Who would sabotage their own book? Authors don't do it intentionally, of course. But, when it comes to marketing their books, authors sometimes do things that could impede their sales, and take what could have been a successful title and relegate it to the bargain table of the local bookstore. Here are a handful of things I have seen authors do that get in the way of sales and success:
1. They give up too early. Authors sometimes spend years writing their books, only to throw in the towel on marketing and promotion after a few months. There is a lot of competition in the marketplace. In fact, last year there were more than a million book titles released in the U.S. Most books don't fly off the shelves of bookstores. It takes patience and persistence (and a lot of hard work) to promote a book, and the author must be involved. No publisher can guarantee book sales, but if the author quits too early I can guarantee the kind of results they will experience. My recommendation is don't quit at all.
2. They expect the book-buying public to beat a path to their door. This isn't true of any author, not even the famous authors. They had to start somewhere, too. Almost every successful author has a rags-to-riches story. They didn't start their writing career being famous, and many slaved away at it for years before they started to reap the fruits of their labor. Too often, authors show up for their book signing events and just sit at their table, waiting for a line of people to form, eager to buy the book and get the author's signature. More often than not, there is no line of people at the table, only customers walking into the store and avoiding eye contact. It is up to the author to engage them.
3. They get "Ernest Hemingway Syndrome." Getting a book published is great, but it doesn't mean the author automatically has the key to fame and fortune. Some authors adopt the attitude that now that they have a book in print the world owes them something. They get angry with bookstore managers who don't schedule them to come in for a book signing event, they get angry with the publisher if they feel their royalty checks are too small, they get angry with media outlets who pass on publishing a story or review about their book. There are NO guarantees in the publishing industry. Rejection is part of the business, and every author has experienced it at some point. The old saying "you'll get more flies with honey than vinegar" is especially true in the publishing industry. Nobody wants to help an author who is too demanding.
4. They don't have a plan. Too many authors expect other people to sell their books for them. Ironically, these are also the same authors who don't sell many books. Even the large publishing houses expect authors to come to the table with something in terms of marketing their book, whether it be a large fan base, a platform from which they can successfully launch their book (such as a popular blog or radio program) or a plan for reaching their target audience. Expecting your book to be stocked in every bookstore in the country is not a marketing plan. If an author doesn't have an idea for who the target audience is for their book, they are going to struggle to find an audience. Authors who know who they have written their book for and how they are going to reach that audience are always a step ahead in the game.
5. They don't listen to professional advice. On the other hand, some authors feel their plan is the ONLY plan which will work at all. They hire a publicist, only to micromanage everything the publicist does to the point of making their efforts ineffective. I once worked with an author who hired an outside publicist, and then proceeded to argue with the publicist every step of the way through marketing. The publicist resigned after a month. Publicists and publishers are the experts and the professionals in the publishing business. Many of them are very good and know what they are doing. Try following their advice now and then and you may be surprised at the positive results. You wouldn't hire a doctor to perform open-heart surgery and then proceed to disagree with him about how he planned to perform the operation, would you? Yet, some authors with no prior experience in publishing will vehemently oppose a publisher's or publicist's marketing plan without first giving it a chance. The professionals who are good at their job will explain what they are doing, and why, each step of the way through the marketing process, and work as the author's partner. If they don't, ask.
These are just a few examples of how an author can sabotage the marketing of their book. Writing a book is a labor of love, but selling a book is business. Approach it as a professional, surround yourself with good people, work hard and treat it as a job (it is) and you'll be giving your book the fair shake it deserves.