How Authors Can P— Off Potential Readers

Guest Post by Irene Watson

There is absolutely no excuse to be pushy and behave like a used car salesperson trying to sell a lemon when marketing a book. I have seen way too many turn-offs recently, especially with most of marketing being done online and through social media. 

As authors, we need to promote our books, but there is a right and a wrong way to market and wanting to sell a book is no excuse for doing things to p— off potential readers.  Here are some examples of ways I’ve seen authors try to sell their books that have been a total turn-off for me. I’ve listed them in order from what are, in my opinion, least to most annoying.

Lying about Your Book’s Greatness

I’ve seen authors lie about how wonderful their books are in several ways.

  1. Having non-credible book endorsements, both on their websites and books’ back covers. By non-credible, I mean having an endorsement signed by “A.K. in Hawaii” or “A Teacher in San Diego.” If these people don’t want to give their names, they probably don’t support your book enough to want to stand by their comments, and they aren’t going to convince me that your book is worth reading. At the very least, you want full names, and a blurb from Tom Smith isn’t going to mean much to me anyway, unless you’ve written a book about healthcare and he’s Dr. Tom Smith from the Cancer Treatment Center of Miami, or something along those lines. If you can’t get experts on your book’s topic or celebrities or other authors to endorse your book, you’re better off just not including any testimonials so it doesn’t look like false promotion.
  2. False testimonials. Yes, I’ve seen false testimonials and heard authors tell me about them. “A.K. in Hawaii” might be the author’s next door neighbor, a real person who really read the book, but he might just as well be someone the author made up. I know of one author who had a comment page on his website, and about once a week, he would post a comment under a false name raving about his book to try to convince his website visitors how popular and wonderful his book was. The sad thing is that this author’s book truly was terrible, full of grammar mistakes and typos and badly printed, so anyone who read the book knew those comments had to be lies or written by completely crazy people.

Showing Off Your Big Ego

Too many authors try to promote themselves in ridiculous ways by writing on their websites how their book is a “must read” and contains the answer to all the reader’s problems. If you have to tell readers that, they aren’t going to believe you. Go find some legitimate testimonials from reliable people who will say those things about your book. You are not qualified to judge your own book because you have a vested interest in it.

The worst example of authors showing their egos that I’ve seen is when they post book reviews for themselves on Amazon and other online bookstores, and of course, they give their books five stars and brag about how great their books are. When I see an author give himself a five-star review, I realize the author is clueless about what is legitimate as a review; he hasn’t done his homework about the publishing industry, and he is trying to use trickery to sell his book. Not only will I not buy the book, but if there’s an option to vote on the review, I will always vote that it was not helpful.

Being In Your Face and Violating Personal Space

No one likes to have his or her personal space violated. However, not everyone has yet learned that the Internet also contains personal space for people. It’s one thing to have your book for sale on your website, at online bookstores, to promote it at websites for book promotion, or to buy Internet ads. It’s another thing to invade other online users’ personal space.

Here are some book marketing efforts I’ve experienced online that have been a total turn-off for me.

  1. Repetitive and Unwanted Emails. I’ve had this happen more times than I can count. Somehow an author finds my email address and adds it to his email list and I start hearing from him every couple of days about all his book events and why I should buy his book. Even if I want to be on the person’s email list, sending me an email every couple of days is irritating. And if you’ve added me to your email list without my permission, well, technically, that’s illegal. (CAN-SPAM ACT)
  2. Sending Friend Requests at Social Media Sites Solely to Promote Your Book. If people are interested in your book, they will request to be your friend at a social media site. Instead of spam friend requests, take out a Facebook ad that will be targeted toward the people most likely to read your book. It might cost you a little more money, but it will save you time online and provide you with far better results.
  3. Posting Book Covers on Other People’s Walls. My “Wall” is not the place to promote your book. My friends are not posting on my Wall so they can find out about your book. Get off my Wall!
  4. Messaging. No one likes junk mail, so don’t send me a message about how great your book is and how I can buy it. I only want messages from my real friends.
  5. Chatting. This one I especially find irritating. One day I was on Facebook, and an author, whom I didn’t know and who had already sent me three messages trying to tell me how great his book was and to let me know I could get it on Kindle for just $2.99, sent me a chat message about his book. If I don’t reply to your message, I sure don’t want to chat with you. I politely ignored him and removed him as my Facebook “friend” rather than tell him to quit harassing me. I wasn’t going to engage in an argument with him. But let’s be clear—Facebook isn’t a place to harass people.  If you want to post about your book, that’s fine but don’t intrude on Walls and on Chat.

Sadly, space violations don’t only happen online. I was once at a book festival where an author made a point of going up to people walking by her booth with a set of headphones and quickly placing them over her victims’ ears before they could object so they could listen to her audio book. When I saw what was going on, I quickly turned down the nearest aisle and avoided that side of the room for the rest of the time I was there. I’ve also stopped to look at books at festivals where authors have said things such as “Why don’t you buy this book?” and “What can I do to get you to buy my book?” You can let me be is what you can do. Tell me about the book if you like, give me a chance to read the back cover, and then I’ll buy or move on. I don’t need a pushy sales pitch.

Have you ever met an author who behaves in these ways? I sure have—too many times. Perhaps you are even one of those authors. Ouch. Hopefully, now you know better. Let’s face it—guerilla book promotion doesn’t work when you act like you have a gorilla’s manners.

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.


Posted on March 11, 2012, in Publicity & Writing, Writing & Publishing. Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. I've raised this matter before. You have no online comments but you do have wonderful print reviews for your book from well-known reviewers and editors at prestigious publications. The reviews are, of course, complimentary but they also raise a few minor points that the reviewers thought detracted from your work. And most importantly, some of these thoughtful reviews raise issues that you, the author, were only vaguely aware of. In a review of one of my movie books, for example, the reviewer commented that the enjoyment of a film depends to a surprisingly large degree on the viewer's expectations. In other words, if a movie has garnered rave reviews, you will probably be disappointed. On the other hand, if you deliberately set your expectations much lower, you will undoubtedly enjoy the film more… To me, this is excellent advice and one I'd like to share with my readers, but you say, "No! Don't do it!"

  2. Well, there may be one or two mitigating circumstances for an "anonymous" review if the subject is related to abuse recovery and you want personal testimonials, it is a bit much to expect the average citizen to want to expose their name, city, and state for everyone to see. I've also seen this in some parenting books where parents don't want to be "named" as having problem children.

  3. That's quite true Victor, however, there are many people that don't mind having their name to a testimonial/review if they are recovering from abuse or have problem children. The blurb/endorsement/review is much more powerful if, for e.g., an abused person,that has written a book, will endorse someone else's work or if a parent that had a problem child and found a way to "un-problem" it through the means the author is writing about. Those that don't want their name exposed are still keepers but not as credible as those that actually have a name attached. I think readers will be able to distinguish between the fake ones written by the author or those written by an unrelated person that wants to have their voice heard.It's those "anonymous" reviews/blurbs that are written for fiction books that raise red flags, especially if it's the only review they have written. There are plenty of those on

  4. I agree. This brings up one other issue… don't beg fellow authors to write a good review for your book. It puts them in an awkward position. Ask for an honest review and let the chips fall where they may.

  5. BonSue. Such a good point! I've received emails from authors telling me they will give me a positive review for my book in exchange for a positive review of theirs. Yikes! It is an awkward position to be in, and not only that, it smells of bribery to me.

  6. Irene, I tried to write a comment here a few hours ago. In it I agreed with every point you made. Then I wondered why Amazon encourages those deceitful "reader" reviews but puts strict limits on "editorial" (also known as "professional") reviews. When I hit the "Preview Post" button below, my comment was apparently deleted. Oh, well, I tried, but it's too late in the evening now to try again. Thanks for the post in any event.

  7. My favorite cheesy line from people who want to sell their marketing book is, “What can I do to help you?” This line is so overused and it comes across completely insincere because what they’re really saying is, “What can I do to entice you to buy my book?” Also, I agree with you regarding the social media phonies. Oftentimes on twitter, I get a direct message from a new follower I had just followed back and it goes something like this: “Thanks for the follow. Have you heard about my blah blah book? You can learn more about it here. Or they’ll say, “Sign up for my free webinar and learn more about what I offer.” I mean really…I just met you. Give me time to get to know you better and build a relationship before you force your book/product on me. And regarding anonymous reviews – It is true that reviews should not be anonymous and need to go with a name. Unfortunately though, some places like Barnes and Noble sometimes remove reviewers’ names and replace them with “anonymous.” I have no idea why they do this, but they did this for one of my books. Couple of readers had reviewed my book and added their name. A year later, Barnes and Noble removed their names for some odd reason and replaced them with “Anonymous.” To this day I have no idea why they did this, but it really made my book lose credibility. Luckily, some of the bloggers who recently reviewed my book, added their reviews there. Hopefully they will not be turned into anonymous by next year.

  8. Irene, I agree with most of what you opine; however, I think the reference to non-credible book endorsements is snobbish. Some of my novels are reviewed by avid readers around the world, not known authors whose endorsements. I believe, are often as fictional as the story to which they are attached and probably part of a deal with a 'name' publishing house. I'll stack my non-credibles honest assessment up against the credibles cookie-cutter clips any day of the week. Allan

  9. Allan, I don't think Irene is being "snobbish." She can speak for herself, but I doubt that she disapproves of intelligent reader reviews that indicate the reviewer actually read the entire book and has something enlightening to say about it, pro and/or con. I agree with you that a lot of those "known author" blurbs are probably just as dishonest as so many "reader" reviews are. And, as you say, "probably part of a deal with a 'name' publishing house."

  10. Thanks for the insight. My first novel is scheduled to be published in a couple of weeks, and, while I would not consider doing the things you mentioned, I want to ensure that none of my marketing efforts give a similar impression to the potential reader.

  11. Thanks Irene for the very informative post. I'm guilty of some of the "turn-offs" you mentioned in this article. I’ve drowned friends with endless emails and “friend” requests. I’ve even made posts to “Buy my book” to many blogs. I AM THE TURN-OFF YOU TALK ABOUT.I’m not new to the world of writing but I’m new to the world of marketing. In a way, I’m in the crawl phase (Crawl-Walk-Run) of marketing. I need to learn a little more in order to proceed to the walk phase. Your newsletter is a great teaching tool for that.Think of me as that little kid in the grocery checkout line. I’m crying loudly because my mother won’t let me have that candy bar. All the other shoppers are looking at me with beaming eyes. But eventually, I will grow up and stop making such a fuse about not getting the candy bar.Sometimes it just takes someone to point out the “turn-offs”. So, if I turned-off some people, I apologize and I will proceed to the walk phase.

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