megaphone-man01I hear writers say it all the time. It starts with the release party, which they expect to be a huge success with a huge draw. I always cross my fingers hoping for their sake that it will be. Unfortunately when it isn’t, the author is usually shocked. “I built a platform,” they say. “I have followers and friends on Facebook. Why didn’t they all buy my book?” We’ve been talking about this in a few writers’ groups and here are some of the common mistakes authors make, and why their books don’t sell more.

Most of your friends/followers are fellow authors. When I first started on Facebook I did the same thing. So while my friends list is well populated, there are a lot of authors’ names there. Those authors are struggling with the same thing I am: finding readers. Because they are connected to other authors. Who are connected to authors. On the cycle goes.

What woke me up was after a media blitz I asked myself the simple question: “When is the last time you bought a book because it was in a promo from anther author?” Other that authors that I have already read their work (and thus become a reader or a fan if you will) I can’t remember. I find new fiction through publishers and friend recommendations, but rarely through a “cold” promo even from a fellow author. Other writers are just like you. Most have day jobs, are trying to write so they’re busy and don’t read many new authors especially outside their chosen genre, and are trying to cultivate readers of their own.

Smart Reviewers, readers, and other authors don’t promote work they haven’t read, or when they don’t know (and trust) the author. “Please retweet” or “share with your friends” works with some readers, but most feel they have a reputation to protect. I want readers to know that if I recommend a book it is because I like it, and I like it because the writing, editing and story are solid. What you recommend reflects back on your writing and your reputation. Don’t promote randomly to get followers, and don’t expect others to either. I’ve read dozens of books in the last couple of years. I’ve left 23 reviews on Amazon/Goodreads, etc. The reviews I do are few and far between (I won’t leave negatives unless the work is totally offensive, but will contact the author and let them know what I think if I know them well enough).

True readers don’t just download a book because it’s free. Okay, Kindle Select can do something for your rankings temporarily. But as a marketing tool from a business standpoint, it only makes sense if you have other “paid” items that your free book drives them to. Those that do download books just because they are free aren’t real readers. They may drive your numbers, but they won’t glean you reviews, and they won’t bring you future sales. There is a strategy to giveaways, and if you’re going to do them, get good advice and follow it.

The best thing you can do to build a stronger reader base is to write more. Read this great article by Hugh Howey and his advice to aspiring authors. Write your book. Send it off to a small press or publish it yourself. (More on the big six another time). Then continue to write and promote your work. No one will market it but you. Keep at it long enough, and the readers will come.

Remember, there is no such thing as overnight success. If it came overnight, likely it came after a long period of hard work that finally paid off. Keep Calm, and Write On.

Troy Lambert
Troy is a freelance writer, author, and blogger who lives, works, and plays in Boise, Idaho with the love of his life and three very talented dogs.

Passionate about writing dark psychological thrillers, he is an avid cyclist, skier, hiker, all-around outdoorsman, and a terrible beginning golfer.