How to Avoid The Number One Mistake Too Many Authors MakeI love engaging with friends and family on Facebook (or as my 12-year old calls it, “Mom Book”), and also with our author community via our private group (you can join NFAA here to gain access). Recently, I noticed an old schoolmate making a big mistake that is also common among authors.

This schoolmate—we’ll call her Ann—sells personal care products and she set up a Facebook group to promote her products. The group name looks something like this: Ann’s Wellness Experience. And guess what Ann talks about in this group?

Ann talks about herself and how much she likes the products she’s selling.

Ann doesn’t mention how the products can help us—the people she added to the group (without asking us, by the way). She only talks about herself, the newest products she’s acquired for herself, and tells us we should order them, too—over and over again.

It’s a pushy sales tactic that ignores the most important part of any kind of sales: Understanding the target audience and their needs and challenges. And to be fair, Ann just doesn’t know any better.

I see authors making similar mistakes frequently:

  • Mentioning their books in random Facebook groups with a link to buy.
  • Posting their books in unrelated online discussion threads.
  • Attending author events and pushing their books on fellow authors.
  • Attending networking events and pushing their books on attendees.

We can all do better than this!

There’s an old saying, “When you know better, you do better.” Here’s how to avoid making the same mistakes:

Identify your target audience. If your book is about raising pet snakes, people who don’t like or own snakes are not your audience. Don’t waste your own time or the time of others by marketing your book to the wrong people.

Big companies spend a lot of time learning about their customers before they ever launch a marketing campaign. Porsche doesn’t market its two-seater sports cars to young moms with multiple kids. It markets them to high-earning middle-aged men who want to drive fast and look cool.

Imagine if the marketers from Porsche were to spam random Facebook groups with links to buy their cars. Not only would it be a wasted effort, it could potentially turn people off from the product completely.

Now imagine that Porsche sponsored a give-away for a large LinkedIn group for corporate executives, where a high percentage of the members are middle-aged men who earn top salaries. That would be a wise use of marketing time and dollars and would likely generate some sales.

Understanding your audience is critical because it informs every marketing decision you make.

Focus on the benefits for readers. How does your book help their lives in some way? How does it educate or entertain them? Will their snakes live longer because of your book? Will you help them select their next pet?

Do yourself a favor and make a list of at least five benefits readers will gain as a result of reading your book, and then start sharing those benefits with the right target audience.

Figure out where your audience spends time. There are all kinds of online groups and websites for snake enthusiasts. Spend your time there. Can you speak at snake conventions? Give free webinars for snake owners? Write articles for snake-related blogs and magazines?

I hear over and over from authors that they don’t have time for marketing, and I get it. We’re all busy with our day jobs and family commitments. But if you spend what little time you have marketing to the right people, your efforts will be far more effective.

Build your tribe. Book marketing shouldn’t be about selling one book at a time. It should be about building a community of readers who can’t wait for your next book, and the one after that.

Starting a Facebook group can be a great way to cultivate a loyal reader community, but if you want people to engage, make it about them. Ask questions about their snakes, offer advice and insight, entertain them, and serve them as a resource. Be helpful and knowledgeable and selfless in your pursuit to engage your audience. When people begin to know, like, and trust you, they will want to know more about your books and related products and services.

The same advice applies to your author website, presentations you give, conversations you have, media interviews, blog posts you write, and just about every interaction you have as an author.

Remember: It’s not about your book. It’s about how your book impacts the lives of your ideal readers.

And for those of you writing memoir, you’re not exempt. Your personal journey offers some lessons, right? Ask yourself how your book effects readers. What will they learn? How will they view life differently as a result of reading your book? Will they laugh or cry? Will they be inspired to do something differently? Identify a clear target audience and the benefits for your readers, and then set out to build your own tribe.

When you begin to understand the difference between selling and serving, and you understand that it’s about building a tribe of the right readers, the trajectory of your author career can change faster than you can say, “Let me tell you all about my book…”