Top 5 Marketing Mistakes Indie Authors Make (And How to Do Better)

Some indie authors sell thousands of books. Most don't. Here are five marketing mistakes we see indie authors make that land them in that "most don't" category, and a few suggestions on how to do better.

5. Write a lousy book

Fail: It's hard to sell a bad product. Especially when there are lots and lots and lots of good products around. Lots of indie authors have a bad case of "I-can-do-that-itis." You read a book and think, "I can do better than that." True, you may be able to write better than someone else, but being better than someone else doesn't mean you're good enough to warrant an audience's time and money.

Fix: Don't confuse talent with skill. Get some training. Sure, there are people who are naturally gifted with words, but I have never, ever met anyone who was naturally gifted at grammar. And very few of us are naturally gifted when it comes to spelling or vocabulary. Take classes, read books, watch webinars, join peer groups, attend conventions. Learn your craft; hone your skills. Do you need an MFA in creative writing to make it as an author? Not at all, but plenty of published writers found they got better at their craft once they had one. Did they get more talented? No, they got more trained.

4. Act as Author, Proofreader and Copyeditor

Fail: Typos, misspelled and misused words are common in indie books.

Fix: You are the worst person to proofread and copyedit your own work. You already know what you mean so you glide over "close" when it should be "closed." The skills of a good author are not the same as the skills of a good proofreader or copyeditor. Get someone to proof and edit your book who isn't a friend or relative (translation: someone who doesn't love you and isn't afraid to tell you the truth about your work even if it might hurt your feelings).

Can't afford the high cost of a professional, experienced proofreader or editor? Research low-cost options. Start-up companies usually have lower prices than their established counterparts. Dig around and you should be able to find one that offers quality work for a reasonable price. Negotiate a barter or trade.

3. Use a Bad Cover

Fail: Book covers are supposed to attract a reader's attention and convey a sense of the genre, tone and focus of the book. Unless you are a graphic artist, don't design your own book cover. Again, you already know what the book's about so that bookcover with one drop of bright red blood falling on a crumpled dollar bill might mean something to you, but won't give readers enough information to prompt them to pick up the book (or click on the link) to find out more. (One drop of bright red blood falling on a crumpled dollar bill could be the cover for a murder-for-hire mystery or a BDSM romance set in a check cashing store. Don't make readers guess.)

Fix: Work with a book cover designer. Preferably one who knows about the genre, tone and focus of the book before he or she starts working on the design. (You might luck into a usable cover at one of those stock-art mix-and-match websites, but a usable cover isn't the same as a wonderful cover.)

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Olivia Flores Alvarez