Marketing Principles: Part 2 of 3

by Jim Rubart

Marketing Principle #2:
If You’re Not First, Forget It

• First person to fly across the Atlantic in an airplane?
• First President of the United States?
• First person to break the four minute mile?
• First person to walk on the moon?

Most of you probably came up with, Lindbergh, Washington, Banister, and Armstrong without much effort. Want to take a shot at naming the second person in each category? What? Hinkler, Adams, Landy, and Aldrin don’t easily roll off the end of your brain?

Trying to be the next Grisham, Dekker, Kingsberry, etc. is futile. Be the next you.

In other words, don’t imitate anyone else. The absolute best you’ll achieve is becoming an incredible copy. Why would anyone buy a Gucci knock-off if they can have the original for the same price?

Editors and agents are looking for unique stories and unique voices.

So give ’em Charles Lindberg, ’cause they’re never going to remember Bert Hinkler.

Marketing Principle #3:
Website Blunders to Avoid

We know the opening lines of our books have to be compelling. Then why do so many writers open their Web sites with clichéd, boring, generalities?

• “Welcome to my Web site! I’m so glad to see that you’ve taken the time to stop by. Explore! Take your time to look around. On my Web site I hope to share with you some things ….”

• “Welcome! What a treat to have you drop by my cyber-world. What I’d like to do here is tell you about my love for writing, how I became a writer, my love for …”

Snoooozzzzz …

(In September I taught a workshop at a writing conference where writers submitted their Web sites to me before the class. Over sixty-five percent of the sites opened with “Welcome.” This did not shock BROCA. This was not Lindbergh. This wasn’t even Bert.)

Think of your Web site’s visuals as the cover of your book. Think of the first words people read on your site as your back cover copy. Those words need to surprise, intrigue and entice your reader into exploring further.

How long do you have to hook someone visiting your site? Agent Steve Laube says the typical reader in a bookstore will spend twenty seconds deciding to buy your book. Studies say you have seven seconds to interest them in your Web site. Make your copy compelling.

Another Blunder: Making it all about YOU.

Marketing 101 says everyone has a stamp across their forehead: W.I.I.F.M.? (What’s in it for me?)

It would be wonderful if readers cared about us, but they don’t. They care about what we can do for them. They care about being inspired, encouraged, challenged, and entertained. Consequently the majority of your content needs to be about them, not you.

The first line of copy on my own Web site says, “Do you live with freedom?” I’ve yet to meet someone who says, “Yep, I’m totally free, don’t need any more freedom,” or “Nope, wrapped up in chains, but have no interest in getting rid of them.” I try to draw people in by having a first line that brings up a universal need.

What do most successful books do? Address a need of the masses. Which one does your Web site copy address?

Last blunder to avoid: Settling. Authors often settle for a Web site that is okay. Okay isn’t good enough.

I know your brother’s Aunt’s cousin’s best friend from Jr. High loves doing Web sites and he’ll do yours for $100. Resist the temptation. If your site looks amateurish, people will assume your writing is the same.

Can you design your own site and write your own Web site copy? Sure! You can also learn to play Bach if you have the time, talent, and commitment.

Your site is competing against the best author Web sites on the internet. And the internet isn’t the future. It’s the present. Your Web site and/or blog, is often the primary way you’ll introduce yourself to readers (and often editors and agents as well).

There’s a reason the good pub houses give meticulous attention to their covers. Right or wrong, people do judge books by what is on the front. Same with the look of a Web site and the copy it contains. It’s worth taking the time and money to make it outstanding.

Jim Rubart is the owner of Barefoot Marketing ( a marketing & consulting firm in the Pacific Northwest, and his first novel ROOMS comes out in April from B&H Fiction ( He is represented by Chip MacGregor at MacGregor Literary. (

Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Books & Such Literary Agency. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


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  6. Anonymous on November 30, 2009 at 3:30 PM

    >Sorry! I was trying to post on the article above. I thought this comment section was for that article.

    My fault. This does NOT apply to the Major Marketing Principles but rather to the blog on website design.

    Sorry again!


  7. Tirzah Laughs on November 30, 2009 at 3:28 PM

    >I'm not to the website stage yet but thank you so much for your ideas. I've been looking at other book sites to get a feel for what's out there and most of the sites weren't exciting.

    You've helped me pinpoint why.

    I can say thank you enough. Next year, when I'm ready for a website. I'll know what I don't want.

  8. Christine H on November 29, 2009 at 1:57 PM

    >I re-named my website "The Writer's Hole" last week. As in, that hole you want to crawl into when you suddenly feel discouraged about the manuscript you were in raptures over just last week.

    My blurb says: "Confused? Elated? Discouraged? Crawl in with us!" That's a pretty big "What's In It For Me."

    So, without realizing it, I may have actually done something right. For a change.

  9. Anonymous on November 27, 2009 at 12:52 AM

    >Amelia Earhart held a lot of FIRSTS, but few people would know what they were. She is known for something that was an unsuccessful attempt.
    Folks are not hindered by not being FIRST. They often have far greater success than those that were first.

  10. Anonymous on November 26, 2009 at 7:35 PM

    >Mr. Jim,
    I'm not going to bother naming any, because there are so many things that being FIRST didn't bring recognition. Yet others copied or just did the same thing on their own and got recognition for a big variety of reasons.

  11. Anonymous on November 26, 2009 at 2:07 AM

    >I have a retail (non-book) website and am embarassed to admit it starts out: "Welcome…" And I'm a writer–no excuse. Now I know I need to be more creative than that–thanks for the tips!

  12. Lenore Buth at on November 26, 2009 at 12:09 AM

    >Jim, thanks for the great tips so far. You give us a lot to chew on and it all makes sense. From now on I'll be running everything through a BROCA filter.

    Spent some time on your great website, too. Also worth the read. I'm looking forward to the rest of your tips.

    A blessed Thanksgiving to you–and to you and your family, too, Rachelle. Thanks for introducing us to Jim, also.

  13. Mechelle Fogelsong on November 25, 2009 at 10:26 PM

    >Hey Lisa Jordan: I write YA, and I made my blog on for free! DON'T SETTLE! There are lots of ways to create a blog with no money at all. And blogs are pretty self-explanatory.

    I like wordpress, but I think more people use Blogger. And you'll find once you start, that the community within your local blogosphere (i.e. all the other wordpress users or all the other Blogger users or whatever) frequent one anothers' sites more often. So in a way, I wish I had started on Blogger, because a lot more agents use it.

    But wordpress is easy as pumpkin pie.

    Jim: Gracias! I've deleted the word "welcome" from my intro, swapping it with something about saving the universe. Very helpful post!

  14. Carol J. Garvin on November 25, 2009 at 6:41 PM

    >There is a poster on the wall above my desk that says, "BE YOURSELF. An original is always worth more than a copy." I purchased it when I started up my own business many years ago but I now find it an equally applicable reminder for my writing. 🙂

    Lots of good food for thought here, Jim. Thanks!

  15. Jenny B. Jones on November 25, 2009 at 6:34 PM

    >Great info, Jim! Just what we needed to hear.

  16. Sande on November 25, 2009 at 4:59 PM

    >ps. the permission to be ourselves that is.

    btw. I am drop number 1446 in your ocean of followers. Well done.

  17. Sande on November 25, 2009 at 4:56 PM

    >In our youth we are molded into same, same and we spend the rest of our lives trying to be us which ironically is different and surprising and even enjoyable.

    Thankyou for the permission … you got some courage there to go with that?

  18. Sharon on November 25, 2009 at 2:38 PM

    >Great advice – author Sharon Oliver

  19. Kat Harris on November 25, 2009 at 1:31 PM

    >LOL, Sharon A. Lavy. Is that reverse psychology? 🙂

    I've enjoyed both of these posts and look forward to the third installment.

  20. Kristen Torres-Toro on November 25, 2009 at 12:49 PM

    >These are great principles! THANK YOU!

  21. Sharon A. Lavy on November 25, 2009 at 12:19 PM

    >Please do NOT look at my website until I have time to edit it.

  22. T. Anne on November 25, 2009 at 12:14 PM

    >That's great Jim. I do find myself judging peoples websites although I never mean to do it, it feels more of a gut reaction than a judgement. The same way I judge some self pub'ed book covers. It's human nature, we have high expectations. Thank you for a great post!

  23. C.J. Darlington on November 25, 2009 at 12:09 PM

    >I'm reading these posts with great interest. Thanks, Jim!

  24. Marla Taviano on November 25, 2009 at 11:56 AM

    >Great post, Jim! My husband is a self-employed web designer. He'd totally agree with all you said.

  25. Rebecca Knight on November 25, 2009 at 11:54 AM

    >Great advice about the website! I'm off to go check into my opening and make sure it's a Brocca shocker!

  26. Lea Ann McCombs on November 25, 2009 at 11:26 AM

    >Great things to think about, Jim. Have a great Thanksgiving.

  27. Anonymous on November 25, 2009 at 10:37 AM

    >Others flew the Atlantic before Lindy. We have no way of knowing how many athletes in World history have broke four minutes. We have no positive way of knowing if man has ever walked on the moon before Armstrong. We do KNOW George was the first US president. That's the facts. Other facts are that people often succeed copying others: that's the reason for copyrights and patents.Many people Know how to produce trailers and websites; it isn't how professional things look…sometimes it is the CONTENT.

  28. David on November 25, 2009 at 10:21 AM

    >Ironically, Lindbergh is the wrong answer. He was the first to fly solo non-stop across the Atlantic. A few pilots had crossed before him, but not non-stop or not solo.

    Even more ironically, we remember him because of the hype and the newsreels, whereas those who preceded him are forgotten.

  29. Anne Lang Bundy on November 25, 2009 at 9:42 AM

    >You've drawn me out of lurkdom to tell you these posts are relevant, helpful, nicely concise and ever so compelling.

    Great job, Jim. I'll be watching for Principle #4.

  30. Adam Heine on November 25, 2009 at 9:36 AM

    >I have to admit, the Broca post didn't do it for me, but this post… Man! Fantastic information from beginning to end. Thank you!

  31. Reesha on November 25, 2009 at 9:33 AM

    >This is great! I will tuck these little bits of advice away. Especially about the website.

  32. Jody Hedlund on November 25, 2009 at 9:21 AM

    >Thanks for this series of posts, Jim and Rachelle. You're definitely giving me a LOT to think about! It's just what I've needed. But I'm still planning to call you next week, Rachelle! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends!

  33. CKHB on November 25, 2009 at 8:44 AM

    >I'm going to disagree with part of this post! I don't think that "if you're not first, forget it" applies. I had no idea who Banister was, because I don't care about running. On the other had, I did know who Buzz Aldrin was, because walking on the moon is fabulous enough that I do care about the #2 guy. Same with John Adams.

    If you're passionate about something, you'll be interested in more than just the ground breakers. That's why some Grisham knock-off books DO, in fact, sell quite well. And Tolkien basically created a market for the epic fantasy, because readers want more, more, more of the same.

    If a writer is really passionate about something, a little imitation is not the kiss of death. Yes, bring YOURSELF to the work, but don't think that you're closed off from doing something you love just because someone else did a version of it first.

  34. Lisa Jordan on November 25, 2009 at 7:56 AM

    >Another great post, Jim! Thanks for sharing.

    Right now, I can't afford a designer to create a great site for me, so I am settling. But I can make sure the content is appealing to readers. Off to evaluate….

  35. writer jim on November 25, 2009 at 4:55 AM

    >To JIM… and LIVIA, the brain expert from yesterday, are you there, too?

    Well, it's almost 3 hrs, and no comments yet; so I'll go for it.

    I went to Jim's barefoot/website for an hour. I suggest all readers go too, and check this man out. Very interesting/informative with great possibilties for writers like us.

    Reading Jim's website short story reminded me of an experience, and caused me to wonder about something….

    "Bob" was totally IN LOVE with his job. It was FUN, FULLFILLING, and$350,000 per year. While Bob was at work, GOD TOLD ME to ask him; "Bob, have you recieved Jesus as your Savior?" I was a complete stranger to Bob. I obeyed God, and Bob responded to my question with great shock and total silence for about one full minute. Then He stood up, and loudly told the Company bosses "I quit this job right now." Bob walked out immediately. Of course, there's not time to tell all of the story; but it was the HOLY SPIRIT of God that spoke to Bob's heart, to cause such a remarkable reaction.

    Another average family man read a little of my book; and at 4 AM woke up his family to tell them he was repenting right now. He said he could not wait till morning to tell them. AGAIN, I call it the HOLY SPIRIT speaking to the hearts of men.

    It IS the Holy Spirit: but my question is… Is there a part of the brain??? that experts feel has something to do with such powerful adrupt changes in people?