It’s not easy being the new kid on the publishing block. And there’s a lot of confusing information about all the different book marketing approaches out there.
So what’s a newbie author to do?
Be aware of the pitfalls and easy mistakes you can make and how to avoid them.
Here’s a rundown of the big ones I see all the time that I definitely want to help you avoid.
1. You’re unclear of your genre, so you’re not sure who to market your book to.
Surprisingly, this isn’t just a “newbie author” thing. I’ve seen seasoned authors (who should really know better) write a book that’s a mashup of a few different genres or doesn’t fit any particular genre at all.
This is a tough way to sell a book, but it’s even harder to market.
While you may feel that you’re straddling a few different genres, remember that all you’re doing is creating confusion for your reader and the confused mind won’t buy.
They’ll just move onto the book they want, in the genre they recognize.
Finding the right genre for your book is crucial, not just because you want it categorized the right way, but the right genre will help you find readers.
We worked with an author who had her romance novel in paranormal. There were time travel elements in it, and the protagonist was psychic, but the majority of the book was set in present day.
Several reader reviews came back saying it was far more contemporary, than paranormal, and that while they loved the time travel element, it was the romance portion of it that kept them reading.
The author hadn’t even pushed that element of the book!
When you start misleading a reader (however unintentional), it becomes a very difficult sale.
Remember that, first and foremost, your book is all about the reader experience.
Solution: If you have a book that fits this description (i.e. it’s sitting in a few different genres) take a look at some of the reader feedback you’ve gotten on it either directly, via email, or in reviews.
And if you haven’t gotten any reviews on it, and you’ve done a decent amount of book marketing, it may be time to consider a revise and re-release, which I can also help you with.
2. You’re taking the easy way out and relying on “push” marketing.
What does “push” marketing mean?
It means that you’re just pushing stuff out there, without any real engagement from your audience.
And often, when we’re talking about “push” marketing, you see authors just shoving their book onto different platforms with a “buy my book” message or ad. Not only is that not appealing, but it’s a terrible way to sell a book – especially if you don’t already have a strong platform and name recognition in your genre.
Solution: Understand that book marketing is all about balance.
So while it’s ok to push your book out there, you need to consider the 80/20 rule.
Eighty percent of your marketing is engaging, and twenty percent is selling.
Engage first, sell second.
If your current book marketing efforts doesn’t elicit a response or feedback from your target audience, you can do it better.
Every author wants to sell books, every author puts their books out there for sale, your book marketing and how you present your brand to the world is what sets you apart and makes you unique – always keep that in mind.
3. You’re convinced social media sells books.
Social media is a great tool, but it’s not always a great tool to sell your books.
A strong message, a good call to action, fun/helpful/enlightening engagement that connects with your core audience will – but not in the linear way most authors assume.
Solution: Social media is a tool to gain you visibility, that’s all.
Think of social media as the virtual version of finding yourself sitting next to a book club for your genre at a local coffee shop. That chance to make a great impression, find things in common, and share your unique perspective and personality.
Social, when used effectively, can mimic that experience.
The number one key to great social media is keeping the “what’s in it for them?” in mind when you’re developing and sharing content – if true value to your followers and fans inspires your content, you’ll be okay.
4. Your efforts aren’t consistent.
This is a big one. Many authors start all gun-ho with their book marketing, doing a bunch of different things and then, when results don’t show up immediately, their enthusiasm fades.
The other side of this, is the author who just runs through a generic checklist and consequently does a “little of this” or a “little of that” but there is no consistency to any of it.
For example, the author who says: “I need to be blogging” and then posts one blog and moves onto something else with no plans for the second post.
Solution: Pick two of three things you know you have the time for and do those.
Once you’ve mastered them, you can start adding more book marketing strategies to your to do list.
5. You’re waiting until the last minute to make book marketing decisions.
This happens more than you think.
Authors launch a book or get to launch day and think: now is the time to market my book!
Or worse, the book comes out and they realize that they really don’t have time to market it. They were just so focused on being done and being proud they got it out there.
There’s really no time for that if you’re serious about making it as an author.
The truth is, books have the shelf life of milk.
Once they go live, they immediately begin aging. Granted this is less true for fiction books, but even then as a book ages, it becomes harder and harder to get bloggers interested in it.
Even harder still to get book reviews, especially if you’re starting too late.
Solution: If you really started too late and you’re wondering now what to do, consider re-releasing the book!
Lots of authors are doing this. Some because the information is out of date and they want to revise and re-release it, others because they simply didn’t execute their book marketing effectively.
If you’re considering this, grab my book on this topic so you know the ins and outs of republishing, as well as Amazon’s guidelines.
The other solution is to plan better for your next book launch. Some authors I speak to start a year ahead of their launch schedule, and while that’s great it’s not always reasonable for the majority of us.
You should have your website up, and a few blogs posted (at a minimum) and more scheduled, before you launch your book. We’ll cover a solid book launch checklist in another post!
6. You expected your network to buy your book.
This is a big disappointment for a lot of folks, so let me start by telling you that if you aren’t seeing friends (or even family) buying your book you aren’t alone.
This happens to almost everyone.
And it’s not because people don’t want you to succeed, it’s just, well, folks get busy, they forget and sometimes maybe we don’t really encourage them to buy it, we just expect that they will.
Friends and family need to be reminded how important this is for you, and even then, some may still not buy the book.
I chatted with a successful businessperson-turned-author several months ago, and he told me that he had 3,000 people on his business mailing list and the open rate was good. He was confident he’d sell nearly 3,000 books from this list alone.
I encouraged him to pretend that wasn’t happening and plan his marketing accordingly, but he dismissed that, and at the end of the day we didn’t end up working together because he didn’t feel he could use my help.
When the book came out, the sales rank was dismal, and reviews were scarce.
The lesson here is: never assume anything when it comes to book sales.
I love the term, “Don’t try to sell a cat to a dog person.” Just like family and friends, business connections won’t automatically be interested in your new political thriller.
Just because someone supports you in one area of your life doesn’t mean they’ll follow you all over the map.
Solution: If you have a mailing list, first make sure it makes sense for your genre or topic.
Assuming they’re genuinely interested in what your book has to offer, warm up that list prior to the release.
What I mean by that is make sure you’ve been in contact with them, email them ahead of your launch – several months in fact so you aren’t just dropping in on them on launch day and expecting them to buy.
Send them sneak peeks and a sample chapter, do a cover reveal, do a special BOGO offer. (Check out more irresistible bonus content ideas here!)
Then when release day comes they’re excited and waiting for the announcement!
7. You’re not taking time to analyze your book marketing efforts to make small changes.
I’ve saved the best for last.
Why? Because let’s face it, we’re all impatient. We want stuff to work quickly. But the truth is, marketing takes time.
This is another reason why I encourage authors to start their marketing early, because things take time to gain traction.
Our marketing campaigns run anywhere from four weeks to ninety days, and even then not everything we do will “hit” during that time. One reason is that reviews don’t always happen when you want them to. Reviews can take time. Sometimes we’ll see book reviews come back a month after our campaign ends – sometimes even longer. We don’t get to make the rules.
The other element of this is media interest. If you’re pitching the media, and you don’t have an urgent topic, you could find yourself waiting, and waiting, and waiting to hear back. And sometimes the media you’ve pitched will save your story for a later date and contact you then.
Social media, pricing discounts, and growing your fan base also takes time. Generally, if the author is doing consistent promotion, we see books begin to really move around six months after launch date. But some books can take longer, it really depends on what else is out there, and how you’re approaching your marketing.
Solution: Stick with it and plan for the long-term.
Whatever your marketing goals are, it’s helpful to set some for long term, as well as short term goals. Remember that everything in marketing adds up.
Often the success of a book is an aggregate of many things the author (and their marketing team) has done consistently over a period of time.
And don’t forget to analyze your results once you start getting consistent with your book marketing efforts!
Assuming a strategy isn’t working when you only tried once or twice, with no cross promotion plans or minimal follow up, doesn’t do your efforts justice.
If you’ve tried something and the results are lackluster, figure out why. Figure out what you could do to make it better. How could it be more unique to your brand? How could you cross-promote it with other efforts?
Make those tweaks and keep at it for awhile longer to really gauge whether it’s going to work for you or not.
Which of these mistakes speak to you most? I’d love to hear how you overcame them!