What Puts Readers Off Self-Published Books?

ANOTHER graph! Heaven.... I'm in Heaven....

ANOTHER graph! Heaven…. I’m in Heaven….

Oh, we’ve come a long way from What Makes People Buy Self-Published Books last week, ladies and gentlesirs!

Brace yourselves now, as we enter the dark side of book marketing: the things which make you REFUSE to buy self-published books.

And we’ve all experienced this to some degree. Self-publishing often gets a very bad rap. If people avoided some of the behaviour which follows, the industry can only benefit.

Cobbled together from the feedback from you, the nice people who comment, I now have a list of what’s most likely to make sure you will never buy a book from a certain author, let alone read one.

These fall loosely into 3 categories:

1. Pushy Marketing Tactics
2. Bad Book Design
3. The Writing Itself

These categories also come in the order which they would turn readers off a book. Even if a book didn’t fall at the first hurdle, it still had at least 2 further stages to go through before it was safely in the basket.

Most of what people said, to be fair, fell into the Marketing Tactics camp. I wasn’t sure what to call this category, because most of this behaviour could hardly be called tactical, let alone marketing.

1. Pushy Marketing Tactics

Most of the antics most likely to get readers’ backs up fell under the broad category of pushiness. Other than that, it was just plain old Twitter.

I said before that there was nothing less likely to make me buy a book, than an author telling me on Twitter to buy their book. It seemed a lot of people agreed with me. In fact, most social media was open to the abuse of pushiness. Here are some of their comments:

“People want to get to know you (on Twitter, Facebook, your blog or Instagram – or wherever) – not forever be bombarded with BUY MY BOOK!”

“Nothing is a bigger turnoff than a tweet that says, “Read my book.” The only possible answer is, “Shan’t!””

“Other things that turn me off are social networking messages saying “Check out…”

“…I had one [author who] tweeted every three mins or so as well as direct mailing me and turning up on every book conversation in Linkedin trying to sell me (and others) his teen vampire book. One of the threads was about the great French writers. I was just thinking to myself, Voltaire, Maupassant, Rousseau and a good teen vampire book, they go together well”

“There is a book which the author plugged all over the Amazon forums when I posted there regularly. It may be wonderful, it’s certainly won awards, but there’s no way I will ever read it because of the author’s relentless spamming when it first came out. I loathe having things sold to me in a pushy way.”

Overall, it would appear that many authors just don’t think about how they might like things to be sold to them. Imagine you had a market stall, and your method of selling things was to jump up and down and scream at people “BUY MY STUFF!” rather than to tell people why they might benefit from buying your stuff, or why they could be particularly interested in buying it…. Well: good luck with that.

a rather victorian pen picture

2. Poor Cover Design

Cover and blurb came up again, and again, and again. Loads of people looked up books because the cover or title caught their eye. If the blurb was written in a way which indicated the style of the book, they liked that too.

However, the cover was just as likely to make readers discard the very idea of reading a book at the first hurdle. As one commenter put it:

“And yes, I will completely ignore a book if the cover art looks amateurish or cheap (unless I know the writer or he/she came recommended). It’s just a fact – you need a good cover to sell books.”

[It’s difficult to know what makes a cover look amateurish or cheap, granted. It obviously didn’t look that way to the author who chose it. However, and this is just me – I tend to stay away from any titles in an italic font. They always make me think of locally-produced poetry anthologies from the 1980s.]

I hate this book

3. Bad Writing

Finally, we come to the meat in the gigantic and sometimes unpalatable sandwich that is the self-published book: the actual writing.

The people who commented often looked at a sample of the writing last. That’s not to say that some of them didn’t look at this first (however, they would already have had to be attracted to the book at that point by something else, such as the cover or title) but this seemed to be the final decision-maker for most, either through Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature, a downloaded sample, or a sample available online.

Readers know what they like. And they don’t like these things:

“Many of them (probably most of them) turn me off within a page by the bad writing — overuse of adjectives, adverbs, stilted dialogue. Amazing how many bad books there are out there.”

“The first thing I look at is the Look Inside. If I see: grammatical errors; spelling errors; tell don’t show (particularly saying what the character thinks or what motivates her/him instead of showing it through words and actions); or clumsy construction, I don’t read on and I don’t buy the book.”

“Something else I look for in the Look Inside: if the POV changes inside a scene, it’s off the list of possibles immediately.”

Suffice to say, if you get any editing done, for heaven’s sake, get it done on the first few pages. Although if you don’t bother getting the whole thing edited, I will go squinty-eyed, and write things like this.


There are plenty more things to avoid. The list could go on, but if this post gets any longer, I will be in danger myself of committing word crimes.

Instead, do tell in the comments – what drives you mad? Is there anything else which will ensure that you will absolutely not buy a self-published book?



  126 comments for “What Puts Readers Off Self-Published Books?

  1. August 5, 2014 at 5:01 pm

    That graph is perfect–correct in every way. I’ve said so on the ALLi FB page.


    • August 5, 2014 at 5:11 pm

      Thank you! Although I have to go out now and I’m not sure my head will fit through the door with praise like that. It’s a regular see-saw of emotion and fortune here at Bloggg Towers.


    • August 5, 2014 at 5:12 pm

      Thank you, oh Simian Sage 🙂


      • August 5, 2014 at 5:17 pm

        Welcome Glasshoppa point 1 is what I’ve ranted about recently and I’m always on about poor writing (spelling, grammar and using the wrong version of words that sound alike but have different meanings) 😀


  2. Sally
    August 5, 2014 at 5:17 pm

    Spot on. Love the graph! I would add: five-star reviews on Amazon etc that are so obviously written by the author, the author’s mum, the author’s mates, the author’s cat … They can so easily be spotted, and so daft to put them up on the day the book is published. Also, anyone who uses the word ‘hilarious’ in their blurb or in their advertising – ‘amusing’ maybe, at a stretch, and it had better be true; ‘light-hearted’, definitely OK; ‘hilarious’ – no way am I buying your book. And after all the advice available, why do people still think they can design their own covers and it not be obvious? A few people can; very, very, very many people can’t. And a spelling mistake on the cover – definitely a no (yes, I have seen this happen). Gosh, I’m on a roll – I do like self-published books, really I do. Just not all of them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • August 5, 2014 at 5:25 pm

      Now that you’ve said it, I can’t believe I left it out. Fake reviews did come up, and one commenter even said that he would never read anything by anyone who called themselves “Amazon Best-selling author”.

      I’m right with you on all other points. The reason why covers include quotes from famous authors about the book is because, as I heard 60 times a day when growing up in the west of Ireland, “self-praise is no praise”!


    • August 5, 2014 at 7:44 pm

      I used to agree with you about the ‘hilarious’ in a blurb, grumbling that it was up to me to decide if something was hilarious. However, after reading some tips by Bookbub that said blurbs with ‘hilarious’ in them got more far more clicks, I changed the blurb on my humorous novel and took their advice. Sales did increase slightly 🙂
      (I should mention that they do not have a genre for humour or comedy, or even ‘general fiction’ and when I asked them what genre I should use for my humorous novel they replied ‘use the one you think fits and we will choose.’ Hmmm – literary, perhaps?.


      • August 5, 2014 at 8:18 pm

        There’s definitely a fine line which should sometimes be crossed, contrary to what I say above. One person’s annoyance is another person’s USP. I suppose the key is to see what reaction you get – and if that reaction is an uptick in sales, then, well – you’re just going to have to tick off the people who hate what you did!


  3. August 5, 2014 at 5:20 pm

    I love infographics! And this pretty much covers it, as far as reasons for choosing to buy or bin go. Very good job! Now, let’s hope the binned authors understand why their books got there and what THEY need to do to change the readers’ choice to Buy – and that they won’t continue blaming the readers!


    • August 5, 2014 at 5:26 pm

      Let’s hope so! I know it’s not always an authors’ fault that they’re bad at marketing. It’s not the discipline they’re supposed to be best at. But there’s no excuse for not learning these things either!


  4. August 5, 2014 at 5:20 pm

    I suppose I’m pretty picky in terms of what I read, especially when it comes to self-published work–which is pretty hypocritical of me, since I subscribe to the “self-publishing is the future” idea. The only difficulty is that there’s no gatekeeper, as with traditional publishing, so all you have to go off are the three aspects you covered. For me, the blurb is most important: if it has any typos or glaring grammatical errors, I’ll skip over.


    • August 5, 2014 at 5:28 pm

      We should all be picky. It’s our time, our brains, and our wish to be entertained for our money!
      I’m amazed sometimes at authors who don’t seem to think their blurb is important. It’s paramount for me as a reader. Authors who have mistakes in their blurbs just give me a straight pass off their page forever.


      • August 5, 2014 at 5:33 pm

        Exactly! If an author/copy editor can’t catch the mistakes in 300 words that are supposed to sell their book, how are we supposed to trust them to do better over 60000+ words?


        • August 5, 2014 at 5:38 pm

          We can’t! And that’s just the point. You are guaranteed that the book itself will be riddled with mistakes, and life’s too short to be effectively giving someone permission to annoy you 🙂


  5. davidpenny13
    August 5, 2014 at 5:22 pm

    Thank you, Tara. Unfortunately those authors who constantly tweet BUY BUY BUY are unlikely to stop anytime soon. I think it was Joanna Penn who said in one of her workshops, always remember that it’s “social” media. Some people forget that part of it. Or maybe, just maybe, they’re like that in real life :0


    • August 5, 2014 at 5:35 pm

      That’s a great quote, David. I will remember that!

      I get the impression that some authors approach social media like a strange animal, perhaps because they never used it before they had to publicise themselves on it. If authors aren’t users themselves, they will never understand it, and end up annoying the people who do.


      • August 8, 2014 at 6:07 pm

        I do post on Twitter whenever my books go on sale or when they’re free. But I only do it once a day, then tweet about other stuff, do a lot of RTs, and chat with others. It is wise to strike a balance. I do the same on FB. Making friends on these social media sites is the best way to get book sales or just get the word out there about your books. 😉 And you meet some really amazing people.


  6. August 5, 2014 at 5:27 pm

    I agree with that graph. For me though it was primarily bad writing, combined with overly positive ‘friend and family’ reviews. I wound up trying to read too many indie books that were just plain bad and would have a high average user rating. I now don’t read indie books, at all.


    • August 5, 2014 at 5:37 pm

      That’s the problem with indie books, isn’t it? The majority of reviews posted when the book is first published will of course be friend and family reviews, written because the author asked for them. The impartial reviewers haven’t even found the book yet. And then it’s a vicious circle where people are turned off by them and will never read them… actually, I need to lie down now, my head hurts.


      • August 7, 2014 at 2:46 am

        I don’t believe that. My friends and family are not very supportive at all and none of them have ever bothered to post a review anywhere for me. I wish they would! LOL I have both self-published and Indie books for sale and all of my reviews are posted by book reviewers that I politely asked to post an honest review on places like Amazon, as well as on their blogs.

        Liked by 1 person

        • August 7, 2014 at 9:43 am

          You obviously haven’t been using the whip properly with your family! You’re not alone. Some people who have family who haven’t even read their books!


          • August 8, 2014 at 6:02 pm

            Very true. Only two people in my family have read my books. My mom and grandma, but they don’t post reviews. They can’t even understand how email works, or have any idea on how to post a product review. *shaking head* I am thankful to every book blogger and reader that took the time to write a review. Even if they said my books weren’t their taste in literature.


            • August 8, 2014 at 8:44 pm

              That’s the right attitude to have. You’ll get the best out of it with that.


  7. August 5, 2014 at 5:27 pm

    Love the graph Tara lol 😀

    As with proof-reading so with editing – you cannot do it yourself, for yourself, because you know what you THINK you wrote. If I had a shilling for every time I’ve said that to myself and others I’d be a rich bunny and wouldn’t be bothered about writing a bestseller! 😛 But there are still people self-publishing out there who seem to think they don’t need the polish or even a duster (I say people but there’s another p-word associated with rodents that’s more appropriate) – YOUR BOOK WILL BE RIDDLED WITH TYPOS AND STUPID GLITCHES UNLESS YOU GET IT EDITED PROPERLY, YOU DUMMY!
    There’s nobody to blame but the author if a book is full of baby errors – you want people to think you’re sloppy and tight-fisted? Obviously they are among us… ><


    • August 5, 2014 at 5:32 pm

      I wonder sometimes too, do people with poor grammar or attention to detail just assume that because they don’t mind, nobody else will mind? I should survey them on this.

      I’ll put out the call “Hi! Do you have woeful writing skills? Want to do a survey so that I can point the finger? Thanks!” That should go well.


  8. August 5, 2014 at 5:37 pm

    Your sample group knows whereof it speaks, Tara. It’s how I judge books too, though I guess I’m personally more likely to buy traditionally-published books than self-pubbed ones, though I am myself self-pubbed. How hypocritical is that? I like to think, though, that my books don’t fall into any of these traps … here’s hoping!


    • August 5, 2014 at 5:42 pm

      Give it time, Keith. In time, the market will develop and get better at avoiding these traps (with the aid of handy graphs, obviously); eventually, 90% of the books you buy are self-published; you find your home overrun by other authors, who know you’re a prolific self-published book buyer; and finally, you open a soup kitchen for self-published authors because they’re all making incomes of less than £50 a month.

      It will be a wonderfully rewarding experience. Honest.


  9. August 5, 2014 at 6:12 pm

    I will only buy a book I don’t know if it has a look inside thingy (editor, pse insert appropriate word), and if I don’t like that I won’t buy it. That can be for any number of reasons, but bad or sloppy writing really irritates me. Good editors are more than coronets, and I say that as an editor myself. I can’t tell you the number of writers I and my ilk have pulled out of the doo doo, despite their best efforts to have us all consigned to the naughty step. Suffice it to say, that one particularly arsy features writer on a national newspaper, who insisted that no one shd touch her copy, was left waggling feebly under a mountain of derision when she talked about George Eliot and what a great writer he was. Tchah!

    Liked by 1 person

    • August 5, 2014 at 7:28 pm

      Ooooooh I’m going to Google her immediately. Petard and popcorn at the ready. I do love a good singeing.


  10. August 5, 2014 at 6:15 pm

    PS. Love the graph. Am full of admiration for your Excel skills. I have just about enough knowledge to switch off the gridlines.


    • August 5, 2014 at 7:29 pm

      Thanks, Elaine. The living-earning day job has to cross over occasionally. Although we’re not telling anyone that.


  11. August 5, 2014 at 7:43 pm

    Reblogged this on theowlladyblog.


  12. johanna buchanan
    August 5, 2014 at 7:46 pm

    Love the graph Tara. But dear God, there is a lot of ranting going on here . People won’t buy if you put ‘hilarious’ in your blurb’, people won’t buy if your reviews are too good because “that’s the problem with indie books’, – oh yeah, the authors have family and friends. It’s a certain bet that taditionally published authors also have family and friends who are genuinely biased in favour of their books and this comes across on Amazon reviews too. In fact some publishers ask their top authors to write a recommendation for a new author and it’s safe to say that recommendation will be fairly glowing.
    Woeful writing and awful covers – seen in traditionally published books too but I personally haven’t seen this level of ire expressed against them.
    And the final big crime of self-published authors? Pushy marketing. Best-selling authors have massive marketing campaigns behind them – they have slots on radio and tv talk shows, they write personal experience piece for national newspapers and sometimes there’s giant billboards of their books erected in train stations and the like. Some of them have publicists who manage their social media campaigns for them too. If that’s not pushy marketing I don’t know what is.
    Most self-published authors who tweet ‘buy my book’ are only doing the same thing – asking you to buy – but they are doing it in an amateur way because they don’t have marketing skills or a big marketing budget.
    Self-publishing is a bit of a joyful adventure but we’re not Harper Collins.
    “But I, being poor, have only my dreams; I have spread my dreams under your feet; Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.”

    Liked by 2 people

    • August 5, 2014 at 8:03 pm

      Hi Johanna! I get what you’re saying, but I don’t believe any of the rants are directed against self-published authors. They’re directed towards self-published authors who are using marketing tools poorly, which is a different thing.

      It’s about authors who are using social media to approach people in a way which those approached find offensive, annoying, aggressive, or simply unwanted. And that’s not about budget. Social media is free when it’s used properly. So we need to learn how to do that, which is what this information is all about.

      And it’s not the reader’s fault if they don’t believe reviews which they consider to be favours, or written by the author. Of course authors have friends and family writing reviews for them, but if they have that much control over them, they should try to make the reviews sound more genuine!

      To me, pushy marketing is marketing which doesn’t give me any real reason to buy a product – LOUDLY. It’s changing the conversation to mention a book, or tweeting “buy my book”, without giving any attractive information, let alone a reason as to why exactly anyone would do that. If I walk into a shop, I might expect to be approached by a sales assistant to ask me if they can sell me something. I do not want them approaching me on the street. It’s the same on social media. Either engage with me on a more personable level, or get unfollowed.

      Liked by 1 person

      • johanna buchanan
        August 5, 2014 at 8:30 pm

        Fair enough. People can follow and unfollow to their hearts content on social media and people can buy books or not buy them for any reason they choose. (And I do find your information fascinating by the way). But when did we all get to be so judgemental? For example I’ve just noticed there’s a typo in my comment above (taditionally anyone?). You can decide this means I’m a careless writer who doesn’t know how to use spell-check – but actually I felt so strongly about this topic I hit the ‘post’ button button a tad too quickly. That’s all. Or people might surmise from my comment that I’m always on twitter saying ‘buy my book’ – but that would be jumping to another false conclusion. I just think self-published authors come in for a quite a bit of uncalled for derision.

        Liked by 2 people

        • August 5, 2014 at 8:47 pm

          Ah no, sure I don’t even punctuate properly in my own comments on this blog, which would normally bring me out in a rash at any other time! Plus, you can’t edit comments on someone else’s blog, so you’re stuck. I think it might be the one occasion the pedants don’t mind.

          I should do another infographic on people being judgemental on the Internet. (I’m sure someone’s already done it). Rise of social media correlated with rise in people you’ve never met believing you are Very Wrong. It would be fairly simple, methinks 😛


    • Sally
      August 5, 2014 at 9:43 pm

      I think the thing is that there are just so MANY self-published books it is difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff. With traditionally published books you know there has been a gatekeeper or two; you know the book will have been edited and proofread; you know the cover will have been professionally designed; and quite likely the blurb will have been written by a professional. None of that means that you are necessarily going to like the book, but it does at least start from a position of having had some quality control.

      Self-published books, on the other hand, may have had all that input, or may not have. Because there are so many books and so little time to read them (and limited finances for purchasing them), one has to have one’s own criteria for choosing the book in the first place. I love indie books; I actively seek them; I make a point of following the business and reading the blogs and tweets of self-published authors. When I find a self-published book I like, I leave a review and tweet about it. And I will retweet authors’ tweets to help promote the book. But if I come across a book that I haven’t actively looked for, it has to pass MY criteria for whether I will pursue it – if it doesn’t, then I won’t buy it and I will save my money and time for something that gives me the reassurance I need before starting it.

      My views on mates’ reviews are the same for traditionally published and self-published authors. I don’t like them, and I won’t press the buy button until way down the line when there are a sufficient number of reviews from real readers. Your Auntie Doreen’s five stars are more likely to make me not buy the book than to buy it. And other author reviews turn me away, too – you can tell by Twitter feeds those authors that are friends, or are published by the same publisher, or have the same agent … (See also excellent article by Nathan Filer http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/jul/31/book-covers-ignore-superlatives.)

      And I unfollow traditionally published authors for pushy marketing, just as readily as I unfollow self-published authors.


      • August 5, 2014 at 11:05 pm

        Amen to pretty much all of this – hang on. Not pretty much. Amen to all of this!


  13. BRMaycock
    August 5, 2014 at 7:52 pm

    Ok. So I’m soon to be in the category of self pubbing first timer. this is by choice, I did not approach any publishers or agents(though conversely, I might never have got past the sludge pile(pool;)) should I have tried. I think the problem is that the only way people know to get the message out now is social media and they’re afraid they’ll get missed (though, yes, the incessant ‘buy, buy, buy’ must be head wrecking!) As for mistakes, although I’m sure they’re few and far between, I have recently read two big time(bold, underlined etc etc;))authors who made HUGE errors in their books. This was immensely terrifying and yet also a little bit heartening as It shows even paid editors can make mistakes(I’m a bad, bad person!) I suppose I’m saying that I think everyone is just trying their best and it seems to be so hard out there. As for the fake reviews, I know people are just supporting others(good) but I have less than ten books in the universe I’d give five stars to so I generally ignore the five star reviews so a ridiculous number out there are faked(bad)!
    Disclaimer:Contrary to what I appear to be saying I am not condoning mistakes or bad edits and I hope I won’t be held up as an example for falling into any of the categories underlined in your very appropriate schematic!!!


    • August 5, 2014 at 8:11 pm

      I’ve heard people say that the big publishing houses have been cutting a lot of corners, especially with their smaller authors, and that editing is nowhere near where it used to be. I don’t know how true it is, but there are mistakes everywhere. Having said that, it’s no excuse not to get a professional editor. You could be talking about having 2 mistakes instead of 600, if the book were never edited at all!

      Nobody is saying that authors aren’t trying their best, and no authors were harmed in the making of this post 😉

      However, sometimes our best isn’t good enough, and we need help. I don’t fix my car – I don’t know how to do it properly, so I hire a mechanic. There is a huge number of authors who need to learn more about marketing, social media and self-publishing before they take the plunge.


      • BRMaycock
        August 5, 2014 at 10:05 pm

        Was at a talk recently where the editor said just that :”If there’s two mistakes, just remember that the editor could have whittled down from hundreds!” Tough gig to have at the moment alright! Great article though, Tara, a real eye opener!


        • Sally
          August 5, 2014 at 10:42 pm

          And usually authors have the last say, and if they decide not to act on their editor’s advice the error stays.

          Yes, publishers are cutting corners and rushing things through without the level of editorial input there should be. Many are going from substantive edit to proofread without the copy-edit stage, and now sometimes without the proofread stage too, expecting the original editor to do it all (utter madness).


          • August 5, 2014 at 11:03 pm

            And both the readers and the authors suffer when publishers cut corners. It’s a lose-lose situation.


  14. August 5, 2014 at 9:49 pm

    I think that it’s the distinction between careless, indiscriminate ‘marketing that people are making, rather than the ‘professional’ publishing house team efforts.
    With well known authors who’re already on the bestseller lists and have a fan base, the ‘in your face’ advertising’s out in the open and – with a million other marketable items out there clamouring for attention, it’s all so much white noise that most people have a ‘filter out’ button in their brains for. Like any other commodity you have a choice as to whether you listen to or look at it – you don’t have to read the article, or take in the interview, or the silly jingle, or trailer bleh, bleh, bleh… It’s all so much clutter that you don’t have to pay attention to.

    With injudicious social network blipverts (remember them from Max Headroom? lol), your ‘space’ isn’t being importuned by Jackie Collins’ latest potboiler unless you’ve chosen to follow her, in the same way that you decide you want to know every minute little detail of Harry from 1 Direction’s day? THAT’S why people have a beef about Twitter, FB et al and the ‘look at/read/buy me! Me!! ME!!! brigade – they’re clogging up your feeds and making you look at something you’re asking for?

    I have a very low tolerance for people ‘crowding’ me out in the real world (that’s what 25 years of central London commuting does to some people) so I’m a late starter on Twitter and FB, simply because I’m picky about who I talk to and it actually worries me a lot that I could do that to other people, so I don’t tend to do a lot of ‘proactive’ marketing except in group settings (on LinkedIn) or on communities like fan, or roleplay forums where I might have a link to my book blog. I do have a byline and header that mentions my book on Twitter but I don’t link to Amazon at all – if people notice that then they can find it there if they want to, but I’m not making a big thing of it and they can ignore it if they want. That’s probably as far as I’d go for advertising beyond putting a link to my book blog (which I haven’t been near for months now…).

    Articles like this are helpful and analytical in a constructive way I think – it’s valuable to have the pitfalls pointed out to you! 😉


    • August 5, 2014 at 9:51 pm

      And I hit submit too soon as well 😛 I meant to say “they’re clogging up your feeds and making you look at something you’re NOT asking for?”


      • August 5, 2014 at 11:02 pm

        It looks like you’re marketing to people exactly like you would like to be marketed to, which I would always advocate, because it means you understand exactly what you’re doing.

        The only thing that worries me, though, is if you’re missing something by not linking to Amazon on your header on Twitter. I don’t know if that would put me off. To be honest, I more or less expect it.


        • August 6, 2014 at 12:27 pm

          It’s the word limit as I also want to ‘promote’ my reviewer sideline – when I’ve finally had enough of the ubiquitous and frankly embarrassing self-aggrandisement of some of the people on my author’s review bookclub I’ll probably take that down and sneak a linkie in there 😛

          Perhaps it’s a subconscious restriction and I’m not really ready to let my ‘baby’ fly because it’s still enough that I’ve got it published and don’t need to share it so widely yet until I get a few more positive reviews under my belt that I’ve not pressured into being there? For now anyway I’m happy with the slow burn because it leaves me free to tend to upcoming publishing projects due to roll out later in the year 😉


          • August 6, 2014 at 1:36 pm

            That’s fair enough. I don’t think there was ever an author who failed in their endeavours because they waited until the time was right.


  15. August 6, 2014 at 2:48 am

    Two years after I published my first book (making every rookie mistake you mentioned in this post, and beyond) I can now spot a home-made cover a mile away. I always have this debate in my head: on the one hand, I would be doing the author a favor by telling them it looks like they used a basic Createspace template. But then, that’s kind of like telling a new mom “Actually, your baby is not the cutest one I’ve ever seen. Far from it.”

    As for shameless, annoying Twitter promotions, I operate by the 80/20 rule: 80% other people’s work, 10% me. I like retweeting stuff I think is funny, meaningful, and important. And every now and then I’ll intersperse a new 5-star review of my book, a sale, or a recent release. The key, I think, is moderation.

    Liked by 1 person

    • August 6, 2014 at 2:49 am

      Ahhh! 20% not 10! I’m a writer, I can’t math.


      • August 6, 2014 at 9:55 am

        I suppose the only difference is – if you say that to a new mom, what’s she supposed to do about it? She can’t change the baby (and besides, if she wanted to, she would need more therapy than outpatient care could provide).

        But if my cover was going to put someone off buying my book, I’d want to know about it. It’s the age-old quandary about how to deliver criticism constructively, and how to take it too. Some people take everything personally. I know this because they’ve told me right here on this blog 😉

        I like your Twitter ratio. I’m not promoting a book, but I do promote my blog posts on it, and I need to work on my ratio myself.


  16. August 6, 2014 at 6:17 am

    Reblogged this on The Crazy Lady Speaks.


  17. August 6, 2014 at 7:36 am

    Reblogged this on Confessions of a published author and commented:
    Another fantastic post Tara and very informative


  18. August 6, 2014 at 8:52 am

    Reblogged this on Stories from the Hearth and commented:
    Am so glad I found Tara Sparling’s blog! All I can say that she repeats here exactly my own thoughts on the whole “read my stuff/buy my book” ethos of a large section of self-published authors. My reaction to Twitter/Bookrix/Goodreads bombardment of “check out my stuff” type messages is also “shan’t”! Thank you Tara for this blog post:)


    • August 6, 2014 at 9:58 am

      I’m glad you found it too, Maria. Come back soon. I might have biscuits 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      • August 24, 2014 at 8:50 am

        I shall be back soon for a virtual cuppa and a non-fattening biscuit – am currently zooming around the UK to do research and take lots of pictures, which will eventually make it onto my blogs, hopefully adding to the readers’ experience (and the author’s!). Glad you liked my musings on this blog.


  19. August 6, 2014 at 12:04 pm

    Reblogged this on cicampbellblog and commented:
    A bit of a pointer here from Tara Sparling as to WHAT NOT TO DO to encourage readers to buy your indie published book. Liking the graph, Tara!


  20. August 6, 2014 at 12:08 pm

    Reblogged this on cicampbellblog.wordpress.com WriteWhereYouAre
    Thank you Tara. A helpful post for indie authors like myself, who really do want to get it right and are willing to put in the work to get it right, but find it SO hard to get noticed in the crowd.


  21. August 6, 2014 at 4:39 pm

    I’ve re-blogged this (: very interesting to read!


  22. August 7, 2014 at 12:42 am

    Reblogged this on Beyond the Southerly Weepers and commented:
    I’m a fan of self publishing myself! This article has some great insight! 🙂 Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.


  23. August 7, 2014 at 3:22 am

    Good advice. Hard to follow on one’s own, little money. So I took the attitude: this is an experiment and a learning experience. I’m going to build a book. If it sells, so be it. Family and friends do like it. People who I admire like it. Gave me confidence. Am building a base of reviews I can include in the next book. So I’ll go again, improve, try for a better cover, all those newly learnt things I’ve discovered from the first experience.

    If you don’t jump in the water some time, you never learn to swim. You may go under the surface a few times, but you won’t drown. Accept the hand that is offered when you bob up again. Publishing something is a way different experience you can’t understand until you do it.


    • August 7, 2014 at 9:46 am

      Good points, and well done on taking those steps. If you gained confidence from it, I think you can only call that an unmitigated success. It does take money to put out a book, but I think it’s well spent in the long run, and a lot of the social media advice is free to take and free to implement.


  24. August 7, 2014 at 4:36 pm

    Great article. Authors must know when to toot their own horns, and based on this content, some don’t use judgement when promoting their books. I agree that book covers help make my decision to read the book, and will not be forced to buy a book because it is advertised regularly. Posts like these are always helpful to me.


    • August 7, 2014 at 4:55 pm

      Most welcome, Michelle (and might I say excellent judgement 😉 )


  25. August 7, 2014 at 5:35 pm

    Just caught this blog and agree with everything in the blog and the additional comments as well. The only aspect you missed in the self-publishing world is the extent of “phony” reviews. Many SPAs go way beyond having Mum or Auntie rate your book.

    There are SPA who are buying 5* reviews from web sites (sometimes 100s at a time), swapping reviews with author circles (some include 50 + authors or more) and creating bogus accounts again in large numbers (referred to as sock-puppets) to add 5* reviews to their books. They inflate their rating and status and appear to be great books to buy. Readers need to be cautious of books with only 5* ratings. Not every reader will like the same book, so look for reviews below 5*s for some honesty. 1* and 2* usually review and explain their issues.

    I will no longer purchase SP books unless I have a recommendation from a trusted source. The authors creating fraudulent ratings and reviews are usually the ones with the worst books. It may be marketing to them, but it’s a con and hard to identify. I’ve already been burned by these “great” books, with unreadable prose and massive editing errors.


    • August 8, 2014 at 12:04 am

      It’s a real shame that the authors who are putting out false reviews are pretty much ruining the party for everyone. There are a lot of genuine articles out there who would never dream of doing any of that, but you’re right, we all got burned at some point and are generally cynical as a result. I’ve said in previous posts though that I would never buy a book which only had 5* reviews…. and yet a load of people got mad at that, saying I was stomping all over their good reviews.


      • August 8, 2014 at 9:52 pm

        I could never buy anything without balance. The old adage “If it sounds to good to be true – it probably is” comes to mind. No book is going to be loved by everyone – it against human nature. Books appeal to people for a variety of reasons. I’m sure lots of people got mad at you for stomping on their reviews, but it still always circles back to everyone is entitled to an opinion.

        Readers need to honestly rate and review the books they read. If they couldn’t finish the book (the story or editing was that bad) or simply didn’t like it – tell other readers and explain why you felt it deserved the low rating. Many readers don’t want to do this, but they need to remember reviews are to help other readers. The majority of good authors I know, don’t even read reviews.

        I try to stay active in the discussions on various reader sites. If I find an author who is intelligent, has interesting opinions and can structure a sentence properly, I often check him/her out and buy their books. I’ve found some great SP books this way.


    • Zee
      August 8, 2014 at 12:12 am

      I agree with this. I feel that we *should* be able to use reviews as a guide to what’s good and what isn’t, after all that’s what reviews are there for in the first place!

      It is frustrating, and I rely much more now on personal recommendations.


  26. August 8, 2014 at 6:12 pm

    I was at the bookstore yesterday, and when I picked up a book it was because of the cover, then I skimmed the back jacket copy. Next, I opened the book to a random page and read a few lines, then I flipped to the front page. The first line was awesome, so I bought the book. While we were there, my daughter and I had fun flipping open novels in the YA section and reading the first sentence out loud. For me personally, if the first line has a great “hook” I will buy the book 9 out of 10 times. in my own books, I rewrite my opening lines more than any other area in the book. 😉 They all have to “pop”!

    Liked by 1 person

    • August 8, 2014 at 8:46 pm

      Couldn’t agree more, first line absolutely must pop. And even more than that, they mustn’t send the reader away. It’s like trying to catch the most skittish, paranoid and slippery fish imaginable.


  27. August 8, 2014 at 6:35 pm

    I am working on self-publishing my first novel, and am grateful for posts like this to help me know what not to do. I believe it is a matter of respect to my future reader/customer to put out the best, most professional book possible. If that takes a little more time and care, then it is worth the effort.

    Liked by 1 person

    • August 8, 2014 at 8:49 pm

      Hey, you wouldn’t fancy a trip back to my youth, would you, just to tell people I will be useful for 5 minutes some day?! Just kidding. I think you’re already way ahead of the pack in caring what your readers think. So many writers just don’t seem to give a hoot.


  28. August 11, 2014 at 8:53 am

    It’s sad but these are all issues in the current market although it takes money to fix them. Book cover design and editing alone can cost a lot. Some writers make it work with minimal costs though. I buy self published and traditionally published books and find the quality comparable but I do look for reviews first.


    • August 11, 2014 at 9:43 am

      I agree that they can cost a lot, but I don’t think they are optional. Or at least, if writers think that they’re optional, then I won’t be buying their book. It is a brutal market out there and I can’t help feeling – if they’re not bothered enough to invest, why should I?


      • August 12, 2014 at 4:44 pm

        I think people can get overwhelmed with the whole cover thing – even professionals. The one golden rule for anything like this (aside from making sure it’s in keeping with the spirit of the work) is KISS. Keep It Simple Stupid…
        As with any type of design less usually works better than more and, speaking as someone who did do her own cover, I threw out most of my original concept in favour of keeping things clean and lean. Sometimes you say everything you need to with a simple colour and plain honest typefaces with needing to tart things up in any way 😉

        Liked by 2 people

  29. August 12, 2014 at 5:37 am

    Reblogged this on The Ravings of a Sick Mind and commented:
    This didn’t surprise me, but it’s worth spreading around.


  30. August 12, 2014 at 10:29 am

    Well you’ve never heard of me, and have no idea who I am, but I had a book published by a small publisher who approached me through my Blog and asked me to write one. I knew nothing about covers, or even that those words on the back were called “The Blurb.” One thing I did know was that I don’t like shouting about myself, or all that marketing horror but my problem is this. Most people are only published on Amazon, and who knows if you book is there at all, unless you shout about it. You can’t browse easily on Amazon, and book shops hardly exist in the UK so what does the unfortunate author do, without being called rude or pushy?

    Liked by 1 person

    • August 12, 2014 at 10:47 am

      Hi Peter, and welcome! But I have heard of you, because I’d been following your blog for some time, one of many who do, as you seem to have quite an extensive blog readership. So you already seem to have a good platform. And when it comes to book marketing, it’s a matter of preference in some ways – what turns me off may not turn you off, or indeed the people you’re trying to target, so you can’t hold everything in this article to be true for every reader, because it’s subjective. On the other hand, I don’t believe that book marketing, on Amazon or anywhere else, is about “shouting”. It’s about speaking.

      Why does an author have to be rude or pushy to sell me their book? If I meet such rudeness, shoutiness in general, it makes me think that their book isn’t that good, because they don’t let it speak for itself. I don’t think pushiness sells a lot of books, in any case. Word of mouth is the only thing which will increase sales exponentially. Everything else just shift units on a small scale, one by one. I realise that we have to hear about these books in the first place, but that’s about creative marketing, not shouting. Guerrilla marketing, for instance, famously uses very little capital for a large impact.

      The emerging authors I connect most with online are people who engage with me, or who I find interesting or entertaining in general, and then, have a blurb which I find interesting or exciting. But if I’m not interested in what you say your book is about (or the way you say it), no amount of shouting is going to make me feel differently.


  31. August 14, 2014 at 8:13 pm

    Tara, thank you, thank you!

    I have shared this on FB with my writing friends, as more and more of us are going indie. A slap-dash approach won’t cut it and, alas, neither will good intentions. “All I can do is the best I can do,” but I need to make certain that what I publish actually iIS my best. .Your graphic also reminds me that hiring professional help is never a waste of money.


    • August 14, 2014 at 11:24 pm

      Yes, our best is such a subjective animal, isn’t it? We need to find out what our best is, before we can say we’ve done it.


  32. August 15, 2014 at 12:33 am

    Tara, I thoroughly enjoyed both this piece and its earlier companion piece about what DOES drive readers to buy a book. And it seems I fall right in line with the bulk of those surveyed in terms of the top contenders; for me: cover, blurb, reviews… I seem to rarely read a sample if I make it through those three!

    But whatever particular combo applies, I believe you are providing a great service to the world of indie publishing by asserting these very essential dos and don’ts, which corroborate similar pieces written by others (including me!) which encourage a higher bar in self-published work! That can only be good for us all, so thank you for your contribution!


    • August 15, 2014 at 10:49 am

      I think the very notion of me issuing dos and don’ts which would land me in very hot water, Lorraine… but I do try to pass on the bits I hear, learn and wonder about as I trawl through the booky depths of the internet.

      I am a massive fan of the self-publishing movement, and my hope is that some day the commentary on self-publishing will be confined to traditionally published authors complaining about how the other half is living, given the unlimited freedom and money self-published authors have in comparison 😉


  33. August 15, 2014 at 3:35 am

    Reblogged this on Darryl Donaghue and commented:
    Another great post from Tara Sparling with sound advice for anyone considering self-publishing! Thanks for the info!


  34. August 15, 2014 at 5:44 pm

    I worry about you, Tara – seems all you write comes from inside my head! Is it dangerous to agree with someone who writes exactly what you agree with – or should that be ‘that with which you agree’…nahhh.


    • August 15, 2014 at 8:55 pm

      But I’ve been living in your head for a while now, Tom. Didn’t I ask to borrow some milk or sugar or something last year? (That’s not creepy at all, is it?!)

      Delighted to be surfing the same wavelength with you, though!


  35. August 16, 2014 at 9:22 am

    Thank you for this blog. My e-books are published by MuseItUp Publishing. Fortunately, I have an excellent copy editor we do our best to make sure that we haven’t fallen into the pitfalls mentioned in this blog. However, I would like to find ways and means of increasing my sales without antagonising potential readers.

    All the best,
    Rosemary Morris
    Historical Novelist


    • August 16, 2014 at 9:34 am

      Stick around for a bit and take a tour, Rosemary, and hopefully you will find some useful information. I find I get a wealth of wisdom from the people who comment here.


  36. August 24, 2014 at 2:26 am

    Reblogged this on Noble Enterprises – Noble Expressions and commented:
    This is a terrific post from author Tara Sparling on what turns readers on/off when buying self-published books. Complete with graphic. Yes, Virginia, editing *does* matter. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  37. September 4, 2014 at 6:49 pm

    Hi Tara. I was given a link to your site by fellow author Peter Maughan. I run a very small independent publishing company that is striving to produce high caliber books through both Kindle and the print market. I read both your pieces and was really pleased to see that we do actually follow the suggested strategies to the letter. We take great pride in what we do and it was great to read something and be able to say, “We do that.” I really enjoyed your posts and look forward to reading more. Thank you. 🙂


    • September 4, 2014 at 9:00 pm

      Hi, Penny, and you’re most heartily welcome here. While I’m lurking in dark corners of the Internet I do love a visitor, and a happy one is a bonus! You look like you’ve got a great operation there – may you go from strength to strength. Come back soon 😉


  38. November 6, 2014 at 10:05 pm

    Some readers say they are turned off by overuse of adjectives or adverbs… Oh, if only that could be the worst we ever see. Those are a matter of personal taste; some people like lots of adjectives, and some don’t. On the other hand, I can only shake my head at readers who tell me (and they do keep telling me, as if they expect me to change my mind) that no one these days give a rodent’s backside about grammar and spelling and punctuation and accurate facts that affect the plot as long as the main character falls in love and lives happily ever after. Whatever one’s taste in STORY, the reader has to be able to FIND it first, and crappy writing us an effective way of hiding it.

    There’s an annoying tendency for many readers to assume that if a book is self-published, it MUST be error-ridden. This leads to reviews that say “This novel is full of bad grammar,” but the reviewer, if asked, cannot point out a single actual example of such errors. This is frustrating. I’ve probably avoided reading novels that are actually very good, simply because some reviewer made the assumption that self-published = unedited and made false claims based on that assumption.

    Liked by 1 person

    • November 6, 2014 at 11:28 pm

      I agree, Thomas, that self-published books are judged entirely differently, and this doesn’t seem fair. Unfortunately I have encountered many with poor editing myself, which rather perpetuates the myth. Maybe indie books should acquire an approved editing stamp along with their ISBN!


      • November 6, 2014 at 11:35 pm

        Oh, I never said it was entirely undeserved. I just think that each book ought to be judged on its own merits (or lack thereof!) rather than assuming that EVERY self-published book is badly written. I’ve seen some that were virtually perfect, too, but even those get ‘this is crap, it wasn’t even edited!’ reviews.

        I think that some indie authors list their editors in the acknowledgements mostly to show potential reader that yes, THIS book actually had an editor. At least that way we know who to blame (aside from the author — ultimately it is still the author’s responsibility) for horrible punctuation and spelling.

        Liked by 2 people

  39. August 24, 2016 at 4:44 pm

    Reblogged this on MorgEn Bailey – Creative Writing Guru and commented:
    Very sensible advice to us self-publishers…

    Liked by 1 person

  40. August 24, 2016 at 5:41 pm

    EEK! I shan’t use Check out… again, though I’m pretty sure I never used it in regard to one of my books, but I’ve used it for my Pinterest boards (Check out these Cool Critters) and maybe posts about writing,…

    Liked by 1 person

    • August 24, 2016 at 10:37 pm

      That wasn’t my quote but I’m afraid ‘check out’ is a pet hate of mine too, Pagadan… just sets my teeth on edge, probably because it’s been so overused by pushy authors in the past. I think it should be let retire in peace 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      • August 25, 2016 at 2:08 am

        I’ll be careful about that now. It’s just so easy to type what pops into your mind instead of spending time thinking…

        Liked by 1 person

  41. August 24, 2016 at 6:36 pm

    Reblogged this on Writing hints and competitions and commented:
    Agree strongly with point one, point two may be irrelevant as the blurb is generally considered over the cover and by the time you are at point three the book is sold anyway

    Liked by 1 person

  42. August 27, 2016 at 11:05 pm

    Part One of a yet-to-be-written series is a definite turn-off, as is someone announcing the launch of an 18-page blockbuster.

    Liked by 1 person

  43. October 17, 2019 at 1:33 am

    I hope I don’t put own self off my self-published book. (But first I have to finish it.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • October 19, 2019 at 5:29 pm

      If only everyone got to the end before they critiqued something we might all be better off, eh?!


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