When you first start out writing and publishing books, it can be incredibly hard to know who to listen to and what book marketing approaches to take. In fact, even experienced authors fall victim to some book marketing pitfalls.
And while, yes, that should scare you, the good news is that you can easily avoid most of them with some planning. With that in mind, here are some of the top mistakes authors make when setting out to market their books. And just as importantly, I’m including tips for how you can avoid them.
1. Not knowing your genre or your fans
This is something that is all too common, for new authors and seasoned authors alike. It can be really tough to market and sell a book that’s a mashup of a few different genres or doesn’t fit any particular genre at all.
If your writing straddles a few different genres, remember that you may be confusing your potential readers. And instead of buying your book, they will simply move on and purchase a book that fits their ideal genre.
What does this mean, you must find the right genre for your book, because in turn, this will help you reach your target 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.
Readers know what they like, and the reviews for this book reflected that. Reviews said that it was more contemporary than paranormal, and while they loved some of the different elements, the romance was what kept them interested. The author hadn’t even pushed that element of the book!
Even when you have the best intentions, if readers feel misled, sales become more difficult. Above all else, your book is all about the reader experience.
What to do instead: Pay close attention to reader feedback – wither direct, via email, or from reviews. If you are getting some mixed responses, you can potentially adjust your book marketing, or perhaps, it’s time to consider a revise and re-release.
2. Relying on “push” marketing
If you’re not employing a whole lot of strategy, and instead are just pushing stuff out there, without any real engagement from your audience, that’s “push marketing.”
You see this a lot when authors use a “buy my book” message to post or advertise on one or more platforms. It’s unappealing to most audiences and few authors who don’t have name recognition find success this way.
What to do instead: You need to understand that book marketing is all about balance. Follow the 80/20 rule when marketing your book. At least 80% of your efforts should be about developing engagement, with a maximum of 20% being selling.
If your current book marketing efforts aren’t building engagement or feedback from your target audience, you should take your strategy back to the drawing board..
After all, the way you present your brand to the world is what sets you apart and makes you unique.
3. Thinking that social media sells books
Social media is a fantastic tool and an important marketing strategy for many authors. However, it’s not typically what sells books, and especially not in a vacuum.
A strong message, a good call to action, and fun/helpful/enlightening engagement that connects with your core audience will help drive sales. But it may not be in the direct cause and effect fashion that many people think.
What to do instead: Realize that social media drives visibility.
Instead of thinking about social media as the end all be all for book sales, consider it to be the virtual version of sitting next to a book club at a local coffee shop. It’s a great opportunity to connect, make a great impression, and find things in common. In short, it gives you a platform to share what makes you different.
The number one key to great social media is keeping “what’s in it for them?” in mind when you’re developing and sharing content that relates to your audience.
4. Not following your strategies consistently
This is a big pitfall. After all, it’s easy to be gung-ho when you’re just starting out. However, what we see all too often is that enthusiasm – and efforts – fade when results aren’t immediate.
However, there’s another side of this, which is when you dabble in a few strategies, but don’t do any of them consistently. If you start and abandon your blog, or social media, or media pitching efforts, you can’t just say “well, they’re not working.” Consistency drives results.
What to do instead: Pick a few strategies you have time to do and do them well.
As you master them, or as you get your routine down, you can start adding more book marketing strategies to the mix.
5. Making all of your book promotion decisions at the last minute
If you wait until your book publishes to start planning how you’re going to market your book, you may be too late.
The other aspect of this is realizing you don’t have time to market it after it publishes.
Don’t get me wrong. Publishing a book is a huge deal, and you should be proud to have done it. However, it’s only part of the battle. Moreover, there’s no time for that if you’re serious about making it as an author.
The truth is, books have the shelf life of milk. More than 4,000 are published every day, which means that once they publish, they immediately begin aging. While this is less true for fiction books, as your book ages, it becomes increasingly challenging to get bloggers interested in it or to get reader reviews.
What to do instead: If you really started too late and you’re wondering now what to do, consider re-releasing the book!
This is something that lots of authors do. Sometimes the reason is that the information is out of date and they want to revise and re-release it. But it’s also common in order to maximize their book marketing efforts, and do it right the second time around.
Do overs are fantastic. I’ve actually written a book on just how to do this, so if you’re considering this option, you’ll want to grab it so that you know the ins and outs of republishing, as well as Amazon’s guidelines.
The other solution is to, live, learn, and plan better for your next book. Some authors begin as far out as a year ahead of their launch. While that’s great, it’s not always reasonable for the majority of us.
Before your book launch, make sure your website is up with a few blog posts (hopefully even more scheduled). Additionally, your readers should have a way to sign up for updates and contact you.
6. Relying on your network to buy your book
We see this a lot with authors. Suffice it to say that if you aren’t seeing friends, family, or colleagues/peers buying your book, you aren’t alone.
It’s important to know that it’s not because your network doesn’t want you to succeed. On the contrary. However, people get busy, and they sometimes forget.
Friends and family need to be reminded how important this is for you, and even then, some may still not buy the book.
A successful businessperson-turned-author recently told me that he had 3,000 people on his 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 build a multi-faceted marketing plan anyway, although he didn’t take me up on my advice, and we ultimately didn’t end up working together.
When the book came out, it didn’t perform the way he was hoping. And while I always want people to find success, there’s an important lesson here. Don’t ever make assumptions when it comes to book sales.
And, just because you have people in your network who want to see you succeed, you also shouldn’t try to sell a cat to a dog person. Unless your book is about a topic near and dear to them, your family, friends, and business won’t automatically be interested in your book, whether fiction or nonfiction.
Remember that just because someone supports you in one area of your life doesn’t mean they’ll follow you all over the map.
What to do instead: Make sure your genre or topic is a fit for your mailing list.
And, if it is a fit, make sure to warm up that list prior to the release. Email them a few months before your launch. Don’t just drop in on them on launch day and expect them to buy.
Some great ways to build engagement are to send them sneak peeks or a sample chapter. Cover reveals can be a lot of fun too, as can special BOGO offers. (Check out more irresistible bonus content ideas here!)
Then when release day comes, they’re excited and waiting for the announcement!
7. Not analyzing your book marketing efforts to make improvements
This is the biggest and best piece of advice. And it’s one of the biggest mistakes authors make.
Let’s face it, we’re all impatient and we want to see results right away. But the truth is, marketing takes time.
And it’s because of this common lag time between efforts and traction that I encourage authors to start their marketing early.
I tend to work with authors on campaigns that last anywhere from four weeks to ninety days. Even then, things often “hit” outside of our campaign time. Some of this is because reviews can take time…sometimes requests for books and subsequent reviews come back a month or longer after a campaign concludes.
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.
Other building blocks that take time are social media, pricing discounts, and growing your fan base. Generally, with consistent author promotion, books begin to really move around six months after launch date. Some books can take longer. Ultimately, it depends on what else is out there, and how each author approaches their marketing.
What to do instead: Plan for the long-term.
It’s wise to build short-term goals as well as long-term goals. Marketing is often a cumulative effort, meaning that everything you do adds up. It’s also why we recommend a marketing campaign with a variety of moving parts and plenty of consistency.
Finally, don’t forget to analyze your results as your consistency and efforts begin to show returns. It does take consistency after all, and it’s not fair to your future success to give up without tweaking your game plan, building in follow up, and focusing on some cross promotion.
If something isn’t working, then you need to put some time in to figure out where it went wrong and what could have made it better. Put those tweaks into play and then give it some more effort and time before you change gears completely.
Penny Sansevieri, CEO and founder of Author Marketing Experts, Inc. (AME) and Adjunct Professor at NYU, is a best-selling author and internationally recognized book marketing and media relations expert. Her company is one of the leaders in the publishing industry and has developed some of the most cutting-edge book marketing campaigns. To learn more about Penny and AME, visit www.amarketingexpert.com.