10 Rules of Book Marketing

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Rule #1- If someone is charging you anything over $100, check their credentials. Ask yourself if what they're offering is something you can do on your own. For example, sometimes promo from reputable sources is good, but for $100 you can tweet, post, and blog about your own book.

Rule #2- Before you spend money on a company that offers marketing services for your book, check their website to see if it's up-to-date. For example, if the last client they helped was two or three years ago, that's a red flag. If their photographs from events are from 2-3 years that's a red flag too. If the last time they published a newsletter is older than 2-3 years, then guess what? That is also a red flag. Either they don't care about their business or their services are probably shoddy. Anyone doing "legit" business should have an up-to-date client list, website, events, and newsletters.

Rule #3- Almost everyone is a self-proclaimed promoter of books these days. Why? It's BIG business! Two key words that should make you run from them. "Guarantee" and "promise." Think about it, how can anyone guarantee or promise book sales? No matter how much money you spend on marketing, you can NEVER know the outcome of your book sales. Don't let crooked promoters sell you hope.

Rule #4- If a promoter has a newsletter or magazine and they charge you money to promote your book, first, look at the product they're putting out to others. Is the newsletter or magazine put together well? Is it appealing? How much traffic or readership do the publications receive? If their product isn't appealing to you, why invest in it? That's like going to the grocery store picking fruit. Would you buy a decaying banana? Remember, if you choose to promote your book in a product/service that isn't appealing, adding your book to it won't make it attractive.

Rule #5- Marketing does cost money, but it doesn't have to break the bank. A service that costs more does not mean it's effective. Stay within your budget and pace yourself. You don't have to pay for book promotion all in one setting. You could try setting a goal of using an outside source for promoting every 3-6 months, as long as it's within your marketing budget.

Rule #6- ASK QUESTIONS! So many people are afraid of asking questions and it's because they don't want to offend the seller. If you're spending your money, you have a right to ask questions. You should not have any emotional attachments to someone you don't know or even if you know them, it's business. Ask how their services have benefited other clients, do they have any clients who can vouch for their good services, and do they have a media kit that includes statistical data for their advertising services? (This should be public record). For example, if you were to consider posting an ad with Ebony magazine, they have a media kit that lets you know their readership. Granted, if you're self-published it's likely that you'll be advertising with a smaller press. Nonetheless, rather small or large, they should be able to provide you with the information you ask for. If a business is reluctant to answer your questions or you're still unsure despite their answers, move on. You're not obligated to them.

Rule #7- Some things are negotiable, especially with small advertising press, but you never know until you try. Speak with the person in charge of marketing and promotion. Be upfront and let them know your budget. If they're a smart business owner, and depending on what type of services you're asking them for, they will accept your money. Why? Because some money is better than no money. If you're not able to negotiate, you can either accept the fee or move on. Promoters are a dime a dozen, it's not the end of the world.

Rule #8- "Good" communication is the lifeline of doing good business. When you first express an interest in doing business with a marketing promoter, pay attention to the way they communicate. My mother used to say, a fast talker is a smooth walker. That means they talk fast to get what they want and then walk away with your money. Make them slow down. Ask them to repeat themselves. If they seem irritated after a while, they were only trying to hustle you. On the other hand, don't be fooled by appealing words more than what they're actually promising to do for you. For example, they may say something like, "61% percent of readers buy books based on the cover while the remaining 39% percent will buy books based on the synopsis." While this may sound informative, your question to them should be, "What percentage of your clients have had success with using your services?"
Don’t allow yourself to get distracted by their knowledge. It's their goal to know the business, but it's also their goal to know how they can wheel you in.

Rule #9- A good service for the majority, may not be a good service for you. Sometimes, we’re referred to a company or individual promoter who have helped other authors we know. Perhaps they've had success. However, when you decided to use their services (after doing all of your homework about them), sometimes that service may not have worked for you. For example, I tried a blog tour with a company when I first started out in the book publishing business, and I was excited to do it, but nothing happened. In fact, I wasn't even sure what was supposed to happen. I just knew I was out of $50 dollars. The next blog tour I participated in for less money didn't increase my book sales either, but I gained over 100 additional followers on social media, and I met some really nice authors who are still my literary friends and supporters to this day. What works for most, may not work for you.

Rule #10- This is not really a rule, but something to consider....
Everyone uses social media to promote their books. Despite the fact that it's rare that people buy books from an author they don't know, we do it anyway. Why? Because there's a chance that despite there being many fishers at the same sea, a reader may find something appealing in our promotion. However, sometimes we have a better chance of attracting a new reader by using a company or individual with a large following of readers of your genre. They may have a very popular book blog, book club, newsletter, YouTube Channel or even host events that attract mass readers from all over. If the price is right for you, go for it! On the other hand, I’m a big believer and living proof that direct sales work better if done correctly. Don’t get me wrong, direct sales took practice, but I started with environments I felt comfortable in, such as the doctor’s office, bank, my kid’s school, and the library. I learned that people love to examine a product before they buy. It’s no different than going to the grocery store. Although they offer to shop for groceries online, most people still go to the store to buy certain items. Why? Because they need to see, smell, and touch. With marketing, sometimes you have to cast your net wider to catch fish and veer a little to the left from the other fishermen. By being determined, doing the right things at the right time, you never know how successful you can be.

Author Selena Haskins

Selena Haskins is the author of her best-selling book A River Moves Forward. In 2013, recognized Selena as a Top 100 Author.

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