Book Promotion: Do This Not That – February 2020

by | Feb 13, 2020

By Amy Collins

I have a story to tell you. Stick with me here, it’s going to sound like I’m way off topic, but I promise it will make sense in the end.

15 years ago I did a great deal of research on the best dog food to feed my dogs. They loved it.

Since then, my husband and I adopted two new rescue dogs. I then went right to my trusty old brand and started feeding them the food that I knew was the best choice.

Fast-forward a few years. While both my dogs are doing fine, I started researching dog foods because I wondered if some of their stomach issues and lack of appetite could be improved upon.

I was flabbergasted to see that the brand I’ve known and trusted for years had changed formulas a few years before. It used to get five stars across-the-board, and it now barely registered at one and a half stars. It was noted in several places that this particular brand of dog food was responsible for upset stomachs and other problems.

Why did I not know about this? I am a “crazy dog lady.” I research everything! I focus on my dogs and their health obsessively. But I fell prey to a common mistake when I assumed that the information and research that I had done years before was still valid.

I was SURE I knew what I should be feeding my dogs. I was depending upon strong research, but it was OLD research. I had done the proper footwork but then I stopped paying attention.

I switched brands and my dogs are thriving and are enjoying their food in a way I’ve never seen before.

The Point

The same sort of thing happens to authors all the time when they do their research about book sales and marketing. Here’s a list of things that authors might believe if they read articles written before July 2019.

  • You should use other authors’ names and book titles in your book description or in your reviews for keyword and SEO purposes.
  • You should ask everyone you know on social media and on your mailing list to write reviews of your book on Amazon.
  • Doing events or selling books in bookstores is a total waste of time because people don’t buy books from bookstores anymore.
  • Becoming a number one or a top bestseller on Amazon in your category is really important for social media use and for your marketing efforts online.
  • You should be advertising your book online on Amazon and elsewhere as much as possible.
  • If you want to do print on demand through IngramSpark for color or hardcover books, Amazon will order them from IngramSpark easily.
  • You should offer your book for pre-order on Amazon through IngramSpark.

Changes in the Last Year

But let’s take a look at some of the things that have changed or altered just in the last year.

  • You’re no longer allowed to use other authors names or book titles in meta-data or keyword description on Amazon.
  • You’re no longer allowed to use screenshots or Amazon branding in your social media or on your website without express permission. (That includes a screenshot showing that you were number one Amazon bestseller.)
  • Independent bookstores have three fewer wholesalers to order from then they did this time last year and libraries have lost two wholesalers in the last few years. (Baker and Taylor no longer sells to bookstores, Partners has closed, and Quality and Unique are also both closed.)
  • Advertising and spending marketing dollars on Amazon keyword promotion no longer works for a large number of genre fiction categories.
  • You are no longer allowed to ask anyone you know to review your books without violating Amazon’s guidelines.
  • Chain stores across the US are starting to loosen their restrictions on local author events.
  • Independent bookstores are popping up everywhere and a great place to launch your career.
  • Amazon starts the sales clock from the day your book shows up on their site and books on pre-order can have a much harder time hitting the top of the charts on Amazon.
  • Amazon is no longer automatically listing IngramSpark sourced books as in stock.

I know it is time consuming and difficult, but it’s not enough to Google and look for ideas. You have to stay up-to-date on what’s happening today and then stay up to date by keeping current each and every week. Sites such as this one are a great place to stay informed.
Photo: BigStockPhoto

tbd advanced publishing starter kit


  1. Ronald Joseph Kule

    As I read it, the jist of the matter is that all authors must be aware of and wear all the hats related to their business of writing and SELLING their books.

  2. Amy Collins

    Hi Harald, that’s a great example of what I mean. You used to be able to do that… But now it violates Amazons new rules. They have yanked several of my author friends descriptions for doing exactly what you just outlined. But what you said was completely allowable just a year ago. Below is a direct quote from Amazon’s current guidelines:

    When a book has search keywords that don’t accurately describe a book or are unrelated to its contents, it can lead to unexpected or confusing search results and a poor customer experience. We don’t tolerate search keywords that mislead or manipulate our customers. We cannot accept the inclusion of keywords in other metadata fields or references to:

    Other authors or books by other authors (e.g. “for fans of E.L. James”)
    Sales rank (e.g. “best-selling”)
    Advertisements or promotions (e.g. “free”)
    Anything unrelated to your book’s content

    • Sherelle Winters

      That section you are quoting only applies to your book’s title. Obviously you can’t put that kind of crap in a book title, Amazon has been cracking down on that for years.

      Nothing in the actual guidelines page bans using the “Fans of X and Y will love” type thing from the book description itself. From those actual guidelines, the only things banned in the description are what’s always been banned:

      Pornographic, obscene, or offensive content

      Phone numbers, physical mail addresses, email addresses, or website URLs

      Availability, price, alternative ordering information (such as links to other websites for placing orders)

      Time-sensitive information (e.g., dates of promotional tours, seminars, lectures, etc.)

      Any keywords or tags

      • Harald Johnson

        Yes, this is the guidelines section I was referring to. Although further down under “Keywords” they do mention a prohibition of “other authors,” which could cause some abiguity. But I continue to use “Fans of X and Y” approach. What say you, Amy?

  3. Harald Johnson

    Good post! But one clarification:

    “You’re no longer allowed to use other authors names or book titles in meta-data or keyword description on Amazon.”

    Correct for the Keyword boxes in Details when setting up a book. But it’s OK to use them in the book’s Description itself. You can still say things like this (from my latest): “If you’re a fan of the time travel fantasy novels of Jack Finney (Time and Again), Stephen King (11/22/63), or Michael Crichton (Timeline), you’ll savor this science-fiction, time-travel adventure…” That’s known as the If-You-Liked promotion ;-)



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