Wednesday, March 5, 2014

10 Ways Authors Turn Off Potential Readers

I recently stopped following a couple authors on Twitter because almost every Tweet was about their own books. They may have been good writers. But I’ll never know. They were too busy publicly flogging their own product for me to care. Listen, authors need to market themselves. I have no problem with an author talking about their books. But there's such a thing as overkill. Anyway, it got me thinking about other ways that writers turn off potential readers. Here's ten of them.

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Recommending your own books. You know, someone randomly asks for recommendations for a certain genre, comments roll in, a thread starts, and an author pops in to say, “May I recommend MY novel.” Um, no you may not! I'm far more likely to consider buying your novel if someone other than you or your mother is hawking it.

Gimmick giveaways. Giving away your books can be a good thing. But there’s a point at which it smacks of desperation. “Once I reach 5K FB Friends I’ll be giving away a Kindle Fire, some refrigerator magnets, and a lifetime subscription to my newsletter!” Or gaining giveaway “points” by having someone do any combination of things to promote you:  “Just leave a comment here, re-post to your Facebook page, re-Tweet, and mention me on your own blog for your best chance to win!” ding! ding! ding! Not interested.

Listing your book in your list of favorites and/or must-reads. Even if your book is number 10 out of 10 on your list, don’t do it. Let someone else praise you. Besides, this tactic makes me feel as if the list was posted just to get your book in it!

A crappy cover. Covers are first impressions and if yours looks amateurish, poorly constructed, or bland, there's a good chance you won't get to make a "second" impression.

Complaining about another author’s success to push your own product. “It’s sad that he / she could sell _______ thousand copies of that junk, while MY book — which is just as good — gets buried.” What’s sad is that you think disparaging another author earns you points with readers.

Turning every conversation back to your novels. “Yeah, the economy sucks, global poverty is on the rise, mountain gorillas are near extinction, and an approaching asteroid threatens millions of lives. Coincidentally, I addressed these issues in my last novel. Here’s the link!”

Make me Like you before we’re Friends. I’m fine with you asking me to Like your page. But asking me to Like you BEFORE we’re Friends just seems backwards. If we become Friends, I may discover I like you enough to actually Like your page. Unless you’re already famous, multi-published, I know you, and I already like your stuff, I probably won’t Like you. Whew!

Ulterior-Friending: When an author Follows / Friends you with the intention that you Friend them back so that they can send an automated reply to thank you for following them back on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, or whatever, followed by an endless stream of updates about their novels. Listen, if your request for my Follow / Friendship is a veiled attempt to jam your books down my throat, please don’t ask.

Breathless Blurbs. I’m fine with a line or two on the back cover. But please don’t shout phrases at me like: adrenaline rush; high-octane; pulse-pounding, edge of your seat; heart-soaring; etc. It just seems like, well, you're trying too hard.

Cheesy, Unprofessional website: If you actually get me to your web home, at least make it look like you got your sh*t together. An author who can’t invest enough time and money to at least make their home page look decent, can’t be trusted to make their novels any better.

Okay, there’s ten. Any you’d like to add to the list?

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Mike Duran is represented by the rockin' Rachelle Gardner of Books & Such Literary. Mike's novels include The TellingThe Resurrection, an ebook novella, Winterland, and his newly released short story anthology Subterranea. You can visit his website at, or follow him on Facebook and Twitter.


  1. Well said, Mike. I have actually avoided authors because they abuse twitter and facebook with their own book promotions. Just go to twitter and do a #ACFW and you'll see what I mean. I can understand how easy it is to fall into the trap, though, the way marketing is pounded into our skulls. We just gotta use our common sense, though. Build relationships. From that stems book sales (if it's good). Great post.

    1. You have said it all. We have been told this is exactly how we must promote. It's such a fine line to walk. Relationships are definitely the way to go. Ironic, since authors are not always in the relationship business.

  2. Great points, Mike! I think I may be immune to most of those by now, but one thing that really gets me are author newsletters or emails that I didn't sign up for. I really like author newsletters and subscribe to about 10 of my favorites. But I'll be honest. I subscribe to a couple of them, just to remember what I DON'T want to do.

  3. Great post, Mike. I know some authors have lots of success with scheduled promo tweets, but that just hasn't felt right for me. That said, I do tweet interviews, etc. I thought about tweeting reviews BUT thought better of it, when I realized I never read or even click to books when authors post their reviews. I think a lot of it is figuring out what WE as readers look for and relate to, before we go about it as authors. Not that I have it all figured out. I'm sure I'm in people's faces a bit more than I should be, but an indie, I think it's better to push it too much than not to push your book at all. (BTW all the book covers on this page are AWESOME!)

  4. I agree with all of these. My only issue is with the first one. I actually don't mind if an author recommends their own book *when someone has asked for recommendations* and *if the book is actually appropriate.* I've done that--only a few times, and generally among a list of other books I'm genuinely recommending as well.

    The thing is, I agree that it is far more meaningful to have someone else recommend your book, but if I sat around waiting for people to talk about my book and I never do, well... And I'm not going to go bugging people with, "Hey, can you go to this post and recommend my book to this person?" in order to make it look like I'm not recommending my own.

    And I'm always hoping my book covers and website are not badly done...I don't think they are, but different folks have different tastes...

    Anyway, I try to go about self-marketing by just being me and trying to connect with people for real.

  5. I'm an author (who doesn't do much promo), but I'm a reader too and I agree with most of these. I'm with Kat in that I don't mind an author saying "my book is about ..." when someone asks for books on a particular topic. However, I have to object to the bad cover and blurb. No control over those unless you're self publishing. We've all gotten stuck with at least one bad cover.

  6. I'm an author and a reader and agree--mostly. Overkill is tacky and irritating. Writing is a business and books are the product. The competition is killer and social media is a real freaking temptation to just blitz all the time. So I get it when people do. That said, it's not a one-way street, or even a two-lane street. Social media is a highway grid that isn't just all about you or me. Interaction will go a lot further than self-obsession--in a lot of ways.