A few episodes ago, we talked about how to create urgency for your book. Today you will learn about the next social trigger: scarcity and its sister ubiquity.  These social triggers will give you a powerful edge when it comes to selling your book.

But first, a paradox from Adam Smith. 

Why are diamonds more valuable than water?

You can live a happy life without ever even seeing a diamond. Without water, you will die in a week. So why are diamonds so much more expensive?

Once you understand this paradox, you will understand a marketing principle that most authors, and even most publishing houses, don’t understand. 

Scarcity creates value.

The rarer something is, the more valuable it is, even if that thing is mostly useless. Other than a few industrial uses, diamonds are mostly useless. What makes them valuable is the fact that they are rare and beautiful. They are a way of displaying wealth. 

But scarcity is not the only thing that drives value. 

Desire drives value as well. The stronger the desire to obtain a thing, the more valuable it is. Emeralds are rarer than diamonds, and yet they cost less.


Because people want diamonds more than they want emeralds. This is due to the custom of giving diamond engagement rings. Most married women wear diamonds. This makes the desire for diamonds higher than the more scarce emeralds.

This strong desire for diamonds over emeralds is the result of clever marketing by the diamond industry. Remember the slogans “Diamonds are forever” and “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend? That’s marketing at work.

The interplay between scarcity and desire is what economists call supply and demand.  

A Second Paradox:

“On the one hand information wants to be expensive, because it’s so valuable. The right information in the right place just changes your life. On the other hand, information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time. So you have these two fighting against each other.” 

Stewart Brand

Knowledge is like a candle flame. One candle can light another without being diminished itself. Giving someone an idea is not like giving someone cake. You can give your idea and have it too.  

When selling knowledge, the owner will make more money if the product is either ubiquitous or expensive. This is why I offer a free podcast and paid premium mastermind groups.

But this principle applies for fiction as well. In fact, in some ways, it is easier for novelists.

Of the social triggers, scarcity is the rarest for authors to leverage. In terms of pricing, indie authors are in a race to the bottom. Some indie authors sell their books for as little as possible to try and undercut their competition. But, as Seth Godin says, the problem with a race to the bottom is that you might win.

That said, you can make a lot of money selling books for almost nothing if you sell a lot of them.

You see, while diamonds are more valuable than water, we spend more money on water than we do on diamonds. In fact, most Americans spend more on bottled water alone than they do on diamonds. 

You would likely make more money selling water than you would selling diamonds. Think about that.

Today, you are going to learn how you can have your scarcity and your ubiquity too. You will learn how to make your book ubiquitous like water–available in many places to lots of people. But you’ll also learn how to make the same book scarce like diamonds–rare and in demand. 

How to Make Your Book Ubiquitous

Before we talk about how to make your book scarce, let’s talk about strategies that will make it ubiquitous. Believe it or not, the same book can be both.

#1 Give Away Free Digital Copies

There are several authors whose books made the bestseller list because they offered the digital edition for free. Partnering with a company like BookBub will help you spread the word about your free book and let readers know you’re giving it away for a limited time.

Other authors have made a lot of money by making their books permanently free or “permafree.” 

This strategy worked best when readers were looking to fill their brand new Kindles with free books. Nowadays, most Kindle owners have more books on their Kindle than they can read, and readers are harder to entice with free books. Because of this phenomenon, many readers have been trained to only read free books. 

While it’s less effective than it used to be, having a “permafree” book can still be an effective way to make your book ubiquitous.

This strategy still works and it can really amplify word of mouth. If your book is controversial, or remarkable in some other way, this strategy works particularly well. 

Additionally, if you make the free version available for a limited time you will effectively combine the social triggers of ubiquity and urgency.

We talk more about the strategy of offering your book for free in Episode 35 – The Upside and Downside of Free Books. I also share how I used permafree successfully in Episode 220–The Enclave Files.

#2 Go Wide in All The Formats

There are a lot of ways to buy water and a lot of stores that sell water in different ways. 

While some people read books in many different formats, most readers have a strong preference. I will only listen to audiobooks. Some people insist on reading only paper copies. If a reader has limited space in their home, on their shelf, or in their bag, they may prefer ebooks.

So what is an author to do?

Make sure your book is available in all formats:

  • Audio
  • Ebook
  • Paper 

The easier your book is to consume on a reader’s platform of choice, the more ubiquitous it will be.   

If you are aiming for ubiquity, you’ll want your book to be available in as many stores as possible. That means if you choose to sell and distribute through Amazon exclusively, you are sacrificing ubiquity for a better profit margin. 

#3 Go on a Media Tour

The more people talk about your book, the more ubiquitous it will be. One way to get everyone talking is to get the media talking about your book first. If you stir up enough buzz about your book, people will buy a copy just to see what all the fuss is about. 

This is why 90% of Top USA Today Bestselling Authors Have a Podcast Presence.

We have a lot of resources on media tours, so be sure to check out the following podcast episodes:

My course, How to Get Booked as a Podcast Guest is one of our most popular. Of all our courses, this one gives you the most immediate results. It is not uncommon for authors to start pitching and getting booked on podcasts within a week of finishing the course. 

#4 Make A Short Promo Version of Your Book

Minibuk is a company that makes small versions of books. They can print a miniature, short version of your book for you give away to influencers at conferences. 

The churches in my town are utilizing this strategy for a book by John Burk, a local pastor and former client. Churches are buying copies of the shortened version of his book in bulk to pass out as part of a combined evangelism push.  

I know another author whose publisher printed three chapters of her book to pass out at a conference of leaders who were interested in her topic. 

#5 Advertise

The more someone sees your book, the more likely they are to buy it. Expensive advertising works! Or at least it can work for the right book. 

We have a lot of episodes about advertising

More Ways to Create Ubiquity  

Have an idea of how to create ubiquity? Share it in the Novel Marketing Facebook Group.

How to Create Scarcity for Your Book

So we’ve talked about making your book ubiquitous–available in lots of places and in many forms–like water. Now let’s turn your book into something that’s rare and in high demand–like diamonds–by learning how to create scarcity.

#1 Amazon Selling Out 

This is the worst kind of scarcity. You might say, “Get my book on Amazon before it sells out,” and that warning might be helpful. But when it actually happens, and your book is back-ordered, you lose out on sales. People hate ordering back-ordered books. 

If you are indie published, this won’t happen because your books are printed on demand. There is no inventory, and therefore it can’t run out. 

If you are with one of the big five publishers this won’t happen because they have print-on-demand backup systems worked out with Amazon. Because of this, their book always shows “in stock.”

If you are published with a small or medium-sized house, selling out is a risk. Have your agent ask if the publisher has a print-on-demand backup system setup with Amazon or Ingram to ensure your book always shows as “in stock.” 

When I was an agent, this happened to one of my clients who was with a medium-sized publishing house. Her book sold out on Amazon in the first few days. It torpedoed her launch, and I had to educate the publisher that print-on-demand backup systems were an option for them. 

#2 Sell Signed Copies

Have you ever noticed that when you are signing books no one ever haggles with you on the price? This is the one time people are happy to pay full price for a book.


Your autograph adds value to the book because it makes it more scarce. Not many signed copies are available. It makes your book more like diamonds. 

The key to book signings is that you need to hold your signing event in a place where your readers already hang out.

Book signings are not a way to meet strangers, they are a means to connect with pre-existing fans. After you have spoken at an event, people feel a connection with you, and they are generally eager to buy your book and ask you to sign it. But in a bookstore full of strangers, it is highly unlikely that your willingness to sign books will cause a bookstore patron, who has no idea who you are, to want to buy your book.

For more, listen to episode 48–The Right Way and the Wrong Way to Sign Books.

You can also sell signed copies on your website, but only do this if you are selling them at a super-premium price. It costs a lot of time to package, address, and ship your signed books. Pricing your signed books at a premium will ensure you’ll be paid for your time. But don’t waste too much time shipping books. Use that time to write your next book instead.

#3 Create a Hardback First-Edition

Even if you plan to print a paperback later, make a hardback edition first, and print a specific number of books in hardback. People collect first-editions. A Harry Potter First Edition recently sold for $34,000. That is the price of a brand new Tesla.

Because people collect first-editions, this strategy tends to work better for fiction than for nonfiction. 

Even so, you can combine a limited-print hardback with a widely available ebook to take advantage of scarcity and ubiquity at once.

#4 Create a Limited Signed and Numbered Edition 

If you’ve already published a first-edition and worry that you’ve missed your chance at this type of scarcity, you can take a cue from the art world. Artists offer the same piece of art at varying levels of scarcity.

  • Artists sign the original piece. 
  • They offer embellished Giclees of their prints.
  • They produce a limited number of signed and numbered lithographs
  • They sell unsigned prints.

Authors can adopt the “signed and numbered lithographs” strategy by printing a hardback edition to sign and number. I have a signed lithograph print that cost $500 a decade ago. It’s print number 3 of 50. The piece is probably worth $1500 now, and it will be worth more when the artist dies. 

You can create a signed and numbered limited-edition copy of your book. The key is to sign and number the copies (1/100, 2/100 etc.), and vow to never print more. If you say you are only going to create 50 limited-edition copies, then only create 50 limited-edition copies. 

The marvelous Naomi Novik has masterfully employed this strategy. She offers signed and numbered limited-editions of her books Spinning Silver and Uprooted.

I wish I could say she got the idea from me, since I’ve been advocating for this strategy, but I suspect she got the idea from her illustrator who is also signing the books.  

This is a $100,000 idea. Naomi has printed 750 copies of each title. Each copy sells for $100. If she sells them all, she’s grossed $75,000 per title, or $150,000 total. Of course she doesn’t keep all of that money because there are costs associated with the printing and distribution, but she keeps a good chunk of it. 

If you use this idea, would you do me the favor of sending me the final book in the series? If you make 500 books, send me book #500 of #500. I’ll proudly display it on my shelf and feature it. My mailing address is on our contact page.

#5 Create a Limited-Edition Book Cover

This is another technique you can use if your books are already available in print. To combine this strategy with strategy #3, create a hardback first-edition printed with a limited-edition cover.

You could also sign and number the limited-edition cover, effectively combining strategy #4 with strategy #5.

If you have two covers you really like, and both designs test well in your Facebook split tests, consider using one of them as the limited-edition cover. 

#6 Make Book Bonuses Scarce:

In episode 223, we said that offering book bonuses can help create urgency around buying your book. People have to buy the book before time runs out to receive the bonus content or gifts Urgency can be combined with scarcity when the availability and the time is limited.

  • There are only 100 tickets to the launch party. 
  • Only 50 people can come to a regional meetup.
  • This crowdfunding reward level can only have 100 backers.
  • Bonus content is only for the first 500 buyers.
  • Webinars you have to attend live.
  • The First 100 people to buy the book get free access to your course.

While first-editions generally work better for fiction writers, these limited bonuses generally work better for nonfiction.

More Ways to Create Scarcity 

Do you have an idea on how to create scarcity?
Share it with us in the Novel Marketing Facebook Group.

The Art of Persuasion

If you are finding these marketing psychology talks helpful, we are just scratching the surface. I’ve created a course called The Art of Persuasion where I dive deeper into the psychology of marketing.

Persuasion is one of the most important things we do as authors. Persuasion is an important part of the selling process for fiction, but 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 you can 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 who want to make a difference in the world.
  • Non-Fiction writers wanting to change minds.
  • Authors who want to persuade readers to buy their book.

This course sells for $49, but through the end of February 2020, patrons of the podcast get it for free. After that, patrons can get it for 50% off. Patronage levels begin at just $3.00. You can become a Novel Marketing Patron here.

Eloise Whyte author of Soul Inspirationz

You’ll gain a new relationship with Jesus as you trust him to be your confidant, healer, and life-giving friend.

If you can’t afford to become a patron, but still want to help the show, you can! Just share this episode on a Facebook group of authors who you think would benefit. 

Do you have a question you would like us to answer on the show? Call our listener helpline at 512-827-8377‬. You can also send us a high-quality recording on AuthorMedia.com/contact.

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