Marketing Lies That Authors Tell Themselves

BY ANDREA MORAN • April 24, 2024

Marketing Lies That Authors Tell Themselves

As if writing a book isn’t difficult enough, self-published authors must often also carry the burden of being in charge of marketing the completed product to potential audiences. With the self-publishing industry still a relatively young phenomenon, this process forces many writers into uncharted waters.

As you embark on the exciting journey toward book publication, keep in mind that many authors wind up telling themselves some whoppers about how to market a book. This may be because they’ve heard it through the grapevine (whether from others in their writing circle or from the good old internet) or have simply grown up with an ingrained belief about themselves and the industry. Regardless, read on for some of the most common lies that authors tell themselves when it comes to marketing—and the truth behind them.

1. I can do all the marketing alone.

When you’re a self-published author, often there’s this feeling that because you’re publishing the manuscript on your own, you should be able to do everything on your own—including all the marketing. But no person is an island, and no single author should be left completely to his or her own devices.

While self-publishing can be a quicker and easier way to get your book in print over using traditional publishing houses, it also means that you’re responsible for either doing or hiring out all the roles a traditional publishing house would normally take care of: editors, designers, and (you guessed it) marketing teams. Successful marketing of a book takes time, expertise, and dedication—it’s just not feasible to think that you can do it all and still see the quality results (a.k.a. high sales) that you want.

This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to farm out everything, but it does mean you should take the time to zero in on what aspects of marketing and promotion are most beneficial to you and allocate your hard-earned dollars toward those areas that you have found to be most effective.

2. I can’t do any of the marketing.
And here we come to the flip side of the above point: authors who have convinced themselves that they’re only writers and don’t know the first thing about marketing. If that’s the case, then it’s high time you start learning at least the very basics of what makes a successful marketing campaign.

While hiring a marketing person from the outset is an admirable goal (and one you may want to consider saving up money for, just like you would a knowledgeable editor), you will still need to remain in the loop when it comes to knowing how and why a book achieves good sales numbers. Yes, ideally you would do nothing but write and leave everything else up to the talented people you hire. But in reality? Self-publishing is a business like any other, and your writing is the product. Familiarize yourself with the ways in which you can best sell it, and don’t underestimate your ability to venture outside your comfort zone.

3. My book is so good that I don’t have to market it.
You might be shocked to learn how many self-published writers tell themselves this—and really believe it. In a perfect world, all that would be needed to sell a book is the fact that it’s genuinely good. As you might have suspected by now, however, the chances of an exceptional book being discovered simply through luck and word of mouth with zero attention paid to marketing or promotion are . . . well, just around zero.

Marketing your book doesn’t have to feel like you’re selling out or undermining the quality of what you’ve worked so hard to write. It simply means that you’re using the channels and platforms that are now available to you to get the word out. Big-name authors promote their books all the time—they don’t just sit back and hope for the best. The difference is that they have traditional publishing houses to take up the bulk of the work for them, while self-published authors have a more difficult road ahead. But that just makes it all the more worth it.

4. If I market aggressively enough, I can have a bestseller.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, many self-published authors convince themselves that the success of their book is solely tied to their marketing efforts. In other words, if they just market it hard enough or long enough, one of these days their book will make it as a bestseller. While many aspiring writers dream of seeing their name at the top of the New York Times bestseller list or endorsed by Reese Witherspoon’s book club, the hard truth is that those kinds of lofty goals are just not very realistic for the average writer—no matter how aggressively one promotes a book.

Instead of focusing on external markers of success, think about what you want to accomplish with the publication of your book. Is it to get copies into a brick-and-mortar bookstore? To help people? To spread joy to those looking for an escape into a good story? Really understanding your purpose behind writing and publishing can help give you a more realistic take on what marketing efforts can—and can’t—accomplish.


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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