How to Use Psychology to Market your Book

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Fun fact: ever since I was a teenager, I have wanted to study psychology.  Sadly, the education system in Greece meant I became an engineer instead, devouring psychology books in my free time (Jung in particular). Then, I went on to post-graduate studies in the UK. Still hoping for a career shift, I contacted a score of universities asking if I could apply for an MSc/MPhil/PhD in psychology. I still remember my dialogue with a kind Professor from Cardiff:

“Sure you can study psychology here,” he said. “Why not?”

“Really? And my first degree can be anything at all?”

“Why not? I mean…” he scoffed, “…it’s not an engineer’s degree, right?”

So, I went on to get a PhD in digital architecture, instead (and the first part of a Certificate in Counselling, in my spare time).

I still read up on psychology, though, which is how I stumbled on some marketing tips from Hubspot that combine psychological principles with marketing in a way that, tweaked accordingly, can help us promote our books. Enjoy!


The principle:  

If you give something, people feel that they ought to give you something back.

How it helps us:

Use freebies to win over readers. If you give away a book, people will want to do something for you in return, like write a review, or buy other books of yours.


The principle:  

Once people commit to something, they will most probably follow through.

How it helps us:

If you write a series of books, people that have read the first part are more likely to read the following books as well.  By lowering the first book’s price, or even giving it away, you get more people to read your books by getting them to commit to the series.


The principle:  

Become an authority –or somebody with a strong knowledge in his/her field- so that people trust your opinions and your views.

How it helps us:

Posting material, writing thoughtful posts and acquiring knowledge of something makes people think of you as an authority; someone they can rely on.  Become an authority on writing, book marketing, book covers, editing, book summaries or anything that you feel competent about. Then, use your influence accordingly.

For example, if you become an authority on writing, you can offer reviews. You see, a few months ago I read (can’t remember where; as you know my memory is sieve-like) that when it comes to reviews, people are more likely to trust an authority than a lay person or (even worse) the author. You can combine this with reciprocity: a favorable review of another authority’s work will probably result in one of yours by them.

Social proof

The principle:  

When a lot of people like something, other people are more likely to like it as well.

How it helps us:

Make sure new reader know how many followers, reviews, blog posts, comments etc you have. This creates a virtuous circle; the more people endorse you, the more popular you (and your work) become.


The principle:  

When you like someone, you’re more likely to buy from them.

How it helps us:

Interestingly enough, according to social psychologists, this does not necessarily mean that you have to be nice; just that you build a brand that people like. Or, more precisely, that they like being associated with (see Apple). So, you could either avoid, say, political arguments in public, or make sure everyone knows where you stand on controversial subjects.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with being nice and I personally think that it always helps, but that’s up to you! 🙂


The principle:  

If something is perceived as rare or in short supply, people want more of it.

How it helps us:

Think of signed numbered copies of your books, or of a maximum allowed number of participants to a chat or an online seminar.  People enjoy feeling like part of an elite group, so take advantage of it.

Recency illusion

The principle:  

When you initially notice something, then you spot it pretty much everywhere.

How it helps us:

When I was looking to buy a car, I was flirting with a Hyundai i30. During that time, I remember thinking the roads had been overrun by them. Funny how I’d never noticed them before, isn’t it? Naturally, this reinforced my belief that I had made the right decision, for so many people to be driving that same car (see social proof).

This principle is particularly useful for marketing: your marketing approach should not be a one-off. Instead, you should use a wide array of tools to promote simultaneously your brand/book/series across different media channels.  Hence, use multiple platforms, with the same message in different packaging. The aim is to convince people that, if they keep seeing your book everywhere, it must be good!

Verbatim effect

The principle:  

The short version is better remembered than the long one. Aka, people like fuzzy feelings.

How it helps us:

People are bombarded with information day and night. Remembering a long text, explanation or description is wishful thinking, kinda like me improving my memory or losing a few pounds.

Therefore, readers are more likely to remember a catchy image, your headline, or the general gist of your book captured in a snappy tagline. Pay attention to your headline, make summaries really short and insert an eye-catching image.


The principle:  

Bullet points and numbered lists.

How it helps us:

This is linked to the verbatim effect: people have short memory spans and need a mental aid to remember them.  Putting things in groups or clustering them makes them easier to remember.  In your blog posts, cluster things under the same group (marketing tips, reviews, interviews and so on) so that people can find the material they are looking for.

The Power of Three

The principle:  

This was kindly provided by Paula Kappa: if a customer sees a product three times, they are more likely to engage the product and buy it

How it helps us:

Paula placed her book cover at top and bottom of a her giveaway bookmark, so that the customer will see it twice. That way, when the customer sees the book cover again online, at library, in bookshops, etc, she establishes that 3-pronged hook!

If you can think of any further principles, I’d be more than happy to include them!

4 thoughts on “How to Use Psychology to Market your Book”

  1. Terrific, Nicholas–this was wonderfully interesting and I’m sure will be a boon to many a writer about to embark on the rickety ride of marketing–no matter the product.
    Thanks for sharing some wholly worthy words. This one’s a keeper. Cheers!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Very interesting post, Nicholas. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

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