The worst book marketing mistakes of an indie author

The worst book marketing mistakes of an indie author

Mistakes are a natural part of learning. There’s no progress without stumbling a few times along the way. Still, the fewer mistakes — the better as they can be costly. It’s especially true for self-published book marketing as each mistake means potential sales and fans lost.

And book marketing is hard. Some strategies work, some don’t, while select few harm. To help you avoid as much harm as possible, we compiled a list of top book marketing mistakes you should be wary of. 

Mistake 1: Late marketing start 

There’s not really such a thing as premature marketing of a book. On average, it’s recommended to start book marketing 6 to 12 months before the book release. 

As soon as you have something to show people and get them interested, do it. For example, it could be a book cover design, illustrated character design,  your work process insights, or interesting research findings.  

Mistake 2: No target audience research 

You don’t want to jump into the water off a cliff without knowing the floor. Who knows what’s there — a sharp rock, a shallow, a Lovecraftian horror, or even a particularly angry fish. 

Though doing marketing without research isn’t as fatal, it’s still dangerous and often futile. If you’re lucky enough, your book marketing will bring positive results. You jump off a cliff, and it appears that the water is warm and clean with a comfortable depth. 

If her majesty Luck is neutral towards you, you’d likely gain nothing. The water is cold, a bit slimy, and smelly. It’s unpleasant, and you didn’t get what you wanted, but a shower and a warm cup of tea will lift your morals. 

But, if lucks’ predisposition is negative…  Well, the fish down there is very angry. A shower won’t cut it. 

Marketing without research is likely to frustrate and anger some readers. The opposite of what you want your promo campaigns to achieve. 

So, don’t bet on luck. Do your target audience research.  

After it, you’ll be able to market to your ideal reader, a person who’s likely to buy and enjoy your book.

Mistake 3: Marketing all over the place 

If you have sufficient marketing budget and motivation, your first instinct may be:

“Let’s market everywhere I can! Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Amazon, Google, local grocery store, and central city square! More is better right?

Such an impulse is understandable and even commendable. But, it’s a bad book marketing strategy as it has three major problems: 

  1. The danger of losing focus and failure to fine-tune your marketing campaigns for better performance. 
  2. Subsequent lack of budget to squeeze the maximum out of the most relevant platform.
  3. Failure to effectively target your readers where they mostly reside. 

As a result, you have a bit out of everything, but the total sum is not that much. You lose time and money without winning many new readers. 


Follow the findings of your target audience research. If the research shows your target audience prefers Instagram, put your money and effort there. 

Mistake 4: Neglecting visual marketing 

The logic seems straightforward: I’m trying to sell words, so I’m gonna market with words. Throw a nice cover on the book, and that’s it.

The issue is, you need to get noticed online, which is quite a feat. And nothing beats a catchy visual at getting the attention of the overwhelmed Internet user. Besides, pictures are easier to memorize than words, and visuals convey emotions much quicker than prose. 

What it means: you need ad banners, social media banners, beautiful mockups, art, and photos. 

Social media banner example for proper book marketing strategy

Keep in mind that different online platforms lend themselves better to different types of visual content. Do your research before investing in visual marketing. 

Mistake 5: Promoting in groups without establishing yourself

The Internet is full of different groups and forums for self-published writers where you can promote your books and network with other authors. The worst thing you can do with them is to jump in and start promoting your work left and right without laying any groundwork. You’ll be ignored. 

If you want people to pay attention to you, listen to you, and respect your work, you should establish yourself first. 


Bring in some value: share your experience, engage with people, support their work. Then, when it’s your time to speak, others are more likely to listen. 

Mistake 6: Confusing the algorithm through quid pro quo groups 

Ah, the Recommendation Algorithm. A modern deity of online engagement. Creators do their best to appease it, without knowing the mysterious ways of its workings. 

To be fair, modern recommendation algorithms are so complex that making sense of them is a great achievement

Still, we know that Amazon algorithm “scopes recommendations through the user’s purchased or rated items. Then, it pairs them to similar items, using metrics and composing a list of recommendations.”

Let’s assume you write thrillers. You enter a favor-for-favor group where authors buy each other’s books, and maybe write some reviews for better engagement. So, the number of sales goes up, which is a positive signal for the Algorithm. 

But what about the “also bought” section

An avid thriller reader scrolls your book page and sees a peculiar “also bought” stripe. If your book is a prime representative of the genre, why was it bought by users who read everything from fitness & wellness to romances? A confused potential customer is not a customer. 

Besides, we can’t be sure how the recommendation algorithm will interpret such ambiguous signals. Add to it the fact that many people who bought your book won’t read it, leave reviews or ratings. Quite likely Amazon code wouldn’t push your book as hard as it could. 

Better avoid such methods, unless you’re 99.9% sure it’s worth it. You want the Algorithm on your side and a clean “also bought” section.

Alse read Amazon section example

Mistake 7: Absence of marketing push on launch 

Book marketing is a marathon, but when the finish line’s on the horizon, push a little harder. Double down your marketing efforts during release. It’s an event that happens only once, so don’t waste it. 

If you want some book marketing strategies that can come in handy, check our freebies section. 

Mistake 8: Stopping marketing after release 

It’s not over when the book goes into the wild. You want to support the noise around your book to some extent, or the interest will die down. There are several ways of marketing your book after launch, such as: 

  • Discounts 
  • Review sharing 
  • Free chapters giveaways
  • Merchandize
  • Book cover redesign
  • Cross-marketing with other people
  • Email marketing campaigns 

Mistake 9: Investing in ads without understanding how to work with them 

One of the most costly mistakes you can make is using marketing tools without proper experience and knowledge. Authors lose a lot of money trying to learn on the fly. Be it Google or Amazon ads, you should know how to use them to avoid unnecessary expenses and target readers effectively. Besides, ad campaigns require further adjustments for the best performance.  

Better spend some time learning all the nuances or even hire a professional. It will save you tons of money and frustration. 

Summing up

Self-publishing is a fun but bumpy road (but that’s the thrill, right?). Mistakes will be made. But we hope that our article will help make your path as smooth as possible. If you know any marketing pitfalls we haven’t mentioned, please share them in the comments

Let’s make it easier for self-published authors to succeed. 

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