Don't Make These Marketing Mistakes

BY ANDREA MORAN • March 1, 2024

Don't Make These Marketing Mistakes

There are few things in the world more exciting for an author than finally having a book published. You’re proud of your accomplishment (as you should be!) and ready to see it succeed out in the world. But many times, writers who self-publish overlook or underestimate the importance of marketing that piece of work they’ve been laboring over for so long. With the popularization of online tools, it’s easier to tap into a wider and more global audience than ever before. There are a few common mistakes, however, to watch out for on your way to becoming a bestseller.

1. Inaccurately categorizing the genre

Determining the precise genre for your book can be tricky, but it is so important. And once you nail down the broad genre, you still have to think long and hard about your appropriate subgenres. Many self-published authors make the mistake of thinking they have written, say, a fantasy book. But does your fantasy novel fit more into urban fantasy? Romantic fantasy? Something else entirely?

You have to know your genre (and subgenres) inside and out. That will not only help you market a successful book but also help you write a successful book. Readers of certain genres have expectations, so it is vital that you know and abide by those unwritten rules to appeal to the group that is most likely to read and recommend your novel.

2. Designing your own cover

As skilled as you think you are at making your own book cover, this is one area you should leave to the experts. There is a stark contrast between do-it-yourself cover art and professional cover art, and even casual readers can tell the difference a mile away. Basic Photoshop art usually looks like it’s been done by an amateur no matter how well you think you’ve finessed it, and that is guaranteed to turn off a lot of potential readers.

That’s not to say, however, that you should invest a ton of money into snazzy book cover art. There are plenty of independent artists out there who provide reasonable quotes for a job well done. Just be sure you include this added expense into your publishing budget (along with a good editor, of course!).

3. Skipping the website

Yes, social media can do wondrous things. But rest assured that it is not a replacement for an author website. Go ahead and snag a URL with your chosen domain name, even if you have no immediate plans for building it. And if you’re really strapped for cash (or killing time before you get around to building up your paid website), there’s no need to spend a pretty penny on one. There are plenty of free options like Weebly or Squarespace that will let you build at least a basic functioning one—maybe even a sophisticated one—where you can display your work and receive communication from potential readers. You might even consider hiring a professional web designer to work on it once you’ve purchased a URL. This is one area where you don’t have to spend a lot of money to make it happen, but you can step it up a bit if you have the extra cash.

4. Overlooking social media

Speaking of social media, a website does not completely replace a social media presence. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your tolerance), a constant online presence is pretty much expected. In the case of self-publishing, that means having your own website and maintaining a healthy amount of activity on social media. Whether that’s Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, or all of the above, be prepared to post regularly—but not too frequently!—about your upcoming book, any speaking engagements you have lined up, bookstore appearances, and blog posts you’ve written.

Just remember to keep your social media life professional and distinct from any personal accounts you may have. Your potential readers want to know about your literary achievements and goings-on, not about that hot new restaurant you tried or your recent trials and tribulations of finding a reliable babysitter.

5. Engaging in online mudslinging

No one wants to see a negative review of their book online. But the sooner you realize that it’s inevitable, the more levelheaded you can remain when it does happen. The very worst mistake that an author can make when marketing their book is to engage in a public (or private, for that matter) spat with a reader who expressed a negative opinion of the material.

This type of engagement—even if you think you’re being fair by refuting any points made by the reviewer—will swiftly and definitively earn you the ire of other readers. While you may feel obligated to justify certain stylistic choices you made as a writer, none of that will matter to an online audience. The only way to engage with those who leave negative reviews (which I urge you not to do at all in the first place) is by politely thanking them for taking the time to read and review your work. That’s it. As difficult as it will be to hold your tongue, keep in mind that your book will be able to speak for itself—and even the most celebrated authors have their detractors.

Andrea Moran lives outside of Nashville with her husband and two kids. She’s a professional copywriter and editor who loves all things books. Find her on LinkedIn.

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