— To promote a book, an author needs help, and that help comes from people in the media-from book reviewers to journalists, conference planners to bloggers, and many, many others. Approaching these people properly and following their guidelines is essential for winning them over so they will cheerfully help you to promote your book. While good manners and common sense should prevail, all book promoters have their horror stories about difficult authors.
10 Constraints on Publishers and Book Promoters
Following are the Top Ten most common complaints I have heard from various publicists and book promoters about authors with whom they have worked or refused to work.
1. Making Cold Calls
The telephone is a great means of communication, but it's also a great interrupter. Before you call someone, visit his website and read all the guidelines. If you can't get an answer to a question, send an email. People are busy, so when you call them, you interrupt them. Most people will reply to your email in a timely manner, and if a phone call is needed, you can ask in an email when is the best time to call.
2. Being a Bad Guest
Sometimes it's not all about the author and the book. TV and radio hosts need guests and they like experts. They especially rely on authors of non-fiction books who can inform their audience. In these cases, authors need to remember it's not about them or their book; it's about the topic they were invited to discuss. Don't try to plug your book during the show; just inform the audience. The host will doubtless mention your book when he or she introduces you and again when the program ends. Be a good guest by following protocol and fulfilling the host's need to give his audience what it wants and you might even be invited back.
3. Being Impatient
Everyone is busy today. Magazines and other publications are often planning out issues six months in advance. Newspaper reporters are struggling to meet today's deadline. And book reviewers have stacks of books to review. Don't expect people to respond to you immediately. Don't expect them to drop everything to read your book or even your press release. Give them a reasonable amount of time. If you contact someone and you don't hear back from her right away, wait a couple of weeks and then follow up, or ask upfront what is the timeframe for when your book review or the news story might appear. Being impatient will only irritate people, and even if they do run your news story to make you quit bothering them, they might not be willing to do so the next time around.
4. Mailing Out Unsolicited Books and Manuscripts
In submitting books to publishers, usually a query letter is sufficient. Nothing is worse than getting stacks of unsolicited manuscripts in the mail without return postage. The same is true with books for reviewers, especially when accompanied by a letter that says, "Thanks for requesting my book" when the book wasn't requested. Furthermore, as the author, you're wasting money. Most unsolicited books end up never being read and instead are donated to a library or Goodwill store, while the manuscripts end up in the circular file, and you'll be lucky to receive back a formal rejection letter.
5. Posting Your Own Book Reviews
Any author with a grain of sense should know better than to post book reviews at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other online bookstores and give his book five stars. Nothing makes an author look worse. And almost as bad is when Mom, your brother, and Uncle Joe post the reviews for you-you can often tell because Mom will say, "I'm so proud of you, Mary, for writing a book." The same is true for your website if you have a guestbook to sign-tell your family to stay away from it. Your publicist who wants you to look professional will be pulling out his hair if he has to deal with your mom promoting your book.
6. Printing Non-Credible Blurbs and Testimonials
I know you've seen them. The testimonial from A.K. in Hawaii who doesn't want anyone to know he loves a book but still writes a book review. Who is A.K.? Why do readers care? Find testimonials from authors and experts in your field who are willing to give you their full name. If you don't know anyone who can give you a testimonial, get busy looking for someone. If you still can't find anyone, don't print any testimonials on the back of your book. No blurb is better than a bad or fake blurb. A.K. may be a real person, but for all the reader knows, the author could have made up A.K.
7. Indulging in Self-Praise
Authors who praise themselves and their books only prove to people what big egos they have. This lack of emotional intelligence likely also shows up in a lack of good judgment in writing the book. Don't make your website read like a commercial for your book. Make it informative, but beginning with "My book is the best one ever written on this topic" and "This wonderful novel was written with touching scenes, engaging characters, etc." is a turn-off. It's fine if you have testimonials from others saying those things. Just don't say them yourself. The same is true with the book's cover. Tell people what your book is about, but save the praise for your endorsers.
8. Having Insufficient Material
Nothing irritates a book promoter more than trying to promote a book that is not promotable. What makes a book unable to be promoted? No website to visit; no placement in bookstores, either physical or online. No email address to contact the author. Believe it or not, I've seen authors who say, "Readers can mail me a check for $19.95 to my address at P.O. Box etc., if they want a copy." People want a chance to look at the book and read about it before they mail you a check, and they want to pay online because it's faster and easier than mailing a check. Create an Internet and bookstore profile or your books will rot in your basement.
9. Hiding Your Identity
No one can promote your book if you won't promote it. Readers care as much about the author these days as they do about the book. You need to be a visible presence in your book's promotion. No pseudonyms. Your face needs to be on your website and on the book's cover with a short biography. You need to blog and promote via social media so you appear like a real person online. You need to make appearances at book signings and other events. It's difficult for a publicist or a radio host to say "This is a great book" and make people interested. It's easier for them to say, "I've read this great book and here is the author who is going to tell you about it." Your book is your child. Don't send your child out into the world alone. Hold its hand and go with it.
10. Expecting Something for Nothing
Nothing is going to irritate a book promoter more than an author who acts like he and his book deserve publicity and deserve it for free. It takes a long time to read a book and write a review or a blog. It costs money to operate a website and pay people to maintain it. Even if a service is free, such as a journalist writing a newspaper article about your book, appreciate the value of that person's time and send a thank you note after the story appears. Always give book promoters a free copy of your book. And do not complain about prices. If you can't afford the service, find one you can afford, but don't argue over the fees. Remember that the publishing world is a small place-you don't want word to get around that you are cheap or a deadbeat.
Authors, now that you know what irritates book promoters, ask yourself whether you're guilty. Are people not returning your calls because you're being pushy or you're clueless about the proper ways to promote your book? Now you know. There's no more excuses. Go out and promote your book with new confidence and proper promotion etiquette.
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.