Book and Author Promotion: Dos and Don’ts

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Upon request from various subscribers, I would like to share my tips for author- and book promotion.

Writing your book is a very intense process. You’ve spent endless hours of writing, editing, restructuring, rewriting, and proofreading. But the hardest part is yet to come: the promotion.

As a writer, you are solely responsible for planning and structuring your story in a way that leads to a completed book. Unfortunately, advertising does not work that way. There’s no magic wand to make your book sell instantly. Many of the aspects influencing your book sales are beyond your control, and in spite of all your work, your efforts do not necessarily convert into success. Regrettably, skipping these efforts entirely will unquestionably result in failure.

dos-and-donts

Over the years I’ve observed that authors who self-publish successfully have a common denominator. An approach to doing certain things without fail. Insights thus acquired made me want to share the following Dos and Don’ts:

DO write a great book
You’re not the only writer out there, and the competition is murderous. Books that are merely ‘okay’ won’t be able to compete. It means your book should be painstakingly edited and proofed before final publication. No shortcuts available here.

DO use a terrific book cover
If you are not a graphic artist yourself, using clip-art and a word-processor will most likely produce a cover that looks shoddy and unprofessional. Your potential readers will never read your first page. You’ve heard it before, but a book is judged by its cover, first of all. Even on a shoestring budget, it is possible to have a book cover created by a professional. It’s totally worth it.

DO regard your writing as a business
This means you need a marketing plan and a budget. Don’t waste all your hard work by simply dumping your book out there. Do your homework, and do it well. Due Diligence.

DO talk about your book to everyone
This is free promotion with little to no additional effort. Put a link to your eBook in your email signature, your business cards, and of course, use the social networks like Facebook, Twitter, G+, et cetera, to share it wherever you can. If you had it printed, always carry a few copies with you everywhere you go. If you don’t let people know, chances are they will never learn about your book.

DO your networking
Try to get coverage for your authorship, by having your excerpts, book reviews, and interviews featured in magazines, blogs, and social media. Features and interviews are more likely to create significant attention but are considerably harder to get. While doing all of the above, still expect only a fraction of all these efforts to pay off. Be patient.

DO engage your writing colleagues
Like you, your fellow writers thrive on comments, critiques and recognition. If you would like them to reciprocate and have an interest in you and your work, resulting in a larger fan base and acceptance of you as an author, show interest and solidarity.

DON’T spam!
After all these DOs, it’s likely you’ll start overDOing it. As a magazine, we receive literally over a hundred thousand unsolicited book promotions, by email and social media, per year. Just imagine the time spent to curate this influx manually. Useless for the sender, and a complete waste of time for us, while it may very well ruin your reputation as an author in the process. Instead, try to find an angle of mutual interest with your recipient that is not blatantly obvious book promotion. Above all, be courteous and respectful.

DON’T Plagiarize
This sounds obvious, right? But consider the following: if your strategy is to post your articles to several websites (to get exposure, I assume), you risk being penalized for plagiarism by Google. The sites where you post these articles will also be degraded and will receive less or no search traffic in the long run. At Angie’s we check submitted posts for plagiarism first, even before Readers or Writers" rel="nofollow" target="_self" >reading the first paragraph.

DON’T get upset
If someone doesn’t want or like your book, so be it. Not everyone has the same interest or appreciation for what your book is about. Expect and accept that. Move on.

DON’T define success in terms of unattainable goals
If success for you means nothing less than getting a listing on the New York Times best seller list, you may become discouraged quickly. (Of course, I’d love for you to prove me wrong.) Instead, set reasonable goals, and consider yourself successful if you reach them.

DON’T give up
Keep at it. It takes time and effort to promote your book and create a fan base. Giving up could mean never selling a book.

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Any dos and don’ts you would like to add? Please DO!

14 Comments
  1. Robert Politz says

    Good advice Angie. Unfortunately, most “authors” tend to be focused on becoming the next millionaire instead of being realistic and understanding that not only are they unknown, they don’t have the television show or well known celebrity connection from which to launch their work. Your “define success” point is a good one and spot on.

    DO DEFINE YOUR TARGET MARKET: One of my books, “After 2012”, was written specifically for a school literacy program. Prior to publication my expectations were to sell about 1,000 books. My purpose for writing it was not for the money. Instead, it was to provide a “fun” way for the teachers in one particular district to entice fifth graders to actually read a book. In that sense, it was and still continues to be a great success. That same book on Amazon (and other seller platforms) has garnered only slight notice/sales with ratings from “Terrible” to “Wonderful”.

    So, do I consider it successful? Absolutely! Is it a Best Seller in the general retail market, in the top 10 on Amazon or the New York Times…? Not even close.

    When you define your target market, you also define why you are writing it in the first place and that can make all the difference in the world.

  2. Jack Eason says

    Great article Angie. Not enough attention is paid to the quality of the product. Plus, so many newcomers simply turn off potential readers with their constant ‘Buy My Book’ pleas on sites like Facebook and Twitter. 😉

  3. Paula Boer says

    I agree with Robert. It’s important for an author to know what their own measure of ‘success’ is.

    To add another ‘do’. DO get a thick skin. Negative comments at least mean someone is (maybe) reading your work, at least they are seeing your name. All news is good news to quote an old cliché. (And of course, DON’T use clichés in your writing) :-).

  4. Hank Quense says

    One of the most important (and often ignored) aspects of promotion is this: the author has to identify who the book’s readers are and aim the promotion at that segment of book readers. Shotgunning a message to everyone is a waste of time and money and leads to frustration

  5. Kristin Fouquet says

    Great and practical advice. I mostly write literary short stories and flash fiction. Obviously, my target audience is substantially smaller than a genre author’s, therefore, I am grateful for my small successes.

  6. Mr.J says

    Thanks

  7. Eva A Blaskovic says

    “Many of the aspects influencing your book sales are beyond your control, and in spite of all your work, your efforts do not necessarily convert into success.” — Thank you! This really had to be said. And “the competition is murderous” is the best description I’ve heard yet. Truly a great article on this subject, Angie. Not cutting corners on quality is another important aspect, and you covered that in the first two points of the article.

    I agree with Hank about readers and audience. I’ve found that a complex book may be difficult to identify and target, but initial exposure and some trial and error may remedy this. Sometimes process of elimination works, such as what a book is not, to help narrow the target audience.

    1. Angie says

      Thank you for your feedback, dear Eva,
      I like your tip on identifying your target audience by asking yourself ‘what a book is not.’

  8. clara54 says

    Thanks Angie, I needed your insight. My first book via a traditional publisher will be released in late summer and have me on pins & needles. Don’t know what’s too little or too much to share before its release. I have shared the cover on social media and with various friends and family. One of my sisters tells me the cover got great response from her religious group of friends…I’m not exactly sure how they would feel after reading it because of obvious differences on religion that I speak about in the book and I don’t want to embarrass my sister! As you can see, this book is not even available for purchase yet and I’m wondering how it will be received:) I’m still excited to get the word out!

    1. Angie says

      I’m glad you find it useful, dear Clara. Good to hear from you.
      I understand these must be trying times for you, but you are a wise woman; I’m sure you’ll make the right decisions for your book and authorship.
      Maybe I can help you with the promotion.

  9. Lady of Language says

    DO hire a good copy editor! A good editor will make your book look professional, which will increase trust in your message, and lead to more clients and interest in what you do. Your wife, your best friend, and the English teacher next door are not professional copy editors. Yes, a good editor will cost money, but you’ll make that money back in sales.

  10. Angie is right on. One sin I have is the tendency to concentrate on one thing at a time. I’ve come to realize priority first, and then mix the mashed potatoes with the peas and load it all onto one fork. Onwards and upwards!

  11. Ebuzhafe Aliu says

    This is a timely advice for me as an author wannabe

    1. Angie says

      I intend to do regular posts (and mailings) on this and related subjects. Stay tuned.
      Thanks for reading and commenting – much appreciated.

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