Don’t Make These Rookie Self-Pub Marketing Mistakes

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by Miral Sattar

The book publishing industry is going through a huge transition. It’s easier than ever to get a book out into the world. All the resources you need to publish a book are available to you and you no longer need to go through the traditional gatekeepers (publishers) to publish a quality book.

Because it’s so easy to publish a book and there are so many services for authors to help market, authors sometimes skip critical steps. Below are some of the most common mistakes I’ve seen when marketing your book.

1. Having Vague or Unrealistic Goals

Before you start your self-pub journey you should make a list of your goals.

  • Are you looking to get more readers or looking to sell books?
  • Do you want just an e-book, a print book, or both?
  • Are you just looking to publish a family history?

The promotion strategies will be very different based on what your goals are.

2. Lack of a Marketing Plan

It’s essential to have a marketing plan around your book and treat it like a business. Books don’t just sell themselves. This is probably where you’ll spend a lot of time. Does your plan include giving away your book for free? Blog tours? A KDP Promotion?

As a self-published author it’s really important to do your research before making any vendor, retail or editorial services decisions. It’s a lot of work, but thinking through all the pieces will prevent you from wasting money, time, and effort, and help you publish the best book possible.

3. Not Establishing a Niche

With millions of books flooding the market, it’s more important than ever for an author to understand their niche if they want to sell books. Before you even write your book, figure out your niche and who your demographics are.  “Romance” or “Thriller” are very general. You need to know who will absolutely love and share your book. Narrow down your niche by where they hang out, which Facebook groups they’re in, their age, gender, lifestyle and hobbies. It’s easier to market a book about knitting than a general romance because you know where your demographic hangs out.

4. Not Leveraging Beta Readers

A beta reader will generally read your work (for free, or for a small fee) with a critical eye. A beta reader typically reads your manuscript and gives you feedback before you send it out into the world. You should get feedback from at least 3-5 beta readers (not your mom or dad) who can give you critical feedback on your work.

5. Not Doing Research on Vendors

I’ve come across way too many authors who have spent tens of thousands of dollars on ineffective marketing.

I had one author who had an offer from a freelance project manager who had just offered to do her her social media for $5,000/month.

I asked the author the following questions:
•    What is the freelancer’s experience marketing books?
•    How many authors has this person managed?
•    What were the results of the freelancer’s other marketing campaigns?

Surprisingly the freelancer had no experience marketing books. Before you hire anyone make sure you get a measure of what their typical results are for YOUR niche or genre.

Before you choose a vendor or press, make sure you Google “[Name of Vendor] Reviews” or “[Name of Vendor] Bad Reviews.” That will tell you what you need to know about the vendor before you sign up. There are a lot of companies that take advantage of first-time authors.

6. Shotgun Marketing and Spamming Endlessly

A lot of times on Twitter or Facebook, I’ll see first-time authors I just started following, start marketing at me immediately. I’ll get an autoDM on Twitter (which is a big no no). All they will tweet or Facebook about is with their LOUD and persistent announcements about their book they just released. That might work if you’re selling laptops or iPads and are running a huge sale, but marketing your book should be more subtle.  Start engaging in writer chats on Twitter, engage with conversations and keep your promotional tweets and Facebook statuses to ¼ or 1/3 of your posts.

7. Not Having a Professional Book

Book publishing is a tough business. According to the Library of Congress the average traditionally published book sells 250 copies a year and the average self-published book sells 150 copies a year. To make sure your book competes with all the books published every year you need an eye-catching cover, well-edited and error-free book that looks professional.

8. Not Having a Web Presence

You should have all your information about you and your books available either on a personal webpage, Amazon Author page or Facebook page. When a potential reader searches for you and your book, they should reach a landing page that has all your information.

9. Don’t Take it Personally

Put everything into writing your book, but make sure you set realistic expectations. Reading a book is an investment and not everyone will be willing to make it. So if your friends don’t buy your book or promote it, don’t take it personally.

10.  Not Having Fun!

If you don’t have fun while you’re marketing the book, no one else will, either (nor will they buy it). Excitement is contagious so if you have a fun, positive, reader-first attitude while marketing, that will rub off on others and reinvigorate you. Think of your book marketing as a huge party – a celebration of art and life – and your job is simply to invite as many people as possible!

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Miral Sattar is the CEO of LearnSelfPublishingFast and Bibliocrunch, an award-winning marketplace that connects authors with vetted book publishing professionals like editors, designers and marketers. She has worked in the media industry for 11 years, most recently at TIME where she launched several digital initiatives including an iPad and mobile site, mobile apps, a video and podcast channel, blogs, and SEO. Her writing has been featured in TIME, CNN and NY Daily News, among other media publications. She has an M.S. in Publishing (Digital + Print Media) from NYU and a B.S. from Columbia University. Follow Miral on Twitter at @miralsattar.