forty years. I am passionate about ideas and how we can express them clearly, beautifully, and persuasively. I love reading good books, talking about them, and recommending them. I thoroughly enjoy my family who help me continue on the path of a lifelong learner.

2 thoughts on “Negative Is Positive”

  1. It works if it’s true. If you invite someone to do their own check, and it fails, you lose your credibility.

    Case in point? The only way to get a Canon S500 now is used, typically in a pawn shop. Prices start at $40.

  2. Andy, yes, I knew that was the danger of highlighting a six-year old ad for six-year-old technology. That’s a business that moves fast and tech toys get outdated very quickly. But the point of the ad and it’s approach was right on target when it came out. And for books which aren’t as subject to the whims of the latest technological innovation, it can be even more apt.

    Also, as I suggest, you can’t take this approach all the time with every book. But doing it sometimes can be the right approach.


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