Book Promotion: Do This, Not That

by | Jun 1, 2016

I see a LOT of articles that outline the biggest mistakes that an author can make. I love these articles because they help other authors and industry folks learn from the mistakes others have made in the past. I find that the path I walk as an independent small press (read: self-published author) is MUCH easier with a road map marked up by others who have walked this path before me.

With this in mind, I would like to offer my experience and advice around mistakes that my clients and I have made while publishing and promoting our own books. This week, I have asked Joan Stewart, publicity expert and owner of to help me explain the first mistakes I made and how I fixed them.

What I Did: Pitched My Book Instead of My Expertise

When my book came out, I KNEW promotion was the key. I was sure that my next step was to contact editors and bloggers, radio and TV producers and pitch the book.

Here is why that was a mistake: These folks are pitched books ALL THE TIME.

There are now thousands of books being published every day. The many online and computer tools at our fingertips can make anyone an “author.” There are authors under every rock. Joan Stewart reminded me that experts are more in demand than authors. What producers and editors are looking for are experts to comment on current events.

What I Should Have Done Instead

Editors need content from experts, and well-written content rises to the top of the pile.

Am I an expert in book sales and marketing? Then WHY am I pitching my book (one of many on the topic) instead of presenting the editors with a lot of great article ideas on book marketing?

I made the mistake of thinking that folks would care about my book and the advice in it. They didn’t. (They REALLY didn’t.) What they needed was great content from an expert.

What I Then Did

When Joan reminded me of the fact that books are everywhere, and authors are thick on the ground, I switched my emailed requests to offerings. Instead of asking editors to review my book or interview me about my book, I offered them my expertise.

Content IS king…. My writing and advice was starting to show up in blogs and newsletters across the US and my book sales increased. I was able to promote my writing BY WRITING.

What I Did: Rushed to Contact Editors and Did Not Research Who They Were

I was in SUCH a hurry. I had been reading a column by “Josie” in Publisher’s Weekly for years. I also knew that I wanted to get my book reviewed by a certain magazine in Cincinnati. So as soon as I could, I dashed off an email to PW and also sent a copy of my book to the name at the top of the masthead of the magazine in Ohio.

I did NO research. Joan was not at all surprised to hear that I did not even get a response back.

What I Should Have Done Instead

I should have taken the time to read more of Josie’s posts and seen that she does not even DEAL with non-fiction books! Her expertise is bookstore news and fiction releases.

I was in such a hurry to get my book out there, I wasted an opportunity AND looked like an amateur. With the magazine in OH, I did not read the submission guidelines closely enough, or I would have seen that the person to whom I had directed my pitch asked SPECIFICALLY not to be sent books…. She just wanted a letter to start.

I was SO sure I knew the best way. But I learned very quickly that I cannot send out 35 emails and 12 book mailings in identical packets. I was asking someone to treat my book as special; I was asking someone to consider my presentation and see that my writing and information is head and shoulders above all of the rest. So, shouldn’t I have treated THEIR time and venues with the same respect?

What I Then Did

I followed Joan’s advice and started taking time (yes, a LOT of time) to research each person I was pitching. I checked the gender to make SURE that Joe was not actually a Jo and that Chris was a man and not a woman. I read everything I could of their profiles to make sure that the fit was a good one. I went deeper and took more time in my research, and it REALLY paid off.

I started with professional organizations and made SURE that I had spent a great deal of time on their websites before reaching out to them. Yes, I was still emailing strangers, but now they were strangers who could see that I had done my homework. I started getting more responses and successful hits.

The best part? Even if I never heard back, I knew I had done the right thing and no longer looked like an amateur rushing to spray my requests all over. I was taking more time and getting better results.

More to Come, and What About You?

Next month, I will have more screw ups and mistakes to share with you. I hope you find my DO THIS, NOT THAT features helpful. I want to thank Joan Stewart, again, for her help and guidance as I navigate the scary world of book PR!

What about you? Have you rushed in when you should have researched? What have you learned from trying to promote your own books? Let us know in the comments, we can all learn from each others’ mistakes.


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  1. Brian Robben

    Creative and unique structure with the Do This, Not That set up, I love it! I too find myself pitching my books instead of my expertise. I think it goes back to remembering the important marketing principle of give first, then ask.

  2. Mike

    Nice article. I think the best way to position your pitch is to pitch to people you’ve worked with. This mean you should offering expertise to influencers all the time whether we’re launching a book or not. If an author only appears when he or she is preparing to launch then I believe the offer can come off a bit desperate.

  3. Doreen Pendgracs

    Hi Amy. Great post. I did the same thing as you, when my latest book came out three years ago. I was trying to promote the book, and thought that book sales were there answer to my prayers (for a financially secure future.) I was ignoring the fact that I am an expert in the world of chocolate until a close friend of mine finally said, “Why do you continue to flog a dead horse?” Why not try and sell the many services you are already providing (such as chocolate tasting events, informational talks, and hosting chocolate dinners.” I began doing that and my income from speaking has shot through the roof (I wish, but it has definitely increased.”

  4. Abria @ Design Your Book With Me

    I wish more authors understood the “pitch your expertise, not your book,” point. I was a book review blogger for many years, and received so many awful pitches from people who didn’t seem to grasp that they were asking for 10-20 hours of a complete stranger’s time, plus promotion… in exchange for a free ebook. When I launched my book, I did a guest posting campaign instead of a review blitz. I got way more bloggers to say yes than I thought I would, and way more interaction from readers because these posts weren’t “just another review.” My expertise and personality sold that book, not reviews.

  5. Aidan J. Reid

    Made the mistake of sending the opening chapters of my book to agents without actually getting an editor to clean them up first. The editing came much later when I decided to go down the self-publishing route. Sloppy.

    • Amy Collins

      But common…. and I bet you won’t do it again!

  6. Michael W. Perry

    You might call me an empty-nest author. I put an enormous amount of effort into my books and when they’re published, I treat them like parents who feel they’ve done such a good job rearing their son or daughter, that they need not worry when he or she leaves home. “They can take care of themselves,” they think. Instead, they turn to enjoy their empty nest.

    Except in my case, that empty nest means starting the next book. Doing far less promoting than perhaps I should, means I can turn immediately to that next one.

    • Amy Collins

      You are so right. The two elements here are centered on press, but we will be digging deeply into all sorts of promotion over the next few months.

  7. Ernie Zelinski

    One of the questions you ask is: “What have you learned from trying to promote your own books?”

    As an author whose books (mainly self-published) have sold over 925,000 copies worldwide, I think I have learned a bit about book promotion. I could offer some important principles from my own books and my own experiences — but I won’t.

    Instead, if writing a particular book and having it sell hundreds of thousands of copies is your main goal in life, I recommend that you read “The One Thing” by Gary Keller. As he says, “Extraordinary results are directly determined by how narrow you can make your focus.”

    Some other points Keller makes are:

    “The problem is we tend to act on what we believe even when what we believe isn’t anything we should.”
    “In the world of achievement everything doesn’t matter equally. Equality is a lie. Understanding this is the basis of all great decisions.”
    “When everything feels urgent and important, everything seems equal. We become active and busy, but this doesn’t actually move us any closer to success. Activity is often unrelated to productivity, and busyness rarely takes care of business.”
    “Instead of a to-do list, you need a success list — a list that is purposefully created around extraordinary results.”
    “The majority of what you want will come from the minority of what you do. Extraordinary results are disproportionately created by fewer actions than most realize.”

    If you think I am promoting Gary Keller’s book because he is going to reward me for it, this is not true. To the best of my knowledge, Gary Keller doesn’t know me from a bar of soap. For the record, I already had a great measure of success (extraordinary results, in other words) from promoting my own books before reading “The One Thing”.

    • Amy Collins

      I ADORE that book! I agree that it is a terrific suggestion.



  1. Book Promotion: Do This, Not That - The Book De... - […] Amy Collins offers her experience and advice around mistakes that she and her clients have made while publishing and…

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