Marketing Books around Strengths and Weaknesses


More than just marketing your book, you have the opportunity to paint a perception. That perception could attract readers who may appreciate the strengths of your book; it may even downplay your book’s weaknesses.

Marketing a perception may even help to create more indirect interest in your book than marketing your book directly.


(1) Strength = storyline; weakness = writing.

It’s in your best interest to shore up your weakness as much as possible, e.g. improving your writing skills (reading classics can help with that) and seeking editing help. But let’s say that, for whatever reason, you have a book on the market where you know the writing is okay, though not as good as it could be, but you feel that the storyline more than compensates for this.

In this case, you want to paint the perception that the storyline is more important than the writing. Be careful: You don’t want to say that writing doesn’t matter; you don’t want to create the misperception that you didn’t care about the writing at all. Rather, you want to stress how great ideas for plot and characterization are the best part of the book; that you would rather read a book with great ideas, but just okay writing, than a book with just okay ideas, but extraordinary writing.

Not everyone will agree with you, but that’s okay. In fact, this will help you target your audience. You don’t want people who weigh the writing aspect of the book heavily to be dissatisfied with their purchases. At the same time, your marketing will help to attract people looking for a great storyline. “I love a great story. I might just check that out.”

(2) Strength = writing; weakness = great story ideas.

This is just the opposite. Here, you want to stress the wonders of writing, how it helps the story flow, etc. You want to emphasize the importance of scrutinizing the blurb and Look Inside for possible mistakes.

Many other people are already selling a similar perception. For example, editors and traditional publishers want to highlight the importance of editing because this is one of their strengths. It’s okay that different people are painting contradictory perceptions. This helps to filter the audience, creating a more positive reading experience.

But if you’re an indie author with a writing/editing strength, you want to market the reality that some indie books are very well-written, too. You don’t want all the traffic looking for quality writing to read exclusively traditionally published books. Stress some examples of indie books with quality writing (and not just your own; people will find your books when they discover your articles and posts).

(3) Strength = content; weakness = cover.

My advice is to get a better cover. It’s a very important part of marketing. If your content is very good and there is a significant audience for your book, a great cover that attracts the target audience can make a big difference. But let’s say that, for whatever reason, your cover isn’t as good as it could be, but you believe that the content compensates for it.

You want to stress the old adage about not judging a book by its cover, that you’d rather read a great book with a lousy cover than a lousy book with a magnificent cover.

(4) Strength = fantastic cover; weakness = novelty.

If your cover is amazing and the content is also appealing, but maybe your weakness is that the book doesn’t show as much imagination as it could, then you want to emphasize the importance of cover design; that if much effort is put into the content, the cover should also reflect this effort.


List your strengths and weaknesses. Get feedback to see if others agree with your list. Think about what perception you could strive to pain that may help to attract your target audience.

It’s foolish to think you can write a book that will appeal to everyone. You can’t. Just look at the reviews of any highly esteemed book, and you’ll see that book wasn’t for everybody.

What you want to do is filter the audience, trying attract people for whom your book will provide a positive reading experience. In fact, if people realize that your book may be a good fit for them through your marketing, they are more likely to check it out. The better you succeed in filtering your audience, the more likely readers will leave positive reviews or recommend your book to others.


Don’t slam the opposite perception. For example, suppose that you’re selling the perception that cover design is highly important. Be careful not to slam books with lousy covers. Some of those might actually be great books. Potential readers may have author friends with not-so-good covers; you don’t want to insult friends of your potential readers. You also don’t want to attract negativity.

In this case, focus on the merits of a great cover, without saying rude things about books with lousy covers.

Whatever perception you’re trying to paint, take care not to insult authors who are trying to paint the opposite perception.

Maintain a professional image as an author. Marketing books is not like politics.


You want to emphasize the importance of your book’s strengths while downplaying your book’s weaknesses, but you don’t want to advertise the weaknesses. For example, if writing is your weakness, you don’t want to say something crazy like, “The writing stinks, but the story is awesome.” Improve your weaknesses as well as you can, then play to your strengths without calling undue attention to your weaknesses. You might say something to the effect that the story ideas are far more important than the writing is to you, that for you the writing doesn’t come as easily as the ideas, but demonstrate how you’re working to master the writing (e.g. you’ve taken a writing course or how you’re working with an editor).


You don’t want to write one article after another painting your perception; you’ll get tuned out, readers will get annoyed. You have to find the magic frequency, and you need to mix up your posts.

A perception may have different aspects, giving you more topics to work with. For example, if you’re marketing the importance of good writing, there are a host of ideas that you can write about, such as the effect of word flow, passive versus active storytelling, and the art of subplots.

If you can find a concise way to get your point across, you can include it with your signature. “I’ll take a great story over a great cover any day.”

My Example

With my Improve Your Math Fluency series of workbooks, my strength is my background (Ph.D. in physics and experience teaching at the university). One weakness, for some teachers and parents, is that I favor the old-fashioned technique of ample practice of fundamental skills, whereas a new trend is fewer drills, more pictures, more group activities, and more engagement.

One reason for the new trend is that some students in a classroom get bored by the drills: As soon as the top students master it, they’ve had enough, and many of the struggling students would rather do something else. However, many motivated students who are working on problems that match their level greatly benefit from practicing fundamental math skills. In fact, no matter how you teach, if you want the students to be fluent in the subject, at some point they will have to practice it.

As a physics teacher, I see many university students who are quite rusty with their arithmetic, algebra, and trigonometry skills, which is even more amazing when you consider that many of the students who sign up for physics tend to have stronger backgrounds in math compared to other students. Students simply aren’t required to practice the fundamental math skills as often as we did when I was in school.

Many parents want their children to benefit from additional practice. Sometimes this is to help good students who are bored with the curriculum; they use workbooks to learn higher-level skills. Sometimes it’s to give a student who is struggling in school extra practice.

I emphasize the benefits of practicing fundamental math skills to improve math fluency. I have nothing against the modern workbooks that have different objectives. Parents and teachers who want to engage or entertain bored kids should favor the modern approaches. Rather, my goal is to reach parents, home-school teachers, independent students, and teachers who see the benefits of building fluency in basic math skills through ample practice.

If you’d like to check out my Improve Your Math Fluency series, please click here.

Publishing Resources

I started this blog to provide free help with writing, publishing, and marketing. You can find many free articles by clicking one of the following links:

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

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