Writerly Sunday – Promotion (Part I)

(I’m just a writer. There are oodles of us. We have different styles, different values and lots of different opinions. I’m not an expert. There is no one true way. There is simply how I do it and how you do it. These installments are not meant to be pronouncements from on high about the only way to do this. There are many ways to do this. This is mine)

There are authors who believe all you need to do is write a great book and nothing else – that promotion is totally unnecessary. I am not one of them.

In fact, I believe quite strongly that writing a great book is only 65% of selling books to readers. First of all, on any given day your book will be on a shelf with forty other books bearing a general resemblance to yours. Romance, most especially, has a lot of competition for shelf space. So you have to give readers a reason to pick your book up instead of or in addition to one of those others.

Now, they’re not going to know the book is the greatest book EVAR written without some sort of information telling them that. There are very few authors who have such a presence in the larger world that people simply know their books are out. (and those authors worked for years and years to get there). The rest of us need help, LOL. Word of mouth is great, better than most other kinds of promotion, IMO. But it takes effort to garner word of mouth and that usually comes via marketing. As in, people seeing ads or reviews or hearing others talk about the book.

Certainly I have readers who will pick my stuff up when new books come out. I was lucky going into this NY gig that I had a base from my ebooks. But I built that base and it’s taken me many years and a lot of effort to do so. Yes, I give them a product they enjoy (hopefully, LOL). I hope there are people who see my name on a spine and grab the book because of that. But I need the people who don’t know my name to pick my books up.

It’s easy to panic about promotion. There are a lot of things to do and many of them are costly. Many of them are ineffective too. So you spend all this time looking for what does work or you just throw money at stuff because everyone else does and it’s not effective.

First of all, there is a place between spending a bazillion dollars and nothing at all. You pick some things and you try them and you toss aside those things that don’t work and you continue to try new things as you can afford them. But you get an advance for a reason and part of that money SHOULD be put aside for promotion of that title. (For your ebooks, you’ll need to save the money as you go along before your release and build on your backlist to try more things as you progress)

I try to choose one new thing per book or three new things a year. Sometimes these things work, sometimes they don’t. More importantly, sometimes these things work for some authors and some books and not for others. You try things over time, you try things depending on the genre or the title or the time of year. You try things depending on the medium. For instance: I don’t generally take out ads in RT for my ebook titles unless they’re group ads or they’re going to print. This is for several reasons – the demographic isn’t one who chooses ebooks over print, they favor print and I’ve noted this over time though I do believe more and more readers do try electronic books than they did when I first started out. But the overall name recognition is good, these are self selected readers looking for romance books to read. You can’t get much better than that. So a group ad is far less expensive and I still get the review.

Second of all (and this is related to the point above) – Promotion and marketing are not only about that one title. This is something people miss but it’s a really important point. Exposure of your name takes time and you’re not selling just that book, you’re selling yourself as an author. You’re selling past and future books. Think in big picture terms as well as just for this specific title.

Here are things I DON’T think work: This is in my experience, other authors have had different results. All this should be taken with a grain!

  • Banner ads at small review sites. I tried banner ads and my click through rates were just not worth it for me.
  • Huge, 14 line long sig lines on your email. Seriously, it doesn’t work and it annoys people.
  • Pimping yourself by sending people unsolicited emails to your “friends” at myspace and facebook. It’s called Spam when you send people emails prompting them to buy your product without their permission. Simply approving a friend does not mean you have permission to spam. It’s annoying and tacky and it reeks of desperation.
  • Pimping yourself at random on blogs and at amazon in discussions. Don’t go to other blogs and put your advertsing in the comments unless it’s a post asking you to or you have permission. Same with amazon.
  • Loop spam – authors who either have their promo people or do it themselves – show up at eleventy billion loops on release day and spam them with blurbs and buylinks when they are not active participants on those loops.
  • Signing anyone you come across online or in your day to day life for your newsletter without their permission. Just. NO.
  • Essentially, being a pushy, rude person will not sell your books. I know people think they have to promo, promo, promo but that doesn’t mean you have to leave your manners or your dignity at home.

    Next Sunday, things that I’ve found to be effective. Authors and readers, please feel free to chime in with things you’ve found ineffective or things you especially love.

    9 comments to “Writerly Sunday – Promotion (Part I)”

    1. Mad
      February 1st, 2009 at 7:04 pm · Link

      I completely agree on the Loop Spam…can’t stand that when they’re not active and then just decide to pop in on the day their book releases or have someone who is also not active do it for them. Drives me insane and I take real pleasure in putting them on “moderated” so I can happily hit the delete button each time I get a pending notice.

      The newsletter signing up also is another pet peeve…if I didn’t sign up for your newsletter…please do NOT sign me up yourself!

    2. Dana
      February 1st, 2009 at 7:46 pm · Link

      Thank you for the insightful posting and I totally AGREE with everything. There have been NUMEROUS books, I truly WOULDN’T have even THOUGHT about purchasing …except that someone SWORE to me it was a a “to die for” book/series.

      Just to name a few..

      Black Dagger Brotherhood.
      Truthfully sounded like a fighting kind of book. More fighting than romance kind.


      Then PRE True Blood, saw the cover to one of the books and thought maybe it was more of a Youth kind of book.

      A friend (Actually the same one who Swore by the BDB) SENT me the series. Man, I read each one back to back and simply couldn’t get enough.

      More than 1/2 the books I’ve read, came from reviews from friends.

      Thus, I return the favor and review/contest books I ADORE.


    3. limecello
      February 1st, 2009 at 11:29 pm · Link

      My brain is broken, but I’m going to chime in about the loop spam. I hate it. I’m constantly surprised by the loops I’m in. Maybe I did get signed up as not me O_o
      I try to put everything as “no mail” yet stuff sneaks in. I hate it – getting 10 emails a day about something makes me want to not only delete it and not read the book, but go around telling OTHER people not to read it :X. (Note I don’t actually do this – I just want to.)

    4. Karin
      February 2nd, 2009 at 4:06 pm · Link

      I have to agree with the points you made about being pushy. I’m not a big fan of people pushing stuff on me, which is one reason I dislike sales people. The email SPAM and loop SPAM are annoying, but all I have to do is click on the little box and delete it without even looking at it, which I do frequently.

    5. Dana
      February 3rd, 2009 at 5:21 pm · Link

      Happy Birthday Lauren !!


    6. Delilah Devlin
      February 6th, 2009 at 1:22 pm · Link

      I’ll be following the posts. Promo is something I know I suck at. Such a time drain when all I want to do is just write, write, write!

    7. Debbie Kaufman
      February 6th, 2009 at 4:39 pm · Link

      I agree that loop spam is annoying. I also agree that true name recognition takes time to build. Can’t wait to hear what you have to say about what works!

    8. Phoebe Matthews
      February 10th, 2009 at 8:59 pm · Link

      Some interesting comments here. I do hope you’ll come up with some good suggestions on what works and doesn’t annoy anyone.

      I have found favorite writers among the Release Day announcements on YahooGroups. And I love reading the excerpts.

    9. Mary Lou George
      February 11th, 2009 at 9:43 am · Link

      Thanks so much for the advice, I’m a newly published writer with Siren/Bookstrand. The whole promotion thing is overwhelming enough to make me consider giving up the whole writing thing, but I’m discovering that there’s a wealth of goodwill out there and so much comes from other writers! Thanks to you all.