where the writers are
How to not sell your book... and quickly

The first thing you need to do, if you really don't want to sell your book, is to sign up for every social networking site on the Internet and, if your book is about Haddock fishing, for example, befriend everyone you can find who reads historical fiction. Once they have accepted your friend requests, email them and post on their profile pages, extolling the virtues of your non-historical non-fiction book about fish. When you prepare your email, make sure that it is as impersonal as possible; never address the recipient by name, make it absolutely clear that you have no idea who they are or what they like, as you didn't read their 'about me' blurb, and don't be afraid to refer to your 'two volumes sold the last time you checked Amazon' tome as a 'worldwide bestseller!'

Next, visit discussion forums and, after having joined six seconds previously, butt in on a thread about book trailers, knocking it totally out of whack, to talk about yourself, your fish-loving exploits, and your book about haddock. When nobody responds to you, take this as an encouraging sign and proceed to post the same information - with no word altered - on every thread on that forum. Do this again one week later. Or, if you're really determined not to sell a single copy of your book, do it every three days.

Please remember to refer to your readers and Internet friends as 'fans.' Do a re-run of the first emailing exercise, but this time thank everyone (again, no names) for supporting your writing efforts by being your devoted followers. Don't treat fellow writers as equals or engage them in intelligent discussion... this might inspire feelings of camaraderie, and that might lead them to purchase a copy of your book. Instead, when one asks a question about the publishing business, pretend that they are butchers and explain what a real writer (one who has sold two books) experiences in the cut-throat world of getting into print.

I absolutely guarantee that, if the advice above is followed to the letter, you will not sell your books. There is one small side effect... you may be murdered in your sleep when you least expect it.

38 Comment count
Comment Bubble Tip


This is hilarious. How did you know about the note I just wrote on my Facebook page? Ack. Thanks for the slap upside the head. Now back to Facebook...


Comment Bubble Tip

Kate, don't tell me... your

Kate, don't tell me... your own book about haddock has just come out, and you have posted a message on your Facebook page to kick off your marketing campaign, which will be aimed exclusively at paleontologists and mobile hairdressers?

Comment Bubble Tip


Gina, I think this needs to go on our Tips page. No one's ever done a what NOT to do advice post here before.

Huntington Sharp, Red Room

Comment Bubble Tip

Huntington, thank you for

Huntington, thank you for adding my post to the tips page. I cannot take all of the credit for these words of advice, however, as they were passed on to me by members of a highly secret order of authors, who operate out of a base on Wimbledon Common. You will never have heard of any of the society's members, as they have triumphantly succeeded in not selling a single book between them. Unfortunately, having failed to not sell a book myself, I was refused membership and ejected from the premises amid shouts and jeers.  

Comment Bubble Tip

thank you for the good advice

This sounds like the beginning of a great series--I will definitely buy the book. (What not to do, that is--not haddock, no offense but I prefer sweeping historical creative non-fiction thrillers about Pacific salmon)

Comment Bubble Tip

"I prefer sweeping

'I prefer sweeping historical creative non-fiction thrillers about Pacific salmon.'

I am partial to kippers myself. My favourite author is Rudyard Kipperling.

Comment Bubble Tip

Rudyard Kipperling

Ah, yes! the author of "The Jingle Book: Adventures in Marketing and Assorted Fish Tales"

Comment Bubble Tip

I have a few suggestions


Complain bitterly about rejection on your blog, making sure to name the publisher or agent personally, and link to their personal websites to alert them to your words...

Comment Bubble Tip

Very good advice. And

Very good advice. And remember to point out that, as you have sold two books on Amazon, the publisher/agent obviously missed out on something very special indeed, due to the fact that he didn't know his job. One sale on Amazon is worth ten years' experience in publishing, so two books makes you an expert.

Comment Bubble Tip

Guess you're very successful then

You know your mocking rant is just what every one of these small publishers will tell you to do to sell your book. It's too bad that there are no more readers anymore. It's true. Go to any site about writing and you'll find a bunch of people introducing themselves and their book. See something wrong with this picture...?

Market is over saturated...

And if you write in the genre you love, for me, science fiction, you have a better chance of making first contact with aliens...

I don't care what tips anybody has to 'sell' your book. You better write because you love to.

Comment Bubble Tip

Guess you're very successful

'Guess you're very successful then...'

Oh no, not at all... I failed to not sell a book, hence my expulsion from the secret society's fortress in a very Candidean manner, with numerous kicks to my backside.

Comment Bubble Tip

So True

All of your points are well-taken. An acclaimed author such as myself can vouch for every word. I have said much of the same myself in my newest opus, due out next month from Self-Publishers R Us, "How Not To Sell Your Book", about which I'll be back again tomorrow to provide you with purchasing information. If you just can't wait that long (who could?) please feel free to Google me, or see my Facebook page. Do it now; high demand for this scintillating work is expected.

Comment Bubble Tip

The Other Sterling Classic

In addition, to make sure you won't sell your book, write a snarky review of a very popular published title that has fish, but that you know is badly written. List its glaring mistakes in detail. Go on to say that only complete idiots could love this, when they could have your superior book about fish, instead. Then, sweeten the finish: effusively forgive this best-selling author as the glaring amateur writer they really are. Proceed, with flaming assurance, to revile the book's editor for not knowing, or bothering, to do their professional job. Then post this review everywhere you possibly can to straighten out everyone else who might be misled by this other book's undeserved popularity. Don't stop there. Make sure to include a copy to the editor along with your cover letter, when you submit your own manuscript to the same publisher. Since the idiots there can't recognize brilliance, you'll get a rejection, but don't miss this chance! You'll teach them a lesson. They'll see how a competent book about fish should be done. Better, they'll regret their short-sightedness forever, once you've self-published and won major acclaim.

Comment Bubble Tip

Actions speak louder than words...

'...to make sure you won't sell your book, write a snarky review of a very popular published title that has fish, but that you know is badly written...'

And if at all possible, post one to Youtube. A written assault may secure the almost-non-sale of books, but nothing secures the complete-non-sale of books like a video response to a rival author's book trailer video. Don't forget to jog before filming, to secure the necessary red face and sweaty brow needed to convey your meaning with the maximum impact. 

Comment Bubble Tip

Great Blog Post!

I'd like to add that in between bothering non-fans about Haddock, one should write blog posts/Facebook status updates/tweets about fascinating aspects of one's personal life, e.g., cat's hairball problem (described in technicolor).

Comment Bubble Tip

Oh Twitter... how could I

Oh Twitter... how could I have forgotten about the wonders of tweeting? 'I saw a sock'... 'I saw the same sock'... 'oh, there's that sock again'... 'a slipper!'... 'no, I was mistaken, it was a sock.' 

Comment Bubble Tip

great blog

believe it or not this worked for me!

Comment Bubble Tip

It was a hairball..

It was a hairball...the size of a sock.

Comment Bubble Tip

How not to sell your book.

I gree Gina. I am a new author and your advice is good. I feel that to make the book interesting to perspective readers who you want to purchase your book, is to write a strong, get to the point synopsis. It should be as attention grabbing as a good cover to spark curiosity, and it should be honest. It should deal with the subject at hand; the book, and not exaltation of the author while putting down similar works.I usually send e-mail advertisements with both the eye catching cover, and a strong synopsis. I am getting some movement now.
Any other advice you can give me will help.

Comment Bubble Tip

Book Marketing

Mary Lynn Archibald Thanks, Gina, for that concise list of reasons not to join Facebook, etcetera. Who has the time? And besides, each time I try to log on, they seem to have mysteriously changed my password. I've got such a great memory for trivia that it can't be that...now what was I saying? Best, ML

Comment Bubble Tip

How to Not Sell Your Book

Great advice, Gina! Now, if only I had a book to (not) sell ...

Comment Bubble Tip

The best way to not sell a

The best way to not sell a book is to not write one, so you are well ahead of the game. This is the method I used to secure my non-selling success until the age of 39... then I lost my way...

Comment Bubble Tip

Thanks, Gina, for this altruistic exercise

You didn't mention getting an agent..!

Comment Bubble Tip


You mean all that arm twisting and cajoling is not going to work? Boo hoo! This was a great post.

Comment Bubble Tip

Hilarious and so true!

I loved this post! I know several authors who unfortunately behave this way, both in cyberspace and in person...and I will not buy their books.  

Comment Bubble Tip

How Not To Sell Your Book

Gina: wait... you mean selling two books since the last (first?) time you checked on Amazon does NOT qualify your book as a World-Wide Best Seller???

And please note: not heeding your excellent advice does not necessarily mean writers will not be murdered in their sleep when they least expect it.

To prevent that, perhaps the best advice would be to follow every ounce of what Gina suggests, but as well, just don't actually really write or publish anything...

A fan,
Terin Tashi Miller

Comment Bubble Tip

'And please note: not

'And please note: not heeding your excellent advice does not necessarily mean writers will not be murdered in their sleep when they least expect it.'

This is very true. It is why I sleep with one eye open, and never with my back to the door. 


Comment Bubble Tip

Sleeping with one eye open

Gina: you and me both, sister. You and me both.

Seriously, excellent thread - as everyone has noted. I much prefer reading and participating in such well-meaning banter. Speaking of nasty people cloaked in what they believe to be safe anonymity on the Web, anyone ever take a look at the comments following news stories on sites like AOL or even SLATE? Or even some much-vaunted "commentators" on television. They remind me too much of drunks who won't leave you alone because you had the misfortune to sit next to them... present company (myself included) who may imbibe more than recommended at times excluded, of course.

Usually not people I'd be interested in as potential friends.

And Gina: your sleep pattern seems perfectly normal and appropriate to me. I once had a police officer friend who noted that "just because it means you're paranoid, doesn't mean people aren't really out to get you..."

 Even, I guess, if you write about haddock - not the Captain friend of Tintin, by the way...


Terin Tashi Miller

Comment Bubble Tip

But, seriously. . . .

I wrote a comment earlier that was meant to be witty, but I think it only made it half way there. Seriously, though, you raise some excellent points in your essay, whether or not it was your intent. I am a member of a number of networking or social web sites and the behavior you satirize does happen occasionally, with the results you describe.

What I have concluded, deduced or figured out is that people who are rude, obnoxious or inappropriate in virtual communities, are the same way some times in the physical world. In some other cases, I think it's because of the implied cloak of anonymity that people have when their on line. It's as if they think because they are sitting safely at home in front of their community, the normal rules of proper behavior no longer apply.

Trying to use membership in a social site to sell your books would be like joining a bridge club and doing the same thing - the only difference is, you can't get physically ejected from a site, only electronically. And, electronic punches in the face don't hurt as much as they physical kind.

This was really funny - I mean, really funny. Great writing.

Comment Bubble Tip

Real community

Charles, you put so well what Red Room is—a real community of real people connecting in real ways—and what it is not—a place where people relying on some kind of virtual anonymity to act as though "the normal rules of proper behavior no longer apply." Thank you!

(And thank you, Gina, for writing a blog post that has generated so many upwardly pointing thumbs!)

Huntington Sharp, Red Room

Comment Bubble Tip

Thanks Huntington. One of

Thanks Huntington.

One of the things (of course there are many) that's so special about Red Room is the feeling of community. Just look at the fun we have!

Comment Bubble Tip

'What I have concluded,

'What I have concluded, deduced or figured out is that people who are rude, obnoxious or inappropriate in virtual communities, are the same way some times in the physical world.'

Indeed. When the haddock-lover isn't on the Internet, accosting historical fiction readers with all the latest news about his 'flyng off the shelves like hotcakes' magnum opus, he's at quilting parties, interrupting ladies who stitch with tales of gigantic fish that were landed with one hand in the middle of a tornado. 


Comment Bubble Tip

quilting parties

Yeah, but those ladies at quilting parties are armed with sharp objects and they can swarm when provoked. Those of us on the internet don't get anywhere near the satisfaction from throwing virtual rocks. Serioussly, though this has been a great thread!

Comment Bubble Tip

Net Rage

Road rage also exists on the digital highway and there are people who live in a constant state of high dudgeon--almost seem to need the agitation.  It is always easier to dump ire on someone when there is no empathetic connection and the internet often gives a sense of pseudoconnection that confuses real friends who will put up with occasional rants with anonymous targets. Real friends will tell you when you are being a jerk. Most of us disengage from strangers acting in an aggressive way out of self-protection so they just keep rolling along without the usual social moderators.

Comment Bubble Tip

How to not sell your book

Gina, I loved your blog, and...guess what? I met the author who has been trying to sell his books about fish. Saw him at the computer store yesterday. I had brought my computer in for repairs, and couldn't park my car. Howcumzit? Because he blocked the parking area with his station wagon while trying to load a huge mechanical fish on the back of his car. Then he went into the store talking about his precious fish. So I met the author and thought, yep, that's the guy who sold two books.

That said, with humor on board, you made a great point. Thanks for sharing this.
Barbara Custer
Author & Editor

Comment Bubble Tip

I am the most pessimistic

I am the most pessimistic person you'll ever meet. I have wasted so much time on social networking site everyday for 7 years, that it eventually drove me to take 40 days and 40 nights of complete abstinence from the internet. What I found out when I got back was that I did not miss it, and that my inbox was filled with thousands of messages__which I went through one by one to see if there was any value there. Of the 13,000 emails there was two: one from a friend I have been communicating with for 7 years and the other from another friend I have been communicating with for 6 years__we have something in common: we like each others company.

What you write still advocates building social connections with the promise of hope that you will convert connections to readers. This is not true. In fact what really happens is you will find a few people out of thousands who you actually like and until you have communicated on a regular basis with them for several years, you will not have built any trust with those soon to become friends like the two I have.

So at the end of the day, if you are not Dan Brown or Paulo Coelho, your time is better spend writing in obscurity for the simple fact that you will get better and better at the craft of writing. You will find your voice. You will write a very good novel. But then what do you do?

And that is where the uninitiated will fall flat on their face every time. I guarantee that. Why? Because I have invested the time in the Net at the expense of writing and found out at the end of 7 years non-stop social networking I would not promote my book using the net. Period.

But as I said I am a pessimist and this comment alludes to the doctrine "there seems to be no possibility of comfort or success; "in an agony of hopeless grief" [via http://www.tfd.com/pessimistic ].

So where does that leave me? I enjoy writing and write everyday. I write for the simple pleasure of sitting in my favorite cafe each morning surrounded by familiar and open to the possibility that I might meet a new person or meet someone I haven't seen in a long while. This is living. Having delusions that I am going to be a writer is like playing the stock market of which I am an expert__and even there I am a pessimist because after a successful career of telling other stock brokers what to buy we all eventually lost if we were the honest ones, and the ones that weren't still continue to rape everyone for the almighty buck or they are dead, or in jail.

I am serious folks. I challenge anyone who is a published author to build a fan base of 1000 friends__and not the I am connected to you so you are my friend type__I am referring to Kevin Kelly's [bio link: http://www.kk.org/narrative/ ] article: 1,000 True Fans [ url link here: http://www.kk.org/thetechnium/archives/2008/03/1000_true_fans.php ]. I do not know of any writer or anyone else for that matter that has done what Kevin suggests: "A creator, such as an artist, musician, photographer, craftsperson, performer, animator, designer, videomaker, or author - in other words, anyone producing works of art - needs to acquire only 1,000 True Fans to make a living."__Kevin Kelly explains: "A True Fan is defined as someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce. They will drive 200 miles to see you sing. They will buy the super deluxe re-issued hi-res box set of your stuff even though they have the low-res version. They have a Google Alert set for your name. They bookmark the eBay page where your out-of-print editions show up. They come to your openings. They have you sign their copies. They buy the t-shirt, and the mug, and the hat. They can't wait till you issue your next work. They are true fans."

How do you do this? Nobody knows, but my best guess is to actually make the time to do what ever it takes to know 1000 true fans personally__and from my experience I have two true fans and about 20MM people who know about me. Those two friends are fans and it took 6-7 years to build the trust in the relationships that resulted a true friendship.

Is it all worth it? Only you know!

Michael Pokocky

Comment Bubble Tip

Funny but true


You are hilarious. I think I have read these tongue-in-cheek tips on Writer's Digest.


Sambath Meas

Comment Bubble Tip

selling a book

kate ur too much!

glad im not trying to sell a freaking book. If so you'd be the one to ask for advice. :)