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6 Book Promotion Mistakes and How to Fix Them

By Patricia L. Fry

You wrote an amazing book, designed it to perfection and even managed to get it published. But it isn’t selling as well as you thought it would. What went wrong?

As the president of the Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network, and as an international speaker, I meet many authors who are disappointed in their book sales. I think it’s fair to say that 100 percent of the time the fault lies with the author and he or she has the power to change the situation. Here are six common mistakes first-time authors make and tips for how to avoid or repair them.

  1. The author doesn’t know that he is responsible for promotion. Obviously, this author didn’t take the time and initiative to study the publishing industry or he would have known that his job isn’t over once the book is published. Hopefully, the author will turn to informative sites, newsletters, forums and books where he’ll quickly learn that authorship requires a commitment beyond the proper dotting of i’s and crossing of t’s.

    He can still launch a marketing plan. He might solicit book reviews for publication in appropriate magazines and at related web sites, submit press releases to newspapers and set up a speaking tour to promote his book, for example.

  2. The author doesn’t take the opportunity to build promotion into his book while he’s writing it. Savvy authors think about their target audience while they are writing and designing their books. If yours would make a good reference book, for example, you’ll want to include a complete index. For a novel, choose a setting that is conducive to promotion—a town that others want to read about and that would welcome your promotional appearances locally.

    You could build promotion into your how-to book by involving a lot of experts and/or organizations. These individuals and organization leaders will promote the book to their contacts. For a novel, give a character a popular ailment and present it in a positive light and related associations might just agree to help with promotion.

    If you didn’t think to build promotion into your book as you were writing it, dissect it now in search of possible promotional opportunities that are imbedded within. Does your young adult novel feature a girl with a horse? Perhaps horse and riding magazines, newsletters and web sites would review it, publish excerpts or welcome your targeted article on an aspect of horsemanship. Maybe you could get some press related to your self-help book for women with phobias through health columns in newspapers nationwide, women’s magazines or on radio talk shows such as "The Satellite Sisters."

    Did you interview a high profile individual for your book? Ask her to promote the book to her audience. Request an interview with her for a major magazine. Do you have some impressive expert testimonials in your book? Play them up in your promotional material.

  3. The author neglects to establish a platform. Many new authors don’t know what a platform is. It’s the author’s following, his reach, his way of attracting his target audience. Most successful authors today have a platform in place before they produce a book.

    My platform for my writing/publishing-related books revolves around my experience in this field, my exposure through previously published and distributed books and articles on these subjects, my affiliation with SPAWN and my active and far-reaching speaking and workshop schedule.

    Your platform for your book on phobias might be the fact that you’re a psychologist in this area of study, that you suffered a severe phobia for years, that you work with women with phobias, and/or that you’ve written about this for years.

    Even as a novelist, you’ll need a following and this can be established through published stories, a popular/active web site, the fact that you are accustomed to traveling around and speaking or are involved in storytelling. Maybe you are getting ready to retire and plan to travel and promote your book throughout states.

    How can you play catch-up with regard to your platform? Start now getting exposure. Establish credibility in your field. Participate in forums on your topic, write letters to the editors of appropriate magazines and articles for magazines, speak to groups locally and beyond and create news.

  4. The author has unrealistic expectations. Many first-time authors (we’ve all been there) expect to sell their books by the truckloads through mega bookstores. They believe that any good book will be eagerly welcomed by bookstore owners and managers. The reality is that few people outside of traditional royalty publishers with track records can get new books into bookstores. And space on bookstore shelves does not guarantee sales. In fact, books that are not selling will be returned—sometimes within the first six months.

    As the author, you can get your books into bookstores. How? Make a big enough splash with your book that readers are swarming to bookstores asking for it by name. This might mean appearing on TV and radio with your book, presenting large seminars related to your book all over the U.S. and getting tons of press by creating news and submitting press releases to newspapers everywhere. Become high-profile and get enough exposure for your book and, even if you are self-published or went with a fee-based self-publishing services, your book will be accepted for sale by bookstores everywhere.

  5. The author gives promotion just a lick and a promise. Authors need to understand that book promotion is ongoing. It should start before you write the book and continue for as long as you want to sell books.

  6. The author gives up. I can’t tell you how often I hear "I can’t sell my book, so what’s the use?" You won’t achieve the level of success you desire if you quit.

There’s a lot to consider when entering the huge and competitive publishing business. And promotion is a major consideration. Whether you land a traditional royalty publisher, self-publish (establish your own publishing company) or go with a fee-based POD publishing service, it is up to the author to promote his or her book. And the time to start thinking about promotion is before you ever sit down and put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard.

–Patricia Fry is the president of SPAWN. She is also a full-time freelance writer and the author of 27 books. Ten of her books relate to writing and publishing. If you have a book to promote or a book in the works, you must add Patricia’s newly revised book, The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book to your collection of reference books. If you are stuck or struggling with your project, order her NEW companion Author’s Workbook to accompany The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book. Be sure to follow Patricia’s informative blog:



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