Book Marketing Mistakes: 19 Top Ways Authors Get It Wrong

by Hannah Lee Kidder

I don’t think there’s anything scarier for an author than marketing the books they write. In a constantly-evolving industry with different niches, inconsistent rules, and never-still goalposts, selling a book is hard.

So hard that most authors push the marketing part of their author platform away, avoid it, and save it for the last minute. That’s your first mistake! And there are…a lot more mistakes, honestly. But we’re here to help! Let’s look at some of the biggest mistakes authors make with marketing their books so you know a few things to avoid.

Don’t let this discourage you, because mistakes are the best way to learn! Hopefully this list gives you a headstart, but don’t be afraid to make your own.

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Also keep in mind that in general, these are things you’d want to avoid, but there’s no right or wrong way to sell a book or build an author platform. Every author, genre, niche, and brand are a little bit different.

“Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” — Samuel Beckett

Book Marketing Mistakes On Social Media

Social media is a cornerstone element to any strong author platform. Here are six ways authors might go wrong while marketing their books on social media.

1. Not posting

Social media can be intimidating. Especially if you’re learning a totally new format or platform to reach your audience, the features, updates, and trends are hard to track and even harder to master.

But don’t let that stop you!

One of the biggest mistakes you can make with your social accounts is not posting at all. If you don’t post, you won’t learn. If you don’t experiment, you won’t be able to tell what resonates with your audience. And if you let that algorithm slack–it might not take you back.

2. Posting too much

But Hannah, you just said—

I know, I know.

But posting too much low-quality content can be more damaging than posting less. Don’t spam your readers, no matter the format.

Too much, even of a good thing, can chase anyone away.

Keep an eye on your follower fluctuation throughout the week so you can know if your posts are attracting new audience members or chasing away the ones you already had. Adjust your content and posting schedule accordingly.

3. Using your voice to gripe and complain

It’s great to be honest on your platforms. Sometimes it’s even nice to show the grim, gritty side of your industry or share a sad personal anecdote–but if your feed becomes a constant barrage of negativity, complaining, and whining? You’re going to lose your audience’s interest quick.

Even in content creation, I personally try to keep an overall positive vibe. I have video series like Quest for the Worst, where I review the worst films I can find, and I try to keep the tone humorous instead of complain-y. In my Twilight Rewrite video series, I try to point out what Stephenie Meyer did well, and I talk a lot about my favorite characters.

Both of those series could easily become nothing but me complaining, so I’m careful to keep it lighthearted!

4. Exclusively promoting your books

No one wants to follow an account that’s 100% advertisements. Some best practices suggest only making 1 of every 3 posts promotion. Others say only 1 of every 5.

There’s also the 5-3-2 rule of posting, where, within 10 posts:

  • 5 posts are valuable or educational in some way
  • 3 posts are about your business
  • 2 posts are personal to build your brand.

Another method to keep it from over-promoting on social media is to lean more into process updates instead of straight promo.

For example, if you’re posting about your writing journey, specific things you’ve overcome with your manuscript, and other relatable things, it won’t feel so much like you’re reminding people you have a book coming up, so they’ll keep getting reminded of it without feeling like they’re being asked to buy something.

We talk a lot about this in our Social Media for Authors self-guided course—check it out if you want a deep-dive on using your social platforms effectively for selling books (without actually being salesy).

5. Not personalizing your posts

If you follow authors on Instagram, I’m sure you’ve seen a few of those accounts that post their books, fan art, character portraits, buy links, promo codes, affiliate content, etc., etc., etc., and there isn’t a trace of personality to them. Those types of online presences are difficult to connect with.

While boundaries are incredibly important when you have a public personal brand, keeping things too formal and business-oriented can turn readers off.

So try to strike a balance between maintaining your privacy while also sharing certain aspects of your life to give your brand personality. A great example is posting about your pets! Pets are humanizing, cute, and relatable, but they also aren’t revealing any real personal information about you.

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