Classes & WorkshopsMarketing and Promotion

Dumb Things Brilliant Authors Do by Deborah Riley-Magnus

At some point every single day I have to gasp at the amazing creative prowess of the authors I meet. Incredible ideas, creative approaches to the mundane, unpredictable plot twists, literary elegance, magical stories—that’s just a small cross-section of the talents that amaze me. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve read or seen something and felt just a little jealous that I hadn’t come up that great idea myself.

I work with authors who are traditionally published, and authors who self-publish. With beginner writers, and writers on the journey to changing genres or focus. I’ve come across editors wanting to write erotica, journalists with a desire to write the great American novel, folks with a silly idea who seriously want to turn it into a piece of literary art. It’s a beautiful melting pot of creative power and fantastical concepts, however, beyond the keyboard and monitor, some really silly decisions get made.


Brilliance abounds in the author world.

And so does, well, a little stupidity.

2 out of every 3 authors I work with also work in the real world, 9 to 5, all takin’ and no giving but there’s a lot of giving most authors just don’t seem to notice. Many of my clients are salespeople, marketing experts, project or financial managers, and organizers for company projects. Some of them work for nonprofit or not for profit organizations, managing a million details and plowing toward success for their cause. The author who stocks at the local Wal Mart knows how to make things happen. Even if an author no longer works in the business world, they did at some point, and oh the amazing marketing skills they already know but don’t even remotely recognize when it comes to marketing their book.


Here are 3 things brilliant authors know better than to do. *sigh*


If we don’t take the turkey out of the freezer, there will be no Thanksgiving dinner. If we don’t pay the internet bill, we wake without service. Yikes! Procrastination bites us in the butt every time, and in the normal world, we do learn the lesson. Procrastination seems like it serves us but always blows up in our face. Procrastination is the best way to assure failure.

Here’s a simple question. When do you start marketing your book? Almost all authors rationalize that one can’t market a product without a product to sell. Oh, so NOT TRUE. In fact, what marketing does is create awareness of the coming product. It gives you all the ammunition to build a powerful following made up of people who absolutely love the unique hooks inside your book. This is how real fan loyalty is made.

Waiting until you have a published book to start marketing, or tweeting, or building unique hook following, or write blogs about the unique hooks inside your book—like small-town lifestyle, or dance, or elderly lifestyle, or whatever unique hook glues your story together—leaves you way behind the 8 ball. Let’s all admit the truth. Making book sales right out of the gate is a lot more fun than struggling from day one until you lose hope and move on to writing the next book. Don’t procrastinate. Set yourself up for success.



I once had a delightful client. She wrote wonderful sweet romance by night, and sold cosmetics to distributors during the day. In her day job, she was ruthless. She knew the value of a good client and how to hold their loyalty close for best sales results. She continuously broke sales records and won contests. Her boss adored her and for good reason. She was a dynamo.

Enter, her author life. When she became my client, the first thing we explored was her massive Twitter and Facebook following. Impressive, but unfortunately, all authors. When I directed her to eliminate them all and build a whole new following of unique hook lovers (her newest series was about tattoo artists in a Hollywood tattoo shop,) she went a little nuts. Between her desperate cries of “but,” and “it doesn’t make sense,” and “where will I find buyers if I give up all my author friends?” I calmed her down and asked her two questions.

“How many books have you sold to other authors?”

Her answer? “Ummmm… ”


Then I asked, “In your 9 to 5 job, how much time do you spend with your competition?”

“Absolutely none! I research their products online in the evenings, but I never waste my time on them!”


I waited. It didn’t take long. Only a moment and the lightbulb brightened. This was a brilliant salesperson suppressing her prolific knowledge of marketing and sales because she was an author. She believed that authors knew how to be great selling authors so she lumped herself with them and hoped for the best. She forgot that her book was a product. She couldn’t sell anti-wrinkle products to clients with teenage pimpled clientele, and never even tried to sell her products to the competition because they had their own product to sell. In her working world, she knew that was just plain dumb. But as an author, she was doing just that. She knew better As soon as she applied the techniques she already knew to her book marketing, her bottom line soared.

Always remember, Hershey Chocolates and Mars Candies don’t hang out together on Twitter and Facebook sharing marketing strategies. It’s not smart business.



GO ROGUE! Stop doing what everyone else is doing. This is a little nod to what we just covered, but it goes a little further. Just because every author you know is doing free giveaways, or organizing book events in bookstores or libraries does not mean you should do the same. Look deeply before leaping on the bandwagon.

What’s the value of “FREE?” If you honestly believe that giving away hundreds of books will create sales, go ahead and try it. Few people will pay for something when they might get the next one for free, too. I have hundreds of free books on my e-reader and do you know which books I actually read? The ones I carefully chose and paid for. The books written by the authors I’m loyal to. The book I didn’t take because, what the heck, it’s free.

Instead of giving away free books in a promotion, why not give away free back-list books to winners of a contest you created? Or maybe perpetually give away the first book in your series? Make that free item valuable!

And about doing a book event in a book store… seriously? The shelves are loaded with your competition. I have seen authors do a great book store event only to find their audience wonder off among the shelves and purchase someone else’s book.

Do something really different and new. Connect with your unique hooks. If your book is about wizards, create a cool book event in a new age shop. If your book is a murder mystery about a cupcake baker, hold your events at cupcake shops and bakeries around town. If you’ve written a children’s book, get yourself a table at the local kids’ event at the park. If your book has a dog as a primary character, hold a book event at a dog park or an animal rescue league event. If you wrote a cookbook, sell your books at a table during the local Farmer’s Market. Go where the people who love your unique hooks are!

Love this?

Join Deb in February, March, and April for the PRISM MARKETING SYSTEM Webinar workshops series right here at SavvyAuthors! Check out the first class in the series:

Prism Marketing – A Power Author Marketing System with Deb Magnus ~ February 4 – April 28


[box]Write-Brain_thBridging the Gap between Creative Writer and Marketing Author

Marketing is a very scary prospect for authors. It seems like a foreign language meant to be spoken in a far off land without an embassy to help explain the culture. None of this is true. It isn’t marketing that’s the issue—it’s a fear and general misunderstanding of marketing in relation to an author’s talents and skill set.

Authors are creative people who solve problems within their imagination. Just because they’ve never been creative within the marketing universe does not mean they can’t. In fact, the more creative a marketing author is, the further they step away from the competition, and the more book sales success they will find.

Write Brain/Left Brain is the goose with the golden egg. These pages open doors to thinking outside the box and away from the noisy competition. It encourages authors to see the bigger book buying world, imaginatively seek out broader audiences, and always trust their creative nose to accomplish their book sales goals. This book is designed to remove an author’s fear of marketing and replace it with the inventive possibilities specific to the book marketed.

Authors, open your mind and take the empowering leap into the astonishing, imaginative marketing playground.[/box]


Awesome, heart-centered help from someone who really knows what she’s doing.

Demi Stevens, owner, Year of The Book Press


Before spending time with Deborah Riley-Magnus, I thought marketing was the devil—or at least beyond my capabilities—so I did little to promote my books. The proof was in my sales which were great with my friends, and friends of friends, but did little more than that. After working with Deb, I have a whole new outlook, realize there are many creative ways of marketing, and am excited about my next steps. I write books I know my readers will love… now I’m ready to go find my audience.

Gloria Baer Bostic, Author


Deb’s marketing advice made a world of difference in how I described a book I was querying. Using what she taught me in my query letter got agent attention immediately. I started getting requests for my manuscript where before I wouldn’t hear anything. I’ll always consult with Deb before querying. She’s a treasure!

Jen Sako, Author

Deborah Riley-Magnus is an author and an Author Success Coach with forty-plus years professional background in marketing, advertising, and public rela...