How to Successfully not Market your Book: Or Doing it All Wrong (Almost) By Alma Boykin

Alma Boykin here. I have been successfully getting in my own way and not marketing (fiction) books since December 2012. In the process, I’ve managed to make pretty much every mistake you can do as an indie author, bar one. Dorothy Grant, Cedar Sanderson, and others have written a lot about how to market your books and stories. So here’s a quick guide on how to successfully not market your book, thus ensuring that only the most selective, discriminating, or lucky readers will ever find it.

1. Have absolutely no online presence of any form other than an e-mail address and occasionally chiming in on certain websites. This was my technique after I released A Cat Among Dragons in December 2012. No social media, no blog, no web-site, nothing. Just write and release and see what happens. I was pretty successful at not selling the book. Today, summer of 2017, this technique would be even more successful since so many more people have begun publishing their work.

2. No social media presence ever. I did give in and start a blog, Cat Rotator’s Quarterly,(Alma! I added the blog name and link! You should promote it! -Ed.) in February 2014, but I have no Twitter, Facebook, G+, LiveJournal, Snapchat, Pinterest, or whatever other social media platforms are out there. This is another great way not to tell people about your books. What they don’t know about, then can’t find. HOWEVER! If used properly, social media can help not-sell your work. Some of the best ways are to overload anyone who follows you with near-daily announcements about “Only three years, two months, and a day and a half until the release of [book]!” or “Hey, boy my book! Buy my book!” The more often you remind people to buy your work, the more they will drop your feed and flee the company of your works. Think of it as the electronic version of the whiney 5-year-old in the back seat asking “Are we there yet? Are we there yet? I gotta go. Are we there yet?”

2a. Make it hard to find your books on your web-site. You can use white on black text, busy backgrounds that readers have to read over, page tabs that are hard to read… The options are nearly endless (see the blog link above).

3. Ignore the current conventions for cover design. Let’s say you wrote a dark romance novel with a little tasteful D/s in the plot. Sure, use that great landscape photo you saw on Pinterest for the cover art! The cheerful yellow and red flowers in the meadow under soft, puffy white clouds in a blue sky will do an excellent job of leading to very surprised readers once they get your book and open the cover. Another option that seems to help not sell books is to cram a cast of thousands (think some of the art-by-the-yard historical paintings from the 1600s-1800s) cover onto your book. Oh yes, the one that looked so good on your desktop monitor? Go for it. Thumbnail, schlumbnail, it’s your book and your cover so why not? Genre and designs are challenges to be overcome, not guidelines to work within.

4. Don’t market. Do not use BookBub, E-book Soda, the Amazon marketing tools, link exchanges with other writers, a mailing list, nothing. Do not tell people your book has been released. To paraphrase Fight Club, “The first rule of Not Selling the Book is Don’t Talk about the Book.” What people don’t know about, they can’t buy. If you truly feel compelled, put up a small blog post, without links to your sales platforms, saying “Um, yeah, so I just released the next book.” Granted, if your sales criteria and genre do not meet the requirements for things like BookBub, you have a major advantage in not marketing, but if by unhappy chance you do manage to get 50 decent reviews and have a sweet romance releasing during Romance Week, avoid marketing sites like the plague. The unmentioned book doesn’t sell, which is your goal, right?

5. Ignore genre trends. Dang it, you are going to write the next great angsty vampire teen romance. So what if everyone says that subgenre is no longer selling? Or you have a Fifty Shades-ish idea for a romance between a billionaire businessman who “knows the ropes,” ahem, so to speak, and the city restaurant code inspector who fails the kitchen in his private club? Do it. Don’t let anyone tell you that a market is saturated. The more saturated the market, the lower the odds of readers seeing your book on the real or electronic shelves. That’s your goal, remember?

6. Ignore pleas and offers to alpha read or edit your noble, pristine work. It is perfect just as it is, fresh off the printer (or screen). Those are not tyops, those are just alternate spellings that have not been discovered yet. And formatting is for wimps.

7. Wait until the middle of the series to release novel-length works and to offer them in print. Nothing chases away readers like finding that the first dead tree book is #7 in the series.

8. Release series out of order, although this technique is not as effective as some others. The last Colplatschki book (#8) will actually be the first in in-series chronological order. Which leads to …

9. Allow bad reviews to determine what you release and if you “finish” a series. Although this may fall more into “How to Chase Off Readers” than strictly not selling books. This also falls into traditional publishing’s bailiwick, since they are very good about stopping series in the middle if the publisher’s lack of marketing has hurt sales of the earlier books. Learn from the Big 7, er 6, ah 5. They have spent the past few years laboring hard to become masters of not marketing.

10. Ignore release dates of other books. Let’s say Brandon Sanderson, Brad Thor, Larry Correia, Michael Z. Williamson, and Stephen King and Nora Roberts and Danielle Steele are all going to release books August 1-4. Of course this is the best time to launch Angsty Teen Vampires from Tacoma! No one will have any money left to buy your book, and they won’t see it because of the full-page ads and Amazon sales blitz and big posters at Barnes and Noble. That’s a great way to not sell books.

I’ve also written so cross-genre that no one is quite certain how to categorize or market my books. I’ve written alt-history that is closer to secret history except for the heavy sci-fi elements, but that has so much actual historical background that it almost needs footnotes in spots (almost). I’m going to release a YA (but it’s not, really) in September that is sci-fi but also coming of age and exploration and school-drama and planetary exploration and hunting and oh heck, YOU figure out how to sell it. And I released a steampunk story, Language of the Land, that lacks a bunch of the “things you have to have to call it steampunk.” And urban fantasy set in Colorado and rural Kansas that includes a texting cat and Russian mythology but no elves, vampires, werewolves, or the other now-seemingly-standard UF elements. (Links added. Would it kill you to mention your book names and add them now and then? If people are interested, let them know where to go! -Ed.)

The few things I’ve not done yet to not sell books include getting into hissing fights on-line, insulting readers or saying that if readers disagree with my politics they should stop buying my books. I’ve noticed that the latter technique seems to work very, very well for not selling books, but it does imply that you had readers to begin with. And I’ve never, ever gone after anyone who left a bad review of my work. Even I don’t want to replace the author of You Know Which Book on the Marketers’ Wall of Shame.

And yet, despite my valiant efforts at not marketing, people still find my books, like them, and tell others. If I marketed, I’d do better. I know this. I have lots and lots of excuses for not marketing. I marketed my non-fiction. And I survived, and sold.
But if you want to not market, just follow my advice above, and you too will successfully not market and not sell books. Unless people like your books. I can’t help you then.

33 thoughts on “How to Successfully not Market your Book: Or Doing it All Wrong (Almost) By Alma Boykin

  1. > 8. Release series out of order

    That’ll do it for me. I’ve bought each volume of several series, until the author decided the progression of the story was no longer important, and the new book was about events that happened twenty or thirty years ago, past history that is, as far as I’m concerned, just a novel-length chunk of backstory It’s great you worked all that out, but that bus rolled out some time ago.

    1. Fountains of Mercy is out of order because I didn’t think it was that good. I’ve been persuaded otherwise, so it will be released as #8. Bad planning on my part, because it was written before 9 and 10.

    2. We released A Very UnCONventional Christmas in July because it was part of a building thread of character development in the series and because we wanted to debut it at Libertycon. As the title suggests it takes place at Christmas time, so not a good fit for July in Chattanooga, but it was still well received by the fans.

    1. They were in the original Word document, but got stripped out during the upload.

      Why? WP Delenda Est, et cetera, et cetera, in saecula saeculorum. (Although Word may also have had something to do with the glitch.)

      1. My rule of thumb, developed over a decade ago: NEVER use MS Word to do anything related to HTML. This is because I’ve seen some of the HTML that MS Word is capable of producing, and failed my SAN roll. (Though to be fair, Cthulhu himself would fail his SAN roll on seeing HTML produced by MS Word). Maybe more recent versions have improved, but I wouldn’t know: MS Word lost my trust a long, LONG time ago.

        1. I use macros to have Word change WYSIWG to the appropriate HTML tags – then save the result as plain text. Suffices for my relatively simple needs, except for columnar type formatting (which I have to futz with by hand, and differently for WP and Kindle).

            1. I have heard that more recent versions don’t put quite so much obfuscation into their HTML output. But I use 2003 – can hardly figure out what is my text, and what is garbage trying to get it looking “just like a Word document.”

            2. Why would you want to subject yourself to that dreck?

              I’ve always been disappointed that there were no really good WYSIWYG direct HTML editors, at least that I could find the last time I looked.

        2. I’ve done some conversion to HTML because that is what was required to convert it to MOBI before the ‘Zon put its own program in place. It took about four tries per short story to get everything to look right, and even then there were some ugly moments. I’m using Word ’16. I’m not a fan.

          1. I’ve opened it in Notepad++ and did clean up, then opened it in Arachnaphilia because it has a built-in HTML validator. I roll my own epub (well, it’s not exactly epub for Amazon), then apply Amazon’s Kindle Converter. There’s a validator there, too. It’s been long enough that I need to look at my notes, or open the batch file I made to make conversion a little easier. Probably both.

            What drives me up the wall is to open an ebook from a traditional publisher and see shoddy formatting. The last I read, by a major publisher, was one long face palm. You could see what they were trying to do, and failing miserably.

          2. I take the final Word document and run it through Calibre to generate mobi and epub files which I then inspect with iBook and Kindle app. Before the conversions I use Calibre to embed the cover in the metadata.
            The mobi file goes to Amazon and the epub to B&N.

          3. Many of the conversion woes leave an e-book almost unreadable in some situations. I recently got another e-book (several books, different authors) that had long unreadable sections in it if you wanted to use the black background that Kindle offers. The text switched from the normal bright white to a dim gray at random places and then after some period back to readable text. With any of the other backgrounds the formatting issue was invisible.

            I contacted the author of “Rimworld- Into the Green” with screenshots of the issue and it took him a while to get the corrections he made into the version Amazon was selling.

  2. *takes notes* *tosses said notes* *wings everything*….
    Preparing to crash and burn. 🙂

      1. Think of it this way – you are the doughty pioneers, who will discover new and wonderful horizons for us more plodding folks to come along and exploit later.

        Either that, or get et’ by a lion…

        1. Dun been et. Several times. You just keep on pioneering.

          If you don’t enjoy the writing enough to get you through the editing/cover/conversion/publish/at-a-minimum-talk-about-it . . . You may have trouble sustaining a hobby long enough for it to count as even a part-time job.

          And I have a nasty suspicion that the main way it will get easier in the future is even more people figuring out how they can get a percentage of the sales by doing the parts you don’t like. The trick will be figuring whether their work increases your income.

    1. There are reaso—, OK, excuses for why I’ve been so bad about trying to sell my work. But as Cedar and Dorothy keep saying, it comes down to catching the eyes long enough to get the eyes off the cover and onto the page. Then it’s up to you the writer, not you the marketer.

  3. YOU figure out how to sell it
    The xenoarcheological adventures of a girl and her killbot hound.

    Seriously, the samples I’ve read can reduce to ‘girl and her dog’, and hint to the horrors waiting to be discovered.

  4. Alma, I think is it very encouraging to hear that you’re “doing it wrong” and people are still buying your stuff. I can manage technical issues, but I -detest- marketing. Gives me hives.

  5. > social media

    Certainly! Set up a blog, but use it to talk about what happens on your Facebook account. On Facebook, direct everyone to your mailing list. On your mailing list, send people to your Livejournal blog. On Livejournal, talk about what’s going on in your MySpace account. At MySpace, ramble on about all the goodies on your other, closed Facebook page. Which will talk about your Tweets.

    Don’t have one definitive location, that’s for 20th-century losers! Weed out the casually curious by making your readers jump through hoops to follow you.

    1. An excellent point. I do not look for comments on those pages because they are not what I think of as “active” blog pages. Which is my fault entirely.

  6. Seems to me that writing cross-genre is half the fun of going indie. Somewhere out there there is an audience for urban fantasy set in Colorado and rural Kansas . . . assuming the potential fans can find out about it. But through the wonders of Not-Marketing, they never will. Right?

    Oh, yes, and those tyops. Absolutely, let ’em rip, Let fredum rgin.


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