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by Patricia Fry

5 Book Promotion Mistakes and How to Fix Them

By Patricia 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 SPAWN (Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network) and 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 author has the power to change the situation. Here are five common mistakes first-time authors make and tips for how to repair them:

1: The author doesn’t know that he is responsible for promotion. Obviously, this author didn’t take the time 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 the crossing of t’s.

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, include a complete index.

For a novel, choose a setting that is conducive to promotion—a town where residents would welcome your promotional appearances. Give a character a common affliction, interesting hobby or a condition that’s been in the news lately.

Build promotion into your how-to book by involving a lot of experts and/or organizations. For a novel, give a character a popular ailment and present it in a positive light. Related associations might agree to help with promotion.

3: The author neglects to establish a platform. A platform is 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.

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 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 and an active Web site.

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. The reality is that few authors can get new books into bookstores. But space on bookstore shelves does not guarantee sales.

How can you sell books bookstores? Make a big enough splash with your book that readers are swarming to bookstores asking for it. Appear on TV and radio, present large seminars related to your book and getting tons of press by creating news and submitting press releases to newspapers everywhere.

5: The author gives up. You won’t achieve the level of success you desire if you quit. That is one thing for sure.

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 has been writing for publication for 27 years, having contributed articles to numerous magazines. She published her first book in 1983 and now has many self-published and traditionally published books to her credit. See her most recent books in the left column of this page.

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