Do You Make These Online Marketing Mistakes?

by | Jun 4, 2014

By Jason Kong

Imagine you’re making an appearance at a bookstore to promote your latest novel.

Someone approaches you to chat. This person gushes that she’s read all your books and is excited to read the latest one. She holds the newly purchased book in her hands, hoping that you’ll sign it.

Immediately you launch into an elevator pitch, explaining the genre you write in and a quick summary of your storytelling style. You conclude with the various places your books can be purchased, and that you hope she’ll give your books a try.

Clearly, a longtime fan doesn’t need an introduction to how you write and the stories you’ve written. Having the right person pay attention does little good if the wrong message is shared.

Maybe you don’t make this kind of mistake when you’re face-to-face. Can you say that’s also true when you communicate over the internet?

The downside of using online media

We all know about the promise.

A platform in cyberspace meant you had a stage to project your voice. Your digital words could travel far and wide, attracting and corralling those who care about what you do. With one click, you could reach just about everyone.

The challenge is that “everyone” is made up of a bunch of someones, each with a different worldview and background. If you broadcast the same message across the board, you’re treating everyone the same even though they’re not. Flawed communication can potentially alienate the very people you’re trying to attract.

Fortunately, the same online tools perpetuating the problem can be also used to alleviate it. Here are some ideas how:

  1. Establish one audience per communication channel
    Let’s say you were intrigued by the book I wrote, and wanted to hear more about it.

    And let’s say I obliged, but in-between I also chatted about my dog, writing tips, and the publishing industry. Basically, the kind of snippets you see in a typical Twitter stream.

    If you’re interested in me as a person and the various facets of my life, this is an winning arrangement. If you just wanted my work-related stuff? Not so much.

    This is the dilemma faced by many self-publishers using online media. You have a lot to say, but you own very few communication outlets to say it. By mixing unrelated interests into a single channel, you risk diluting the attention of those multiple audiences.

    On the other hand, there are numerous benefits to addressing a single tribe united by a single cause. You’re rewarded with higher focus and tighter engagement. Conversations that stay within the domain will go wider and deeper. You’ll even find that marketing to a unified group is easier, because you’re dealing with people with similar experiences.

    Know the audience you intend to interact with. Then ensure that they have a dedicated communication channel.

    Additional suggestions:

    • Keep separate social media accounts and/or blogs for personal vs. professional interests.
    • Keep separate social media accounts and/or blogs for an audience of peers vs. a readership of your work.
    • Segmenting email lists is easily accomplished if you use an email marketing service such as AWeber or MailChimp.
  2. Increase your influence with landing pages
    If you have your own website or blog, then you have the means to greatly improve your chances of getting a prospect to take a specific action.

    A landing page is a web page for targeted visitors. You craft a customized message by recognizing the desires of those you want to influence, and concluding with a simple and compelling offer.

    Sometimes your desired result is a purchase, such as buying one of your books. But you can also use landing pages to get new subscribers for your newsletter or newcomers to download your free eBook. The possibilities are endless.

    Understand that you’re creating a personalized experience for someone specific, and your success depends on how well you match that person’s needs with the content within the page. There’s no need to hard sell at the end if the rest of your copy resonates.

    Additional suggestions:

  3. Direct traffic to the right places
    Your well-intended communication channels and landing pages do little good if the right people aren’t finding them.

    Many of these issues are solved with better design. Guide your interested visitors by providing guideposts telling them where to go. For your website, that may mean reviewing your main navigation bar and sidebar. For your social media accounts, examine the bio or profile pages.

    In each case, ensure the path to different destinations are clear. Be up-front with expectations, stating who should be following a particular social media channel and who should subscribe to your blog. Point newcomers to your About page and customers to links of your books.

    If all this seems elementary, you’re right. But you’ll be surprised how easy it is to overlook proper navigation when you’re so closely involved — everything will seem obvious to you. Have a trusted supporter or peer double-check your setup to ensure the guidance makes sense.

    Additional suggestions:

    • Don’t send visitors to your home page if a landing page is available and appropriate.
    • Consider setting up an FAQ page within your website or blog to help anyone that is lost.

Treat different people differently
Our attention is fleeting. That’s true now more than ever.

That means most folks aren’t likely to stick around for a relevant message if it’s buried among irrelevant ones. They’re also not going to settle for listening to marketing broadcasts that lumps everyone together as an undifferentiated mass. People deserve more empathy and respect than that.

No, you can’t interact with each visitor individually. But a stranger is different from a friend, and someone who uses a digital reader is different from someone who doesn’t. The self-publishers cognizant of who they’re talking to are the ones more likely to be heard.

How do you use online tools to communicate with your various audiences? Let us know in the comments.

Jason KongJason Kong is a Contributing Writer for The Book Designer. He also runs Storyrally, an email-based subscription that helps fiction writers with their online marketing.

You can learn more about Jason here.


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  1. Beth Havey

    Hi Jason,
    When I am ready to sell my novel, my thought is to have a link in the sidebar on my blog that directs my readers to my author page. The author page will be another site where my book is displayed, sold, reviews about it etc. What do you think?

    • Jason Kong

      Sure, Beth, that sounds good to me as long as you’re happy with it. You’re always free to experiment, and there are tools to help you measure those results (if that’s important to you).

      Generally speaking, the stuff near the top of your pages will tend to get noticed more than farther down. So consider using that real estate if you want to increase the prominence of your link.

      • Beth Havey


        • great smile

          The other day, while I was at work, my sister stole my iphone and
          tested to see if it can survive a thirty foot drop, just so she can be a
          youtube sensation. My iPad is now broken and she has 83 views.
          I know this is entirely off topic but I had to share it with someone!

  2. Laurie Ingersoll

    These are great ideas and very helpful. I wonder if there is some special advice for authors/illustrators of children’s books where we are marketing to the parents, schools, libraries, not so much directly to the kids themselves. Thanks!

    • Jason Kong

      That’s a great question, Laurie, and deserves a lot more discussion than we’re able to do here. But let me say something anyway.

      On your website, you mention that your books include open-ended questions meant to promote discussion around an empowering message. So that could be part of the marketing you do, and the fit would be for parents and educators who value that.

      Well, you might say, doesn’t every parent value that?

      You would hope, but not necessarily. Some parents may just want an entertaining bedtime story to read at night. Others may just want a book that kids can look at on their own.

      The point is, even a seemingly singular group such as “parents” is made up of many kinds of people with different worldviews. It’s helpful to recognize that not everyone is the same, and that you have the ability to position the narrative of how your book is perceived. You’re telling a “story” about your book and you’re trying to tell it to the people who would care.

      How you go about doing all that is both the hard and important part of your marketing. Figure out who you really want to talk to and the compelling message about your work that you have to share. You’re not selling them something that they don’t want, you’re simply connecting them to something that they do.

  3. Danielle Lenee Davis

    I found some good pointers in that article. I hadn’t thought of targeted landing pages. As I was reading through this I realized I should have a book buy link at the end of my posts and a clearly visible one in the sidebar. I have book images on my site that link to Amazon and I have a book landing page with buy links for Amazon and B&N, but I SHOULD have a ‘Buy the book’ button on the sidebar and probably the book landing page button highly visible too.

    Thanks for this information!

    • Jason Kong

      I’m glad the article triggered some ideas for you, Danielle.

      It’s a balancing act for sure. Of course you always want an interested buyer to easily find your books from any page on your site, but you want to avoid overwhelming anyone with promotion.

      Knowing the kind of people that goes to the different parts of your website would help. For example, who reads your posts? Are they mostly new visitors from Google searches? Or are they regular followers of your blog? If the case is clearly one group versus another, that can factor in what you decide to include at the end of your posts, if anything.

      • Danielle Lenee Davis

        As I was driving to work today I was thinking about what I’d said regarding adding the book buy link in my blog posts. I figured it was a bit much. Annoying, really. Thanks for your input, Jason.



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