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3 Marketing Mistakes I Made With My First Traditionally Published Book

For some authors, marketing is the hardest part of writing books. I am one of those authors. Here are the biggest mistakes I made, and what I’d do differently next time. Marketing, publicity and promotion many not come naturally to many writers and authors, but it increases visibility and readership.

Okay, that’s the most boring introduction ever. Dry, formal, and grammatically correct…and dull. And, I might add, it’s one of the reasons marketing books is so painful! We authors think we’re supposed to be professional and even perfect, and we forget that readers resonate with words that come from our heart.

Readers don’t connect with perfection. That may be a marketing mistake many authors make—trying to be perfect and polished—but it’s not the one I made. 

The worst part of my failure to launch? The fact that I wrote a complete Marketing Plan for a Women’s Nonfiction Self-Help Book months before the book was published. I had huge plans to market Growing Forward, and I did none of it. I even turned down podcast interviews and library appearances. Is this self-sabotage? I didn’t think so, and I still don’t.

Frankly, my dear, I just didn’t give a damn about marketing the book.

My Biggest 3 Book Marketing Mistakes

My first traditionally published book is Growing Forward When You Can’t Go Back (Bethany House, 2019). It’s a nonfiction self-help for women going through loss, grief, divorce, and other painful life changes. 

And therein lies my first mistake.

1. I wasn’t passionate about loss, grief, and healing

Even before Growing Forward was published, I realized the most effective way to publicize and market my book was by visiting grief forums, support groups, podcasts, blogs and magazines. I’d have to immerse myself in loss and recovery, grief and healing.

And I couldn’t. I already knew how hard it was from my blogs. I’d already spent a decade blogging about grief, divorce, family estrangement and pet loss. I’d written everything from comforting your boyfriend after a family death to deciding if your marriage is over. Hundreds of readers have shared their stories in the comments sections of my blogs. They poured out their hearts and asked for advice. Even if I had the time to answer each comment, I didn’t have the emotional strength.

That was my first marketing mistake as an author: I wrote a book about a subject I didn’t want to talk about.

2. I ignored the reasons publishers rejected Growing Forward

My literary agent at the time sent me the rejection letters she received from the publishers she pitched. One in particular stands out: 

“Thank you so much for sending this to me for review. I love the way she turns to women from the Bible as models for each of the chapters. Well done! Sadly, as much as I recognize the need for books on this topic, we’ve found it’s such a hard sell internally—and in the marketplace. For that reason, I must pass on this one.”

– an editor at Waterbrook Multnomah, a division of Penguin Random House.

Now when I write books, I not only want to be confident that I’ll be able to market them (writing magazine articles, appearing on podcasts, blogging about the topic, responding to readers) for a long time. I also need to pay attention to the reasons publishers reject my book.

A Multnomah editor said a women’s self-help book about grief isn’t just a hard sell to the publishing team. It’s also difficult to sell in the marketplace. If I wanted Growing Forward to become a bestseller, I’d have to become an expert in grief recovery and healing. 

3. I didn’t have a series or long-term strategy for Growing Forward

This might be the key reason I won’t make the same marketing mistake when I find a traditional publisher for Almost Sage (my upmarket women’s fiction book)! I’m not only excited about discussing Sage with book clubs, bloggers, podcasts and library groups, I have two more novels planned.

Having a series puts me as an author on solid ground. Almost Sage isn’t just a one-off that I wrote because it seemed like a good idea at the time! It’s a novel that I wrote for myself. I think and hope it’ll get traditionally published, but I always knew that even if it didn’t I would’ve written it anyway.

Those are the three biggest marketing mistakes I made when my first book was traditionally published—I didn’t want to dwell in the subject matter, I ignored the publisher’s reasons for not offering a contract, and I didn’t plan to stay rooted in the topic.

If you’re looking for book marketing tips, don’t ask me. If you’re willing to share your book marketing tips, please comment below!

What I’d do differently next time

Not get published. Unless it’s a book I want to live with for the next five or more years.


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