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How to sell (and how not to sell) book marketing services

Camilla Monk designs sleek websites for book industry professionals and writes high-octane nonsense. She lives in Montréal, where she feeds the squirrels and tries to raise a toddler.

There’s no shortage of book marketing advice out there for struggling authors, but who thinks of book marketing marketers? Who has any room in their heart for the desperate hordes relentlessly pouring their swill into every crevice of online presence you have, all for a slim chance of milking your hard-earned cash in exchange for five AI-generated reviews?

Exactly: crickets. 

This is why today, I, an indie author who gets tons of book marketing spam, will impart my tips to book marketers on why almost no one ever responds to them and how to remedy that. To this end, I’ve gathered a few of the gems I receive on a regular basis. We’ll cover various flavors of cold emailing tactics ranging from the weird and absolutely terrible, to “You might have had a chance, but you blew it.” I will dissect what’s wrong with those marketing approaches, and, more importantly, what you can do to increase your chance of a response.

So, pay attention, book marketing spammers: this is for you!

Your number one problem is that you’re being stilted, generic, and honestly just weird.

What follows is the most common type of cold emailing authors receive, and nothing about it is right. Here are a couple of examples:

I was looking at your website and the way you displayed your book is quite appealing.

I came across your profile. Can I ask you some questions about your books? What genre of books do you write most?

This—all of this—goes straight to spam. Your writing is so impersonal that you don’t even sound like an AI. You sound worse than an AI. You can’t name a single one of my titles, and, as per example #2, you don’t even know what genre I write and need me to take some valuable time to explain that to you? How am I to believe that you could possibly market my books, let alone any product? Friend, you couldn’t sell a dumpster full of Krispy Kreme trash to a raccoon with that pitch.

In order to make better use of both your and my time, you need to ditch your canned emails, and instead, spend just a little time crafting tailored messages with a much higher chance of conversion. And here’s how to do that: make me believe that you’ve done your homework and that you marginally care about my books. It’s not my brain you need to engage first but my emotions and, more specifically, my inflated writer ego. From there on, you can move to selling me your pitch. We’ll get back to that second phase later, but first, let’s focus on how to establish rapport with an author we’ve never heard of and do not care about.

Research your target.

Before you even consider messaging me, go to my Amazon / Goodreads page and take a quick look at my books. If you just glanced at the first title in the list (or you’re running a script that mills through comparable titles using the Amazon API) and are about to personalize your message as follows: “Hello CAMILLA, I couldn’t help but notice your book SPOTLESS. I think SPOTLESS is great and…” Stop immediately.

Slowly lift your index finger away from your mouse and think. Would any author fall for this garbage? Quoting a book’s title isn’t enough. It makes you sound like exactly what you are: a jaded book marketer who feigns interest in my work. In order to make it past the walls of my heart to speak to my ego, you need to make me believe that you’re an enthusiastic reader of my work who, incidentally, also happens to be a book marketer, and behold, you have some great ideas on how to let even more people know about my work and spread the love!

So, instead of just glancing at the book and copy-pasting the title, you’re going to click and open that Amazon product page. And while you’re at it, open my website: we’ll need a 5 seconds glance at the home as well. On the book’s page, skim through the blurb, then my bio, and scroll down to the reviews. You can make your life even easier by checking out the list of review keywords Amazon provides at the top of that section.

Now, the book description tells you that this is a romance comedy involving characters named March and Island, and that I’m an author who tries too hard to sound quirky and funny; my bio tells you that I live in Canada and that use self-deprecating humor, which is actually a clear indication of a massive and fragile ego; the reviews tell you that most readers fell for my schtick and generally label my work as, you guessed it, quirky and funny.

This took maybe 2 minutes of your life. That’s a lot of time to spend on each target for someone whose emailing campaigns have a 0.0000017% conversion rate. But what if we can pump up those numbers? What if I told you that you can convert the above information into a cold email that may give me some pause before I precipitate you into the depths of my spam folder? Here’s how:

Hi Camilla,

I’m a huge fan of the Spotless series (can we get more of March and Island, please? Maybe just another novella?) and I’m impressed by how you’ve single-handedly turned your brand of hilarious and quirky thrillers into an indie powerhouse.

I happen to market books when I’m not busy binge-reading them, and I actually have a few ideas on how to give the Spotless series the exposure it deserves and get more people to hear about your unforgettable characters. Do you think we could find some time to chat later this week?

P.S.: I just finished Of Blood & Light, and OMG. I loved. It. I’m still not over that one.



Am I a hilarious powerhouse? Not even in my dreams, but your warm and enthusiastic tone makes me believe that. Like Prince John admiring himself in his mirror, I now see myself as an author of some importance, and you have my full attention as you slyly segue into your sales pitch, you cunning fox.

Note my finishing move: with a mere glance at the author’s homepage, I was able to deduce what her latest book is and slathered on an extra layer of unsubstantial flattery. None of this required more than a cursory glance at the author’s online presence, but after creating the illusion of genuine interest with my intro, that final line about loving the second book sounds perfectly believable, even though nothing in it suggests that I even know what that book is about. 

Ah! I see that you’re about to copy-paste that email, change the keywords, and then resume your spamming with abandon. HOLD ON, and again, think. Use your few remaining brain cells that haven’t been atrophied by the debilitating process of sending thousands of super dumb emails. The author I’m targeting here is a romantic suspense author. That means this email could be used to target romance authors at large (keywords: couple’s name + general vibe of the book), but that level of personalization will only get you so far. 

What if I’m trying to harpoon an indie thriller author? What chance do I have to conquer the heart of a 55-year-old white male who thinks he has connections at the Pentagon (he doesn’t: he only did the guided tour in 1997) with the words, “OMG. I loved. It.

The answer is none, which is why you must tailor your emails to the author’s genre. Demonstration:

Hey John,

I’m a huge fan of the Violent CIA Revenge series (Operation Destroy Pentagon kept me up all night even though I had to work the next day) and I’m impressed by how you’ve single-handedly turned your brand of complex and gritty thrillers into an indie powerhouse.

I happen to market books when I’m not busy reading them at ungodly hours of the night. I actually have a few ideas on how to give the VCR series the exposure it deserves and get more people to hear about the unstoppable Maverick Smith. Do you think we could find some time to chat later this week?

P.S.: I just finished Trapped in Borneo. Gonna need a stiff drink after that one…



Less gushing, a more virile tone: like a chameleon, we’ve changed our colors to match John’s expectations.

Before I close that chapter, I’d like to show an example of why choosing the right angle and keywords matters, especially if you expend valuable time researching the author. Not so long ago, I received this:

Hello C. Monk, Good Afternoon,

I admire how Camilla Monk has a website that showcases your work , includes a bio, and has a store. It’s great to see you offer a store where readers can buy your books.

This person did visit my website and took a cursory glance at the home and menu. They were on a great track until they beclowned themselves by picking the most generic and useless data possible to customize their email. You browsed my homepage, and all you took from it is that my website contains a bio and a store? Dude, you literally missed the only important piece of info you needed to craft a half-decent email: what’s my latest title, the one I’m actively and desperately trying to market. That’s what I’m interested in, not the contents of my website menu!

Keywords matter: choose them wisely and wield them with maximum efficiency. 

Anyway, by now, we have a bunch of somewhat personalized emails. But, to be honest, they’re not enough because…

Even a great pitch won’t save you if you have nothing to sell.

I might respond to your initial inquiry, but let’s face it: you’re getting nowhere if you can’t show me the goods. Here’s what I mean by that, illustrated by an email I received recently: 

Camilla, let’s promote your book!

I hope this message finds you well. As an author, I know how challenging it can be to increase book sales, and I’m here to help. I would love to schedule a call with you to discuss strategies to boost your sales and get your book in the hands of more readers.

During our call, we can discuss various topics such as book marketing, advertising, social media, press, and more. I have helped hundreds of authors increase their book sales, and I’m confident that I can do the same for you.

This is arguably the most appealing book marketing pitch I’ve received in a while. The title is a bit tacky, but the writing flows smoothly. it doesn’t sound stilted or oddly customized with repeated mentions of my book’s title without any surrounding context. The guy (Maybe? This email bears no signature: a serious faux-pas) appeals to my emotions by positioning himself as a “fellow author” rather than a marketer, and he’s telling me he knows how hard I have it. He’s right about that, by the way, selling books is gruesome work.

So, what’s wrong with it? Well, because all of this sounded so sleek and professional, one detail jumped at me: the complete absence of references or testimonials. See, if you’re good at what you do, I expect you to flex some glowing praise and links to Amazon titles with hundreds or even thousands of ratings and a solid sales rank. That tells me you can make it happen—maybe not for all authors, but at least for some. 

Problem: there were no such hints in that email, and when I checked the testimonials section on that company’s website (note that just having a professional website puts them ahead of 99% of the competition), Only one title linked had over 40 reviews, the rest boasted dismal numbers in the 15~25 range.

At that point, if I were them, I’d remove the Amazon links from the page, because they’re a liability rather than a sales point. Cynically, I’d stick to the testimonials alone and pray that my leads won’t look up the authors and figure out how much the books sold.

So, back to the second half of my email example, in which I attempt to pitch you my services. A better version, that might actually get your bottle of snake oil off the shelf is this:

I happen to market books when I’m not busy binge-reading them, and I actually have a few ideas on how to give the Spotless series the exposure it deserves and get more people to hear about your unforgettable characters. 

I’ve recently set a 360° campaign with a scheduled promo on multiple platforms combined with Amazon and Facebook ads for Saddam Hussein’s Zabiba and The King and we saw some exciting results!

Do you think we could find some time to chat later this week?

Yep. Bet you had no idea Saddam Hussein wrote a romance novel in his younger days. Aside from that, as you can see that I backed my pitch with an example of a successful marketing campaign on a comparative title, in order to reassure my target that I’m a legitimate professional, but also to appeal to their greed: now Camilla, too, wants to achieve the same success and leave her mark in history as a dead dictator!

We’re reaching the end of this article, and I hope, dear marketer, that you picked some pointers on how to make your work more palatable and efficient. Here’s a quick summary of what we learned together today:

  • Research your target.
  • Identify relevant keywords about their work.
  • Establish rapport by appealing to the author’s ego and emotions.
  • Position yourself as an ally in your pitch.
  • Describe a clear service.
  • Appeal to your target’s greed with a credible reference.
  • Conclude with a final sprinkle of flattery.
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