The Top 10 Self-Promotion Mistakes

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Most of the tips in the following article are related to books and authors, however, no matter what you’re promoting, whether it be an author, website, or *gasp* yourself, this article has some timely advice and pitfalls to avoid.

By: Cynthia Sterling (originally posted in 2011)
Since most publishers do little to promote individual books or authors, self-promotion can help authors reach the attention of readers, booksellers, reviewers and others who can help forward their careers. But the wrong kind of self-promotion can do more harm than good. Savvy self-promoters avoid the following mistakes:

1. Not targeting your audience, or targeting the wrong audience.

Self promotion begins with a plan. Decide who you want your promotion efforts to reach: book sellers, romance readers, other readers? Different types of promotion are effective with different groups. Book sellers might be receptive to Advanced Review Copies (ARCs) of your book, or shelf-talkers or other material that might help them sell the book once it’s in the stores. Readers might be better approached with a bookmark or newsletter.

2. Spamming

More than one excited author has decided to promote his or her work by sending out mass emails promoting a new book. Email is free, so why not promote your book this way? Indiscriminate mass emailing is also known as spamming, and it’s a faster way to make enemies than friends. Think of it as the email equivalent of telemarketing calls and you’ll see why many people will resent having their mailbox cluttered with your announcement.

A better way to use email is to invite friends and readers to sign up for your mailing list. Through you can start your own free, email newsletter. Send announcement about your books, share good news, etc, and all to an audience you know will be receptive to your words.

3. Participating in groups solely for promotion purposes.

Whether it’s an online newsgroup or a local writer’s club, if you only post or show up at meetings when you have something to brag about or a book to sell, you’ll quickly develop a reputation as a user. Readers are quick to spot authors who only participate in discussions when the author has something to gain.

A better approach is to pick one or two groups which really interest you and participate as much as you can. Try to give as much as you get and you’ll reap the rewards of new friends and fans.

4. Faking positive reviews on Amazon and other sites.

Recently, an author of a self-published book discovered that one way to boost a book’s rank on Amazon is to show a lot of positive review activity. So the author created a number of fictional identities and proceeded to post over ninety positive reviews from various screen names. What this author apparently didn’t realize is that it’s fairly easy, by clicking on the ‘about the reviewer’ link to discover the true identity of the reviewer. It wasn’t long before some savvy readers figured out that all these glowing reviews for a previously unheard of book were all from the same person – the author. Word spread and Amazon has since removed the reviews, but now the author’s name is Mud in many a reader’s opinion.

A better way would be to ask friends and readers who send fan letters to post at review sites for you.

5. Wasting money.

Every author has a story about a wasted self-promotional effort. Much of the time, poor planning (see mistake number one) is the culprit here. Two big money wasters are advertising that doesn’t reach your targeted audience, and giveaways and gewgaws that don’t serve to fix your name in the minds of the readers and book sellers who receive the items.

Before you purchase a giveaway item, ask yourself how readers will continue to link you in their minds to the item. For instance, people always love candy as a giveaway, but the truth is, most people eat the candy and throw away the card or other promotional information attached to it.

As for advertising, before you buy, find out how many potential readers or book buyers you could expect to reach and if they are readers who would be interested in your book. Ask about circulation number and reader demographics. Most publications have this information as part of their own marketing materials. Divide the circulation figures by the cost of your ad and you’ll know how much it’s costing you per potential reader. Also, consider advertising for more than one month. Conventional marketing wisdom says a person has to see an ad at least five times before it makes a lasting impact on them.

6. Promoting too soon or too late

Promote too soon and people have forgotten you by the time the book appears on the shelf. Promote too late, and the book is already gone from stores. Promote to book sellers too close to the book’s release date and they’ll have already made their purchases for that month.

Focus promotion efforts to book sellers approximately four months before the book’s release date. Promotions to readers should occur the months before, during and after the book’s release.

7. Being overly pushy/wearing out your welcome

It’s natural to be enthusiastic about your book. It’s your baby and you are justifiably proud of it. But don’t feel you have to promote one hundred percent of the time. If you find your friends and associates avoiding you or getting glazed looks in their eyes as you regale them with yet more exciting news of your book, take this as a hint to shut up.

Likewise, when you’re at conferences or writer’s group meetings, don’t feel you have to spend all your time talking up yourself and your latest projects. Book sellers and buyers are people too. A relaxed, friendly conversation in which you take the time to get to know them, and to let them get to know you, can be more effective than yet another pushy pitch

8. Projecting the wrong image

How do you want people to remember you: girl next door, glamor queen, consummate business woman? Think about the image you want to put forth in your self-promotion efforts. Sure, playing an over-the-top Diva complete with feather boa may get you attention now, but ten years down the road, this could come back to haunt you. Now that you’re published, you’re in the public eye, so make sure the ‘you’ the public sees is the one you want them to remember.

9.Forgetting where you came from

Every author who is published today was once unpublished. All of us struggled, suffered rejection, and had to learn our craft through trial and error. No matter how rich and famous you become, it would serve you well not to forget that.

Readers certainly don’t forget if an author they admire snubs them. If you fail to answer a fan letter, turn your nose up at unpublished authors, or develop an attitude about your own self worth, people will remember.

This doesn’t mean that you have to read every manuscript thrust your way, accept every invitation extended, or let friends and fans walk over you. But you do have to be gracious and kind and helpful whenever possible. Other people were gracious, kind and helpful to you once upon a time and it’s your turn to give back now.

10 Expecting good promotion to sell a lousy book.

No matter how much you spend or how much time you devote to self-promotion, your efforts will only take you so far. In the end, the book has to stand on its own. Readers will pass along news of a good book and help others to discover you.

Likewise, readers who fall for hype about a bad book will feel burned and come to resent not only the book, but the author whom they feel took advantage of them. Remember, there’s a lot of competition for the book buyer’s dollar and few readers will risk being burned a second time.

So, bottom line, write the best book you can. If you must choose between time devoted to self-promotion and time devoted to writing, choose the writing. You won’t be sorry, and your readers won’t be, either.

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