Promotion for Beginners

September 2nd, 2004 · 5 Comments
by Booksquare

Back when we were young and innocent, we thought books were gifts from above. We’d go the library (ruled by the mother) and she’d hand down the latest acquisitions. We’d take them home, read them, and offer our unbiased and unformed opinions. If they passed our taste test, they would be recommended to other students. As we’ve grown older and looked back on our childhood, we realize we weren’t the only favored reader. Ah well, we still remain her favorite oldest child. Nobody can take that from us.

In our motion picture career, we saw how studios get behind their product (way behind in the case of some films). The massive quantities of advertising we witnessed colored our perceptions, and we walked into this writing thing a bit naive, from a promotion perspective. It’s not for the shy and retiring. We now see that extensive tours and talk shows are the purview of the few, the proud, the bestsellers. But what about all the other authors? How do they get the word out? Let us toss out a few questions and see what the experts do (and don’t be shy — ask your own questions or offer advice. Someday we’ll thank you.):

Gena, we know you’ve been waiting with bated breath for the promotion questions, and far be it for us to disappoint you. We want to know how an author builds a buzz. What groundwork did you lay before The Stone Prince hit the shelves? What promotion activities has your publisher undertaken? Where do you think you could improve your efforts for the next book? We know you slipped a stealth signing in this week — any other signings on the horizon? How many books do you think your father will handsell?

Based on your conversations with other authors, what are the most effective promotional tools and what are the “don’t waste your time or money” efforts? Are you sharing promotional duties with other authors? If you had an unlimited budget, where would you focus your efforts?

Finally, you mentioned that your two publishers are working together on cross-promotion. How does this work? How did you get the two foes into a room and work this out? Can you give us a hint of what they’re going to do?

File Under: Wrapped Up In Books

5 responses so far ↓

  • Gena Showalter // Sep 2, 2004 at 6:04 pm

    Promo — the bane of our existence, as well as the nourishment that feeds our career. Those of you that know me might not believe my next words, but they are very true. I am an introvert. (A closet introvert, if you will). I can put on a great game face. (Well, on the rare occation I’m just too nervous and can’t, so I’m sure I come off as distant.) Hey, who just snorted? Did I hear a snort? Anyway, most times I can even put myself out there and look carefree and comfortable, but it almost always kills me in the beginning. Thankfully, there is hope. And some of it’s painless.

    Before you sell, create a website that showcases the kind of books you write. **A website is very important.** Consider asking published author friends to link to your site. Join eloops. Join RWA special interest chapters. Attend conferences and introduce yourself to people (even if the thought of doing it makes you want to vomit). Have business cards made that have your web address and hand those out. Figure out your writing strengths and give workshops. And believe me, I know how difficult giving a workshop can be for someone who doesn’t like to be the center of attention. For proof, please listen to the 2004 RWA National Conference CD and the workshop I gave with the fabulous PC Cast. You can hear and enjoy my mini panic attack. Some of you may have even witnessed it.

    After you sell, certain publishers will buy you an RT ad. However, I’ve heard from other writers who have been in the business much longer than me that the best course of action is to target booksellers. Booksellers, booksellers, booksellers. They are the gods and goddesses among us. They decide how many copies of your book to purchase. They put your books in reader hands. They can sway a reader to read your book: “You like Karen Moning? Well, you’ll like Jane Doe, too. Give her a try.” I think it’s RomanceSells that advertises with booksellers. Now, I have not done this but I plan to give it a try with my second book. Perhaps booksquare can give you a progress report on that later on.

    In the back of The Stone Prince there is an Author’s Note. In it, I talk about my upcoming HQN books. You might notice that I talk about my Alien Huntress book too. That book is being published by Pocket, yet HQN let me mention and blurb it. That’s cross-promotion and boy am I happy for it!

  • booksquare // Sep 2, 2004 at 6:21 pm

    I hope you don’t think you’re getting off that easy! I note, with great relief, that you didn’t mention tschotskes, things like pens and bookmarks and other items I personally don’t pick up. Why did you decide not to go that route? Not that I’m encouraging you…

    Great advice about the website (one almost thinks you”ve been lectured on this!) — what should an author’s website do or include, in your opinion? How do you promote your website?

    Finally (I hear you sighing), how do you get the attention of booksellers, other than Romance $ells (not everyone who visits here is a romance or woment’s fiction author)? Have you considered doing mailings to booksellers or attending their conferences or meetings?

    Wait, one more. What about reviews as promotional items? I know this is your first book, but do you see them as valuable selling tools (so far) or are you not quite sure?

  • Gena Showalter // Sep 2, 2004 at 7:28 pm

    I plan to have bookmarks made. The reason they aren’t done yet is because I’ve been procrastinating and just haven’t gotten it done. I need a new author photo, too. I believe it’s time to say goodbye to my Charlie’s Angel hair. I’m a mature woman of 29 now, after all.

    For an unpublished author’s website, I think it would be great to include blurbs of your books, a bio, a pictures section, and a blog. For sure a blog. People really respond to those, and they can get to know you. (For some, like me, maybe that’s not such a good thing, though) I even contacted editors and interviewed them, then posted the interviews on my site. That’s a great way to get “writer” traffic. I heard of one author who placed her business card in every piece of her outgoing mail. I might try that. Hand your card out at conferences. Leave a stack of cards at a restaurant. Have a friend place a stack on her/his desk.

    Before the release of The Stone Prince, I did send out cover flats, newsletters, and business cards to some booksellers. The wonderful Karen Whiddon directed me to the list on Lorraine Heath’s website. I’m very curious to see what my first few weeks of sales turns out to be. I didn’t use reviews in the “packages” I sent out, but next time I will. I think they can be very handy in sparking someone’s interest.

  • booksquare // Sep 2, 2004 at 10:06 pm

    So what you’re talking about is the infamous press package. I’ve heard tell about those… Are you looking at press coverage (newspaper, radio, television…why waste the Charlie’s Angels hair)?

    As I’m terminally shy, I’m very curious about all this, especially as it relates to breaking out of my shell and actually selling, wow, me. Tell me more about online promotion — I’ve been around long enough to know what doesn’t work (someday I’ll write a long rant on drive-by promotion and why cluelessness should be made illegal), but what does work? I know you’ve been an active participant (and that’s key) on various listservs for years — how else do you use the Internet? Other than your weekly blog, I mean?

    Yeah, I’m going to keep pressing until you tell me how to do this without me breaking out in hives…or worse, talking to strangers.

  • Gena Showalter // Sep 3, 2004 at 5:25 am

    I’m not looking at press coverage — right now. Of course, if someone contacted me and said they’d just die if I didn’t do their show/column/guest spot, I’d be all over it in a heartbeat. Getting your name out there is key.

    With online promotion, again, you want to get your name out there. A genius friend of mine (I will not use names to protect the slightly guilty) told me to use “key” words and phrases on my website to draw traffic from a search engine. Like, if someone did a search on “Charlie’s Angel hair”, where would they be directed? Or “gorgeous naked guy?” Okay, that one might get you more than you bargain for, but you get the picture.