The difference between ‘conventional wisdom’ and ‘convenient wisdom’: Questioning What Google Says About Self-Publishing Tactics

If you've ever thought about self-publishing, I’m willing to bet that at some point you’ve come across this advice:

  1. Write blog articles/Medium stories/etc., growing an audience, creating demand for your book(s), and
  2. Capture the e-mail addresses of everyone who visits your blog, forming a mailing list that you can use to sell your book(s.)

This is the conventional wisdom in self-publishing and blogging. And it makes perfect sense. Selling a book is, in many ways, no different than selling anything else: You want a reliable customer base, and you want to be able to find customers loyal enough to make multiple purchases and tell their friends.

But let’s examine what these two conventions actually mean:

  1. Write every day… But don’t spend your time on the book you want to self-publish. Instead, write some much shorter pieces. Then, later, you can get to work on the actual thing you want to do. (To be fair, this might include compiling those shorter pieces… but I think we’ve all read those choppy books with three digits worth of chapters.)
  2. Greet those who visit your website with a “Hey! Join my Mailing List!” In the real world, it is cashiers who offer to put us on special e-mail lists or sign us up for discount cards — store greeters don’t hound us to join anything as we enter the store. If they did, we’d turn right around, leave, and rightly consider the store to have terrible customer service.

Do I have some empirical evidence that the above advice is wrong? Nope. In fact, I bet it’s right. I won’t dare challenge it. What I will say, though, is that there is appeal in working backwards:

  1. Write your book, giving yourself something to sell and multiple snippets to post as articles, stories, etc. to draw readers in.
  2. Gain loyalty from readers after you’ve earned it.

Even if you’re not trying to self-publish a book, turning conventional wisdom on its head is sometimes worth considering. Google around to see what smart people think, but before acting, give thought to whether a different path — a more authentic path — makes more sense.


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