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Top Six Mistakes Authors Make Marketing Their Books

Date: December 5, 2019 • Category: Publishing • By: Ben Guttmann

Every year, it’s estimated that more than 2.2 million books are published around the world. And every year, only a teeny tiny handful of them actually sell any meaningful amount to break into the public consciousness and become best-sellers.

If you’re thinking that the existence of your book is enough to move the needle on its own, you are poorly mistaken. Successful authors are proactive about building an audience, nurturing their communities, and maintaining a movement. Unsuccessful authors often do a lot of things in common too, including a few we’ve seen over and over. Here’s our top six mistakes that we see authors make when marketing their books and themselves.

Neglecting Email

It may not be as sexy as the latest social network, but the decades-old marketing channel of email is still the single most valuable resource that any marketer has at their disposable. By some measures, the ROI on email can be many multiples what you may see from social platforms.

If you’re not actively concentrating on building an email list with your website and everything else you do, then you are simply losing readers and customers. A well-managed email list allows you to regularly communicate with your tribe on your own terms – without having to go through gatekeepers on Facebook, Twitter, or somewhere else. Too many authors ignore this channel completely, or invest so little in it that their list is effectively useless.

Not Pushing Pre-Orders

The simple, most powerful piece of arithmetic of publishing is that all pre-orders count as first week sales when factored in to most traditional best-seller lists. This means that instead of just having seven days to break through, you have weeks and months of lead-time in building up interest in your book and your message. Furthermore, strong pre-order numbers will bring you attention from retailers, media, and other players in the space that can influence the overall success of your book launch. The best author marketing campaigns will be pushing pre-orders from early in the cycle, and will use incentives like recipes, shopping lists, chapter previews, webinars, and more to help trigger that sale.

Not Coordinating Friends and Allies

Most authors know the power of endorsements and blurbs from other leaders in their space, but not enough take the next step to further engage these relationships for cross-promotion during the book launch process. First off, authors need to ask for social media or other promotional support, and not just assume it is coming naturally. A closed mouth doesn’t get fed.

But then once you have those commitments, you need to coordinate a strategy about what they are saying, how they are saying it, and when they are saying it. The best teams will put together a package of suggested tweets or talking points to make the endorsement job easier. Then, you want to use an 80/20 breakdown of these announcements: the majority should all be posted on the same day or week to create a “disturbance in the force,” but you should also reserve some posts for earlier publication to entice pre-orders and build anticipation.

Ignoring Their Audience

This mistake is so simple, and so easy to avoid. If a reader reaches out to you via a comment on Facebook, reply on Twitter, private message or email, or any other means – respond. Many authors simply let their inboxes and notification tabs run over, and this can foster a feeling of distance and aloofness with their following. Most often, a simple two-second like or thanks will suffice, but it will truly make the day of your reader to be acknowledged by their favorite author. To make this more manageable, consider scheduling a 15 minute block into your daily routine to go through and take care of all the community management across your platforms.

Too Many Cooks

Too Many Cooks

Teamwork makes the dream work. It’s important to have a support team by your side to help you launch your next great book, however you should carefully consider who is on your team and how you manage them. Make sure any agencies or contractors you engage with can play nice with others, and that there are clear areas of responsibility among your collaborators. At the same time, you both don’t want to have two people hired to do the same thing, and you also don’t want something crucially important falling through the cracks between scopes.

Being Afraid to Ask for the Sale

Finally, the biggest mistake authors make when marketing their books can be summed up in one word: bashfulness. Selling something can be uncomfortable, and many authors will shy away from being overly promotional with what they are doing, often overcorrecting too far in the other direction.

You’ve worked hard on this book for months or years, and it is now your time to shine. You should be proud of the blood, sweat, and tears you poured into this work, and the world deserves to read it. If you don’t actively market yourself and your book, and if in that marketing you don’t directly ask for the sale, then you are doing yourself a disservice. Go out there and spread the word with confidence and energy, and the readers will respond.


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