Though A.A. Milne’s beloved Winnie the Pooh would be the first to tell you that he is “a bear of little brain,” he also has exceptional, discerning insight. Pooh’s poetic, philosophical take on life might make him a good author and, given his single-minded, persistent pursuit of what he wants (hunny), it seems likely that Pooh would excel at marketing. Below are 8 lessons about book promotion that we can all learn from Pooh.
Lesson 1: “Before beginning a hunt, it is wise to ask someone what you are looking for before you begin looking for it.”
Before you start promoting your book, it’s important to do some research. Googling, keyword research and knowing your market will go a long way toward helping you stay on target when things don’t go the way you’d hoped.
Lesson 2: “You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.”
Pooh is always on the move, out visiting Good Friend Piglet or having a Spot of Something with Rabbit. Self-published authors promoting their book would be wise to do the same: you may have just completed The Greatest Book Ever Written, but if you don’t promote it, it won’t be read. Don’t expect the market to come to you!
Lesson 3: “If the person you are talking to doesn’t appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear.”
Pooh is nothing if not patient. Never ruffled, hardly ever frustrated or grumpy when he doesn’t get what he wants. His unceasing pursuit of…well…hunny…is a great lesson for all of us. KEEP TRYING. Nothing worth having is easy to get, after all. You may have to change your marketing plan or switch platforms or re-think how you’re delivering your message, but never stop delivering it. Eventually people will listen.
Lesson 4: “You can’t help respecting anybody who can spell TUESDAY, even if he doesn’t spell it right; but spelling isn’t everything. There are days when spelling Tuesday simply doesn’t count.”
One of the reasons for Pooh’s calm, cool demeanor is that he knows what really matters. Mistakes happen and that’s okay. Sometimes Pooh and Christopher Robin take the wrong path and get lost, but that’s okay too. The bigger picture is more important than the little setbacks along the way. (That said, if you really CAN’T spell Tuesday, make sure you have a good editor.)
Lesson 5: “It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like “What about lunch?”
When Owl gives him long, complicated explanations, Pooh gets confused. All he is really after is a simple explanation. So, as soon as Owl is done talking, Pooh calmly asks for clarification. Unfortunately, most of the people you’re targeting with your book marketing won’t bother to ask for explanations…they will just move on. Make sure your message is clear and easy to understand from the first reading. Check it out with friends if you’re not sure. And be ready to revise, revise, revise.
Lesson 6: “I don’t see much sense in that,” said Rabbit. “No,” said Pooh humbly, “There isn’t. But there was going to be when I began it. It’s just that something happened to it along the way.”
When plans go awry, Pooh never panics. Obstacles crop up constantly in the Hundred Acre Wood, but he doesn’t let them stop him. In fact, it sometimes seems like Pooh is expecting adversity to come knocking on his door. And he invariably greets it with a smile.
That calm acceptance of life would serve anyone marketing a book well. When plans don’t work out, they just don’t – no big deal. Almost anything can be fixed, re-written, tweaked. But only if you accept the failure and then put it behind you. In the world of book promotion, there will be many wrong turns and dead ends and the key is to be like Pooh…when one route doesn’t work, try another. Don’t get so derailed by a failure that you’re unable to come up with a new plan.
Lesson 7: “Always watch where you are going. Otherwise, you may step on a piece of the Forest that was left out by mistake.”
You will never find Pooh rushing around The Hundred Acre Wood. He’s deliberate and slow in his movements and he usually winds up getting the important things done. When you’re immersed in writing and then marketing your book, it’s easy to feel like you have so many things to do you’ll never get to all of them. And then to dart from thing to thing, frantically trying to make some progress. But remember, if you aren’t watching where you’re going, and just dashing around, you may miss out on something rather important.
Lesson 8: “You never can tell with bees.” Readers are fickle. In an online world, tastes change rapidly, fashions come and go in a day, and “trending” is the buzzword. Be willing to adapt your plan, your message, how you target your audience. Given the unpredictability of the market, flexibility is key. If you believe in the quality of your product (your book) then remain steadfast in that…but be ready to change how you communicate about it.
E.T. Carlton is a freelance writer and marketing consultant who works with independent authors and companies on content marketing and strategic promotion.