The #1 question I’ve gotten over the years during my time as marketing director at Wise Ink Creative Publishing (and as a working author myself), is this one:
What are the biggest marketing mistakes you made with your first book, and what do you wish you would have done differently?
Luckily for everyone who asks me this question, I love talking about the “wrong turns” I made in publishing and marketing my books, because without these mistakes, I wouldn’t have learned as much as I know now about book marketing.
Here are five of my most glaring mistakes, and what you can learn from them:
1. Hiring a publicist without giving them a clear direction on what I wanted them to do
The thought of pitching myself to magazines, newspapers, and TV shows was overwhelming to me as a first-time author, so I did what a lot of people do: I hired a publicist to do it for me.
What I didn’t know was that a publicist is only as effective as your ability to direct them. I ended up paying her to research on my behalf, which is something I easily could have done myself.
I could have saved a lot of money and probably gotten much more exposure had I done the research part on my own, then given her the task of doing the actual pitching when I had my list of potential candidates.
2. Having a huge launch event at a bookstore
I had an awesome launch event at a huge indie bookstore in my city because I felt I needed the backing of a bookstore to feel “legit.”
Though the event was awesome, it wasn’t until I got home and did the math that I realized I could have made much more money on book sales if I’d had the event at a different location.
Even though the bookstore told me upfront that they would keep 40 percent of the profits from my sales, it really became clear how much that 40 percent really cost me once I added everything up from the event.
Don’t get me wrong—I LOVE bookstores and love supporting them! But I wish I had done my launch event somewhere else, somewhere where I would have been able to keep 100 percent of my profits.
3. Not doing a snail mail marketing campaign
This is the social media age, right? No one mails anything anymore, right?
If I could go back in time, I would have found 25-30 key influencers in my genre and popped a book in the mail to them, along with a personal note. A personal touch goes such a long way in marketing—especially in the book selling business!
I consider this to be one of the most under-utilized marketing tactics used by authors, and really encourage authors to incorporate this into their book marketing strategy as soon as they’ve published.
4. Not using social media wisely
I felt like I needed to be anywhere and everywhere when I first published. I needed a blog, a Facebook page, a Twitter account, a Tumblr . . . and on and on.
It was all so overwhelming that I ended up burning out quickly.
If I could go back, I would focus on ONE platform, probably Facebook, and narrow my efforts there. Then, once I had established myself on one platform, I would maybe move to another one and repeat the process.
Trying to be everywhere is a game you’ll always end up losing. I became way more successful on social media when I quit using it all the platforms and just focused on one I genuinely enjoyed spending time on.
One more related thing I would have done differently is creating a content calendar and scheduling out my posts to avoid feeling like I had to be chained to social media all the time.
Since I started using a content calendar for my social media, I’ve been able to grow an engaged following of readers much quicker and with much less stress.
P.S. If you’d like to learn how to use a content calendar to simplify your social media, check out my new course: Bestseller Bootcamp: How to Create a Powerhouse Book Marketing Campaign Without Hiring a Publicist. I’ll walk you through step-by-step exactly how to avoid all the mistakes I made when I first launched, and grow your audience in the easiest and most effective way possible!
5. Taking out print ads
Again, this was something I felt I “had” to do. After all, I kept getting emails about “special deals” for print ads in magazines that seemed credible!
While print advertising can be effective for some authors in very specific genres, it certainly wasn’t for me. I wish I’d used that money for more targeted advertising on platforms like Amazon or Facebook instead.
The truth is, book marketing work is all about taking calculated risks. You will make mistakes along the way, just like anything in life.
But as much as I made plenty of mistakes when publishing my first book, I wouldn’t change a thing about it now.
I’ve learned so much about book marketing over the years from my personal experience and from working with hundreds of authors on their own book marketing campaigns, but the most important thing I’ve learned is this:
Choose one marketing effort to focus on. Learn how to do it well. Then do it.
It really is that simple.
Roseanne Cheng is the former marketing director at Wise Ink Creative Publishing and co-founder of Evergreen Authors, an online learning community that helps authors successfully launch their book and build a thriving business. To see the book marketing courses Roseanne teaches, go here.