Book Marketing Techniques That Don’t Work

Guest Post by Irene Watson

As authors, whether we are self-published or published by a publishing firm, small press, or a large publishing house, getting noticed is one of our primary challenges.  Some publishers offer marketing support, either as prepaid services or part of the publishing contract.  Yet, if you are self-published you are entirely on your own.

The Internet is inundated with promotional services, marketing companies, advice from other authors and publicity gurus.  And, there are hundreds of publicists offering their services.  Options range from expensive (most publicists charge between $10,000 to $30,000 for a three month contract) to overpriced (services offered by most publishing firms which could range anywhere between $500 and $10,000) to free (social media you do yourself.)  As well, arm-chair experts, through blogs, offer their expertise on “what you should do” usually for free.  Yet, much of this information is regurgitated from others’ and they offer nothing new.

I’ve noticed recently that email campaigns are re-emerging.  For awhile, when social media marketing was the “new” wave these campaigns slowed down but I assume most companies are finding that social media isn’t as effective as anticipated.  Beg to differ?  If you are an author and you are on FaceBook or Twitter, how many books did you buy from your “followers”?  And, I bet you are just as inundated as I am with posts about their fantastic books and that you should buy them, but how many of these people actually purchased your book?  Enough said.

Email campaigns come in different forms and from different sources.  There are many email blast companies online; even the credit score monitoring company Experian offers email campaigns. You can also buy your own software to send out blasts. And, you can purchase or rent email lists from the hundreds of companies online and send them out yourself. 

As well, many of the self-publishing firms also sell email services. These could range anywhere from $350 for an eblast to $10,000 for a tailored campaign which would include 10 million addresses.

This all may sound fine-and-dandy, but are you aware of the CAN-SPAM ACT released in 2004, with updates in 2008, by the Federal Trade Commission?  It is the official law that governs the transmission of business related (yes, your book is a business) emails. SPAM is defined by the act as unsolicited marketing emails.  So…what does all this mean?  Unsolicited Commercial E-mail (UCE) (also known as Spam) is prohibited and email campaigns should only be sent to 100% opt-in lists. This means that anyone you send an email campaign to must have agreed to receive information from you. This also means that you can’t barter or purchase/rent lists to legally send out email campaigns.

Sure, you can possibly get around the spam aspect through one of these campaigns by using the campaign company to send out the emails but most of these lists wouldn’t be targeted, despite of what they might promise.  Do you really think that there are 10 million people that signed up to receive notification of a book published about making purple widgets? Doubtful.  Or do you think that 1000 book reviewers are eager to review your yellow widget book? Doubtful.  Also, be skeptical if you are told 10 million people opted-in to receive information about your book.  Doubtful.  I once heard someone saying that sending out an email campaign through a service is equivalent to dropping your book announcement off the top of building and hoping it lands in front of someone that might be interested. Be wary if you are swayed into buying an email campaign service because it’s doubtful the list contains a selective list of interested readers; it’s mainly a list of people that probably aren’t even interested in your book, or a list of harvested email addresses to pump up the numbers. 

This is a technique that doesn’t work so don’t waste your money. But, there is a technique that could work and is a cheap way to get your message out to your potential readers.  First of all, start creating your own list of those in your personal email address list because these people have already consented to getting your emails. (Be discerning because not all of your friends or family want to get eblasted continually about your book. Put yourself in their place and ask yourself how often you want to hear from them about their book, and what should that email look like.)  Also, your website visitors are your potential readers so it’s important to provide them the option to subscribe to your mailings. (Remember to use the captcha to prevent bots filling out the form automatically.  The captcha requires a human to fill out.) However, just putting up a sign-up form doesn’t work; you have to give a solid reason to have the visitors give you their email address.  Explain clearly what they will receive for their email address: news, tips, promotions, etc.  Dismiss the skepticism and provide something of value. And when I say value, it doesn’t mean the first chapter of your book or a poem you have written. It has to be something the visitor wants or needs. For e.g., on my personal author website I provide a full version of an ebook to anyone that signs up.

If you do have a legitimate list (one that you created yourself from your opt-in list) there a few things you also need to know to comply with the CAN-SPAM ACT:

1.  The From “Address” and/or From “Name” must be recognizable by the recipient.
2.  Do not offer the recipient an incentive (awards, discounts, money) to forward the email to their list.
3.  The opt-out link must be available and not complicated. 
4.  Your physical postal address must be visible in the message.
5.  Subject line must be straightforward and not misleading.

Yes, you have to put all those items in the email campaigns you send out – even if it is only 25 or 100 on your list; if you are promoting your book, you have to comply with the CAN-SPAM ACT.

Irene Watson is the Managing Editor of Reader Views, where avid readers can find  reviews  of recently published books as well as read interviews with authors. Her team also provides author publicity  and a variety of other services specific to writing and publishing books.

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Posted on January 1, 2012, in Publicity & Writing, Writing & Publishing. Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Thank you for the useful information (as usual). I have wondered about some of the marketing offers and it's nice to know I haven't wasted my limited funds. What do you know about Google Ads? I have used that on a limited basis, since I feel some advertising is necessary, but can't track it because I link directly to my amazon site. Thanks for all you do!Sherrill Cannon

  2. Hi Irene. In my previous post regarding your article Book Marketing Techniques that don't work, I posted the blog name as "Books and Authors." I'd like to correct the name. It's "Books and Writers." I tend to think of Writers as Authors. Thank you.

  3. This is excellent, informed advice.

  4. I can tell you what does work! My http://www.Personaldevelopmentradiomediatour.com, of which Reader Views is an affiliate. I've become my own posterchild, using it to launch my new book Practical Conscious Creation. I've done 85 interviews and I know it works because I watch my BookScan numbers on Authorcentral.com. I'm selling anywhere from 10-25 books a week thanks to my radio interviews. Would love you to help more personal growth/inspirational/spiritual/self-help/success principle/consious living authors use this valuable tool! And any of your readers receive the $500 discount! best, jackie

  5. Nice and very observant post, Irene. Thanks for the reminder of how much time I waste with some of the mentions "that don't work."

  6. Thanks for the information, Irene. I never believed the claims made by those companies offering to send out emails to a million "targeted" readers. You've laid the matter to rest for me.

  7. Like the adage says – if it seems to good to be true it probably is.. There is no easy way to market or promote, even if you want to spend money.

  8. Super information about CAN-SPAM Act — too many don't follow the rules and trashy emails get through, anyway. Related to social media not working, if Twitter, Facebook and the like haven't led to book sales, it's because those authors are doing little but posting solicitations to an untargeted audience. I encourage authors to share background tidbits about what led to the writing of their books, valuable nuggets from the book that will inform and entertain, and most importantly, answer questions, communicate and EXCHANGE thoughts with followers. Most authors I've followed do not do this and after giving them time to correct their ways, I, too, eventually unfollow and don't purchase their books. After all, most of us hate the hard sell and the purpose of quality social media is engagement. One-way (non)communication doesn't work. Thanks again for a valuable marketing post. I will share it with my attentive social media audience.

  9. Thanks Irene. Great Post!

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