Do You Know These 9 Huge Opportunities Even Smart Authors Miss?

by | May 31, 2013

by Joan Stewart (@PublicityHound)

I first met Joan at last year’s IBPA Publishing University, where we presented a session together, and this year in Chicago we got to do it again. Joan is an incredible source of information on publicity, promotion, blogging, and a lot of other topics of concern to authors. She runs a popular series of webinars, constantly puts out a stream of great content, and has more “tips” than anyone else I know. Today she addresses some of the opportunities you might be missing, so read on.

If you’ve written a book, you have my utmost respect.

You’ve spent a lot of time and money on a topic that’s your passion. But please, don’t erode that respect by doing something dumb like handing me a business card with a Yahoo or Hotmail email address.

You only have one chance to make a great first impression with me, potential readers, or others who are in a position to buy your products and services.

After speaking at two authors conferences recently, I was disappointed to see that dozens of authors are still making the same mistakes year after year.

1. Using Yahoo, Hotmail or other free email addresses for business.

Of the stack of business cards I brought back from Judith Briles’ Author U and Publishing University, sponsored by the Independent Book Publishers Association, almost all were from authors who use Yahoo, Gmail, AT&T, and Hotmail email addresses.

Those addresses scream “I’m cheap!”

But even worse, you’re advertising your phone company, a search engine, or an Internet service provider instead of your own brand. If you don’t have a website, you can still buy a domain name for about $10 a year and use it along with one of those free email accounts.

2. Not knowing your target market.

This is probably the most egregious sin. At Author U in Denver in May, I was one of several experts who took turns speaking with authors in a round-table format. Each expert was seated with six authors, and each author had about four minutes to pick the expert’s brain. When time was up, the authors moved onto another table and expert. I had several batches of seven authors who fired questions at me.

At least half of the authors who wanted my advice–half!–either didn’t know the target audience for their books, or they couldn’t describe it quickly. This isn’t a trick question. If you don’t know who you’re writing for, don’t you dare start writing.

Perry Marshall, one of my coaches, has said that you should know someone in your target market so well, that you’re able to write a page in their journal, just like they’d write it.

Fiction writers, this goes for you, too.

3. Not blogging, or not blogging regularly.

“I don’t have time to write,” is no excuse. Neither is “I don’t know what to write about.”

If you made time to write a book, you can make time to write blog posts. And if you don’t know what to write about, Google “how to find ideas for blog posts.”

Blogs bring traffic. They also give you credibility, authority and–eventually–sales.

4. Abandoning a book marketing campaign midstream to write another book.

Writing and publishing the book are the easy parts. Marketing it, and generating publicity long after the book is off the press, are far more grueling. Marketing it consistently, year after year, takes patience, energy, time and commitment.

If the first book isn’t selling six months after you published it, and you’re bored with it, hire someone to help you figure out what’s wrong. Don’t abandon it and invest another two years and thousands of dollars in a second book that’s also doomed to fail. It could be that you’ve written an excellent book but don’t understand basic book marketing.

I have hundreds of articles about book marketing and promotion at my blog.

5. Not collecting email addresses.

During every speaking engagement, book signing, Chamber of Commerce breakfast, and trade show you attend, offer attendees something of value for free, like a cheat sheet, tips list, checklist or White Paper they can download, in exchange for an email address. It should tie into your area of expertise, or the topic of your book.

Stay in touch at least once every few weeks with helpful email tips and advice.

“But I’m not an Internet marketer,” some authors claim.

If you sell your book on Amazon or from your website, you’re an Internet marketer. A good list of email addresses from people who have given you permission to market to them, used correctly, is like gold.

Make sure list is double opt-in. That means the subscriber must click on an email confirmation link before receiving further messages from you. This keeps you out of trouble, and it reduces the cost of sending tips to hundreds of people who don’t want them.

Don’t rely only on an email program like Gmail or Outlook to send information to your email list, or you’ll end up with an administrative nightmare when people want to unsubscribe and can’t find an unsubscribe link. I use AWeber and love it.

6.  Not using the wide variety of social media tools to sell more books.

Goodreads’ Author Program has tools galore for promoting your books. Yes, I said promoting. It’s the world’s largest book review and book recommendation site and boasts 10 million users. Over at my blog, Joel Friedlander offers savvy tips on how to boost the number of your friends on Goodreads.

Other social media tools include your own YouTube channel, Pinterest boards around your topic, a podcast, a Twitter feed, and a Facebook page devoted to your book title.

7. Relying only on printed reviews.

Many book sections in newspapers and magazines are either shrinking or gone. Goodreads is only one of several dozen book review sites where book lovers, from casual readers to bookworms, are gathering. Others include, and

Even niches have their own book review sites: for romance novels, for the arts and culture, and for science fiction/fantasy.

You have opportunities galore to start building relationships on these sites with people who are your ideal readers.

 8. Referring to yourself as an author when you’re really an expert who has published a book.

Today, anyone can be an author. Not everyone can be an expert, however, a word that has more credibility, cache and power.

Expertise isn’t only about what you know. It’s more about what you do: blog, write book and articles, speak, teach classes, coach, publish a newsletter, hold industry certifications, and serve as a source for the media.

The National Speakers Association, my professional association, published The Expertise Imperative, an excellent White Paper on the topic of expertise, and what it entails. It’s more than a decade old but still relevant today. If you aren’t an expert in your topic and want to become one, or if you want to strengthen your expertise, this is must reading! It applies to authors, many of whom are also speakers.

9. Pushing your book on people who aren’t interested in it.

Every year, authors I don’t know mail me books I don’t care about. Some packages include expensive press kits, tchotchkes, and other trinkets that go right into the wastebasket. What a missed opportunity to save money! If you aren’t sure whether someone is interested in reading or reviewing your book, ask them. Better yet, offer to connect with them on sites like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, where you can share information they’ll love. Build the relationship first.

That’s my list. Now, let’s see yours. What opportunities do you see authors missing?

Joan StewartPublicity expert Joan Stewart (shown here with Bogie) works with authors, speakers, experts and small business owners who need free publicity to establish their credibility, enhance their reputation, position themselves as experts, sell more products and services, and promote a favorite cause or issue. She publishes the popular ezine, “The Publicity Hound’s Tips of the Week” twice a week. It’s filled with the best tips, tricks and tools for self-promoters, and a good, clean dog joke or video in every issue. Subscribe at The Publicity Hound website and receive free the handy cheat sheet “89 Reasons to Write a Press Release” and Joan’s “Top 10 Tips for Free Publicity.”

Photo: Many links in this article include my affiliate code.

tbd advanced publishing starter kit


  1. Phyllis Zimbler Miller

    Thanks, Joel, for answering Joan’s question (while I was away from my computer).

    One thing to note: Unless you are tech savvy, you will probably need to hire a web person to set up a WordPress site on your own domain. But once set up, you should be able to manage it yourself.

    Phyllis Zimbler Miller

  2. Phyllis Zimbler Miller

    Joan —

    I am a big fan of authors using a self-hosted WordPress blog ( not as their website.

    When you mentioned blogging above, though, there are many sites that people can blog on but are not “owned” by the blogger (such as the site

    I highly recommend authors “owning” at least one of their sites.

    Phyllis Zimbler Miller

      • Joel Friedlander

        Hi Joan, just jumping in here. offers free hosting for blogs, but you don’t “own” the domain. As Phyllis says, it’s far better for anyone planning on blogging to build their author platform or for business reasons to get their own hosting account, their own domain name and install the WordPress software. That way you “own” the whole thing. is the home for the open source WordPress software and related plugins, etc.

  3. Joan Stewart, The Publicity Hound

    You’re so right, Phyllis! Authors can also use their blog as their website, like Joel does here.

    Joel, am I correct? Your main website is right here, on a WordPress platform, with your blog as the homepage, right?

    • Joel Friedlander

      That’s exactly right, Joan. One of the great things about WordPress is that you can treat it as a blog, as a website, or as both. For instance, there are about 70 static “web pages” on this site in addition to the content management system that handles the 1000+ articles in the blog. I’ve often thought of switching to a static home page, and may do it yet, but for now I use the standard blog front page to show the most recent articles.

  4. Phyllis Zimbler Miller

    Joan —

    Great info as always — and thanks to Joel for featuring you here.

    One often overlooked opportunity for authors is having their own author websites. While it is great to have an active social media presence on Twitter, Facebook, etc. — that presence can disappear overnight due to some quirk or other.

    When authors have their own websites, they “own” that online real estate. And these sites can be the home base for all their other online relationship-building activity.

    Phyllis Zimbler Miller

  5. Flora Morris Brown

    Hi Joan,

    You’ve shared exactly what authors need to know to increase credibility, visibility and eventually profitability.

    Self-published authors especially must heed everything you’ve shared and be aware that just like planting any other seeds, it takes time for the crop to appear.

    Just as gardeners must prep the soil and choose the right growing conditions, authors must start building a community through a blog, newsletter, speaking gigs, and networking online and offline before the book is published.

    So many aspiring authors I work with are impatient and unwilling to put in the time and effort to get to the success they desire. What they don’t know is that no one can promote and market like you can for yourself.

    Many mistakenly believe that the best-selling authors we hear about are lucky. The truth is, of course, that these highly successful authors are the exception. They have toiled sometimes for years before they attracted that target audience ready to plunk down hard-earned cash.

    We may not all reach the Times Bestseller List (it’s tricky how to get there anyway) or become Kindle millionaires, but we can all enjoy a level of success as soon as we recognize this: writing may be a passion, but publishing is a business.

    To benefit what you’ve shared here requires a shift in mindset and a willingness to work hard at building relationships with our readers and colleagues.

    • Joan Stewart, The Publicity Hound

      Flora, you are so right about authors being unwilling to put in the time and effort to get the success they want.

      I suspect that part of the problem is that too many of them wait until after the book is done to start marketing. By that time, they’re exhausted. They feel as though they’ve already climbed the mountain, and some are even ready to move onto their second book.

  6. Diane Tibert

    Regarding Email Addresses: While I do agree that hotmail, gmail and yahoo addresses appear unprofessional, I have to disagree regarding the Internet provider email. Sure I’m advertising my provider when I use their email address, but it also proves I’m a real person, not a scammer. I have an official account with the company and I’m traceable. If a person has a legal issue with the person sending that email, police can track down the company and see the file on the customer.

    When I receive an email from someone I’ve never heard from before, if they have a internet server address, I trust it more. I will open it. If the address is hotmail, alive, gmail, yahoo or something I’ve never seen before, my red flag goes up. Are they real people are scammers. If the message is in anyway not related to me or if it has an undiscussed link, I delete. I don’t trust them.

    Trust over-rules here. Perhaps in the future it won’t be so as more people use domain-based email addresses, but for now, I view Internet provider emails with having more security, and in my eyes, a more professional appearance.

  7. Joan Stewart, The Publicity Hound

    Congratulations, Lisa!

    Both Joel and I can save you a ton of time researching this. Use WordPress (we both do). But do not let WordPress host the blog. Otherwise, you risk losing control over it. Use a company like Hostgator or one of the many others.

    Your blog should be part of your website. In fact, you can have your entire website created on a WordPress platform, like Joel has done here and like I have done at

    Joel has written reams of excellent posts on how to blog. You can read them all at Good luck!

    • Joel Friedlander

      Lisa, I just want to reinforce Joan’s advice. You’ll need to pick a service provider like Hostgator or (which hosts this blog) and get a domain name. From there, it’s only a few minutes to install WordPress and get started blogging. If it’s a bit too technical for you to get it up and running, there’s lots of help for WordPress around. Good luck!

  8. Lisa

    What an informative article. I’m super-impressed with the personal and speedy responses.
    I am an author of an upcoming book (so scared and excited!). Could you recommend the best way to start a blog . . . is there a preferred site to use?
    Again, thank you both for your expertise and valuable responses!

  9. Joan Stewart, The Publicity Hound

    I think that’s true for the word “guru” but certainly not for the word “expert.” Guru, by the way, is something someone calls you. It isn’t something you call yourself.

  10. Cheryl Pickett

    Hi Joan, I was wondering about the expert/author tip. I’ve read comments elsewhere that the words expert and guru have been so overused, especially online, that they’ve almost taken on a negative feel in some circles. Based on your advice here, it appears you haven’t run into that, don’t agree?

  11. Patricia Proctor

    Okay you got me! It’s the gmail thing.

    I have email addresses that match my websites but . . .

    I have started and stopped websites – started and stopped email addresses that go with them – that I don’t have a consistent one that I just stay with.

    So I took the lazy route and just went back to gmail.

    Your article is powerful on all accounts. But slapped me back into reality about the email issue. Thanks!

    • Joan Stewart, The Publicity Hound

      Gmail integrates seamlessly with with YouTube, Google+ and other Google platforms, properties and tools. So glad I was able to help you, Patricia. Thanks for letting us know.

  12. Steffie Dawn

    This is a great article, with some very valid points! I have an author page on facebook and a twitter page, I HATE using twitter, so rather than having to post to a site I don’t like all my facebook page posts appear on twitter, I then check twitter once or twice a day to reply to any comments, new followers and so on, it works well for me. I’m a bit unsure about the email one. I was offered a free personalised email address when I bought my domain name but didn’t register for it because I looked through the inbox I’d be provided with and wouldn’t understand it, I’m twenty-one, far from a technophobe but outlook, gmail, hotmail, yahoo are all so straight forward to use. Goodreads is a great platform and for someone like me with an independent website that isn’t a blogging one, that wouldn’t work for blogging without a lot more work that would take away from marketing it’s a great place to share little blogs, sure I don’t do this often enough because sometimes there simply isn’t something to write about but doing it around the release of my new books and at lease once in between (I release a new book in my current series every month!) works perfectly, though it shows the views and in all honesty only a handful of people read it.

    I think one thing that should be noted for every author is giving something away. You spend HOURS promoting your work but when I published my book the first time (Only 7 weeks ago!) I knew people would be cautious in spending money on an author they didn’t know, didn’t trust. Yes I’d written before and had a small ‘fan base’ who instantly bought my book as soon as it was on sale but I was trying to also gain new followers for the series. I found giving away something for nothing actually boosted my sales not only for my first book but my second and hopefully for my third next week. For example, if you’ve written a 50,000 word book why not write a 10,000 word ebook prologue on one of the characters and give that away, leave a cliffhanger or carrot of some kind to entice people to spend the $2.99 plus on the 50,000 word novel? It worked for me, I did this and my book became and Amazon best seller, I’d do it again in a heartbeat and I will if I ever begin a new series or when I release my Young Adults novel under a different pen name.

    The target market is the MOST IMPORTANT POINT in my mind. I mean, how could anyone write a book and not know who they’re writing it for. Yes, I’ll admit I was surprised when I wrote my book with a target market of women age 18-25 and it’s actually more popular with women age 31-49 but I had someone in mind and it’s not unpopular with my target market, it just seems I got it a little wrong with who it would be!

    I love your articles Joan, you’ve taught me a lot in so little time! Thank you!

    • Barbara Briggs Ward

      Steffie-I love the idea of the 10,000 word ebook prologue on a character and use it as a giveaway. I have another Christmas story coming out this upcoming season-I think I will try that. Thanks so much for sharing!

    • Joan

      Stephie, you’re doing so many things right! I’m impressed that that you’re publishing so frequently. And I, too, love the giveaway idea. Congratulations.

  13. Karen

    Hi Joan, First thanks for the great info! I have a question. You mention:
    “If you don’t have a website, you can still buy a domain name for about $10 a year and use it along with one of those free email accounts.”
    Can you tell me where I could learn how to do that?
    -I assume you mean making the account send with your own email address? so instead of [email protected] you send as [email protected]
    Thanks & I hope my question was clear!

    • Joan Stewart, The Publicity Hound

      Yes, you are correct. You can by a domain name from a company like Hostgator which is excellent. Their customer support is terrific and they can walk you through this. Or, I just rely on my web guy to do it. Also, I’d use Gmail instead of Yahoo.

  14. Barbara Briggs Ward

    So much helpful information! I write Christmas fiction for adults. I was wondering if there are any book review sites for this particular niche.

    • Joan Stewart, The Publicity Hound

      None that I know of, Barbara. But I’ll bet there are Christmas discussion groups on a site like Goodreads. I’d also track down some other authors who have written Christmas books. There may be some excellent cross-promotion opportunities.

  15. Rekaya Gibson

    Good article. I’ve been slipping in some of these areas. Thanks for the reminder.

    • Joan Stewart, The Publicity Hound

      It’s so easy to slip, isn’t it? So much to write and market. So little time. You’re not alone, Rekaya. Thanks for stopping by.

  16. Kelsey

    Thank you for the excellent tips.

    For some of these items (business cards, blogging, social media), when do you recommend first getting involved? Once an editor chooses your book? Once an agent chooses it? During the writing phase? It’s hard to market your novel if the novel doesn’t exist.

    • Joan Stewart, The Publicity Hound

      Kelsey, start marketing as soon as you start writing. Here are some ideas:

      –Your business cards can say, “Author of the forthcoming book…”

      –Start blogging as soon as possible. You can write about topics related to your expertise, as well as the book, and the process of writing it. Ask readers for feedback and start building relationships long before the book hits the shelves.

      –Discuss topics in your area of expertise on social media sites. Start your own LinkedIn group. Create a LinkedIn Company Page. Follow and connect with people who are the idea target audience for your book. (Please tell me you know the target audience.)

      This should keep you busy, Kelsey. Thanks for your questions.

    • Joel Friedlander

      I just want to reinforce Joan’s excellent advice. So many authors wait until just before publication to start building a community. But it actually takes a while. Using her tips anyone can start doing this today, and it will make a world of difference when you do finally publish that book.

      • Joan Stewart, The Publicity Hound

        It might comfort some authors to know they don’t have to do all of this at once. If you do just one or two things a week, you’ll look back in a year and be amazed at how much marketing you’ve done!

  17. Gina Conkle

    Thanks for this great information. The one that surprised: a dedicated Facebook page to your book. Does that page have a life span? I already have a “writer” FB page. Part of me feels like I’m inundating people.

    • Joan

      Authors do this in a variety of ways. Some have one page and feature all their books there, using tabs.

      Other authors create a page for each book. Keep in mind that if you do this, it’s a lot more work. Why not go over to LinkedIn and ask this question in one of the authors groups and see what they say.

      Love your question, Gina. And don’t worry about “inundating” people. If they love your book, they won’t be able to get enough of you!

  18. Laura Roberts

    Not doing live readings! I know I am guilty of this one myself, since I’ve recently moved to a new city and still need to find the right spot, but I also know that doing readings is a great way to sell books. You don’t even have to convince a bookstore these days, since there are lots of places that will let you hold a reading for free. Your local library, for instance, or a coffee shop you frequent. All you have to do is ask, and most of the time the answer will be yes. Whenever you can meet people face to face to sell your book, do it!

    • Joan Stewart, The Publicity Hound

      Laura, I know from meeting them that lots of authors are introverts. Remember: If they are interested in your book and topic, they will probably already view you as a celebrity. Readings are a fabulous way to build the relationship (and get business cards!)

  19. Colin

    Great article! Thanks Joan and Joel.



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