To Sell More Books, Change the Story You Tell Yourself About Marketing

I talk to a ton of authors. At events, online, and on client calls. I always ask how they feel about book marketing and I take notes. Reading back those notes is like reading the journal of an angsty teenager. 

Believe me when I say, I am NOT criticizing anyone here. All writers, including me, indulge in the occasional pity party. 

Here are the kinds of answers I get to the question: “What comes up for you when you think about marketing?”


Overwhelm, loneliness, drudgery.

Anxiety (am I good enough? does anyone care?) and a desire to procrastinate.

Worry about being sleazy!

Can you relate? 

When I probe for the thoughts behind the feelings, here are some answers I hear:

“Somebody else—my publisher—should do be doing this for me.” 

“I don’t want to be pushy and salesy.” 

“I’m a nobody. I can’t get any traction when talking to influencers.” 

“I’ll be ignored and never know why.”

“I’m bad with technology, so I can’t build a mailing list.” 

“My work is dumb and not worth much.”

My only goal is to help people find success with their books—however they define it. I try to dig up these thoughts so I can do something about them. 

Because the plain truth is, you can’t possibly be successful in your marketing when you’re telling yourself this type of story about getting your book out into the world.

When you hate the thought of marketing, when you dread it, your marketing will suck. 

Therefore, your results suck. 

And you’ll conclude that you suck, or that you were right about marketing being a nightmare. 

It’s self-fulfilling prophecy. And it ends now. Today. With you reading this post.

One of the things that first drew me to Tim’s Connection System was his definition of marketing: The act of building long-lasting connections with people.

That definition is a big reason why the system works so well. Right out of the gate, it addresses the negative thoughts and fears most of us have about selling. 

But I still see authors get stuck on actually carrying out the system, even once they learn it and know it works.

They get stuck because they didn’t stop to consciously dismantle their old beliefs about marketing. As soon as they start taking action, their brain starts coughing up fears and doubts and they end up in a downward spiral of stinky thinking and stagnant sales.

Action is not the first step to solving the problem

Too many of us think taking action is the whole answer to almost any problem. If only I could take action, things would shift. But it just isn’t true.

Tim and I can tell you what to do to market your book all day long, but unless you’ve got the right mindset, you’re just not going to do it.

If you’re frozen in your marketing efforts right now, gritting your teeth and taking action is not the first step towards more books sales.

If you force yourself to do your marketing from a place of hating it, you’re going to fail, no matter what actions you take. Because people can smell a faker.

Shitty Thinking Sabotages Your Efforts

Here’s the kind of crap I hear when talking to authors about the different stages of the Connection System.

Objections to Permission: 

“But, I never sign up for newsletters so my readers won’t either.”

Objections to Content: 

“But, I don’t have time to create marketing content. I’m so busy and I need my spare time for writing my books.”

Objections to Outreach: 

“But, I’m a nobody, so I can’t get any traction when talking to influencers.”

Objections to Selling:

“But, I don’t want to sound like I’m selling used cars.” 


Notice how these objections begin with the word “but”?

“But” thoughts are an excellent signpost to identify the thinking that’s getting in your way. You say them as if they’re facts, as if you’re reading the news. “But” thoughts are not facts. They are self-sabotage. Every time. 

Hear me now: there is always a way around a “but,” if you want to find it.

Right action requires right thinking 

I’m going to help you solve the problem so many of us face in all facets of our lives: Knowing what we need to do but not being able to make ourselves do it. 

I’m building on the work of therapists, thinkers, and coaches like Tara Brach, Martha Beck, Byron Katie, and Brooke Castillo here, adapting and merging some of their concepts and exercises specifically for writers. Just like the Connection System, this is an underlying strategy. A foundation to guide you in developing thoughts that will better serve you in your writing and your marketing.

The key is to quiet the limbic system, or emotional center of the brain, and use our powerful prefrontal cortex instead. Some people refer to the limbic system as the “lizard brain.” It’s responsible for our fear responses and always wants us to skitter away from the unfamiliar, the challenging. The prefrontal cortex, on the other hand, wants to solve problems and find a way to reach our highest potential. Which part of your brain would you rather develop? 

Those negative thoughts we looked at earlier come from the lizard brain. We’re going to intentionally override them with our prefrontal cortex.

I’m going to give you a roadmap to clean up your thoughts so you can move forward with building the audience your books deserve.

Though it may feel a little woo-woo at first, I assure you, it’s actually incredibly practical. Once you start using it, you’ll be annoyed you never learned it in school.

Your Roadmap to a Better Mindset

To use this mindset roadmap, we need to understand how our circumstances, thoughts, feelings and actions all interact to create our marketing results. (Big hat tip here to life coach and effing genius Brooke Castillo here, this is based on her Self Coaching 101 model.)

Marketing is just a thing that exists in the world. A circumstance. 

It’s not good or bad—until you have a thought about it. 

Once you think something like “marketing is yucky,” that creates a feeling, often revulsion, that drives the actions you take—or don’t take—to market your book. 

Your action (or inaction) determines the result you get. In this case, lack of sales because your thoughts about marketing interfered with your ability to do any.

There’s only one way to change the result: Back the hell up and look at your thoughts.

Oh, wait. You don’t believe that there’s a direct line from your thoughts to your results? 

Consider Tim. Tim doesn’t love marketing because he’s good at marketing. He’s terrific at marketing because he loves marketing. He loves it because he thinks it works. The way he thinks about it makes him feel excited about it, which drives the actions he takes, which create his stellar results. 

I’m going to walk you through the roadmap here and you’ll start to see your own thoughts about marketing and understand the connection to your results. 

This understanding, along with some practice, will allow you to better control your thoughts. When you control your thoughts, you can change the results you get in marketing—and in life.

Do you get that? Changing your thoughts about marketing can change your life!

So here’s how to leverage that prefrontal cortex and stuff a sock in the mouth of your lizard brain.

Step 1: Do a thought download. 

When you think about getting serious about your marketing, what comes up for you? 

Remember the answers my clients gave above?  

Now, it’s your turn. Write down every thought that comes into your mind when you think about marketing. 

If you’re currently unhappy with your sales figures, I’ll bet dollars to dark chocolate that most of what you put down is negative. 

Now read what you wrote down while imagining these are another writer’s thoughts, not yours. You think this other writer is brilliant and should be super famous and successful, but isn’t. Do these thoughts explain why their marketing isn’t working? You bet your ass they do. 

Thoughts like these don’t serve anyone but our inner lizards.

Step 2: Call out your own bullshit

Next, for each thought you wrote down, ask yourself, is this really true? The negative thoughts are simply stories you’re telling yourself. And because you’re a writer and you live and breathe stories, sometimes you can’t tell when you’re fooling yourself.

Let’s look at some shitty thoughts and investigate them.

Shitty thought Is it true?
“Nothing I’ve done has worked.” Test the validity of this by making a list of everything you’ve actually done and seeing if it got any results whatsoever. If you didn’t track the results, then you can’t say for certain that it didn’t work.


“Marketing is sleazy.” All of it? Really? Think of a brand you trust and think of their marketing. Is what they’re doing sleazy? If it was, they probably wouldn’t be a trusted brand to you.


“It’s just too much of a pain in the ass.” Have you tried enough to truly know? Or are you just using that as an excuse to not do anything?


“I don’t have time for marketing. I need to write books.” How much time did you spend messing around on your phone today? How much TV do you watch each week? You and I have the same number of available hours in a day, we just prioritize it differently.


“I’m scared to reach out to influencers. I’m a nobody.” Really? You’ve never successfully introduced yourself to anyone and formed a relationship? Remember that all influencers started in the same place you are, once upon a time.


“I’m terrible with technology.” Do you operate a smartphone and a computer? Did you know that developers are consciously working every single day to ensure that technology gets easier and easier to use? And you can always ask for help.


“My publisher should be doing all this for me.” Is your publisher doing it for you? No? How does it serve you to struggle against the reality that publishers don’t do squat to market most books these days?


Step 3: Restock your thoughts

Ok, that may have been a bit like having cold water thrown in your face, but never fear! We’re getting to the good part. 

Now that you’ve seen the mental manure inside your head, it’s time to muck the proverbial stall.

How much time and energy could you pour into finding an audience if you simply stopped believing all those thoughts?

However much I love eastern philosophies like Buddhism (and I do), it’s not enough to just notice our thoughts and try not to identify with them. We have to use our big fat prefrontal cortex to its highest potential and choose better, more helpful thoughts. Our new thoughts eventually become beliefs. And when we take action from beliefs that serve us, we get results we feel good about.

To take the kind of action that sells more books, we need to rewire our brains to focus on more positive thoughts about marketing.

Remember, our actions are driven by our feelings. In order to take massive action to build your career, what would you need to feel? Our thoughts create our feelings, in order to have a feeling that helps you take action, what would you need to think?

I’m not talking about chanting some silly affirmation until you automagically believe it. Start by finding some thoughts you already believe that will serve you better as you tackle book marketing.

You want your new thought to have the following qualities: It should feel possible and hopeful, it should be compassionate towards yourself (no shaming or blaming for what you thought before), and, most of all, it should be true. 

Your old thoughts were lies you told yourself. You new thoughts should be meticulously constructed to be both true and positive. 

Let’s look at some examples of old, shitty thoughts converted into shiny new, believable thoughts that can serve you better in your marketing: 

Old thought New thought
“Nothing I’ve done has worked.” “It’s possible that if I really went for it, I could significantly grow my email list in the next 6 months.”


“Marketing is sleazy.” “It’s possible that even though I’ve thought negatively about marketing, I can decide to have an open mind and take some baby steps forward to explore an approach I can feel good about.”


“It’s just too much of a pain in the ass.” “I’m a professional and professionals don’t quit when things seem hard.”


“I don’t have time for marketing. I need to write books.” “Maybe all of this marketing jazz won’t take as long as I think it will.”


“I’m scared to reach out to influencers. I’m a nobody.” “I might enjoy connecting with influencers and it might actually enhance my creative life to make more friends who are creative.”


“I’m terrible with technology.” “It’s possible that this technology stuff isn’t as tough as I’m making it seem and there are resources out there to help me sort through it all. Technology is getting simpler all the time!”


“My publisher should be doing all this for me.” “I’m the perfect person to market my book because nobody knows it better or cares about it more than I do.”


Try some of these new thoughts on for size and see how they feel. Pick one or two new thoughts and tape them up in your workspace. Each time you sit down to work on your marketing, read (or even speak aloud) your new thoughts. 

Can you already feel what actions might you be willing to take as a result of shifting your attention to these new thoughts instead of your habitual ones? 

Your thoughts are powerful. They are the stories you tell yourself. As a writer, you must tell yourself a book marketing story that serves you well, so you can serve the world with your story. Get to it!

Share this article

Step 1 of 3

What genre do you currently need help marketing?(Required)

Sue Campbell Avatar



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *