There are thousands of blog posts, books, podcasts, and videos created to inspire upcoming authors by describing the wide range of marketing possibilities they have at their disposal today. The problem is that, despite the powerful capabilities of the internet, promoting a book can still be time-consuming, frustrating, and costly. Most media outlets don’t tell new authors what tactics they shouldn’t pursue, but rather only which strategies are currently trending.
To help you reduce the number of things on your book promotion to-do list, here are 4 things you should avoid when you’re marketing a new title.
1. Don’t overspend.
If your approach to marketing your book is to pay for every possible advertisement and promotional opportunity, you’ll likely spread yourself (and your budget) too thin. Writer and blogger Thomas Umstattd Jr. says that authors who set a marketing budget for themselves often get better results than those who only set vague goals or don’t carefully track how much they’re spending. Umstattd recommends creating a budget to cover key expenses in each of the 4 main categories:
- Author assets. This includes basic necessities for an author, such as a professional portrait or headshot, a designated website, and an email list.
- Book infrastructure. To make sure your book is both eye-catching and attention-grabbing, investing in an artist to design a book cover and hire an editor to look over your manuscript.
- Book launch. Umstattd estimates that the average PR campaign costs around $3,000, but this can vary significantly depending on whether you already have an audience, how well-established you are on social media, and if you’re going with a traditional publisher or self-publishing your book.
- Ongoing marketing. Once the initial hype around your new book dies down, you’ll want to continue investing in promoting your work, but you need to do this carefully. Using tools like Amazon Ads and Facebook Ads can be beneficial if you can successfully narrow down your target audience, but other methods like doing guest blog posts, collaborating with other authors, or going on relevant podcasts can help you stay relevant, too.
Finally, don’t be tempted to spend money on outdated or ineffective marketing techniques, such as TV or radio ads, book trailers, or book signing tours.
2. Don’t do traveling book tours.
Art historian and author Noah Charney felt particularly lucky when his publishers sent him on a book tour to promote his book, The Art of Forgery, in June 2015. Charney explained that book tours were one of the very first things for publishers to discontinue following the 2008 recession, since it’s expensive to cover an author’s transportation costs, meals, and hotel accommodations. Furthermore, Charney states that it’s difficult to tell just how effective book tours are in the first place. “Touring doesn’t necessarily translate into better book sales,” Charney writes. “It’s hard to tell, in fact, what effect they have at all, as sales records don’t show what prompted someone to buy the book, only where the book was purchased.”
For self-published authors and debut novelists, going on a book tour is even more costly and unpredictable. There’s no way of predicting how many copies you’ll sell, and there are several other cost-effective ways to boost awareness of your new book. For example, virtual book tours have become a hit over the last several months, as well as online book clubs, live author Q&As, and other virtual events. Best of all, you don’t even need to leave your couch!
3. Don’t do bookstore signings.
According to Authority Publishing, book signing events are often a waste of time for new authors. “The average number of books sold at a book signing is eight copies,” states a writer and former bookstore owner at Authority Publishing. Considering the number of factors involved in setting up an event, from contacting a bookstore manager to traveling to the venue to creating handouts for customers, it requires far more effort than it’s worth.
Creedom Book Services, an agency that specializes in helping independent authors and publishers succeed in their marketing endeavors, also agrees that book signings aren’t the most reliable or effective techniques. The main problem with setting up an event as a new author is that there isn’t an immediate demand for your books. “One of the realities of self-publishing is the fact that you are an unknown author,” states a blog post on Creedom Book Services’ website. “Readers do not like taking chances when it comes to spending money on books.”
In short, the ROI for book signings is practically nonexistent, unless you’re a popular, well-established author among the ranks of Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, James Patterson, or other critically acclaimed writers.
4. Don’t focus too heavily on media outlets.
Building up your email list, posting relevant blogs, and maintaining a consistent presence on social media are all excellent ways to connect with your readers. However, simply spamming your followers with impersonal promotional content for your latest book can annoy even the most loyal fans. Writer Cathy Baylis explains that utilizing media outlets is essential for authors, but they must go about it in the right way. “If your marketing strategies are self-centered and designed only to generate sales, they don’t include your followers,” Baylis says. “You are likely to lose followers.”
Taking the time to genuinely interact with your followers, respond to comments, and answer their questions will help you get a better understanding of what your followers value. If you’re able to tap into the passions of your audience, they’ll be more likely to share your content, purchase your books, and talk about your work off of social media. The number listed on your Twitter profile represents real people who are just waiting to hear something that resonates with them on a deeper level. Establishing and fostering connections with your readers will help you generate more effective marketing tactics in the long run, as author Jenn Hanson-dePaula emphasizes: “If you’re marketing your book to everyone, you’re marketing it to no one.”
About the Author: Evan Shy
As a published author, scientist, and the founder and CEO of hiitide, Evan has earned experience building teams and technology that help people live positively, better. Growing up in a family of professional athletes and entrepreneurs, Evan started his first business before leaving high school and would go on to found a number of wellness businesses while conducting physiology research and teaching at the University of Illinois at Champaign. His research has been published across scientific journals, college textbooks, and our own titles.
Evan’s own experience trying to make the leap from academic publishing to the general population was the catalyst for creating hiitide. Evan tells the story of how he did everything wrong, from writing, marketing, to building a community around the material. He knew the research had the potential to change lives if only they could make it more accessible and actionable for readers. Inch by inch, the team started testing, building, iterating, and testing again… through 2 different technology platforms, to finally build hiitide.
hiitide is a team of curriculum designers, engineers, marketers, and insatiable learners who are unwavering in their commitment to creating more meaningful and rewarding connections between authors and readers. Readers learn more, authors earn more.
hiitide creates 30-day virtual book clubs, courses, and workshops that draw out key lessons from books, delivered in short, easy-to-complete daily exercises, journals, and group discussions with the Author.
hiitide works primarily with authors equally committed to innovating new methods and stories that transform how we approach ourselves and one another.