How Not to Market Your Indie Book
Updated: Nov 24, 2020
There are a lot of posts out there telling indie authors what they should do when it comes to self-promoting their book. This is all well and good, but book marketing is a bit like writing: what works for one person doesn't necessarily kick off for another, and you're left sifting through a mountain of advice wondering what the best approach is.
I'm not here to add to that mountain. In fact, as a marketer and someone who's been on the receiving end of tons of book promo, I'm here to chip off some of that mountain by outlining what definitely doesn't work.
1. Act Like A Door-to-Door Salesman
No one likes having a product shoved in their face. This is true of insurance and it's true of books. I think some indie authors operate on the misconception that if they find their target audience, these readers won't mind being introduced to the author's book because they've done their research and it's something we'd like.
We definitely do mind. Impressions are key, and if my first impression of you is someone who jumps uninvited into my social media conversations, DMs, or email with an offer I simply can't refuse, guess what? You just turned yourself into one of those annoying spam bots.
I don't care if I normally read whatever genre you're writing in. I won't read anything from someone who shoved their nose in my business.
2. Research But Don't Connect
So you've done the research. You know who your target audience is, what they like, where they hang out. You know who to approach with your book.
But if the last scenario is anything like your marketing, you're not approaching your audience correctly.
Let's give an example: say someone you've never met, seen, or heard of walks up to you and asks for a huge favor. It's nothing small like retrieving something from the top shelf—they're asking you to dedicate a huge chunk of time to this task. Unpaid. In fact, they want you to pay them.
Can you imagine that audacity? As if you owe this complete stranger any of your time or money for something you don't know the payoff for?
Don't be this person in book marketing. Don't swoop in like some literary angel sent to save your target audience from boredom. They don't know you, and any attempt to cajole and bribe them will only annoy them further.
Now, if the person asking for help was a dear friend or fantastic acquaintance who always returned favors, talked you up, or was at least well-known to you and your friend circle as a stand-up person . . . that's a little different, isn't it?
Be this person for the reading and writing communities, and they will be that person for you.
3. Thinking Silence Means "Yes"
Persistence is key in a lot of things, most of all marketing, but it does not mean becoming that guy or gal who doesn't know how to take a hint. Truth is, not everyone is comfortable flat-out refusing an offer. Some people want to give you the benefit of the doubt or they simply don't want to deal with the situation, much like we ignore scam calls.
Learn to take a hint in marketing. You want nothing less than enthusiastic support, because anything else is going to be forced or negative. Don't assume that because a potential reader didn't respond to your email, DM, or comment, that means they'll say yes if you only push a little harder.
Let it go. This person does not want to read your book, and that's okay (or not okay if you're doing any of the above no-nos). Change your tactics, your audience, whichever. Just leave that person alone.
4. Not Thinking Outside The Box
Being part of the writing community and now a reviewer, I'm exposed to a lot of writers whose social feeds are nothing but the same links posted over and over with no deviation or engagement.
It's an immediate turn-off. Even if you're not directly dropping your links on people, doing nothing but filling up on the same marketing tactic is stale and frankly naive.
What can be done about this? Think of creative ways to get out there. Talk to people, share your thoughts or advice on a blog, start a newsletter where you can hook readers on your free content. Start a podcast, feature in a podcast. Launch a bookstagram. Run polls, create story quizzes, draw a map or character art. Bake a treat from your books.
Show readers you're a human being with all sorts of interesting thoughts and hobbies that don't have to directly tie into your author persona.
5. Doing Nothing BUT Promo
You absolutely should promote your work. You should celebrate what you've done, let your friends and writing pals celebrate with you. Show it off, talk about it, and share it with people you know will appreciate being included.
But even during a high-promotion season, this should not be the only thing you do. Marketing is not the strict definition people like to think it is. It's not all links to your work, cover art, trailers, and reminders to buy your book.
Marketing is the art of connection. It's making friends and acquaintances who share your interests and will support you because you've always supported them. It's engaging with the communities on their level: talking, joking, sharing silly memes, and commiserating on rough days. It's being down-to-earth and so excited you did this thing that you want to share it with your communities who've been with you through it all. It's knowing that people will gladly share your work for you because they're just as excited as you are.
Marketing is the art of being a decent human being. Learn it.
Enjoy these marketing tips for indie books? Share this post so more indie authors can get the scoop, or tell us what you've learned in your own marketing journey (either as a marketer or as someone on the other side of it)!