8 Things Book Promotion Companies Wish Authors Understood

by | Jul 25, 2023 | Book Marketing Basics

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I wish book marketing services and book publicity was a magic elixir. If I had one superpower it would probably be flying, or you know, helping authors sell more books.

But we’re not magic, despite what a lot of authors want to assume.

Yes, we know a lot about publishing and selling books to readers – it’s our business to know.

But there are limits to what good book promotion companies can do for a book.

Getting reviews, and getting traction on Amazon are all good things, but it takes a village and it takes an author willing to dig in and do the work. That’s the real magic.

But is there more to it than that? You bet. Let’s have a look at 8 things book promotion companies wish authors knew:

A Bad Book Cover is a Problem

Readers judge a book by its cover and so do book promotion companies.

It’s sad when an author sends me their book and it’s fantastic but the cover is all wrong. Because no amount of book promotion in the world can fix that.

If the book promotion company you’re speaking with offers insight into your cover I’d listen closely, it’s probably because they know it can affect the success of your promotion, whether you hire them or not.

And my team and I will do that if we feel a cover isn’t strong enough and, in almost every case, the author will tell me: “Yeah, I’ve heard that before.” Oftentimes, a bad book cover doesn’t come as a surprise to the author.

Occasionally an author with stand firm that they love their cover and won’t ever change it, and I will tell them we’re not a good fit then – I won’t take someone’s marketing investment when I know it’s destined to fall flat.

But I mention it here for another reason.

Hiring a book promotion company to market your book won’t change the fact that your cover doesn’t work for your market.

At the end of the day, we can set the table and drive people to your Amazon page, but we can’t force people to buy your book. Your book cover is one of many key elements that have to be done correctly to convert shoppers to buyers.

Your Book Won’t Sell Immediately

If it’s your first book, this is especially true.

Books take time, and good book promotion companies will tell you the same thing. I have a friend in publishing who once called it the long runway of promotion, and this statement is really true.

Most books don’t take off right away, especially not in an age where there are more than 8,000 books released every single day. They take a lot of care and feeding.

So it’s important to plan your book promotion budget and your book marketing accordingly.

Don’t aim to blow your entire budget doing all of the things right out of the gate, and know a good book promotion firm won’t encourage that kind of approach either, they’ll want to help you build your brand in a strategic way.

Fame Isn’t the Standard for Debut Authors

Even though we inherently know there’s no such thing as an overnight success, it still feels possible.

Book promotion companies know this, too.

Every once in a while a unicorn is born, and there’s a first book that does exceptionally well. But in almost every case the author has been busy, doing a lot of the right things behind the scenes – no author just casually put a book on Amazon and started collecting massive royalty checks, no matter how tempting it is to hold onto that kind of dream.

Expect to work, a lot. Even if you hire a book promotion company, you still need to put in the time and manage your own expectations, that is unless you have enough money to keep them on for months or even years to come.

You Will Have to Participate

Sometimes authors just don’t know what to do, and that’s fair.

I mean, that’s where book promotion companies can offer a lot of value.

If you’re willing to learn, there’s a ton of great content out there and a lot of good people willing to teach you how to market.

But expecting to hire a book promotion company to do it all for you isn’t realistic.

In fact, if an author says to me that they don’t want to do anything on their own, I generally won’t work with them because that spells trouble.

It’s completely acceptable to want to hire a firm to do the things you can’t, like our Amazon Optimization, or pitching the influencers, bloggers and media – but there are a lot of other things you can be doing.

Even if you’re just managing your social media or blogging, that’s something and it all adds up to a much stronger brand that’s more likely to convert shoppers to buyers.

You Have to Know Your Genre

Maybe it seems crazy, that an author would release a book without knowing what genre it belongs in, but you’d be amazed how often this happens. They run with their idea without confirming there’s a defined audience out there waiting for a book like theirs.

One of the best things you can do as an author is to know your lane. You may want to sell your book to everyone but this is never a smart tactic. Know your lane (genre and subgenre) and market to that core group. Not only will this save you marketing dollars, but it’ll also really help to increase your chances of success.

Think of it this way, marketing to everyone may mean selling 5 books for every 5,000 people who see it. Whereas marketing to a core group of the right people means selling 5 books for every 100 people who see it.

For example, we had an author who wrote what she thought was a paranormal romance, but it really wasn’t – not in the sense of what paranormal readers really wanted.

The book, while good, wasn’t getting a lot of pickup in that market. But when she moved it to a different genre on Amazon, changed up the book description, and changed how and who she was marketing to, it started selling.

Sometimes the fix is that easy, but other times it’s not.

Know your reader, because like a bad cover, book marketing companies can’t fix the fact that you wrote a book that doesn’t resonate.

Being a Fan is Critical

This is a big deal not just for book promotion companies, but for your reader, too.

And it’s a surefire way to not sell any books.

Know your reader, know your market – and know what your market wants.

I sometimes talk to authors who dream of writing in a particular genre, not because they’re a fan of it, per se, but because it’s something they think they can do, or because they know it’s trending. You see this a lot with stories that have undercurrents of social or political commentary.

Any book promotion company worth their salt will tell you: be a fan of your genre, read bestselling books in your genre, and especially read the reviews on Amazon.

Follow other, similar authors, too – get to know them, and network.

Getting a sense of what’s selling and what isn’t is so important.

Don’t Wait to Release Your Next Book

Sometimes an author only wants to write one book, and that’s fine.

But in most cases, writers aren’t one-hit wonders.

We have multiple books in us and have ideas for many (many) future titles. One of the biggest challenges that any author faces is when to release their next book. My advice is don’t wait. Most book promotion companies will tell you that books build on each other, even if your books aren’t in a series.

My first books about book marketing did better as I added new titles to my library of book offerings.

This doesn’t mean you have to release books on top of each other – spacing titles out is never a bad idea. But waiting a year or more (especially if you’re a new author) gets tricky and it’s a tough way to build a readership.

Think of it this way, we all want a sure thing. So it shouldn’t be surprising that people would hesitate to buy a book from an author if it’s their only title. But that starts to change once you start racking up a bunch of positive reviews. And then fast-forward 5 years and you have 3 or 4 books out with great reviews, someone finding you on Amazon for the first time with that kind of backlist under your belt probably won’t hesitate at all – because you’ve proven you’re a sure thing. You’ve proven you keep writing books people enjoy. See the difference?

Be Sure You Understand What You’re Paying For

This is a big one, and I think applies to a lot of different facets of book marketing. It’s also something I hear a lot from authors who come to us after working with different companies or a freelancer, and that is: “But I thought I was getting…” or “What I really wanted was….”

Most book promotion companies (the good ones) are very clear about what their deliverables are – if the company you’re considering isn’t clear, or talks a big game without getting honest about how their services benefit you, be wary.

And most importantly: Get it in writing, and then when you do, don’t assume that they’ll be doing more than what they’ve outlined.

We hear this complaint a lot too, a company offered X, Y, and Z and an author assumed that it automatically included A, B, and C as well.

Book promotion companies are businesses, and the good ones, like my team, genuinely want to see authors succeed, but we’re still here to earn a living doing what we love to do – so just as you wouldn’t expect the grocery store to throw in a bunch of free food at check out, don’t expect any marketing firm to include services that haven’t been clearly outlined and priced out for you.

Book marketing isn’t magic, but sometimes when the chemistry is right, it can seem that way – and a big part of that is having the right expectations, and the right attitude.

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  1. Darcy

    Thank you for the encouragement. I’ve been procrastinating on my 2nd book… I’ll get on it, I promise.
    I love your PodCast also.

    • Penny Sansevieri

      Darcy thanks so much for listening to our podcast, so glad you love it! Good luck with your next book! Penny


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