4 Mistakes Writers Make When Selling their Novel

By on 10. September 2016, in General

We have all been guilty of it at some point. You pour your heart and soul into a novel, spending months carefully crafting it and polishing it off, and then prepare yourself to release it into the world. Maybe you’ve been lucky enough to get yourself an agent, maybe you just prefer the self-publishing route. Either way – you have your release date, you maybe write some press releases and you are ready to go… Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 12.24.42



If this sounds like you, don’t do anything else until you read the rest of this post. Because if you haven’t done one of these four major mistakes, you are about to…

1) Assume Your Book Is Going To Sell Itself

Listen up now because this may be hard to hear.

No one – except maybe the exceptionally lucky – has ever had their book top the bestsellers by just writing it and sitting back on their laurels.

No one.

Unfortunately, writing never works out the way you want it to be. We would all love it if writing was just about bashing out that novel, releasing it like a bird into the world and then waiting for the paycheques to roll in. But the world doesn’t work like that.

No matter how good your novel or short story or novella or poem is, it will not become an international success by just sitting on Amazon waiting for the readers to come and find it. There is so much stuff on the internet now that you have to signpost your work and – unfortunately – that takes a lot of time and dedication. It takes a lot of reminding people, it takes a lot of spreading the word and – yes, I’m sorry to all you introverts out there – it takes a lot of talking to people. I mean – physically talking to people.

Don’t underestimate the power of talking about your book face-to-face. If you can do it passionately, the world is your oyster.

2) Assume Your Publisher is Going to Do All the Hard Work For You

If you are lucky enough to have convinced a traditional publisher to take your work – brilliant. But don’t assume they are going to plaster your name over every billboard and poster they have at their disposal. The millions of pounds worth of book advertising that publishers pour out every year is usually reserved for the top-named authors (you know, the Lee Childs, Robert Harris and John Grishams of this world) and – let’s face it – if you were one of those, you probably wouldn’t be reading this post right now.

Even if you have one of the big publishers on your side, they are not going to invest stupid amounts of money on you unless they know you’re going to sell. If you are first time author, they won’t be able to guarantee that. You’re going to have to do a lot of the hard work yourself. That means setting up interviews, arranging book signings, touring around talking to people.

Sure, you might be able to get a lot of helpful advice from the publisher – after all, they want you to be a success as well. Just don’t expect them to spend a king’s ransom on you. You’re not that valuable to them.


3) Ignore the Power of Multimedia

We live in the digital age. It’s not just about what you write in your stories anymore. It’s about how you look, how you present yourself. Far too many authors ignore the opportunities presented by sites like YouTube and Vimeo and they do so at their peril. These sites are potential goldmines of free advertisement.

For the price of a camera and some cheap editing software, you can make good-quality videos that show your reader what kind of person you are. By doing your own author interviews, you can tell people what benefit your book has for them without them having to wade through paragraphs of book blurbs. You can market your book with a trailer that will get people excited.

There is so much that you can do to sell your book. And the great thing is that – once you’ve made it – you can share it to your heart’s content.

Easy, low-cost advertising.

4) Assume Social Media Will Solve Your Problems

This is a personal bugbear of mine:

I get so fed up of seeing book adverts on Twitter. It literally drives me up the wall. I don’t go on social media to be sold stuff – I go on it to be sociable…

Well, sort of…

I do understand the logic. You have twenty thousand followers. If every single one of those brought your book then that is twenty thousand copies sold. Brilliant – the maths works.

But when 90% of your twenty thousand followers are actually only following you so they can sell you stuff, do you really think your book will become a best seller because of Twitter?

The vast majority of writers have large followings that are made up almost entirely of other writers or other artists. People who are doing precisely the same thing as you – trying to build a fan base. And, as far as they are concerned, you’re not their favourite author – you are just another potential fan for them. Sorry, but that’s the way it is.

These people have no more interest in buying your book than you have of buying theirs – so why are you wasting time on them?

Admittedly social media it’s a great way to let your friends know about you impending book launch. But think about it like this – is telling them through Facebook going to be more effective than having a conversation with them? What does using Twitter do that talking normally doesn’t?

It restricts you…

You can get lost in the sea of screaming voices wanting to be heard…

You could get the link to your sales page out there I guess. But wouldn’t it be more effective if you wrote a nice, personalised email instead of just a blanket advert?

Seriously, think about it.

Nothing will get the word out about your book more than the personal, face-to-face touch. Yes, it’s easy to just schedule a tweet and sit back. But sitting back and relaxing doesn’t sell books.

Hard Work Does.

My advice to you? Delete your Author Fan Pages. They won’t help you in the early stages of your writing career.

So, what now?

If you’ve caught yourself out doing any of these things, just remember that selling a book is like selling anything else: a house, a car, an iPad, a pair of high heels. You have to show value for money. For writers that means showing people your passion.

Passion is not hiding behind a computer writing 140 character posts that sum up your book.

Passion is not letting someone else do the hard work for you.

Passion is going out there and showing people how great you think your book is. Let them see why you were excited enough to write it, let them feel how strongly attached you are to your characters…

I guarantee you, it will do far more for your book sales than any tweet.

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