Top 5 Marketing Mistakes Indie Authors Make (And How to Do Better)

Categories: Writing

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2. Market to "Friends" only

Fail: I recently got a message on social media that read: "Please buy my book ABC. It's my first book and It would really mean a lot to me to be able to get on a bestseller list. It would really help me out if you could buy a copy. Pretty please, with sugar on top?" (Most such messages I get are along these lines, though the majority thankfully omit the "Pretty please, with sugar on top" part.)

Nowhere in her message did the writer mention the genre of the book, give any indication of the plot or in any way refer to the quality of the book. Surprise - I buy only high-quality books in particular genres that I'm interested in reading. I don't buy books in order to subsidize your dreams of being a bestselling author. Besides some friends and family members, no one else will, either.

Fix: Create a multi-platform marketing plan that doesn't depend on your personal appeals to social media friends and followers. Focus on selling points beyond the "Do me a favor and give me $2.99 just because" approach.

For one thing, chances are you will never make enough friends or get enough followers to insure a real market for your writing. For another, friends who do a favor for you expect you to do a favor for them in return. So they buy your book and you're going to...wash their car? Buy tickets to their next church raffle? Babysit? How about I give you $2.99 and you give me a book I want to and will enjoy reading, without having to overlook typos and other glaring errors, and we'll call it even?

1. Believe that In-exchange Reviews Directly Result in Sales

Fail: Lots of indie book marketing involves in-exchange reviews from independent bloggers. The reviewer received an advanced readers copy/free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The author and blogger agree on a release date for the review and often on length, forum and minimum rating. (Working under the "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all" principle, most bloggers will only post four or five star reviews.)

I've conducted a casual, completely unscientific survey and found that readers most often buy a book because they know an author's work or got a recommendation from a friend.

A handful of reviews from uncompensated readers who purchased a book and genuinely enjoyed it outweigh 100 reviews from bloggers who received the book in-exchange for a review and are too polite to give you anything but a glowing review. You earned the reviews from readers; you paid for the reviews from in-exchange bloggers (even if it was only with a free copy of your book). Some bloggers do a great job reviewing books and almost all of them are well-intentioned readers who just want to share their opinions, but how much can a reader trust a paid-for review coordinated by the author?

Fix: Build a fan base of readers. That means having your own blog, being active on Facebook and Twitter, having a newsletter, meeting fans at signings and conventions, reaching out to booksellers, librarians and book club members, newspaper and magazine reporters (the kind that don't charge for coverage) ... in short, building relationships. Writing your book may have been a solitary, stuck-to-the-computer-never-saw-the-light-of-day experience. Selling your book is not.


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