3 Book Marketing Myths to Avoid

by | Mar 18, 2019

By Sandra Beckwith

When I was in college, one of the girls in my dorm terrified us with the “true” story of “The Hook,” a killer with a hook for a hand who attacked a couple in a parked car.

The storyteller insisted it was true because it happened to the cousin of a friend of a friend on Long Island. How could we argue with that? TRUTH!

You’ve probably heard the story, too, and by now we all know it’s a classic urban legend.

Urban legends aren’t limited to horror stories, though. In the book publishing industry, a better term for them is “myths,” and there are a lot of book marketing myths. They spread from author to author quickly thanks to online groups and social media. Authors believe and accept them automatically, probably because they see the myths repeated so often.

Accepting book marketing myths as fact can hurt your writing career, though, so let’s set the record straight on three of the most common.

Do any of these resonate with you?

Myth 1

You should pursue a traditional book publishing contract because the publisher will do all the marketing so you don’t have to.



Your publisher will probably send advance review copies, but quite often, that’s it. The support you get varies from publisher to publisher but unless you’re in Celeste Ng’s league, you’ll have to do the vast majority of the marketing yourself.

Book publishing is a business. Publishers throw their marketing money behind those titles they think will sell the most. It might not be yours or mine.

Need proof? Ask any author with a mainstream publishing contract. Those who bought into this myth usually admit that they were naïve about what the publisher would do to market their books.

There are many valid reasons to pursue a traditional contract, but “the publisher will do all the marketing” isn’t one of them. That’s an urban legend that just won’t go away.

Myth 2

You will succeed if you just copy what other authors are doing.

Unlike plush hotel robes, book marketing isn’t one-size-fits-all.

Your book marketing plan will be based on your book’s target audience — those people most likely to buy your book. The people who will love your book aren’t the same people who will love mine, so we shouldn’t copy each other.

That doesn’t mean that you have to start from scratch, though. What you want to do is find authors with the same target audience as yours who are also successful. Copying somebody with different readers is a waste of time. So is copying somebody who isn’t selling many books.

For example, if you’ve written a book on entrepreneurship, find another author who has also done that, and done it well. Study that author’s social media accounts; Google the book to see where it’s been reviewed or media outlets that have interviewed the author. That’s when “copying” that writer’s approach makes sense.

Myth 3

Once you’ve finished writing the book, you should wait until it’s published to start the marketing process.

Ideally, you’ll start actively marketing your book at least six months before your publication date. But if you’re like so many who waited until the Amazon link went live before even thinking about marketing, don’t give up.

Better late than never.

To enjoy the most success and exposure for the book you’ve put so much into, you want to start the marketing process early. That’s because you want an audience waiting for your book as soon as it’s available. Building that audience takes time and effort.

My article, “Book promotion timing: Implement these 9 strategies as soon as you’ve finished the first draft,” will give you ideas. Select one or two and learn how to do them well. Otherwise, you’re likely to get overwhelmed.

Your goal is to make sure you have the right network and tools in place to sell books as soon as yours is available. Some people have the network and connections they need even before they start writing. Others need to work on it.

Spend time learning

As with everything else related to the book publishing industry, knowledge is power. Take the time to:

  • Learn as much as you can about book marketing long before your book is published. Then, when you come across conflicting information, you’ll be in a better position to evaluate what makes the most sense.
  • Consider the source of the information rather than accepting what you’re seeing as fact. I’m in a Facebook publishing group that includes a vocal self-proclaimed expert who shares misinformation. And . . . people tend to believe the loudest voice, as if volume equals knowledge. Beware the loud “expert.”
  • Think before you blindly accept what you see about book marketing online. For example, if someone insists that the best way to get reader reviews on Amazon is to ask your family members to write one, go right to the source: check Amazon’s terms of service. (That tactic is prohibited.)

Book marketing isn’t hard, but when you buy into common myths, it becomes more difficult. Don’t allow youself to be misled by publishing’s version of “The Hook.”

Let’s bust a few more myths! What other book marketing myths are you seeing or wondering about?
Photo: BigStockPhoto

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  1. Pooja S

    Thank you for your reply, Sandra. It does help.

    It makes sense to focus on the target audience who are likely to buy rather than spreading the news on all multiple social media where audiences are unlikely to buy.

    Building the right platform seems to be the most important first step.


    • Sandra Beckwith

      Definitely, Pooja. Good luck with it!

      Sandra Beckwith

  2. Sandra Beckwith

    Pooja, I agree with Ernie — you don’t need to be on social media to sell books. But it’s an option, for sure.

    With that in mind, the best social media platform has nothing to do with whether or not you’re a new self-published author and everything to do with where you’ll reach your ideal reader.

    First, you need to know as much as possible about who will love your book. Then you use that information to select the best social network for reaching those people. For example, if you wrote your book for millennial women, you should figure out how to use Instagram effectively. If it’s a business book, learn how to use LinkedIn.

    In addition, ideally, this doesn’t start after the book is published. You want to be build your following and content on the best platform(s) for your book long before your book is available for purchase so you’ve got an audience waiting for your book when it’s released.

    I hope this helps.

    Sandra Beckwith

  3. Pooja S

    Ernie zelinski

    You mentioned that it is not essentail to be on social media but which social media would you suggest to new self published writers?

  4. Sandra Beckwith

    Thanks for the feedback, Ernie! Which of your book marketing tactics has been most successful for you?

    Sandra Beckwith

    • Ernie Zelinski

      Just one more comment. You ask which marketing tactics are most successful. When it comes to my bestselling book c I still think getting a lot of financial advisors and retirement bloggers to mention the book.

      If you go to the homepage of my How to Retire Happy website, I have links to at least 30 places that have mentioned the book.


      Of course, one has to have a remarkable book for this to happen.

      Incidentally, I have a new book called “The Joy of Being Retired: 365 Reasons Why Retirement Rocks – and Work Sucks.” It is a lot harder to market in on Amazon than it would have been 3 years ago.

      But I am up to the task of getting “The Joy of Being Retired” rocking and rolling with impressive sales. There are better methods. The first thing that I thought of was sending copies to retirement and financial writers who may “love” the book and write about it. But my creative mind immediately kicked into gear and said that I should also send copies to those retirement and financial writers who may “hate” the book and write about it. That’s exactly what I am in the process of doing. I am sending anywhere between 200 and 500 copies to those retirement and financial writers who may either “love” the book or “hate” the book. As I have said many times before to my friends, “See, there’s no off-switch on this Genius Machine.”

      • Sandra Beckwith

        Thanks, Ernie. Sending out many review copies to influencers and your target audience is a time-tested strategy, one I recommended on a coaching call just 2 days ago.

        I’d love to know how you determine which financial writers will love your book, and which ones won’t. I suspect you can’t, so your strategy isn’t to send it specifically to those who won’t like it — your strategy is to get it into the hands of as many influencers as possible, without caring if they will like it or not. I think what’s key here is the “not caring” piece. For example, when a friend complained about a bad NY Times review, I told her it was, as Martha Stewart would say, “a good thing.” I reminded her that her target reader would learn about the book from the review, disagree with the reviewer, and buy the book. Sales soared after that negative review. That’s where “not caring” comes in.

        So…sending out lots of review copies to the right people can be effective, for sure, but if this tactic is the hallmark of a creative genius, there are a lot of genius authors out there. You’re in good company!

        Sandra Beckwith

  5. Ernie Zelinski

    You ask, “What other book marketing myths are you seeing or wondering about?”

    Here are three:

    It’s essential that you be on social media. No, it’s not.
    You must have a blog. No, you don’t require a blog.
    You need an email list. No, you don’t need an email list.

    For the record, I have come up with 75 to 100 of my own unique marketing techniques that over 97 percent of authors and so-called “book marketing experts” are not creative or smart enough to come up with. My books (mainly self-published) in September reached the milestone of having sold 1,000,000 copies. I have used similar unique marketing techniques to get over 111 books deals with various foreign publishers around the world. (Heck, I may shortly even have a book deal with a Korean Christian publisher for one or both of my two latest books that are not Christian although they are somewhat spiritual.) These techniques involve what my competitors are NOT doing — instead of what my competitors are doing.

    Here is my best advice for self-published authors who want to sell a lot more copies of their books. Don’t do what the majority is doing. Instead, do the complete opposite of what the majority is doing. As with a lot of things in life, the majority is usually wrong — or at the very least extremely short-sighted.

    One more note: I may also have a book deal with a major division of Hachette for a great book of mine that I have been too lazy to self-publish. This is a result of my posting a ridiculous comment (with a bit of “Swagger”) about my “obscurity” on Publishers Weekly that an Editorial Director happened to read. How’s that for doing what the majority is not doing?



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