The Power of Promise

A quick marketing challenge for you: How do you take a book that few are buying and quickly push it onto the best-seller list? Revise your target market? Optimize your online presence? Run ads? First, take a step back.

The first question to ask: “Is the book any GOOD?”

Yes, the book is good.

Very good.

This rules out writing a better one.

You might ask, “But if it’s so good, why isn’t it selling?”

Another sensible question.

Because you might argue that if the book is good, word of mouth should do the rest.


You need people to buy it first.

So how do we get more people to buy a book before they know if it’s good?

The answer is to make a better promise.

Let me give you an example.

There’s a book called How to Outsource: Outsourcing Business for Profit Explained.

Sounds dull.

You’ll never read it.

But then there’s another book you’ve almost certainly heard of and likely read:

The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere and Join the New Rich.

This book by Tim Ferriss is also about outsourcing work.

But it sold millions.

Because it makes a much better promise.

What makes a good promise?

Generally speaking, specifics.

Specific result.

Specific timeframe.

Specific methodology.

For example:

The 12 Steps Anyone Can Take To Build a 6-Figure Online Writing Business in the Next 2 Weeks

But now let me take you back to New York, in 1939.

A young advertising man Lester Wunderman has just met with a book publisher.

He’s heard a strange story.

According to the publisher, Adolf Hitler’s doctor, Dr. Kurt Krueger, has escaped from Germany and is hiding in Brooklyn.

He has written a book about aspects of Hitler’s life that have never been revealed.

He fears for his life.

He wants the book promoted, but won’t hold any interviews or help advertise it.

An edition of the book is already in print, but it’s not selling.

The publisher wants to know what Wunderman can do to turn a failure into a success.

Wunderman reads the book and agrees to help.

What happened next?

“The ads sold copies as fast as the publisher could print them. We expanded the schedule from newspapers to news magazines and from news magazines to picture magazines and then to scandal tabloids. And they all worked. Every $1,000 we spent on advertising produced 2,000 direct sales and hundreds more through bookstores, earning a direct and immediate profit.”

What did Wunderman do?

“I changed the title from Inside Hitler, which promised nothing, to I Was Hitler’s Doctor, which promised everything.”