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What do these phrases have in common?

  • Limited-time offer!
  • Closeout sale.
  • Inventory liquidation.

In two or three words we learn there is an impending date when something will no longer be available.

  • The store will close.
  • The inventory will disappear.
  • The offer will expire.

Customers hurry to purchase so they don’t miss out.

Marketing psychologists call this a “social trigger.” Social triggers are powerful techniques used to influence customers.

In the examples above, marketers create a sense of urgency. Customers feel their time is running out. They worry about losing out, missing out, or spending more than necessary. Getting rid of that feeling becomes a high priority, and it moves them into action.

Why Urgency Works

Why is urgency so powerful? Because most people will only act with an urgent deadline. 

In education, students are moved to study because of an impending date on the calendar labeled “Exam.” Students attend study groups and review sessions for two days prior to the test date, but rarely before then.

In matters of personal health, people are more likely to modify diet and exercise when they have a reunion or wedding coming up. On the other hand, people are often unmotivated to improve their habits until their doctor lays out a few statistics regarding mortality.

For most of us, there has to be “blood in the water” to move us from a state of apathy into action. 

Urgency is why deadlines are so motivating for writers. We are so desperate for urgency that indie authors, who generally don’t have concrete due dates, create self-imposed deadlines to make themselves finish. 

So, if a reader can put off buying your book until tomorrow, they will never buy your book.

If a reader can put off reading your book until tomorrow, they will never read your book.

Since “tomorrow” never comes, authors must create a sense of urgency for customers and readers to move them from thinking about your book to purchasing it.

Method #1 Launch Window Bonus 

Create a bonus that is only available for a limited time. 

When Michael Hyatt released his book Platform (affiliate link), he created a bonus bundle worth hundreds of dollars. He partnered with other authors and businesses who had products related to building a platform and digitally packaged them together. Anyone who purchased his book in the first two weeks of launch received that valuable bundle for free.  

With your book launch date in view, you can create bonuses or prizes to giveaway to early buyers.

Prizes can include:

  • Short stories
  • Guides
  • Tip Sheets
  • Courses
  • Discount Coupons
  • A piece of music that goes along with the book.

You don’t have to create all the prizes yourself. Partner with other authors to create compelling bundles. But make sure your bonuses are actually valuable to your readers. Bonuses need not be expensive, but they must have a high perceived value for your reader.

Printable bookmarks, screensavers, or lock screen images are easy to create and distribute, but they rarely provide a high enough value for readers to purchase today rather than tomorrow.

Anything that is valuable to your reader and inexpensive to distribute would make a great launch window bonus.

Method #2 Limited First Edition Print Run 

People love the idea of owning a “First Edition” book. Consider printing a specific number of first-edition hardback copies of your book. Limited quantities create urgency forcing readers to race against each other to get copies of the first edition before it sells out. 

I did this by accident when I published my book. There was a glitch in the spacing on the spine when I placed the order for my Kickstarter backers and launch party. Instead of despairing over the imperfection, I presented those as “rare flawed versions.”

You don’t have to have flawed copies to create this kind of urgency. With some purposeful planning, you can create a limited-edition hardback version of your book that will have your biggest fans hollering, “Shut up and take my money!”

Method #3 First Buyers Get a Bonus

Providing bonuses for first buyers is like Method 1. But instead of limiting the time it’s available, you limit the total number of winners.

For example, you could email your list and say, “The first 100 people to email me their amazon receipts will receive the bonus bundle.”

This kind of urgency protects you if the bonus is expensive. You don’t want to bankrupt yourself giving away and shipping 10,000 free shirts to everyone who purchased your book on release day. It also creates the sense that when those prizes are gone, they’re gone.

Method #4 Free Pulsing & Price Pulsing

Price pulsing is a way of reducing the price of your book for a limited time.

Since you can price pulse at any time, this tactic has the advantage of working for older books. If your backlist is deep and you want to increase sales on an early book, reduce the price on that title for a limited time.

Announce the time frame, honor the price reduction, and be sure to raise the price when the time frame is expired. We have an entire episode on price pulsing called “ How Free Pulsing Can Help You Sell More Books with Jamie Foley.”

Price pulsing during a book’s launch period is risky, but when it works, it works well. This is how James L. Rubart became a bestselling author.

Jim’s publisher free-pulsed his book (offered his book for free for a limited time) soon after it launched. It triggered a firestorm of buzz about that book. People who read the free book loved it so much they told their friends. Those friends then paid full price, and that title sold a lot of paid copies.

Method #5 Collective Action

Collective action works well if you have a large following who loves you or who wants you to succeed for political reasons.

Authors with large followings may rally their readers around a single goal. For example, an author may email readers to say, “If everyone buys in the first week, we can hit the bestseller list!” 

This is how Ron Paul’s Political Manifesto (affiliate link) hit number one on the New York Times Best Seller list. Ron Paul was not a popular political candidate, but his passionate followers, who believed in his cause, encouraged each other to buy his book within a specific week so it would be listed as a bestseller. 

If you don’t yet have a passionate following, this tactic is difficult to employ. It is also risky if you rally the troops and then fail to hit the bestseller list. 

Method #6 Reverse Coupon

When you offer a reverse coupon, you warn readers that the price will increase at a specific time in the future. If you launch your ebook at $2.99, you would include a warning that the price will jump to $5.99 in two weeks. This creates the urgency to act now. 

Reverse coupons give the consumer a sense that they might miss out. Internet marketers have dubbed this FOMO, or “fear of missing out.” No one wants to feel like the schmuck who unnecessarily spent more than the next guy.

Reverse coupons have the added benefit of reducing the number of people who complain about the price increase. If you give people enough notice, they have nothing to complain about when the reverse coupon expires.

Method #7 Live Events

Host a live event, either online or in-person, for people who have already purchased the book. Customers can present their receipt as their ticket to the event, or they can purchase your book at the door. A live event acts as a deadline for people to buy your book.

You may also want to host a live event for people who have finished the book. For the novelist, this might mean hosting a “Spoiler Discussion.” Readers will be motivated to find out what the spoiler is, form an opinion about it, and participate in the discussion.

The nonfiction author might offer a Q & A webinar for people who have read the book. It allows the most invested readers to ask follow-up questions. An opportunity to ask specific questions nurtures the reader-author relationship and builds trust.

More Ways to Create Urgency

This is not a comprehensive list!

What good and bad examples of urgency have you observed?

What ideas have these seven methods prompted?

Share your ideas and examples on


The Art of Persuasion

Persuasion is one of the most important things we do as authors. Persuasion is not only part of the selling process for fiction it is also at the heart of good nonfiction writing.

Yet, persuasion is hard to do well and easy to botch. In this video course, I break down the science of how to help your readers to truly change their minds for good. This is one of my most popular and enduring talks.

This course is ideal for:

  • Bloggers wanting to make a difference in the world.
  • Non-Fiction Writers wanting to change minds.
  • Authors wanting help persuading people to buy their book.

This course sells for $49 but through the end of February, patrons of the podcast get it for free. After that, patrons can buy it for 50% off. See how I am using urgency there? 

Speaking of patrons…

Benjamin Ellefson author of The Land without Color

What If You Were Transported to a Land Without Color? And the Only One Who Could Restore it Was You?         

You can become a Novel Marketing Patron here.

If you can’t afford to become a patron, but still want to help the show, you can! Just leave a review on Apple Podcasts or Podchaser

Personal Update

I have been learning a new kind of marketing lately. Marketing to toddlers. 

This is the ultimate challenge, and one many of you have already mastered. What you may not realize is how many lessons apply to grown-ups too.  

We want to feed my 15-month-old daughter protein, especially for dinner so she won’t wake up hungry in the middle of the night. We already have a newborn crying for food at 3am, a toddler doing it as well is too much. 

If Mercy had her way, she would eat nothing but sweet fruit and pizza. We don’t want to feed her pizza all the time, so what I did was cut up some meat for her in pizza shapes and called it “meat pizza”

This is meat that she had previously refused to try. But now that it was “meat pizza” she was curious. She tried it, and what would you know, she liked it!

A lot of book readers are like my daughter. They only want the familiar. They want to read the authors they already read in the genres they already read in. 

We can’t change them, but we can work within those limitations. This is why radically new book covers are so risky. A good book cover communicates “this book is like the books you already like.” Just like called meat “meat pizza is like saying “this food is like the other kinds of food you already like.”

Now, this only works if the substance of your book matches the packaging. My branding of meat as “meat pizza” would have backfired if the food tasted bad.

So a question for you to ponder. Which successful author are you most like? You need a clear answer to this question. If your answer is “I’m unlike any successful author” readers will tighten their lips and turn away their heads from you, like a petulant toddler, regardless of how good your book is. 

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