How the "IKEA Effect" will destroy your book marketing

You have spent months or years creating the manuscript for your book.  You’ve gone through the hellacious process of editing and rewrites.  You’ve finally got a cover design you love (or tolerate).  It is finally time to sell your book.

Here’s the problem: Nobody cares about your book anywhere near as much as you do.

  • Your family is excited for you, but it’s not their project.
  • The publisher wants it to sell well, but it’s one book on their huge list of titles launching this year.
  • The reader may love it, but they don’t care about how much blood, sweat and tears you’ve invested.
  • Your book is one of 3,000,000+ ISBNs that are being issued this year.

Even with all of the above truths, I often run into the same problem over and over when talking with authors.

Authors don’t truly believe that nobody cares about their book as much as they do.

In a recent behavioral economics study titled The “IKEA Effect”: When Labor Leads to Love, the authors outline several experiments that prove:

“the increase in valuation of self-made products”

In other words, for the sake of this email:

“You put way more value on your book than everyone else does”

In one experiment they tested over 100 people.  Half of them made origami frogs and cranes and then bid on how much they would be willing to spend on their own creations.  The other half of the people, that didn’t create the origami frogs and cranes, bid on the same creations.

The bids by the creators were almost five times as high as everybody else.

So just a few minutes in a room folding some paper caused the creator to inflate the value of their product by almost 500%!  Your book took you months or years to create.  Just imagine how inflated the value of your book is in your mind!

The paper goes on to describe several other experiments that all basically prove the same thing over and over:

We place far more value on our own creative endeavors than anyone else does, especially after we’ve finished them.

This is massively important when it comes to the marketing you do for your book.  Many authors get trapped in assuming other people will inherently understand the value in their book and, therefore, buy it.  I’ve seen many authors sit on their hands and do nothing to promote their book because they assume everybody will automatically see the value of their creation.

If you assume other people will automatically understand the value of your book, your marketing is already dead in the water.

As I mentioned above, there will be over 3,000,000 ISBNs created this year.  The book industry creates more new products every year than any other industry.  If you want your book to be successful, you have to overcome the “IKEA Effect”, get real about the perceived value of your book and do the work to convince consumers that your book is worth their time and money.

How can you beat the “IKEA Effect” and sell your book?

  1. Have other people define the value.  What makes your book valuable?  As shown above, you can’t be trusted to make that decision.  Enlist people to review early copies of the manuscript and give feedback on the most valuable and helpful parts of the book.  You want honest feedback, so don’t give it to your friends that will pat you on the head and say “it’s fantastic!” because they don’t want to hurt your feelings.  Provide it to 3rdparties and colleagues that will give constructive criticism.
  2. Put yourself in the buyer’s shoes.  Visit a book store and browse through the books.  What are your general feelings about them?  What makes you want to buy?  What makes you roll your eyes or ignore a book?  This passive and immediate criticism is exactly what your potential buyers will be experiencing.  They don’t care about your book any more than the other 100 options available.
  3. Put yourself in the reader’s shoes.  How does your book help the reader?  Is the book about you showing off how smart and creative you are, or is it focused on helping the reader accomplish what they want in life?  Never focus on your goals in writing a book, focus on the goals of the person reading the book.
  4. Assume nobody cares about you or your book.  It’s no fun and it’s hard to accept, but if you start with assuming nobody cares about you or your book, you’ll be in a great position to beat the “IKEA Effect”.


Always remember that you place a much larger value on your book than anybody else on this planet does.  You have to help people understand the value in your book and why it’s worth spending their hard earned time and money to read it.  If you can overcome the “IKEA Effect” you’ll be way ahead of most authors out there that are sitting back waiting for the world to discover their genius.

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