How Do Books Become Bestsellers? (Can Authors Increase Those Chances?)

by Kristen Tsetsi

As longtime readers know, writer Kristen Tsetsi is the host of a regular author Q&A at this site, 5 On, that asks 5 questions about writing and 5 questions about publishing. (You can browse them here.)

Recently, Kristen sent me questions related to book marketing that she wanted to be answered but didn’t know the right person to ask. As I reviewed them, I decided that I myself might be the right person to address them.

Thus, in a strange turn of events, I am running an interview with myself at my own site. My thanks to Kristen for sparking what I think is an important—and I hope useful—discussion.

Kristen: Authors published by a Big Five publisher are often responsible for much of their own marketing and publicity, and chances are slim that their novel will be the one that takes off and veritably markets itself. What, then, is the benefit of publishing with a major house versus publishing with a small press with decent distribution channels? An author publishing with Random House might have a better reason to at least hope for a Today Show or NPR interview, sure, but obviously most Big Five authors aren’t interviewed on the Today Show or NPR.

Jane: Much depends on what we mean when we talk about a “small press with decent distribution channels.”

First, and most critical to understand, is that the playing field is more or less even when it comes to retail distribution, or what I might call “availability.” Any self-publishing author, and any small press, can make their books available to be ordered or purchased in the same retailers as a Big Five publisher if they’re willing to use print-on-demand technology. It’s not logistically complicated or expensive. That doesn’t mean the author’s or publisher’s books will sit on the shelf of most (or even a few) bricks-and-mortar bookstores in the country—just that the book can look and appear like any other when viewed in an industry database.

Where the playing field is not even is when we look at how print books get sold and purchased in advance of publication, then stocked on physical store shelves. That’s an investment and risk on the side of the publisher, since it requires doing a print run of books that may not sell as expected, plus all books are returnable by bookstores at any point for a full refund. Retailers such as Barnes & Noble commit to purchasing hundreds or thousands of copies of book, prior to knowing how successful it will be, and their commitment is based on how persuasive the publisher’s sales pitch is. When you’re playing that kind of game, the Big Five publishers have a huge advantage—their sales teams pitch books for placement at bookstore accounts, big-box stores, specialty retailers, and so on. It’s part of their job to get the biggest sales commitment possible in advance of publication.

When considering a small press, you should figure out how their books get sold into stores. Do they have their own sales team? Does a larger publisher sell their books for them to store accounts? Do they not even try—do they just make the book available for sale on Amazon or available through Ingram, and call it a day? That’s not a deal breaker (and the majority of all book sales are through Amazon any way!), but for authors who place a great deal of importance on seeing their book stocked in physical retail stores, then the bigger your publisher, the more muscle they probably have to get that nationwide store distribution, and possibly pay for displays or other merchandising during your book’s launch.

Next time you’re in a chain bookstore, study carefully the front-of-store tables and look at the publishers. Those publishers have paid for that placement. You won’t find many “small” presses. You’ll find that Big Five and mid-size houses or strong independent houses (such as Sourcebooks or Chronicle) dominate.

But here’s the other side of the argument: most Big Five publishers, after your book has been out three months, they’re done with you. You won’t hear back from the publicist or marketing team unless your book has gained traction and the publisher sees an opportunity to build further sales and attention. A smaller press may have more time and bandwidth to spend with you both prior to launch and after, in order to find the audience. The approach may be more thoughtful and customized. A Big Five publisher does not have time to take a customized approach to every title on its list; as you say, only a few get the attention they truly deserve, and it tends to be based on who received the highest advance, because that’s where the most risk resides. So a Big Five author is more likely to see a cookie-cutter approach to their book’s launch unless they’re an “A” title (one of the most important titles that season) or otherwise selected for special treatment.

So is it worth the trade-off? There’s not one answer to that question. Partly I think it depends on the author’s personality and how they’re best complemented by the publisher, and maybe even who their agent is. (An agent can play a role in getting marketing support from the publisher!) At some point, money usually speaks loudest, and authors go with the publisher that pays the highest advance, which then can help ensure sufficient attention. If your advance isn’t much of a risk (let’s say $20,000 or below), then you may be better off with a small press if they offer more personalized marketing attention or support, or better and more informed reach to your particular readership. (Here’s my post on evaluating small presses.)

People scoff at debut authors who want to negotiate with publishers over, for example, conditions related to film rights: “It’s your first novel. Don’t even worry about film rights and just be happy to have a publisher. Have three books and a following before you start thinking about film rights.” However, debut novels are optioned: Melanie Raab’s The Trap, Michael Hodges’s The Puller, Kathryn Stockett’s The Help. Because it could happen, then, however unlikely it may be, shouldn’t each contract be approached with that potential in mind?

My rule of thumb is always “Assume everything is negotiable.” However, in every industry, there are some things that basically are not negotiable, especially if you have little or no leverage over the publisher. The 25% ebook royalty rate is not negotiable, no matter who you are. Granting ebook rights along with print: it will be demanded. This is where having an agent is invaluable, because they know from experience where and when a publisher is willing to negotiate. They also know why things might not be negotiable. For example, the ebook royalty rate isn’t negotiable for now because every single author with a decent agent has a clause that says as soon as another author at the same house receives a higher rate, they’ll get the higher rate, too. To ameliorate that, an agent can say, “We know you’re not going to budge on the ebook royalty rate, but that means you need to do better on these other terms.”

It never hurts to ask for what you want, to ask “Can you do better?” and to get an explanation for why your requests aren’t reasonable or standard. But the truth is that unless you’re a highly desirable author, or unless you have an agent who is able to leverage their influence on your behalf, sometimes you have to accept terms that are less than satisfying.

Do authors have any more negotiating room these days simply because there are so many publishing options available? Do publishers (typically) fight for manuscripts these days if they’re not written by someone well-known, or could they take or leave most authors?

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Why Authors Need a Book Funnel

By Team Azuni

If you’re an author, chances are you know how difficult it can be to promote and sell your books. To make sure your book reaches its target audience, consider investing in a book funnel. A book funnel is a marketing system designed to help authors increase sales and generate more readers. This blog post will show why having a book funnel is essential for authors.

What Is a Book Funnel?

A book funnel is an automated marketing system that helps authors drive traffic to their books, capture leads and build relationships with their readers. It works by guiding potential customers through different stages of the buying process, from getting them interested in the book to persuading them to buy it. The key components of a book funnel include an email list, landing pages, automation sequences, retargeting campaigns and more. By having all of these elements working together in harmony, authors can maximize conversions from their prospective buyers and significantly boost sales numbers.

Benefits of Using a Book Funnel

Having a well-crafted book funnel can be extremely beneficial for authors as it helps them reach more readers and increase their sales numbers. Here are just some of the benefits of using a book funnel: 

Increased visibility

A well-crafted book funnel will increase your visibility online by driving targeted traffic to your site and increasing engagement with potential customers. This will help you reach more people who may be interested in purchasing your books.       

More leads – With an effective lead generation strategy in place, you’ll be able to capture more leads so that you can nurture them into becoming paying customers over time.   

Higher conversion rates

By automating certain aspects of the sales process such as follow-up emails or retargeting campaigns, you’ll be able to convert more potential buyers into paying customers with ease.    

Increased ROI

When done correctly, having a properly functioning book funnel can drastically improve your return on investment (ROI) by helping you get the most out of every dollar spent on advertising or marketing efforts.                  

Improved customer relationships

With automated sequences and personalized emails sent out regularly as part of your lead nurturing efforts, you’ll be able to build stronger relationships with current customers while also attracting new ones into the fold.                

Better Brand Awareness

Your brand is represented by everything associated with it—including its message and visuals—and having an effective book funnel in place can help amplify those messages while also creating better brand awareness among potential customers who may not have heard about you before.


Investing in a well-crafted book funnel can provide numerous benefits for authors such as increased visibility online, higher conversion rates, improved customer relationships, better brand awareness and higher ROI on their investments in marketing efforts or advertising campaigns. So if you’re looking for ways to increase your sales numbers or reach more readers, then consider investing in a quality book funnel today.

What It Takes To Become a NY Times Best Seller

By Team Azuni

Becoming a New York Times best-selling author is the dream of many aspiring authors. But what criteria do books need to meet in order to hit the coveted NYT Bestseller list? In this blog post, we’ll dive into the requirements for becoming a best-selling author and explore how you can increase your chances of making it on the list.

The Criteria for Making the List

To even be considered for the NY Times Bestsellers list, books must first meet certain criteria. The book must be sold by a select group of retailers that report their sales data to The New York Times. This includes big box stores like Barnes & Noble, online retailers like Amazon, independent bookstores, and specialty stores that focus on specific topics such as cookbooks or children’s literature. For nonfiction books, major book clubs such as Book-of-the-Month Club will also count towards meeting the criteria.

Once these criteria are met, The New York Times then compiles sales data from these retailers and uses it to create its weekly lists—not just its overall Best Sellers list but also its lists broken down by category such as Fiction or Nonfiction. To make it onto one of these lists, books must sell significantly more copies than their competitors within their category in a given week. It’s important to note that while total sales figures are taken into account when compiling the list, they aren’t necessarily the deciding factor; quality is also an important consideration when determining which books make it onto the list.

How You Can Increase Your Chances

So what can you do to increase your chances of making it onto The New York Times Best Sellers list? One way is to focus on pre-sales prior to your book’s release date. Pre-sales are a great way to get people excited about your book and generate early buzz so that once your book does come out, readers will already be familiar with it and ready to purchase it. Additionally, pre-sales often count towards total sales figures taken into consideration when compiling lists (although they may not count towards rankings). So if you can drum up enough pre-sales leading up to your book’s release date, you may have an edge over other titles within its category.


Becoming an NYT best seller is no easy feat; there’s no guarantee that any given title will make it onto this prestigious list regardless of how well written or popular it is. However, with careful planning and smart marketing strategies like focusing on pre-sales before your book’s official launch date, you can increase your chances of hitting The New York Times Best Sellers list – and achieving literary success! With some hard work and dedication (and maybe a little luck!), you could find yourself amongst some of history’s greatest writers. Good luck.

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5 Mistakes You Should Avoid as an Author in 2023

By Azuni Team

Writing has been an integral part of society for centuries—and it still is. As technology continues to evolve, the way authors create and publish their work is changing rapidly. In 2023, the world of writing will be completely different than it is today. With that in mind, there are some mistakes that authors should be aware of and avoid if they want to stay successful. Here are five mistakes to avoid when you’re writing in 2023.

Not Staying Up-To-Date on Technology

Technology advances quickly, and that means authors need to stay on top of the latest trends and tools if they want to stay competitive. This means staying up-to-date on the latest software, understanding how artificial intelligence can help with your writing process (and even writing itself), and understanding the new publishing landscape that is emerging from these technological advancements.

Not Utilizing Automation

Automation can be a great tool for authors who want to streamline their workflow or free up time for other activities. Automation allows you to set up tasks so that they run automatically instead of having you manually do them every time. This can include things like scheduling posts, setting up marketing campaigns, and more. Authors should look into automation options available in 2023 and figure out which ones would be most beneficial for them.

Not Understanding Your Audience

Understanding your audience is key in any kind of writing, but it’s especially important in 2023 because readers have more options than ever before when it comes to content they consume. Knowing what your audience wants will help you create content that resonates with them and keeps them coming back for more, so doing research into who they are and what they’re looking for is essential.

Not Building an Online Presence

Building an online presence is essential for authors in 2023 because this is where most readers will find you first—long before they pick up your book or read one of your articles online or offline. Social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram are great places to start building a presence because you can interact with people who share similar interests or values as you do (or who might become fans!). Having a website dedicated to yourself as an author can also help people find out more about who you are and what kind of books or articles you write without having to search through social media profiles or websites dedicated to other topics entirely.

Not Utilizing Networking Opportunities

Networking with other writers or industry professionals can be a great way to get advice, exposure, feedback, resources, etc., but many writers don’t take advantage of these opportunities enough—especially those just starting out in their career as an author in 2023! Attend conferences when possible (even virtual ones!), join online forums related to writing/publishing/etc., follow influential people in the industry on social media platforms—all these things can help open doors for you and give you much-needed advice from experienced professionals.

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How to Cure Writer’s Block: 23 Proven Ideas that Actually Work


The fact is that almost every writer faces writer’s block at some point in their career. Deadlines, storylines or even airlines can be the cause of this intellectual affliction. Writer’s block is real and can greatly affect your output.

But, every writer of note has willed themselves out of this mental stupor. Writer’s block doesn’t have to stop a budding Homer in their tracks.

There are many ways to overcome this form of procrastination that works wonders.

Today, let’s look at 23 ways that prove effective to help you get rid of writer’s block.

But first…

What is writer’s block?

Writer’s block is when a writer experiences creative slowdown or can’t create new work; essentially an artistic full-stop. It’s the inability of an author to compose new, original material that moves a narrative forward. The term writer’s block is used in reference to any writing or composition process where creativity is stunted. The production of new work grinds to a halt. It’s often referred to as creative constipation. Frustration, fear, anger, dread, and other strong emotions sometimes accompany it.

What causes writer’s block?

  • Distractions
  • Physical illness
  • Bills piling up
  • Procrastination
  • Intimidation


Read for inspiration 

One of the best ways to overcome writer’s block is to read. Whether your favorite author or someone new, reading is a reliable cure.

When you take in another writer’s words on the page — a writer who has in all likelihood overcome the block as well, at some point — it challenges and motivates you to get the words out.

The inspiration for many writers is their own writing heroes. Shakespeare to Faulkner, Byron to Plath, all have their own styles and voices that have nourished generations of creatives. Writer’s block gloms onto the idle, not the well-read.

You could open the best screenwriting books for writer’s block help. So pick up a Kindle or an actual bound book, and kickstart the motivation.

“The journey of a thousand words begins with the first.”

— Lao Tzu


Write away your writer’s block

Even if you copy words from another source, getting something down on your screen or pad is a useful tool to get rid of blockage.

What is writer’s block, after all, but a stoppage of writing?

So do the opposite: just write.

Try transcribing a poem or song lyrics and see what happens.

Whip up a to-do list, an outline for another project or story, a free-association paragraph or two. You’ll discover it goes a long way.

Just as the adage “fake it ’til you make it” fits the bill in business, it also works with writing. Get the writing muscles moving and your brain will catch up before you know it.

There is nothing bad about writing something that, on the surface, appears unusable. It’s practice. You’re training your mind and fingertips for what matters.

If Chris Brown gets stuck in writer’s block, he’ll just “write it out.”

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The Top 10 Mistakes New Writers Make

By Phoebe Yu

So you want to write but don’t know where to start? The journey to becoming a published author is a bumpy ride with lots of ups and downs along the way. 

As a new writer learning the ropes you will inevitably make some mistakes. That’s okay, but here’s a list of common mistakes (in no particular order) that will help you avoid them.

1. A Weak Introduction

First impressions are everything. Often, writers will start with a long description of the setting, or a mundane event like waking up from a dream or talking to themselves in a mirror. 

Not only are these clichés, but we don’t learn anything about the story or the character.  

Readers will keep reading when you make them care about a character and their motivations.  Who are they and what do they want?

That’s why the first paragraph – no, the first sentence – is important to hook your readers right away.  For more tips on writing introductions, seehere.

2. Too Much Backstory

Some backstory is good to introduce your character.  But save some for the rest of the book.

Whether you’re writing a thriller, romance, YA, or any other genre, some detective work on the part of the reader is what keeps them curious. 

Besides, too much backstory in the beginning derails the story when it should be moving along.

Give your readers time to get to know your characters and fall in love with them.

3. Lack of Research on Genre

Different genres have their own set of conventions about word count, character ages, etc.Some new writers end up with a manuscript that’s too long, too short or a premise that doesn’t clearly fit into a category. 

Genres exist to make it easier for publishers to market a book and for bookstores to know where to shelve a book.

Even if you’re doing a cross-genre, clearly decide under which category your manuscript falls under.  It will likely fall under one genre more than the other.

If you want to reinvent the wheel and do away with genres, realize the risks you’re taking.  Alternatively, you can always self-publish if you don’t wish to go the traditional route.

4. A Weak Plot

Plotting is one of the most challenging aspects of crafting a story.  No plot = no story. Sometimes writers make the mistake of thinking a series of events equals plot. 

A plot has a beginning, middle and end.  Think back to your high school or creative writing classes regarding the elements of a plot: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and resolution. 

For more tips on how to outline a plot, see here.

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The 20+ Best Books on Creative Writing

If you’ve ever wondered, “How do I write a book?”, “How do I write a short story?”, or “How do I write a poem?” you’re not alone. I’m halfway done my MFA program at Vermont College of Fine Arts, and I ask myself these questions a lot, too, though I’m noticing that by now I feel more comfortable with the answers that fit my personal craft. Fortunately, you don’t need to be a Master’s of Fine Arts in Writing candidate, or even a college graduate, in order to soak up the great Wisdom of Words, as I like to call it. Another word for it is craft. That’s because there are so many great books out there on writing craft. In this post, I’ll guide you through 20+ of the most essential books on creative writing. These essential books for writers will teach you what you need to know to write riveting stories and emotionally resonant books—and to sell them.

I just also want to put in a quick plug for my post with the word count of 175 favorite novels. This resource is helpful for any writer.

What Made the List of Essential Books for Writers—and What Didn’t

So what made the list? And what didn’t?

Unique to this list, these are all books that I have personally used in my journey as a creative and commercial writer.

That journey started when I was 15 and extended through majoring in English and Creative Writing as an undergrad at UPenn through becoming a freelance writer in 2014, starting this book blog, pursuing my MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts, and publishing some fiction and nonfiction books myself. My point here is not to boast, just to explain that these books have all helped me better understand and apply the craft, discipline, and business of writing over the course of more than half my life as I’ve walked the path to become a full-time writer. Your mileage my vary, but each of these books have contributed to my growth as a writer in some way. I’m not endorsing books I’ve never read or reviewed. This list comes from my heart (and pen!).

Most of these books are geared towards fiction writers, not poetry or nonfiction writers

It’s true that I’m only one human and can only write so much in one post. Originally, I wanted this list to be more than 25 books on writing. Yes, 25 books! But it’s just not possible to manage that in a single post. What I’ll do is publish a follow-up article with even more books for writers. Stay tuned!

The most commonly recommended books on writing are left out.

Why? Because they’re everywhere! I’m aiming for under-the-radar books on writing, ones that aren’t highlighted often enough. You’ll notice that many of these books are self-published because I wanted to give voice to indie authors.

But I did want to include a brief write-up of these books… and, well, you’ve probably heard of them, but here are 7 of the most recommended books on writing:

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron – With her guided practice on how to rejuvenate your art over the course of 16 weeks, Cameron has fashioned an enduring classic about living and breathing your craft (for artists as well as writers). This book is perhaps best known for popularizing the morning pages method.

The Art of Fiction by John Gardner – If you want to better understand how fiction works, John Gardner will be your guide in this timeless book.

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott – A beloved writing book on process, craft, and overcoming stumbling blocks (both existential and material).

On Writing by Stephen King – A must-read hybrid memoir-craft book on the writer mythos and reality for every writer.

Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose – A core writing book that teaches you how to read with a writer’s eye and unlock the ability to recognize and analyze craft for yourself.

Steering the Craft by Ursula K. Le Guin – Many writers consider this to be their bible on craft and storytelling.

Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg – A favorite of many writers, this book takes an almost spiritual approach to the art, craft, and experience of writing.

I’m aiming for under-the-radar books on writing on my list.

These books are all in print.

Over the years, I’ve picked up several awesome books on creative writing from used bookstores. Oh, how I wish I could recommend these! But many of them are out of print. The books on this list are all available new either as eBooks, hardcovers, or paperbacks. I guess this is the right time for my Affiliate Link disclaimer:

This article contains affiliate links, which means I might get a small portion of your purchase. For more on my affiliate link policy, check out my official Affiliate Link Disclaimer.

You’ll notice a lot of the books focus on the business of writing.

Too often, money is a subject that writers won’t talk about. I want to be upfront about the business of writing and making a living as a writer (or not) with these books. It’s my goal to get every writer, even poets!, to look at writing not just from a craft perspective, but from a commercial POV, too.

And now on to the books!

Part I: The Best Books on Writing Craft

The Anatomy of Story by John Truby

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7 Ways to Get Your Book Known


It’s hard for any author, especially new ones, to get their book seen by readers. There are many tips and tricks that are promoted all over the internet, but not all work for everyone. Here are seven things that can potentially give your book the exposure you want.

1. Have a Presence

If you want people to buy your book, you have to be found online. What if they can’t find you? They won’t buy your books. They need to be able to go onto the internet and see that you are a real person.

Here are a few things you can do to have presence on the internet:

  • Have a website
  • Be on social media
  • Interact
  • Author pages

People are looking for this type of activity from an author. If you aren’t doing any of this, you will be missed.

2. Write More Than One Book

Authors with more than one book get seen quicker than one book authors. Why? Because there is more of them to spread around without spamming or seeming to be repetitive. I might not be drawn to one of your books due to synopsis, topic, or cover. Who knows, but what if another one of your books does get my attention? Now you have gotten a sale from me. If I like what I read, I might try that book that wasn’t that attractive to me earlier. I’m willing to give it a chance then.

Also, multiple books shows you to be a serious author. You are passionate about your writing. You aren’t going to tease me with one book and leave me wanting more. Readers don’t like that. I had one author who did that to me. I’ve been waiting now for seven years and still don’t have a second book.

3. Give Your Book Away

Most people aren’t willing to shell out the money on authors they don’t know. The best way to get their attention is to let them read your book for free. They will read it and tell others about it. Why? Because they were willing to take the chance.

I have found many new authors through free books. Their writing is so good that I’m willing to pay a reasonable price for their other books. They are making money off of me because they gave just one book away for free.

4. Good Covers

I do not believe in judging a book by its cover. But….covers are what catches the eye and draws the reader in. It is the first introduction to the book the majority of the time. So it has to be good.

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25 Books Every Author Should Read

By Turgay Birand

Stephen King famously said:

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”

Reading on a daily basis allows writers to learn new styles, words and find inspiration from some of the greatest writers of all time. If you aren’t finding time on a daily basis to read even a few pages, your writing will almost certainly suffer.

Now there are a lot of books for you to choose from, many of which will help you become a better writer, but there are a select few that truly stand out. These are the books every author should read sometime in their life.

In this post we have listed 25 books that we feel every author should read. Over time we hope to grow this list, so please comment below any books you feel should be added to this list.

1. The Murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allan Poe  

Written in 1841, Poe’s masterpiece is recognized as the first detective story. Years later, Dorothy Sayers would describe it as “almost a complete manual of detective theory and practice.”

If you write fiction, this book is a must read. You will learn how to captivate your readers with a story they can’t put down. Poe is still regarded as one of the world’s best authors and for good reason. It would be impossible for us to make a “must read list” that didn’t include at least one of his books.

2. Hamlet by William Shakespeare

3. Runaway by Alice Munro

4. A Perfect Crime by Peter Abrahams

5. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

It is hard to believe that any writer hasn’t read this book. Written in 1960, To Kill a Mockingbird has lost very little popularity over the years. Harper Lee grew up in a small town similar to the one portrayed in this book and it is believed that her personal experience greatly influenced the writing of her Pulitzer Prize winning book.

6. Lord of the Flies by William Golding

7. Perfect Your Poetry by Maya Angelou

8. Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg

9. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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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.

Table of Contents  show 

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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