Publicity 101--Yeah, You Might Want to Do Some of This.

Monica inspired me to write this. I was over at her blog bugging her with the hey, did you do this? that? Most of this is for Romance print book publicity, but a lot can be adapted for ebook and other genres.

A lot of people say you MUST do this. I dunno. Publicity is a pain in the neck. I'll save the debate about whether or not it's fair to expect this from writers (or worth doing) for another blog entry. **

IMPORTANT: I'm only writing about what fits my experience. Your publisher may do all of this work for you. . .(but it's worth checking)

Several people have pointed out: You want to concentrate on marketing your name--it's more important than the individual book you're currently flogging. The book'll go away. You won't. . . you hope.

BEFORE THE BOOK GOES INTO EDITS (because the cover tends to be done fast):

1. See if your publisher will get a quote for your cover. If they won't, maybe you know someone famous? I mean REALLY famous? Okay, good. See if she'll give you a quote. Beth? Don't even bother with anyone the publisher digs up, even if it's Nora. Go straight to Laura. (personal bias showing time)

Run this stuff past your editor first. She's usually your connection to the rest of the company. (This advice comes from the woman who accidentally sent an email about publicity to the publisher and not a minion.)
If you have an agent, she'd do this kind of checking for you. Maybe.

If your publisher has a publicity department, make a friendly email/letter/call suggesting what you're willing to do for your book
I know Medallion Press actually asks its authors right up front what they'll do.

Find out where your publisher will send your book. Publishers tend to have a standard list (Romantic Times, Publisher's Weekly, and maybe a couple of the bigger online places) . . .YOU should send to the places if they don't--see if your publisher will make ARCs [advance reader copies] for you to send out (if you show your great list it might help).

If you have to make your own ARCs
I think they run at LEAST $5 a piece when you head to places like Staples. Mine were just loose paper (copies of the galley) with a coverflat on them. Where to send them? The list is below.
If you end up making your own ARCs, here's one method: I looked at this site and had to retire to my fainting couch with a vinaigrette and a stiff whiskey.

PBW and others argue that bookmarks/pens whatever aren't an effective use of publicity money. This is up for debate and I don't have a strong opinion because I couldn't afford the stuff and so I don't know if makes a difference.

You'll definitely need those Autographed by Author stickers.
Some booksellers have the stickers but they're often butt ugly. Most don't have anything for you to slap on the cover. And you need them for any other kind of signing, like conferences. You might as well get them from a fellow writer and all around nice person, like Su Kopil. . . . . that's Su's business's address. She has the pens and lots of other promo tools too.

You might get coverflats. They can be kind of cool and make neat bookmarks, but people like booksellers are often annoyed by them. ASK, don't dump anything in a bookstore without asking! Ever, ever, ever. Romancejunkies and other online sites seem to like signed coverflats. You can put them on tables or give them to friends to put on tables during conferences. Autograph them. Kensington and other publishers punch holes in the cover flats that don't go on books. Some people tie a little Hershey's kiss through the hole. If you give talks, put coverflats on the chairs. Write a number on one of them and whoever gets that number wins a doorprize. Susan Meier gave me that idea.

How about advertising? RWR is a good choice and cheaper than RT. as Jo-Ann Powers, a publicist, pointed out--you've got a definite reading audience of at least 9000. Also RWA has the quarterly thing they send out to libraries Romance Sells It's a lot of writers' first choice for ad dollars. Check out their schedule there.

If you're interested in RT-- advertising is the only way to make sure your book gets reviewed--see if you can get a group ad with others from your publisher (or with a writers's group [another marketing bushwa, to be addressed later]). If you contact the publicist for your publisher, they might help you contact other authors with books out at the same time. Ellora's Cave, bless them, coordinates all this for their authors.

Yeah, consider advertising online (you can get a banner cheeeep!! On a lot of sites. And you can make your own banner and use it all over the place. I think cataromance has a link to the banner making software there. )

Using your ARCS... A surprising number of people think that direct mailings to romance friendly BOOKSELLERS (not reviewers) are the best way to use your ARCs.
Hey, you want to get reviewers too, but check if a reviewer likes PDF file--that's the way to go if possible. Some reviewers even prefer them! Booksellers tend to want manuscripts over anything electronic.
I've never used this, but Deborah MacGillivray swears by this system to get your book into a PDF: The pdf995 Suite of products is a complete solution for your PDF creation and document publishing needs, offering ease of use, flexibility in format, and industry-standard security. And all at no cost to you. Pdf995 is the fast, affordable way to create professional-quality documents in the popular PDF file format. Its easy-to-use interface allows you to create PDF files by simply selecting the "print" command from any application. Combined with pdfEdit995 and Signature995, it offers numerous features. It's FREE and has many super tools that is as good as if not better than the very expensive Abode Acrobat.

You just download the driver to your computer, install. Then go to print out a document. Instead of letting the print program print, change it to PDF 995 on the printer software and it will make a PDF instead!Very easy to use and FREE.

Lorraine Heath has a list of Waldenbooks booksellers to send your ARCs to. Kind of obvious but worth stating DO NOT BOTHER SENDING IF YOUR BOOK IS NOT STOCKED BY WALDENBOOKS!! (she has a good article about the print publishing process here

AND here's her Waldenbooks romance experts list: These are the people to woo. Chocolates, flowers, Bosnian socks. They also tend to be lovely people, so it's easy to do. They like romance. They like books. What more do you want?

After you get the ARCs to booksellers--get them early as you can so they can preorder your book--hit the reviewers. About reviewers: Check with the coordinator about how long the lead time is for reviews****. You don't want to send them your ARC too early. People will write a review and post it. You want to make sure the review is up just when the book comes out for those impulse buyers. Cruise around the internet and look at sites to decide where to send your book.
There are review sites that are very popular but you might want to think twice about sending to them. I LOVE to read AAR, but they can be pretty tough. Those Smart Bitches Trashy Books people? Phew... [where is my title, dammit!]

A BIT BEFORE THE BOOK--see if you can be get interviewed. Sites like Romancejunkies and cataromance or ecataromance have great FREE (and paid) methods for authors to get their name out. But you guys know that already, right?

If you've got the bucks, consider hiring a publicist. Here's what to look for, written by Nancy Berland. If you hire a publicist then you don't have to deal with making the ARCs etc. My guess is you should look for a publicist right after you sell--she'll need to have time to set up the campaign.
Does someone like Ms Berland make a difference? My two friends who have used her services are into second printings for their first books and have gotten more contracts. Keep in mind a big name like her might cost more than your first advance.
There are plenty of other less pricey publicists out there (Dorine from Millenium and romancejunkies, for instance) but I don't know a thing about how effective they are because I haven't talked to their clients. Why do I mention Dorine, then? Because I like her.
UPDATE: Here's a message from Dorine, clarifying her services:

We are considered Internet Promoters and Nancy is a Publicist - I feel there is a difference. It may just be the future for author promotion that an author would actually use both, because we have different services to offer. Yes, we do have many cross-over services, but overall I think we're different, each offering valuable assistance to authors.

We don't actually have a rate sheet to be honest with you. Each client gets an assessment of their needs. . .For example, some of our clients have one or more books coming out per month, have 1-4 issues of a newsletter monthly and need online and print advertising. They may need website or graphic design, which is our specialty - from banners to promo items, including cafe press stores, etc... We keep adding more services monthly - most of them client requests . . .

The majority of our promotion is online promotion, with a little foray into print advertising as we can fit it in. This is an area we expect to grow in, but not something we advertise at the moment as something we do for each of our clients.


Some stores will let you do Shelf talkers (little ads about your book)
here are notes I found about them (from Kathy Baker, a Waldenbooks expert who's on Lorraine Heath's list)
Make them look professional.
Don't try to use them at Borders but you can submit yourself to Waldenbooks and independent booksellers. Borders won't take anything that doesn't come from the publisher (same company as Waldenbooks-but different policy).

Look for stores that have book groups. Send the coordinator a copy of your book. Somewhere I have a list of book group coordinators for the east coast. . I have no idea how up-to-date it is and it hardly matters since I can't find the damn thing. I do know that's how I found out about Elsie.

Booksignings? Everyone has An Opinion. I think they're a waste of time and energy unless it's a group event or at a conference. Then at least you have people to talk to. Also conventions (like a Women's Fair) can be great if a bookstore is coordinating the effort. Then you have a bookstore that is grateful to you (because you will show up with a huge bag of treats for the bookstore people and signees) and you get to go wandering around and look at the booths when you're not "On."

Drive-by booksignings? Sure! If you're pleasant (and not aggressive), stop by to see if you can sign the store's stock of your books. I have a horrible time asking for this, though. I always feel weird about it.
I think PBW had a point a few months back about how if you're not good with the public, don't try to sell your books yourself. YOU could always send your cutie-pie lisping 6-year-old to the front desk to ask for you. Hey she can't buy you beer and cigarettes these days. . .Okay, I think it's clear I'm losing focus here. . .Time to stop.
There are a lot of other thingies you're supposed to do: Join an author community, Create Websites, Keep a Blog blah blah blah. But I'm done with this list. For now.
** Best thing you can do for self promotion: write a book people want to read. duh.
****she'll say, "how the hell do I know? I'm not the reviewer. Ask her."


  1. Kate, this is FABULOUS! All the time and effort you must have put into this is clearly evident.

    You’ve done a thorough job presenting a variety of suggestions that are feasible for most any writer. And what a boon this will be for first-time authors who are often left alone and flailing in the vast, unfamiliar sea of the publishing world.

    The fragile, often splintered writing community is always strengthened by caring authors who readily and generously share their experience and knowledge with their fellow writers.

    Bravo, my friend, on a job well done!

  2. Anonymous1:34 PM

    Wow. Simply reading this post exhausted me, Miss Kate. :)

    One bit of input on cover quotes -- there's a good article here on how to go about it.

    I don't think a lot of this is very effective because there are simply too many authors doing the exact same thing. You're not going to stand out in the crowd. However, as long as you've got the time, funds and inclination to do it, it's probably worth a shot. You never know; your approach might be so unique that everyone immediately runs out to buy your novel.

    I did a few of the things on this list for my first book (most expensive: going to cons, doing booksignings, and sending a promo package to the top 500 independent booksellers in the US), but my results convinced me that I was better off focusing on writing books instead of promoting them. Again, your mileage may vary.

    Promotion can be fun for some people, and I'm not suggesting anyone deny themselves the pleasure of hanging with friends at cons or making cute little widgets to advertise their book. Only keep in mind that just as there is no secret handshake to getting published, there is no secret promo trick to getting on the bestseller list.

  3. I wish I thought that it made no difference. I really, truly do-- because I'd rather ignore PR, but I've talked to so many writers who've seen a difference in their numbers when they do a push for a book.

    And the fact that out of 15 authors who were all out the same year, had equivalent books (price length...hmmm...quality? who knows?) the two who got second runs and contracts quickly had a PR person on their side--that helped convince me too.

    I HAVE NOT talked to anyone who's done a thorough analysis of every PR dollar spent. Do they eventually bring in equivalent dollars in income? I don't even know if there's a system for it. I suppose you can consider PR setup/groundwork for a business and there are definitely systems for that. This is the sort of subject that makes me queasy though. Seems too far removed from my world. Where's that damn whiskey!

    I wonder if there's some way to put PBW's response up top for yet another conversation since I think it's a separate and worthwhile topic. Maybe tomorrow. Or the next day. Or sometime.

  4. it is pretty obvious that when you hate it, they won't come. The rioters who thought that booksignings helped their PR Lives are the ones who seem to get a kick out of the event.

    The ones (like me) who don't like booksignings, are convinced correctly that they're a waste of energy and time. Duh. That glazed look of fear/boredom isn't going to buy me any readers.

  5. Anonymous4:07 PM

    What was it Darcy said in P&P? We neither of us perform for strangers, Kate.

    I do like watching other writers promo their stuff (in a twisted, recreational sense.) Who have you seen who does it well? Douglas Clegg is one; I've never seen an author put forth such an energetic, dedicated campaign to self-promo a book as he has with his first Vampyricon novel. Will be neat if it pays off for him -- but it'll break my heart if it doesn't.

  6. Great post, Kate. I've bookmarked it for later reference. I'm probably more in line with you, PBW and Monica-- I have no interest in promo. In fact, aside from 'word-of-mouth' chat up on messageboards and blogs, and synopsis type info contained reviews, no other promo has ever affected my buying decisions. They may make me more 'aware' of the book, but they've never increased my level of interest.

  7. Anonymous4:52 PM

    I checked out the url for making an ARC and after four lines, I gagged and said, I can't do that! The whole article is great advice. I have to agree that booksignings are a waste of time. Sitting at a table, waiting for people who won't read your book, aren't interested in your book and could care less about you, does nothing for self esteem. I sign for individuals.
    Thanks for the advice and the reminders.

  8. I've impulsively bought books because of reviews and excerpts.

    I belong to a couple of yahoo groups devoted to excerpts--so I can put my own books up--and I keep buying other people's books instead.

  9. As a total promo item slut I can tell you that bookmarks and pens make a huge difference for me.

    If I'm deciding between authors (and we're talking on my print book wishlist here)on my wish list, and one of them I have promo items for (hence they have a page in my scrapbook) - I always go for the author that I have promo items for - always.

  10. Anonymous11:32 AM

    Thanks for this entry. It really gives one a lot to think about. I'm tired just imagining having to do all of this, but I suppose it is part of being a published writer. Do you have a publicist?

  11. Thank you, Kate! I'm wrapping myself around the promo thing. I don't think everything works for everybody--but in today's market, you have to do something!

  12. Hi Arlene--nope, I don't have one. The only two good ones I knew of last year, when my first books were coming out, were too expensive for me.

    And I believe that having a BAD publicist is probably worse than having NONE. (kind of like having a bad agent. It's a detriment to your career.)

    Mind you, I haven't heard gossip about *specific* publicists--just stories about unnamed ones. Drat.

  13. Promo is tough but for epublishing I think you don't have any choice. So far I have no numbers so I can't tell if what I've done is gonna pay off but I'm already planning promo stuff for the next book. *sigh*

  14. Anonymous9:35 AM

    In fact, aside from 'word-of-mouth' chat up on messageboards and blogs, and synopsis type info contained reviews, no other promo has ever affected my buying decisions. They may make me more 'aware' of the book, but they've never increased my level of interest.

    I'm with Jaye on this one.

  15. Anonymous11:31 AM

    Great post Kate. Now to think of who I know that's famous. ;)

  16. Anonymous1:43 PM

    Are there any sites like the ones mentioned above (like cataromance) for getting your name out with other genres? Sci-fi, adventure specifically.... thanks


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