Marketing myths and distribution deceptions


My column, Self-publishers and piranhas, provides several warning signs that you’re about to be scammed. While not strictly a scam, many self-publishers are hyping their marketing and distribution
services which are—in my humble opinion—not cost effective. (I work for a custom-publisher, ACW Press, but send potential clients, who are desiring marketing and distribution, this word of caution. I’m a terrible salesperson!)

Dear author,

Most authors want to have their book on the shelves of book stores and accessible from Here are some of the challenges a self-published author faces—and what many self-publishing companies won’t tell you:

Marketing is the least effective method to sell books

Many self-publishing companies promise marketing programs, but fail to tell the author that advertisements, Web sites, email blasts, etc. are the least effective methods to sell books. “Word of mouth” continues to be the number one way books—both traditional and self-published—are sold. (The Shack‘s advertising budget was just $300, yet it has sold millions of copies by word of mouth.) Marketing is effective for well-known authors, which is why royalty publishers put the most advertising dollars into authors who are already selling well; very little into unknown authors.

The next best method is “back of the room” sales where you are speaking. If you’re not speaking on your book’s subject, you’ll need to develop that “platform” from which to successfully sell your book. Don’t invest a lot of money in marketing. Social networking (Facebook, Twitter), blogging on your topic, appearing on your local radio and television stations, and developing your speaking ministry are basically free and are the best ways to “market” your book. Marketing is your job!

Distributors provide availability but not desirability

A book distributor such as Ingrams or STL simply make the book available to book stores and at a very high cost to the author (distribution fee, annual storage fee for the books stocked and a 65 percent cut of your books price). For the self-published author, this is not cost effective. As mentioned above, the author must provide the desirability for the book. Distributors provide availability, but if there is no desirability, your books will sit on the shelf of the distributor. Again, “distribution” is your job.

Bottom line, it is the author—and not marketing and distribution—that sell self-published books. Don’t be deceived by some self-publishers’ promises of marketing and distribution for your book. You will see little—if any—return on that investment. Instead, we highly recommend Carmen Leal’s You Can Market Your Book for hundreds of inexpensive ways for the author to become the book’s marketer.

Copyright © James N. Watkins

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