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When I was young, I had an eccentric, poker-playing uncle. At family reunions, he loved to show me how to play five-card draw, which introduced me to the concept of betting and bluffing. He’d deal out the cards, ask me to make a mock wager with fake chips, and then tell me to decide whether to fold or go all-in. As an 11-year old, my poker-playing skills weren’t well-honed. So, invariably, I’d fall for my uncle’s bluff by folding too early, turning over our cards, only to find out that I had held the winning hand. My uncle would joyously rake the jackpot into his pile and cackle at me, “You sure left a lot of money on the table, kid!” To this day, I can remember the frustration that I felt knowing I had held the winning hand but still lost the game.
If my uncle were alive today, I think he’d make a similar observation about the publishing industry. He’d say that publishers are leaving millions of dollars on the table each year, because their marketing tends to fold too early. In other words, you can’t afford to let your marketing copy fold when skeptical shoppers call your books’ bluff. When people browse your titles, your marketing copy has to overcome their skepticism and convince them that the book is worth buying. You have to speak the readers’ language and capture their interest. If they call your bluff and your marketing folds, then you lose book sales.