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BOOK MARKETING: ROACHES THAT EAT YOUR BEST-SELLER BOOK MARKETING DREAMS, by Lorilyn Roberts

Last updated on September 28, 2022

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Many years ago my ex-husband and I drove to Gainesville, Florida, from Augusta, Georgia, when he was finishing medical school and applying to residency programs. We had brought along our dog, Shelley, and it was dusk after the long eight-hour drive before we arrived at the motel.

As I headed into the bathroom exhausted, I was aghast to discover the ugliest creepy crawler I had never seen a huge, brown roach with antlers (okay, they were feelers, but they looked like antlers), crawling around on spiny, hairy legs, and the worst part-he turned his head and stared at me with dark beady eyes.

I ran out of the hotel room screaming at my husband, “I saw a roach.”  After calming me down, we went back in so he could murder the invader. But the roach had scampered away. Of course, I insisted that we find him. As we examined the room in minute detail, we started seeing roaches everywhere-on the walls, on the floor, in the bathroom, crawling on the bed-I stood there and cried, “I can’t stay here.”                               
It was a football weekend, and if you know anything about Florida Gator football, you know that means almost every motel is full. We went from motel to motel for hours after driving all day to find one that had a vacancy that would accept dogs.

While my husband was contemplating an important interview for his residency, I was facing the horror of sleeping in a roach-infested hotel room. It was many years after that experience before I could stay in a hotel and not do the standard “roach check” – inside the bed sheets, under the bed, the dark bathroom, the closet-I would turn out the lights after I got into bed and then five minutes later turn them back on again to make sure one hadn’t come out of hiding.


As I learned later, because my husband did accept that position at the University of Florida, there are many species of roaches besides those big ones. There are little ones, ones that fly, ones that hide in dark places, and ones that fall into the water while you take a bath (I would know).


What does a roach-infested hotel have to do with book marketing? When my husband finished medical school, I had huge hopes and dreams. I had spent the first five years of our marriage supporting him while he was in medical school in a job that was less than satisfying. I couldn’t wait to take the next step toward my dream of earning that elusive college degree, which didn’t include meeting a roach upon arrival.


The roaches of life have a way of catching us off-guard. They appear out of nowhere when we least expect them, and usually at the worst opportune time. Recently I had my one-another group over for prayer and put out a nice spread of food. While enjoying the sweet fellowship of Christian believers, one of my guests pointed out a large handsome roach crawling across the floor toward the table of food. That pang of embarrassment at an unexpected moment, we have all been there. I ran and fetched the roach spray. Such is life in Florida for those folks who live in Canada and the hinterlands.


As authors, we hope that story we have been mulling around in our heads becomes the next best-seller. But what about those marketing roaches? Have you met one? They are those “horrid things” that threaten to make an even bigger mess of your best-seller dreams. They rob you of sleep, steal your money, destroy relationships, and take away your peace of mind, filling you with worry, apprehension, and doubt.


I encountered my first roach in marketing when I went to a writer’s conference in the Southeast. “No one reads memoirs” several people commented. Many attendees ignored me when they found I wasn’t a VIP-an editor, agent, or well-known author. Others sounded judgmental with comments like, “Did anyone edit your book?


I came home and wanted to crawl back into my little cubbyhole and forget all about marketing. The experience squelched my creativity and motivation in one fell swoop. Even the proposal that I spent several days working on that an agent asked me to send him following the conference was never looked at.

I’ve learned there are a lot of roaches in the publishing business, and I have by no means met them all. On the book marketing forum, some of my fellow authors have shared some of their experiences with other kinds of roaches that I didn’t even know existed.  


My first step to a healthier mindset was to quit focusing on all the things I couldn’t do or control and figure out what I could do. I found I could do a lot more than I thought if I just took the time to learn how and wasn’t so impatient. Your roaches are probably different from mine, but whatever they are, they will handicap you more than you realize unless you deal with them. You will be able to do more than you think if you have a teachable spirit, a positive attitude, and invest some time in helping others. When you help others, you are really helping yourself.  How? I don’t know how except it’s one of the laws of nature that seems to work itself into equations that have eternal value. God sees it all and rewards us in ways we least expect it.


I had to go back to my faith and recommit my dreams. There is nothing anybody can do to prevent God’s perfect will from being accomplished. No one has any power over my mental state except if I willingly relinquish that power to them. In the process of adversity and difficulties, God makes us strong. Nothing is ever wasted without serving a useful purpose.


Nevertheless, it’s important to be aware of the more common kinds of roaches in marketing. A couple of months after my book was published, I bought two pricey email blast services-the kind where companies send out book announcements to their email lists, including subscribers, libraries, and bookstores. Beware-these pricey roaches in the end were worthless. I sure wish I had that $600 back.


There are some other not-so-subtle roaches in marketing — laziness. If you are not willing or you don’t want to work hard at marketing, I hope you have some influential contacts. You’ve probably heard this before but it’s worth repeating: Nobody cares about your book. Your job is to make other people care. How do you do that? Through building relationships (I won’t say any more about this for now, but will address this again in the sixth article).


For those who have day jobs, kids, school, and major commitments outside of writing, I feel your pain. And this is where my concept of “process” comes in. I must focus on what I can do and leave the outcome in God’s hands.  


The roach of discouragement: Quit complaining and ask God to help you. The John 3:16 Marketing Network is all about encouragement and lifting each other up. If you are hoping that “best-seller” status will bring you happiness, it won’t. There is truly nothing “out there” that will fulfill you. Only your relationship with God, family, and friends can bring you happiness. 

Now that we have dealt with some major roaches in marketing, let’s look at some things you can do to start marketing effectively. Before we begin a best-seller program, we need to look at what goes into launching a book, focusing on Amazon.

What you must do long before you approach anyone to help you. We’ve had authors come into the network who did not have these things in place. Without fixing them, their book launch was doomed to failure.

  1. Make sure your book has been edited completely-no ifs, ands, or buts. In addition to a professional editor, ask twenty people to read your book and look for things that are wrong, unclear, or misleading-from grammatical errors to content issues to structural problems. I guarantee you, honest people will find the problems-even though your mother will tell you it’s wonderful the way it is. All the networking and promoting in the world won’t salvage a poorly written book.
  2. Make sure your book is not overpriced. Nobody will buy a book that is too expensive. There are unscrupulous companies out there that will overprice your book, roaches feeding on your desire to get published that care nothing about making your book salable. They will take your money upfront and offer empty promises. Don’t fall for it. Be wise. Remember the Proverb, “A fool and his money are soon parted.” Go to Amazon and compare your book with others of similar content and length. Make your book cheaper if it’s possible (and some publishing companies do listen. I asked that the price of one of my books be reduced and they did it).
  3. In my opinion, e-books are the wave of the future. Price e-books lower and you will sell more copies. Remember, you must be competitive to sell books. Not only publish your book on Kindle, but in other e-formats as well, including Nook and Sony. Smashwords is an excellent service for publishing all types of e-books.
  4. Get as many reviews of your book as possible. If you are an unknown author, you should have at least 5 four/five-star reviews before asking others to help you. We ask for two reviews on the John 3:16 Marketing Network now, but we will probably increase it to five soon.  
  5. Here is a screenshot of my reviews for Children of Dreams. Reviews are important-both good ones and bad ones. My worst review was one three-star review. Why?  The reviewer thought I had too much Bible content. I thought it was actually a good review-after all, it’s an accurate assessment of my book for someone who is thinking about reading it. The reader will know what he is getting before he buys it. That’s what reviews are for.
  1. Take advantage of all the functionalities of Amazon to market your book; i.e., the inside-the-book program. It allows others to sample your writing before buying your book.
  2. Upload a nice photograph of yourself for your Avatar. While I love those goofy animal shots, I am not so sure if they pass the screen test for promoting oneself as a professional.
  3. You will notice on Amazon all of the author names are hyperlinked to something called an Author Page. These are set up through the Amazon Author Central portion of Amazon. The Author Page will show your profile, bibliography, published books, a book trailer if you upload one, and a link to the Amazon Associates Program. The Amazon Associates Program will allow you to sell Amazon books on your website or blog.  All these things can sound very intimidating at first and overwhelming, but if you take it one step at a time, anyone can learn how to use these tools effortlessly. Because they are technical in nature rather than creative, all an author has to do is switch to the other side of his brain, which is where most adults spend their life anyway. Again, I repeat, anybody can do these things.  


Make sure you list your book correctly in the subcategories on Amazon, going from the largest category to the smallest. It is more difficult to reach best-seller status in a huge category like fiction than in the subcategory Christian Romance Fiction. The biggest roach-killer for the John 3:16 Marketing Network authors has been not optimizing the best-seller categories to enhance the probability of reaching best-seller status on book launches. 

  1. Again, don’t let the laziness roach eat at you. Persistence pays off.
  2. Don’t let the discouragement roach take away your dreams. As long as there is life in you, give it your best shot. Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you will land among the stars.
  3. Start a blog and post to it as often as you can. To be a member of the John 3:16 Marketing Network, you must have an active blog. Write about what stirs you, interview other authors on your blog, review books, and post your reviews on your blog, Good Reads, Amazon, and other social networking sites.
  4. Build up your Facebook contacts, Twitter followers, and create a Fan Page on Facebook.
  5. Seek out positive people to interact with on the Internet. Avoid roach people-those who are self-centered, negative, bitter, or judgmental. They will pull you down into a funk you may never get out of.
  6. Enjoy the journey. If you feel overwhelmed, pull out the roach spray. What do you need to kill? Examine what you are doing and consider what isn’t working. Know yourself, your limitations, and your strengths. Focus on process, not on outcome, and ask God to give you wisdom.
  7. Finally, don’t give up. Join with like-minded authors to experience the blessing of sharing your marketing journey with others.
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