You’re a self-publishing author, recently come out with a new book, and you’ve already decided to throw yourself into marketing in a serious capacity.  So what next?  Finding that starting point is a tough first act, but it’s always helpful to know a couple of false starts that others have made before you, isn’t it?  That way, at least you know a couple of places not to start, and you can find a path to success that fits your own indie experience, bolstering your skills and steering clear of your weaknesses.

Today, I’m going to begin a new series that will take a close look at several of the most important marketing missteps to avoid; the story doesn’t end here, of course, but hopefully this series will prompt you away from the edge of a few abysses.  One or two of the mistakes I’ll point out may strike you as “common sense” points, but as my dad once whispered to ten-year-old me on a sidewalk corner facing a four-way stop in heavy traffic where nobody could quite figure out the correct right-of-way: “Common sense ain’t so common now, is it?”  Even if a mistake strikes you as obvious, every reminder is a good one!

This week’s post is going to examine one of the most pernicious of all marketing missteps: that of the self-centered campaign.  At its simplest distillation, the self-centered campaign will alienate you from your readers quicker than a ten-year-old at a traffic stop.  Why?  Because readers are smart.  (I find it’s a wise policy to always assume my readers are smarter than I am, and they always seem to notice even the tiniest of continuity errors in my work before I do!)  They will pick up on the arrogance–intentional or unconscious–of an author who makes their marketing campaign all about his or her excellence instead of shining the spotlight on the real stars of the show: the book itself, and the readers who have so cleverly fallen in love with it.

arrogance in marketing

Here’s a hard fact to swallow: Your readers won’t always care about you, the author.  You might be able to persuade them to, a little, over time, simply by virtue of writing excellent social media posts or demonstrating sensitivity to others.  One crucial misunderstanding that self-publishing authors make is believing that they and their readers value the same things.  Hopefully, your readers will care about your humanity and the work you produce, but beyond that is murky waters.  How do we un-murkify them?  By doing the work.  By doing the research.  By figuring out what you do for your readers that no one else can.

To successfully market your indie book, don’t sell the customer your product (or book) … sell them your solution to their needs.  What issues interest your readers?  What subjects compel them?  These are the basic components with which you can build a successful marketing campaign.

Market research, even basic, is more than just helpful.  It’s necessary.  It is the one magical ingredient that will move your strategy away from something self-centered and toward something that is product- and consumer-centered.

But how to get there?  What are the best strategies for research?  One consideration might be to craft a simple survey with SurveyMonkey, or to poll a small focus group.  I recommend steering clear of using friends or family as focus group members, since their personal connections to you will skew how they answer.  And besides, online crowd-sourcing platforms like the aforementioned SurveyMonkey (as well as Facebook Groups and Google Forms) make for an inexpensive replacement for focus groups.  What you ask depends on what you find useful, but it might be worth crafting a few questions that speak to your readers’ genres of interest, the amount of time they spend reading or on social media, and how they like best to engage with fellow fans and their favorite authors.

Whichever avenue you pursue, these basic data-gathering methods should give you new insight into your readers, and help you shape your marketing message to focus less on you and more on the them.


Thank you for reading!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at selfpublishingadvice@gmail.com.  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠

KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com. 10:00 AM

4 thoughts on “Marketing Missteps Episode 1: The Self-Centered Campaign

  1. Yes, it’s important to create your author brand but if you want to sell books, the campaign needs to be focused on the book and why people will want to buy it. This is especially true for new authors that are just starting to build up a following.

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