Can Your Book Marketing Be Detrimental?

author marketing_bubbleIn a world where purchasers often need to see a product as many as twenty times before they decide to purchase it, is there anything an author can do, in terms of marketing, that is bad for their book?

I pose the question, even though I don’t entirely have an answer. I am leaning toward yes, but first let me tell you why I posed the question. An author I know told me something they were planning to do to market their book. I thought it was the stupidest thing I’d ever heard. (And, NO, I won’t tell you what it was.) While I can be fairly blunt, I’m not blunt enough to blurt out that I think an idea is completely idiotic. I did, however, ask, “Do you really think that will be effective?”

The author’s response. “Can’t hurt, can it?”

Well, that is the 64-million-dollar question. Like a lot of people, I’ve listed my book on sites that don’t have the hugest reach, figuring that it might help, but even if it doesn’t, it can’t hurt. I mean, if some readers need to see a book twenty times before acting on it, that means being in as many places as possible is a plus.

Yet, does the virtual equivalent of standing on the corner with a sandwich board sign actually help? Or, the better question is, does it help enough to cover your outlay of time and energy? Or should your time and energy be devoted to strategies that have been proven more effective? Should you use your time and energy to write another book or build your mailing list? Those are both proven avenues for improving book sales and building your author platform.

The idea of “thinking outside the box” is popular with people hoping “outside the box” strategies will help them strike gold (literally or figuratively). However, the reason people use “inside the box” strategies is because they’re proven to work. They don’t want to waste their time trying strategies with low or no effectiveness. Outside-the-box strategies often just don’t work. That’s why they’re outside the box.

In some instances, going for strategy that is really “outside the box” can hurt. I recently read an article about a man who decided to create a website with a controversial proposition, in hopes of boosting book sales. The strategy was outside the box, but also offended people who thought the site was about a real person, and then left bad reviews on the author’s Amazon book page. Now, that’s an extreme example of an outside-the-box strategy going wrong.

Most cases of strategies that run “outside the box” are not going to end up directly hurting your book sales or reviews. Tossing your book onto a site with a paltry readership will probably not hurt your book on its own. Will other strategies or sites on the fringes hurt? Again, probably not. But, cumulatively, wasting time on ineffective things does hurt your writing career, because you’re spending time that you could be writing on things that aren’t helping you.

I would say the concept of effective frequency is a good one. Getting your book out there is a good idea. But the key to that phrase is effective. If you’re pressed for time, evaluate which strategies are most effective and start with those. If they’re not working, don’t immediately say, “these strategies don’t work.” If they’re tried-and-true strategies, examine how you’ve executed them to see if you’re doing them properly. If you’re not, then reformulate your plan to execute them correctly. If you’re doing it right, then you may want to consider some outside-the-box strategies. But, don’t devote so much time to pie-in-the-sky practices that you’re not pushing forward with more effective methods.

Author: RJ Crayton

RJ Crayton is a former journalist turned novelist. By day, she writes thrillers with a touch of romance. By night, she practices the art of ninja mom. To learn more about her or her books, visit her website or her Author Central page.

9 thoughts on “Can Your Book Marketing Be Detrimental?”

  1. I’m sure there are things you can do marketing your book that will hurt it, RJ.

    Some things are hard to measure. Using your time on activity X when you’d have sold more books in the long run using the time on activity Y (which might be working on your next book) is one. But I don’t think that answer, if you could figure out X and Y, are in the spirit of your original question. I think there are some authors who hurt themselves more than help in the way they market on social media. Anything that angers your audience like the website you discussed could do it. Controversy can be good, drawing attention, but not always.

    However, I have one thing that I’m positive is going to backfire, at least for me, and have actually experienced. This was an author who unilaterally added me to his or her newsletter mailing list. Not just once, but twice. Every time they sent out a newsletter I’d receive it and few minutes later a duplicate copy would show up. I finally got irritated and clicked the link to remove myself. It worked for a while. The a few months later, they started showing up again. (That’s right, the author had added me back.)

    1. Al, I think you’ve hit the biggee on the head. One thing that I know turns off readers (it certainly turns ME off) is being hit over and over and over with the “buy my book!” messages. Not only will readers tune it out, if it continues, they will actually be annoyed or angry at the bombardment, and like your example, turn that into blowback negative reviews. Maybe some authors think they can’t get the word out often enough, but believe me, they can–way too much.

    2. Yes, adding people without permission is never a good thing. I think anything you do to tick off readers or potential readers just for the sake of controversy is bad. (Obviously, if you tend to speak on political issues, like a Rush Limbaugh or Jon Stewart, you’re going to tick off somebody. But just saying something to create controversy, when that’s not your niche, rarely works out.)

      Trying to quantify if X vs. Y is going to be ostensibly better is harder. But anyone feeling overwhelmed with their ToDo list may want to jettison some of the outlier items.

      1. You know, this didn’t even occur to me as a marketing ploy, but you’re right, it is. I can’t tell you how many people add me to their newsletters list because I’ve “corresponded with them at one point.” It’s a nightmare how many unsolicited newsletters I get and you’re right, I wouldn’t buy their books because of it. So yeah, it backfired.

        1. Agreed! I’d much rather get people to sign up for my newsletter on their own. There’s a better chance they’ll read it if no one helpfully signed them up for the list – and the point is to get people to read it, right?

  2. Great post, RJ. I think half the reason we try the ‘outside the box’ strategies is because we’re obsessed with becoming successful /now/, or preferably yesterday.

    To me that’s like trying the grapefruit diet; it rarely works, but it does promise to make you thin fast, fast, fast! Sadly the only thing that takes weight off and keeps it off is a healthy lifestyle, and the same can be said for marketing.

    For me, a healthy marketing ‘lifestyle’ is writing more and keeping my blog ticking over. That is all I can manage consistently, week after week, month after month. Now I just have to cross my fingers and hope it works…one day. 😀

    1. That’s such a great analogy, A.C.

      There’s rarely such a thing as quick and easy that actually works in people’s favor.

      Slow and steady wins the race.

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