From Rick:

Last week I talked about the dangers of Kindle Select when used improperly. This week I want to mention a couple of book marketing games that rarely lead to significant sales and that can backfire.

An author’s primary goal must be to make readers aware of his or her book. Where most new authors often go wrong is that they have no idea how to do this, so they grab on to ideas that seem easy and logical (and are easy). The lure of social media is at least partly responsible for many ill-conceived marketing ideas.

Newly self-published authors are proud of their accomplishment and having their first novel (which may or may not be noteworthy) out there. They tell everyone they know about their book; they tell all their friends; they join blogs and tell everyone on them about their books (usually indiscriminately and somewhat selfishly). After all, they reason, isn’t letting people know about your book the way to get sales?

Let’s break this down. First of all, while your friends (some of them anyway) might be happy that you’ve published a book, it’s likely that only a small percentage will be interested in the book. Sure, some may buy it just to be nice, but this type of sale is precisely not what you’re looking for. You want interested people to buy the book, people who will spread the word. Your friends probably won’t do that (even they like the book) because most likely their circle of friends is similar to yours anyway–and all your friends already know. Therefore, sales to friends are often a dead end. This is marketing mistake number one.

Mistake number two is spamming all the blogs and discussion groups you’ve joined. I belong to one author group whose purpose is to help and support the members. When the group was small, seeing notices about members’ books wasn’t too bad. The problem was that some authors did it too often (like every week or two): same blurb, same book, same plea to check it out. Meanwhile, the group grew from a couple hundred members to several hundred, and the first thing nearly every new member did was to post a promo about his or her book. Only a few really asked questions–after all, they joined not because they were writing a book, but because they’d written and published a book and were looking for ways to sell it. So why not take advantage of a captive audience? Even the few who asked about marketing or other things would post a link (and blurb) to their books in the process, no doubt hoping to general sales through the subtle approach.

You have to understand that this is a group of authors, not readers (although authors do read), and it didn’t take long for it to become primarily a group of authors selling to one another. Not good. The group has now banned such promotions and started a second group for promotional help (the first group being restricted to a Q&A group. However, even in the new group–NO SELLING TO THE MEMBERS! You can ask members to help spread the word, but you can’t post sales links with the intent of selling. And you know what? New members still don’t read the posted rule for the group. The first thing I see from nearly all new members is a sales link to their book. And their post gets deleted by the group’s Admin.

What you might ask, is wrong with selling to other authors? Well, nothing really, except that these aren’t the people you should be targeting for sales. And why aren’t they? Because authors represent only a tiny fraction of your potential readers.

Furthermore, authors generally don’t have much time to spread the word on your books because they’re focused on their own works. Sure, you may get a few takers. In truth, I’ve discovered and read several good books in the group, and I’ve told a couple of friends about them, but my efforts to help with the promotion are so minimal as to not be significant.

This, therefore, is one downside of the marketing game: attempting to sell only to people you know or have direct access to. This isn’t marketing. This is begging (or guilting) people to buy your books.

Now, I’m not saying that selling to friends and acquaintances is wrong, but you should (1) make sure your friend actually likes the type of book you’ve written, and (2) you’re not limiting yourself only to friends. If you don’t go beyond these circles of people, you have little chance of selling your book in meaningful quantities.

Proper marketing means bringing your book to the attention of people outside your narrow circles. This means doing some legwork and making serious and sensible marketing choices that don’t cost you unreasonable amount of money and time. This means doing your research, reading blogs on the Internet about marketing, and figuring out how to target the specific audiences that will appreciate your book, buy it, and spread the word to their friends instead of yours.

Scott and I aren’t going to tell you how you should market because we don’t have all the answers. If you’re just starting out, you might want to check out David Gaughran’s LET’S GET VISIBLE. To be honest, neither Scott nor I have read this yet, but David Gaughran has been in the ebook game from the beginning, has done the research, and I’ve heard very good things about the book.

But our best advice is to do your research and check out some of the excellent blogs out there instead of joining every chat group you can find and trying to sell to those members.

–Rick