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Monday, February 19, 2018

5 Ways How Indie Authors Avoid Inadvertently Sabotaging Their Best Marketing Options

In these times of online hypes, the #1 rule for doing anything on the Internet is:

Do not follow every advice that sounds good!
“Mere prattle without practice” ― William Shakespeare, Othello

Here is a brief look-back on what happened during the last decade.

1) From 2008 to 2016, indie authors had the opportunity to contact any number of Amazon's 10,000 top reviewers and ask them to review their book(s).

2) In May 2015, I even published an award-winning guide on how to approach reviewers with professional flair. Indeed, I was qualified to write this book. Not only am I a top reviewer, my work as email evangelist was featured in Success magazine and Entrepreneur.

3) Authors who bought this book and followed the advice scored big time.

3) I also blogged about the topic. Arianna Huffington was so impressed that she made me a contributor at the Huff Post. Though the blog penned in 2016 still exists, in 2017, Amazon disconnected the top reviewers's email addresses. Here is why:

4) At the same time, other book marketing experts offered free blogs that suggested action steps that "sounded better or easier to do." Here are some of the worst:
a) Just tailor the attached template and send it to as many reviewers as you can find.
b) Attach your ebook to your request email to speed up the process 
c) Have street teams up-vote your favorite book reviews so they are being shown on your Amazon page first. 
Thousands of authors shared these blogs.


The unfortunate results of such unqualified advice were:

(a) Top reviewers got annoyed with receiving the same kind of tailored emails up to 8-times per day, seven days per week. So, they did what every normal person does: Many deleted their email addresses from Amazon, others made their profiles completely invisible.

(b)  Sending unsolicited materials via electronic message systems is called SPAM; there are laws against this practice. A few months after authors began spamming reviewers by sending them unsolicited ebooks, Amazon disconnected the top reviewers' email addresses altogether.

(c) Data hoarder Amazon also did not appreciate that people tried to manipulate their database, activities Amazon could track via their mandatory log-in. So, they did away with free marketing options that were abused by street teams' activities:

• the author "like" button (done away in 2014)
• the automatic FB button (done away in 2014)
• the automatic Tweet button (done away in 2015)
• the 50-Review-Boost feature (done away in 2015)
• the Connect-Kindle-to-Review-Platform feature (moved from Amazon to Goodreads)

just to name a few.


Within less than three years (after I published my book), indie authors went from “access to thousands of excellent reviewers” who, for free, wrote reviews which many authors consider better reviews than Kirkus’ reviews, to “no top reviewer availability, at all.”

On average, Amazon's top reviewers reviewed about 1 million books per year. Since 2017, many authors pay NetGalley to get reviews they could have gotten for free from the top reviewers. 


Never Forget "the Others"

All of the mentioned practices have something in common  they do not factor in the recipients' reactions.

Sure, authors could send emails tailored from templates to reviewers.
But, top reviewers who got annoyed with an ever increasing stream of same sounding emails could make themselves unavailable.

Authors could also spam reviewers and book bloggers by sending books they didn't request.
But, again, the reviewers could make themselves unavailable.

Similarly, authors could send out street teams to influence the look of Amazon book pages as well as Amazon's database.
But, Amazon could track these activities and remove the features that were abused most often.


Now, I read that marketers are trying to get authors to volunteer their followers' email addresses, respectively mention/market the books from other authors to people who subscribed to their email lists. Similar efforts "to use" acquired contacts can be spotted on Linkedin


Everybody has expectations about what content they'll receive when subscribing to a list.

Most people get annoyed when they receive different content.

Mail Chimp even addresses this issue and offers a preset unsubscribe-form.

Among the options the survey offers are:

  • I no longer want to receive these emails
  • The emails are inappropriate
  • The emails are spam and should be reported

(Though I don't know if they do, I would not be surprised if Mailchimp collects this data.)


If this pattern continues

... soon,  self-publishing will be like it used to be before e-publishing and print-on-demand were invented (before 2008):

Authors will have to plan a budget of $2,000 to $6,000 for releasing their books. Only now this budget won't be used for printing their books, it'll be needed to get reviews and start-up marketing.


What can you do?

Think of yourself, your book(s), and your wallet first. Believe your own smarts!

Did you ever buy a car or a house? – I am sure that when you purchase big ticket items, you check every little detail.

Before you buy a new car, you read consumer reports. Before you buy a used car, you get it inspected by your trusted mechanic. And, you'd never buy a car just because it looks good.

That's precisely, how authors should approach suggestions how to handle their book marketing efforts:

1) Check if the experts whose advice you consider following actually "do what they advise on," for real. (E.g. the people who gave the above mentioned advice don't review any books.)

2) Be weary of organizations who create new programs all the time. The programs they are already offering may not be working.

3) Look for real credentials. The words "xyz has published x number of books" are not good enough. E-book publishing and print-on-demand have been around for over a decade. There are tens of thousands of people who can claim that they published "x number of books."

4) Beware of people who offer advice in all fields. The 21st century is the century of specialized experts; today, nobody can know "everything."

[For instance, you won't hear me giving advice on writing, editing, cover design, marketing on Youtube or Pinterest, and other tasks I am not an expert in. On the other hand, I publish books about the book reviewing process, best email writing, and getting media coverage which are all fields I studied in-depth.]

And, most importantly:

5) Think three dimensional!

Thinking through all three options will help indie authors to avoid losses like the ones that piled up during the last decade.


Gisela Hausmann is a 29 yr. self-publishing industry veteran, an email evangelist and a top reviewer. 

Her work has been featured in regional, national, and international publications 
including Success magazine (print) and Entrepreneur, on Bloomberg, The Innovation Show  a show for Square Pegs in Round Holes, "The Brutal Truth about Sales & Selling"-podcast, and Austria's Der Standard and Das Wirtschaftsblatt. 

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Gisela tweets @Naked_Determina

© 2018 by Gisela Hausmann 
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