Some people have told me I'm a brilliant marketer. Eventually I realized that I just stumbled into pieces of good luck a couple of times.
I got involved with the Internet early, when it was basically a green field -- almost anything you did got noticed. Then I decided to publish the first edition of Thinking in Java as a free download (Eric Raymond tells me he was actually the first person to do this, but that still makes me the second, and in good company), in order to promote the associated seminar.
The initial response was great, and I thought I had it made. It was worth giving the book away to promote the seminar; with the kind of turnout I was getting book royalties were trivial compared to seminar income. All in all, a success.
But time passed and the Web began filling up. All I could see then was less turnout, but I see now that I was getting lost in the crowd. At some point the original model stopped working.
This is one of the main reasons that I haven't been giving away the 4th edition of Thinking in Java -- it no longer works as a marketing vehicle (although the first three editions are still freely available, and will remain so). I will eventually sell it as an electronic book, once I figure out things like "what format to use" -- my current thinking is to provide it in different formats as different products, which would allow new ones to be added later rather than forcing me to figure out all the right formats up front. That has its own issues (primarily that some people would get upset at having to pay twice for different formats; there's no simple way to manage this so I would just have to warn everyone up front and suffer the occasional unhappy customer). It's the best I can think of right now.
But that doesn't solve the issue of marketing, and I've slowly come around to thinking that I need to experiment with adwords-based advertising (this is primarily for conferences and Jams, but I will also be publishing -- through my company -- a series of books and other learning products).
I'm hoping that other people have had experiences with adwords and would be willing to share those. Also, there are services that offer to manage your adword campaigns; they make it sound pretty attractive because they spend all their time doing this and so supposedly have valuable experience -- are those worthwhile, and which services are best?