3 Book Marketing Red Flags

By Olivia McCoy

There aren’t many certainties the publishing world can offer, but one consistent truth is that at some point after announcing your book, you will almost certainly be contacted with various marketing offers. Some of these offers are absolutely genuine and worth looking into to help promote your book to your ideal readers. Others? Not so much. Inevitably and unfortunately, it is likely you will come across a scam trying to get you to spend your money on disingenuous offers that do not have your or your book’s best interests in mind. Book marketing red flags such as paid consumer reviews, book sales promises, & media placement.

Check out these 3 red flags to keep an eye out for when you’re sorting through the many offers coming into your author inbox and DMs.

Paid consumer reviews:

Paying for reader reviews is greatly frowned upon and considered unethical in book communities. There is a question of how authentic those reviews can be if they’re incentivized and it’s an even bigger red flag if the reviews are promised to be 5-stars. Oftentimes, those reviews are flagged by the platform they’re posted on as false or spam and even removed, defeating the purpose of the service altogether. With the emergence of AI and bot accounts on social media, it’s likely that those 5-star reviews aren’t even written by real people. When you do reach out to readers for review consideration, best practice is to ask for “honest feedback in the form of a review.”

Top-tier placements:

The only placements that can ever be guaranteed in top tier media are advertisements. Some services make it sound like you can pay your way into media coverage, but the reality is that coverage is at the will of the editors and journalists. To be featured in popular outlets like the The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Book Riot, and others is a matter of professional relationships with the staff, luck, and relevant/timely fit with pieces they’re already working on.

Promised sales:

Sales are another piece of book promotion that can never be guaranteed. We can get a certain number of impressions and get the book in front of eyeballs, but there is nothing we can do to force readers to pull out their credit cards and make those purchasing decisions. You’re likely paying for the cost of your own book in the cost of the service and then those purchases are being completed by bots and fake accounts.

If you ever receive a message that you feel iffy about, trust your instincts and consider forwarding it to someone on your publishing team to help weed out the scams. If you feel the need to respond to these messages yourself, feel free to send something along the lines of “Thank you for reaching out. I’ll let you know if I’m interested in moving forward,” or “Thank you for reaching out. I’m currently only seeking earned opportunities at this time but I will let you know if that changes.

There are a lot of fantastic resources and opportunities out there for authors, but as with most things in life, there are also those who wish to take advantage of others. For this reason, always err on the side of caution before spending your hard-earned money and keep the above red flags in mind when approached with new offers.