(or how to lose friends and be an asshat in several easy steps)


SSo, your novel’s written, edited AND published? Nice work.

Now you can just kick back, watch readers snap it up and let the big bucks roll in, right?


Unfortunately, unless you are really, really lucky, then people won’t buy your book just because you published it. Unless your name’s JK Rowling or Stephen King, that is. And there’s no point trying to change your name, as people like lawyers and your own parents get upset if you try that sort of trick……err, so we heard (Cough, Cough).

I’m afraid that, if you want to get your book off the shelves (virtual or real) and into your readers’ hands, you’re going to have to put in some work.

This applies even if you’re lucky enough to have a deal with a publisher. Yes, your publisher should do a lot of the marketing for you, but if you know what they should be doing then you might be able spot even more opportunities to sell yet more books.

As you’d imagine, the question of how to best market your book is one with many, many answers.

We’re going to start, because we’re contrary like that, by telling you five things guaranteed to NOT work. Avoid these and you’ll not only increase your chances of selling books, but you’ll make sure you don’t lose friends and make an asshat of yourself…. unfortunately we speak from experience here!

1. Anti-Social Media: Spamming

These are the authors who hijack social media, seeing it as another place to shout about their book. Filling their friends’ Twitter or Facebook timelines with non-stop “Buy my book!” tweets or posts.

Why don’t these work, we hear you ask?

Well, think of social media as a party held in a really big room. Imagine all of the people milling around, chatting, showing each other photos and amusing videos. Then imagine one person standing up in the middle of that party and shouting “Buy my book! Buy my book! Buy my book!” over and over again. Maybe even waving a copy of their book in peoples’ faces.

If you were at that party, would you want to go over and listen to that person? Or would you want to move as far away as possible? Exactly. That person would just be acting like an asshat, and no one wants to talk to an asshat, let alone read their book.

Don’t be that asshat.

2. Badreads

Goodreads is social media for people who like reading books. Surely there’s no better place to go and promote the heck out of your masterpiece, right?


Goodreads is full of readers, but they’re pretty much exclusively readers who want to talk about books they’re passionate about (and maybe also books they’re not so passionate about). They’re looking for the next great read, but they don’t want it rammed down their throats.

We’ve seen authors who’ve gone into a Goodreads group and started telling everyone how great their book is and how everyone should really go out and read it RIGHT NOW. Imagine a baby gazelle being thrown to a pit full of hungry lions. It wasn’t pretty: those reader/lions tore those author/gazelles limb-from-limb. Ouch!

We’re not writing anything bad about the people on Goodreads. They’re great people. Heck, we’re on there ourselves and enjoy getting involved in the conversations, scanning the lists, and have found some of our favourite new reads on there. But we don’t use it to promote and spam, because that would lose us friends quicker than the Donald can fire out a 5am tweet.

If you’re an author and want to use Goodreads, here’s our advice: make sure you have an up-to-date author page on there, engage with people who approach you first, but otherwise take off your author hat and use it as a reader. That way, you’ll avoid any unnecessary gazelle to lion introductions.

3. Not knowing your audience

One of the most important things an author does when they’re looking to sell their novel is figure out who their audience is: who is most likely to want to read their book.

When you know that, then you can work out where those people hang out, where they search, what they search for. If you’ve written a gritty sci-fi epic, there’s no point touting it to romance readers. And vice versa.

If you join a Facebook group with the intention of building your audience and gaining new readers, first of all ask yourself whether your ideal reader is likely to be in that group at all. Think about what the group is for, understand the rules, spend some time getting to know people. Build a bit of trust and make sure you’re in the right place.

Don’t just parachute straight in and start shouting “Buy my book!” – as we said above, that way lies asshattery.

This especially applies to Facebook author groups. Those guys are there because they want to swap tips, or just connect with other authors as part of a community. So it’s no real surprise that they don’t get particularly impressed by someone appearing and telling them they really should buy their new book. If you do that, you’ll just mark yourself out as: (a) desperate, (b) ignorant, (c) no idea how to properly market your book, or (d) all of the above.

You certainly won’t sell any books…

4. Marketing in the wrong places

You’ve all heard about how all these big internet companies know everything about us, how your email address is all over the place? Well the reality isn’t quite like that.

It’s a million times worse.

Sorry to break it to you, but if you’ve used the internet just a bit, even if you’ve never FaceTubed or Twitted at anyone, the big internet boys know pretty much everything about you. We’re not just talking about Cookies (and now we’re hungry again), but also pixels, tracking codes, algorithms and other exciting-sounding stuff. Those things are following you round all the time you’re online, and they know everything about you, as you’ll know if you’ve ever looked at something on Amazon and then seen adverts for that same thing pop up all over the place whenever you’re surfing the internet.

But, hey, it’s not all bad news! As an author, it means you can laser target your adverts at exactly the people who really want to read your books. So, if you know that your ideal reader is a woman aged between 25 and 50 who loves ‘Downton’, is recently engaged and has pets… you can get an advert right in front of her and other people just like her.

The days of putting an advert in a magazine or on a billboard in the hope that someone will wander past and see it are long gone. Or they should be. Some people still insist on doing that. Some of the bigger players will do so by design, for product recognition or to build brand loyalty. But they have big pockets and wide audiences. As authors, we don’t normally have that luxury.

So, the next big mistake to avoid is to not take advantage of all the tools of this internet age. If you’re chucking adverts and posts out willy-nilly without really targeting them at the right people, then at best you’re losing friends, and at worst you’re losing money.

5. Here Be Monsters: The Vanity Presses

The saying goes that everyone’s got a book in them. Whether that’s true or not, there are a LOT of people who want to write a book and see it in print. And there are millions upon millions of readers out there.

The business of books is a huge one, with lots of money up for grabs. And that means lots of sharks circling, ready to take big chunks out of the unwary authors swimming in their midst.

What do these sharks look like? I’m sorry to say they come in all shapes and sizes.

Some are just incompetent: the well-meaning company which just doesn’t understand the market. Maybe they’re stuck using old methods, or just using techniques which don’t work for the area you’re writing in.

Some are more devious. They will usually play on authors’ dreams, promising them guaranteed success, the vision of their book in print. The giveaway will usually be when you look at what they actually offer, and what they want in return. Especially what they want in return.

Our rule is that if someone is asking you to pay them money just so they can publish your book: run away.

Let’s be clear: publishers should pay money to authors, not the other way round. The point of a book publisher is that they should finance the costs of getting your book ready for publication and beyond. If a publisher offers to put your book in print in return for you paying them money—no matter how many copies they say you can get as a part of that deal—they’re more likely than not a vanity publisher. They won’t help get your book anywhere that you wouldn’t be able to do by yourself.

Before you hand over any money to anyone, do some searching. Ask around on author message boards to see if anyone knows of them. In our free guide to publishing we list some very reputable sources you can check against, including:


So, that’s it. Those are our top five tips on how NOT to sell your book.

Hopefully these start to set you on the straight and narrow. Have you come across anything which really didn’t work, or just plain annoyed you? Let us know in the comments below…

Happy writing!

The Burning Chair team.



Image art:

Fredrick Kearney Jr

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