The Seven Deadly Sins of Book Advertising Told by a Book Publicist

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Competitive doesn’t begin to describe today’s book publicity market. The booming print-on- demand and self-publishing industries, coupled with mainstream publishers, has flooded the market with thousands of new releases each month. “The LA Times receives 600 to 700 books for review each week,” reports Steve Wasserman, book review editor (

While some authors choose to self-promote, and a lucky few have full support from their publishers, most authors reach out to professionals for help with at least some aspects of book marketing and book promotion. For both novice authors and veteran authors alike, the pitfalls of book publicity are many. What follows are the Seven Deadly Sins of Book Promotion; the mistakes and actions that can destroy an author’s chances to get substantial media coverage, and how to avoid these common pitfalls.

1. Sloth

If you think sitting back and watching royalty checks roll in is your destiny, think again. Virtually all authors must “get out there” and be seen and heard. Book signings and tours are not passive events; they require a hunger for success and kinetic energy level. Interviews can be a gold mine or a disaster for one who puts forth a half-hearted effort. Publicity doesn’t happen, you have to make it happen.

When an author is not only aggressive, but also willing to put his or her time in a campaign—we, as publicists, are better able to build their exposure, and gain consistent local, regional and nationwide coverage.

2. Pride

If you are promoting a book, prepare for your pride to be pierced a few times. One of the most common book marketing mistakes I’ve seen authors make is letting a negative book review or a bad interview derail their determination.

The author believes his book is a bestseller; it is his baby, his labor of love. He has great pride in what he has written, so much so that it has created an excessive belief in his abilities and his book; after all -- his relatives and friends love it. When the tough times come, pride begets anger, which begets frustration which leads to disillusionment.

Authors must go into book promotion knowing not everyone will fall in love with the book.I often ask my clients, “Do you like every book you’ve ever read?”

3. Envy

Envy serves no purpose in book marketing and author promotion. The only way other authors get great publicity gigs is because they try. If anything, you should learn from them. Watch successful authors carefully, examine their topic, and then examine your own project.

4. Lust

How does lust come into play with book promotion and book marketing? Know here:

Good book publicity can be intoxicating. Appearing on talk shows, reading articles written about you … it all makes you feel good, and it should. I always tell authors to enjoy the ride, because it won’t last forever. However, letting your good time change you, (or bring about actions which have nothing to do with the hard work of promoting your book) can be disastrous. Losing focus–taking your eye off the ball–is a surefire way to run into trouble.

Ex: During the first conversations with a prospective client–a middle age author with multiple books–he asked me (and I must paraphrase here) if the publicity generated would “attract” women. He was serious. Needless to say, his campaign lasted only one month; we tried to keep him focused on the steps needed to get exposure for his books, but we couldn’t, and we parted company.

In the end, lust almost always makes for an unhappy ending to what can be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

5. Gluttony

Gluttony in book promotion touches upon several of the other sins. In its purest form, it is the insatiable desire to “consume” as much major publicity as possible, and not being satisfied with each opportunity. Local radio interviews, for example, become unsatisfying, and an author starts to shun them because she wants more and bigger opportunities. A book review in a small newspaper is dismissed as insignificant, because she wants bigger newspapers. A local TV opportunity is declined because there aren’t enough viewers to fulfill the need for exposure.

6. Greed

Like gluttony, greed is the offspring of several other sins, and perhaps the most common sin of book promotion. When clients truly understand the nature of book publicity, they are able to roll with the busy times and slow times, knowing it is the cumulative efforts of the entire campaign that count. As a publicists, we gauge when the “party is over” for a particular angle, then work with the author to develop new and topical press materials with the goal of maintaining and improving media opportunities.

7. Anger

Anger comes in many forms in book publicity. I once worked with an author who received a brutal review of his book, and was so angry he proceeded to drive over 200 miles to the reviewer’s location, storm into the office, and scream at the reviewer. This was, putting it mildly, a bad move.

We are all Sinners

Book marketing is a distinctly human process. It is an emotional, scary, exciting and stimulating experience. Authors promoting a book will, at various times, experience both disappointment and excitement. All authors will also be tempted to “sin” at various times in a campaign. As a publicist, I expect this and understand it. I am usually successful at coaxing our authors away from the “dark side.”

Dan Smith is CEO and Founder of Smith Publicity a leading book publicist. Beginning in 1997, Smith Publicity has evolved from a one-person operation run from a bedroom office to one of the leading book advertising and author promotion firms in the industry. Fueled by a passion for making good things happen for clients, the firm has worked with over 1000 individuals and companies—from authors and entrepreneurs to publicly-held companies and business— representing a wide range of industries.

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