5 Huge Mistakes I Made Marketing My First Book (And What I Wish I Would Have Done Instead)

5 Huge Mistakes I Made Marketing My First Book.png

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.

Selling Books on Etsy

Today’s guest post come from Fantasy Fiction author Melissa Herold, whose new series is launching this fall. She is an expert on all things Etsy with her business, Nightblooming, so we asked her to share with all she knows about selling books on that platform. We are totally inspired to use Etsy more, thanks to her!

And in case you’re interested in her fiction, don’t miss her incredible book trailer, here!

Etsy is a fantastic marketplace where its customers believe in supporting independent artists--this makes it a great fit for self and indie published authors. The key thing to keep in mind when selling books on Etsy is that it is not a book marketplace, it is a gift-purchasing and self-indulgence marketplace, which means that you can reach buyers you never might have otherwise, but it also means you need to come to market differently.

Optimizing your Listing

This, more than anything, means killer photos because when an Etsy buyer is scrolling through search results, that’s what’s going to get them to stop on your book. Look at pictures of books on Etsy and Pinterest, evaluate which ones you stop on, and try to recreate what is effective.

Etsy gives you up to 10 photos, so once you get a few good ones of your book, use the remaining ones to promote your brand and your story as an independent author.

Screen Shot 2019-06-11 at 9.16.32 AM.png

Tags and Categories

Etsy SEO is its own monster, but the easiest way to get started is to think of search phrases that you can use for your book. “Coworker gift” “Mother’s Day Gift” “Retro Hardcover Book” “Geek gift” These phrases become your tags, and you should repeat the most important ones in the body text of your listing.

Using Ads Strategically

There are three ad types you can utilize right from Etsy: Facebook ads, Google Shopping ads, and Promoted listings. By far, I see the best returns from Promoted Listings.

Screen Shot 2019-06-11 at 9.22.34 AM.png

Promoted listings are the first line of returned search results on Etsy. You can set a daily promotional limit and a CPC (cost per click) limit and, in turn, get to make sure that your book is seen at the top of Etsy’s search results.

Package like Etsy Buyers Expect

Focus on the idea that your book is a gift, even if the person bought it for themselves. Etsy buyers appreciate (and some expect) their book to be packaged in a thoughtful, artistic way.

Screen Shot 2019-06-11 at 9.23.42 AM.png

Consider inexpensive, beautiful elements to make your buyer smile when they open their package, and don’t pass up on this opportunity to include printed inserts further promoting your books and your brand!

Save Your Sanity on Logistics

The great news is that Etsy makes dealing with order fulfillment super-simple. Box up a sample of your book and weigh it, and Etsy will use this to automatically both bill the customer for shipping AND generate a printable shipping label for you.

Screen Shot 2019-06-11 at 9.24.56 AM.png

But don’t rush to fill every order as it comes in. Batch-processing all your orders once a day, or a couple times a week, will reduce the overall time you spend on it.

Pricing Your Products Well

The great news is that you’ll likely make more per book on Etsy than on other marketplaces, but make sure you’re rolling the cost of all those pretty packaging extra, Etsy fees, etc. into your pricing. Some authors may choose to keep their pricing consistent across all sites, while others may keep the same profit margin per book, and adjust their prices based on what that means in each marketplace.

That’s a pretty good start! The cost of giving Etsy a spin is really low (just 20 cents for one listing that lasts 4 months), so it’s worth exploring to see if it’s a good marketplace for your book!

How to Market Your Book in the Summer: A Quick Guide

Summer might seem like it would pose challenges in the book marketing process, but if you get creative, it can be an incredibly fruitful season. Here are some “hot” tips and tricks for marketing your book during those warm summer months.

Marketing to Vacationers

Everyone loves a good beach book! And everyone going on vacation during the summer wants to find that perfect story to keep them entertained while they sit back, relax, and soak up the sun. Focus on using pitches to highlight how your book is this perfect story.

Phrases like “steamy romance novel,” “thrilling mystery,” and “feel-good story” all conjure images of enjoyment for readers, and will make them more inclined to bring your book along if they want to be engaged while reading on the beach. Figure out what makes your book stand out from others in the captivation department and watch your sales jump!

Marketing for Holidays

Another way to fit your book into the summer season is to connect it to summer holidays, primarily the Fourth of July. Got an in-depth investigation of Washington’s time at Valley Forge? Sell the Independence Day side of the story. Does your main character have an affinity for pyrotechnics? Emphasize how much they would love to see fireworks during the holiday.

You can also look at how your book might connect to popular events during summer months, such as Pride Week in June, or the Summer Olympics. If you’ve got any control over the publication date, try to have your book launch line up with the timing of relatable holidays or events.

Marketing for the Climate

Certain activities are much more accessible during the summertime, such as gardening, swimming, and cookouts. There are a lot of ways you can market your book by showcasing its relevance to these activities. Cookbooks for the outdoors, stories about mermaids or ocean life, guidebooks on urban agriculture, memoirs that reflect on the beauty and joy of camping -- the options are endless.

One last note - don’t be afraid to promote your book wherever you are! Bring along a copy of it to the restaurant you’re eating at; someone might ask about it. If you’re traveling, be sure to bring some promotional materials along, just in case someone asks what you do. You never know who might be interested.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Selling Your Book on Amazon

Five Questions to Ask Yourself BEFORE Establishing your Author Brand (17).png

No matter how you personally feel about Amazon, it undeniably has power in the publishing industry. Amazon is the number one bookseller in the world. For that reason, authors need to make sure they are using Amazon to its full potential. Below we have assembled some tips, mostly drawn from our Buzz podcast episode, about the do’s and don’ts of selling your book on Amazon.


  1. Complete your Amazon author page. Your Amazon author page is a separate page from the book’s page. This is a good way for readers to learn more about you, and it also keeps all of your books available on Amazon in one central location. Give the same amount of attention to your author page as you did to your book page.

  2. Consider a KDP ebook. It can be incredibly beneficial to publish an ebook through KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing). This will give you the opportunity to run ads through the program, allowing you to directly reach your readers. For more information on how (and why) to use KDP, explore the resources offered on Wise Ink’s Marketing Director took the Amazon Masterclass for Authors and learned important tools and tricks to optimize an author’s Amazon presence.

  3. Actively seek out reviews. Because of Amazon’s algorithms, reader reviews are incredibly important to making your book easier to find. Most readers click through both positive and negative reviews before purchasing a book, so reviews are also important in convincing people to purchase. Don’t be afraid to ask for reviews or interact with people who have left reviews on your Amazon page. Do what you can to make sure your book has reviews.


  1. Don’t approach Amazon from a place of resignation. For some people, Amazon can be intimidating. It’s difficult to fully understand the website’s algorithms, and you want your book to stand out from the rest of the books on the market. Don’t approach your time on Amazon as a chore that needs to be completed; remember that this is another platform for you to spread the exciting news about the incredible book you published.

  2. Don’t let Amazon be the only part of your marketing plan. It’s dangerous to rely on any one marketing strategy, and Amazon is no exception. Although Amazon is very important, it can’t be your only marketing strategy. Make time for other (potentially more personally engaging) marketing strategies.

  3. Don’t rely on any marketing strategies that don’t feel right to you. Authors are sometimes told to ask every friend you have to buy your book at the same time and leave 5-star reviews, or even told to pay a company to work behind the scenes to make your book rise on Amazon’s rankings. While these things might have value, especially if it’s important to you to become an Amazon Bestseller, think about both the ROI and your own personal sense of ethics before you take that route. These could be good strategies, but check in with yourself before you do anything that might potentially make you uncomfortable or might not pay off financially in the long-term.

With that, we hope that you are feeling more confident in your ability to maximize your Amazon presence. For more information about marketing your book, check out Wise Ink’s podcast, Buzz: Book Marketing Made Easy.

How to ENJOY Marketing Your Book!

Check out these beautiful sketch notes courtesy of Drawnwell!

Lisa shared a drawing with you-1.png

4 Tips for When Book Sales Go Stale

That dreaded moment has arrived - the hype surrounding your new book has faded a bit, and your sales are starting to slow down. What can you do to bring those number backs up?

We recommend one big thing to start: find ways to re-engage with your current audience. This could mean reaching out to people who have heard of your book but haven’t bought it, or figuring out how to connect with those in your demographic who are unreached. Here are a few ideas:

Five Questions to Ask Yourself BEFORE Establishing your Author Brand (15).png

-          If you have a blog, write a post about a current, relevant topic that will inspire readers to share the post, and subsequently bring others to click on your blog and discover your book

-          Plan and host an event that features your book in some way

-          Chime in on current social media chats or start a thread of your own to engage users

-          Contact your local bookstores or libraries to see if they would host a signing or if there’s an event you could speak at

Get creative - there are a lot of ways to get your name out into the world, and once you find something that works for you, go for it. If people are hearing about you and your fantastic book, sales will follow. It can be disheartening to see stale sales, but with some hard work, the end result will be worth the time and energy you put into bringing the sales back up.

And remember: you’re not just selling selling your book, you’re also selling yourself as an author. So if there’s an event opportunity that isn’t strictly related to your book, don’t write it off; it would be a good chance to network with others and let them know about your work. Don’t be afraid to take a chance! You lose nothing by talking to people - and if you’re lucky, you might make some friends who are willing to let you sell your book at their next event.

Three Tips for Engaging Your Audience as a Speaker

Many authors wonder, “Do I need to be a public speaker?”

It’s a tricky question; plenty of authors are skilled with pen and paper but hate the idea of speaking to a crowd. You don’t need to be a professional public speaker in order to reach your audience, but in order to effectively market your book, you should probably have some public speaking skills in your back pocket. At the very least, you’ll want to be comfortable enough with public speaking to do readings and similar events to promote your book. To help you out, we’ve put together some tips on how to feel more comfortable in the podium spotlight.

Tip #1 - Talk about topics you enjoy talking about. If you’re trying to speak on an unfamiliar topic, you’ll most likely be stressed on the stage, and that stress will show. It’s much harder to engage with your audience if you lack passion for the subject matter. Before agreeing to speak at an event, ask yourself what you know the most about. What are you interested in (related to your book, of course)? Is there a subject area that you have spent time and energy learning about? What do you think your audience wants to hear?

Tip #2 - Find a way to personally connect with your audience. One effective way to do this is to open with a personal anecdote that relates to your overall topic. Do you have any life lessons to share based on your past experiences or mistakes? What are some relevant life hacks that you have discovered and want to share with your audience?

Tip #3 - Make sure you’re speaking to groups at locations that connect with your book topic or genre. Ultimately, it isn’t worth spending a lot of time and energy on a speaking engagement that won’t bring new readers to your book. Look for places that cater to your audience’s demographic and seek out speaking opportunities at those locations.

Every author is different, and thus every author’s approach to using promoting their book via speaking engagements is going to be different. The amount of public speaking you want to do is up to you, but it’s somewhat inevitable when it comes to selling your book and promoting yourself. Practice makes perfect, though, and the more experience you have with speaking to an audience, the easier it will become.