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The Automated Attention Machine: A Framework for Entrepreneurs to Understand Book Marketing

by Zach Obront

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Every new author has the same question:

“How should I market my book?”

Our response is always the same:

“What are your goals? What are you really trying to accomplish?”

In the traditional publishing world, authors can really only focus on one goal: maximizing book sales (or at the very least, selling enough copies to make back their publisher’s advance).

But with the rise of self-publishing, authors can have a variety of goals, such as making an impact, getting media attention, building authority, or even driving leads to grow their business.

As a group, entrepreneurs have more to gain from publishing a book than just about anyone. They have the business means to benefit from the increased credibility, attention, and word of mouth.

The challenge is to set up an Automated Attention Machine that will drive these results, for many years to come.

In this article, you will learn what an Automated Attention Machine looks like, and how to set one up for yourself. This will empower you to position yourself as a thought leader — the person in your field — by leveraging your new book.

Entrepreneurs are great at reverse engineering results, so long as we are clear on what needs to be achieved in order to get there.

If we can use our book to reach a concrete goal — like triple our paid speaking gigs or double our business leads — it’s much easier to optimize our book marketing strategy.

That’s where the Automated Attention Machine comes in.

The Automated Attention Machine

First, you need to understand precisely how a book fuels your business.

As a business owner looking for opportunities (whether customers, connections, media attention, or anything else), the people you interact with fall into four distinct buckets.

  1. “Who are you?” You’re totally unknown to them, and they aren’t particularly interested in speaking with you.
  2. “You seem impressive.” They haven’t heard of you, but you seem like someone they’d want to know.
  3. “I’ve heard of you.” They know your name and what you’re about, but don’t have much opinion on it.
  4. “I’m a fan.” They know your work and feel aligned with your ideas and beliefs.

Put simply: The most successful entrepreneurs use their books as a tool to move their target audience across that spectrum, at scale.

The challenge? In order to move people across this spectrum, you need a tool to establish credibility, a tool to increase attention, and a tool to provide value and build trust.

The good news? A book can serve as all three of these tools.

So, let’s rephrase the goal above to be more specific:

The most successful entrepreneurs use their books to create an Automated Attention Machine that moves their target audience through these phases by building their credibility with strangers, generating attention to get their message in front of their audience, and providing real value to grow their tribe of true fans.

That may seem complicated, but as we walk through each of these phases, it’ll become clear exactly what you need to do to leverage your book to become the person in your field.

Credibility: From “Who Are You?” to “You Seem Impressive”

It can be hard to stand out as one of the hundreds (or thousands) of professionals in your field. Even if you’ve done great work, been covered in the media, and worked with high profile clients, it’s challenging to establish your credibility with new connections.

Writing a book is the clearest way to show the world that you are an expert.

Whereas most other forms of credibility require you to brag in order to get the message across that you truly are an authority, writing a book allows your final product to do the bragging for you (or, even better, your readers do the bragging for you).

In other words, a book moves everyone you interact with from the first bucket (“Who are you?”) to the second bucket (“You seem impressive.”)

How to Use a Book to Generate Credibility

Using a book to generate credibility is about ensuring that as many people as possible who you interact with know about and read the book. It’s not about reaching a wider audience, it’s about establishing credibility with the people you already interact with.

Here are three tips to leverage a book for additional credibility:

  • Add it to your email signature. When the book is released, add a link (or even an image) to your email signature. Every email you send it to someone you know, and all these interactions will be improved by sharing that you’ve written a book.
  • Publish content on LinkedIn. After writing a book, you have 30-40k+ words of great content that you are free to leverage however you’d like. You can use this content to create 25+ blog posts, and set a schedule to post them on LinkedIn for your network to see. Use this content to mention and link back to the book.
  • Bring it to sales meetings. Business prospects are some of the top people you want to establish credibility with. Unlike media attention or awards, it’s totally appropriate (and appreciated!) to bring your book to a business meeting to give to the prospect. They’ll see you as more of an authority, and, as a bonus, have a keepsake to keep you top of mind.

That small shift alone can have a powerful impact on the bottom line of your business. With potential clients seeing your book on your website, in the media, and in sales meetings, they’re more likely to get on the phone with you, take you seriously as an expert, and have respect your wisdom. These changes in perception are almost certain to help you close more sales.

In fact, one of the most common things I hear from authors is that they’re amazed at how much it changes their clients’ perception of them.

Clients are no longer just looking to hire someone in their field. They’re looking to hire the person who wrote the book on the topic.

The problem comes when this is your only goal. If credibility is all you care about, you may create a sub-par book for the sake of being a published author. This can only get you so far, and will usually come back to bite you once readers crack the cover.

To get the most out of a book — and to really create an Automated Attention Machine — you need to create a book you are proud of, and that readers are excited about. Which brings us to the next phase.

Attention: From “You Seem Impressive” to “I’ve Heard of You”

For a book to truly become exponential, we need to move out of the territory of seeing it just as a credibility tool, and start building a real following of readers and fans. And that begins with getting attention.

What stands between you and attention? Attention gatekeepers.

Attention gatekeepers are the people who control the media that your target market consumes. They may be in traditional media (like journalists and TV producers) or in new media (like bloggers and podcast hosts) but, in either case, they have the ability to put you in front of your target audience.

Fortunately, these people are always looking for experts with great ideas to showcase to their audience. As just another business owner, they make have been reluctant to profile you, but as a new author, you are perfectly situated to become the expert they’re looking for.

Which form of media is best for you will depend on your target audience and where they spend their time, but regardless of the media, the gatekeepers will be more likely to select you if you’ve written a book.

The best part is that if you’ve done a good job positioning your book, it should speak directly to your business’ target audience, and solve a real problem they are facing.

Rather than needing a PR firm to make up an angle that might get you attention, your book serves as a prepackaged set of ideas that are media worthy, inherently interesting, and (most importantly) speak directly to the audiences that are full of your target customers.

How to Use a Book to Generate Attention

As an author, you are well positioned to generate media attention. Below are some of the most common ways we see entrepreneurs leverage their books into attention:

  • Mass journalist outreach. When we do book launches, the way we approach PR is to research “competitive” books and the most impactful press they got. We’ll then reach out to the journalists who covered these other books and offer them a free copy, mailed to their door. Many take us up on the offer and, if the book is compelling, many of those convert into high quality articles.
  • Podcasts. Podcasts get you in front of targeted, interested audience for an extended period of time. They are one of the easiest formats to reach your audience deeply and (as a bonus) they move book copies better than almost any form of media I’ve seen.
  • Contributing account with major media outlets. Once you’ve written a book, you have tens of thousands of words of content that is valuable to your audience. If you know where your audience spends their time online (media outlets, blogs, etc), you can slice and dice that content to create contributed content for those outlets, putting your ideas directly in front of your target audience.

If you’ve done everything right up until this point, your book should be unlocking media attention that puts your directly in front of your target audience, and turns some of them into customers.

However, with enough effort, a great PR firm could accomplish this. What makes a book different is what happens after the media attention hits.

Value: From “I’ve Heard of You” to “I’m a Fan”

If, as a non-author, you’re fortunate enough to get a major media hit, it may be valuable for your business. Some percentage of readers will be so intrigued that they come to you to work together. The rest, unfortunately, will be lost.

With a book, things are different. Those who are interested in working together will still do so, but many of the others will be interested in learning more rather than hiring you. Your book gives them a way to do that.

“So what?” you might ask. “I don’t care about the $6 per book of book sale revenue.”

That’s not the point. The point is that, rather than having the audience of people not ready to buy from you move on and forget you exist, this entire base of people now has a way to learn about your field from you, and, when they need an expert on the topic, you’ll be the person they know and trust.

How to Use a Book to Provide Value

Although this is an article about marketing, great marketing starts with a great book. Putting a horrible book in front of your target audience isn’t going to help your business. The book needs to impress them.

Be generous with your knowledge. The more you can share, the more you can help them genuinely learn about your field. As the person who helped them really “get it”, they’ll always see you as the expert.

A few tips as you write your book to ensure it provides value:

  • Understand their goals, and solve them explicitly. Many authors write their book based around what they know. They might tell their story, teach the field that they know well, and also include some life lessons. This is wrong. Focus on what your audience has to gain from your book, and write to solve that problem, and that problem only.
  • Give away your secrets. Entrepreneurs writing books often fear that if they give away their best material in a $10-20 book, nobody will hire them or buy their more expensive products. That couldn’t be further from the truth. By putting your best material into your book, you will build more trust with your audience and, when they need to hire an expert, you’ll be the one they call.
  • Use the Book In A Box Method to write a great book. We outline the complete process we use with clients in our book, The Book In A Box Method, which you can use to emulate the process on your own. The process is useful in helping you create your book faster but, more importantly, it’ll help you focus on building the foundation to create the most valuable book possible for your audience.

Even more importantly, when other people express interest in your field, you’ll be on the tip of your readers’ tongues.

It’s a Cycle, Not a Process

If you’re really an incredible marketer, you could have achieved much of this without a book. You could have gotten media attention, and (if you were great enough in that media) you could have even turned people into fans.

But what would have happened from there? The chain of events is complete.

With a book, we turn this chain of events into a cycle. Because, more than any other form of media, people recommend books. They talk about books. They gift books. And this is where the power comes from.

Let’s say you’re like Cameron Herold, one of our past authors who wrote a book called Meetings Suck. If you had decided to teach people how to improve company meetings through podcasts and articles, people would have learned a lot from you.

But how often would those things come up in conversation? How many people would still be recommending your content 3, 6, or 12 months later?

With a book, on the other hand, Cameron comes up in conversation all the time. At entrepreneur events, you’ll often overhear someone complaining about the inefficiency of their company meetings. And, without fail, someone in the conversation will have read Cameron’s book, and will bring it up as a potential solution.

By spreading his message in the form of a book, Cameron gave his fans an easy way to talk about him and an easy way for those on the other side of the conversation to learn from him (creating more customers, readers and word of mouth engines in the process).

Congratulations, You’ve Built An Automated Attention Machine

Many entrepreneurs see other business owners leveraging their books to succeed, and think they’d like to replicate that success. However, when they do take the time to write and publish their own book, nothing happens.

This is because entrepreneurs too frequently study traditional book marketing advice, which doesn’t help them leverage their book into the types of attention that truly move the needle for their business.

By focusing your book marketing on turning your book into an Automated Attention Machine, your efforts will be directed in a way that will truly move the needle in your business.

Moving potential customers from “Who are you?” to “You sound impressive” will help you get more meetings and close more deals.

As attention gatekeepers are also impressed with you, you’ll get you more exposure, which will move your target audience across to the “I’ve heard of you” bucket. Even these folks will be likely to see you as the expert in the space when they need assistance.

Finally, having a next step for those who have heard of you to read your book will turn some portion of your attention into fans, and make those who have heard of you more likely to recommend your work to others.

The smartest entrepreneurs understand that what makes a book uniquely powerful is its ability to serve as a multi-purpose marketing tool: closing sales with credibility, getting you in doors with media, turning strangers into fans, and turning those fans into word of mouth engines to generate more attention.

With this cycle churning, the value of all attention you get is amplified. Every new person who hears your name — who once upon a time would have only been as valuable as the potential business they might directly generate — also becomes a word of mouth engine to create even more attention.

This is how the most successful authors become well known. They use their book as a tool to invest in driving attention, and they leverage the power of their book to amplify the value of that attention.

And, before they know it, their ideas have spread, they’ve helped others, and in conversations about their field, they’re the first name that comes up.



Zach Obront

by Zach Obront

Co-Founder and Director of Marketing