Monday, September 25, 2006

Shameless Self-Promotion

Confessions of Shameless Self-Promoters, a book by Debbie Allen, a client of mine as well as one of the world’s leading authorities on self-promotion, got me thinking about the shameless work all successful authors do to promote their books and brand their names. I’ve been asked a number of times what an author can do to promote herself and her book, and what better group to ask than the people who do it daily . . . my clients.

Below is a short list of just some of the most shameless things some of my clients do in an effort to sell their most recently published books. I have to admit, a few even shocked me.

I carry bookmarks with me everywhere. On the front is the cover of my newest release, and, since I write an ongoing series, I have a list of all the books in the series with ISBNs on the back. Beyond sticking one inside most of my bills and correspondence with complete strangers (I imagine our phone company thinks I’m certifiable) I shamelessly pass them out to everyone I meet—checkers in the grocery store, other customers in line, waiters in restaurants, even the girl working the window at Taco Bell got one with my five-dollar bill for lunch. When my husband went into our local bank to make a deposit, he said every teller had one of my bookmarks behind her glass partition and he wondered how they got them . . . duh-oh. Doug (husband) goes to motorcycle rallies and always carries bookmarks with him to hand out to the other guys. I write erotic romance—I think he does it so he can tell them he’s my research assistant.
—Kate Douglas, Wolf Tales II, Wild Nights (Kensington Aphrodisia)

Don't be afraid to talk to people. I go up to them in bookstores or Wal-Mart and look at something near them. Then I point out my book and say, "That one's really good." Sometimes I admit to writing it, sometimes I don't. But 9 times out of 10 they buy it, or they tell me they already read it!
—Michele Dunaway, The Marriage Campaign (Harlequin American Romance, August 2006)

I run a podcast called the Sci Fi Traveling Road Show. Other blatant self-promotion schemes include blogs, websites, and interviews in various newspapers and radioshows.
—Margaret H. Bonham, author of 22 books on pets, pet care, and science fiction and fantasy

Closer to my release date I intend to make up small booklets of my first chapter with the cover of my book on the front to use as promotional material. An author I know did this, and while it’s fairly expensive, it seemed to work very well. I think if you can hook people with your first chapter, they’re more likely to buy the book.
—Christine Wells, Scandal’s Daughter (Berkley Sensation)

I mailed my book to all of the free press papers in my area stating that I was an author and a resident of the county/city and would be glad to be the subject of an article. I included my website so the editor could check out my work and read my bio. I am going to be written up in two of these publications and it'll only cost me the price of a few books and postage. I think it's important to become as well-known in your hometown as possible.
—J. B. Stanley, Carbs & Cadavers (Midnight Ink)

I had business cards made with a graphic on the front that an artist created for me, and my website information on the back. I put one in every envelope I mail out. (I love sending something back to the credit card companies who stuff so much into their envelopes with the bills.) I leave one of those cards on the table when I go out to eat, on shelves in stores when I shop, in the airport when I fly. No flat surface is safe!
—Lynn LaFleur, If This Bed Could Talk (Avon Red)

I've been known to reverse shoplift. I leave a copy of my book in bookstores and grocery stores. Then when someone picks it up and goes to check out, the book will not scan since it is not in the inventory. The clerk will enter the book into the system and then reorder since the last one was just purchased.
—Jamie Novak, 1,000 Best Quick and Easy Organizing Secrets (Sourcebooks)

When the book came out, I sent its flyer to the members of all the organizations of which I am part. Actually, I joined a number of other organizations so as to have access to their membership list. I also put flyers in all my neighbors' mailboxes, and even in the mailboxes of the mayor, city council, staff, and city volunteers in my hometown. Then I also assigned the book in a relevant class in the university where I teach.
—Salvatore R. Maddi & Deborah M. Khoshaba, Resilience at Work: How to Succeed No Matter What Life Throws at You (Amacom)

Since I can’t tell if any self-promotion actually works, I try only to do what I think is fun. My favorite promotion tool is the “book pin.” I have a pin made from the jpeg of each of my book covers. I wear the current book on my lapel when I go out. It’s an excellent conversation starter. Women notice jewelry—especially when it has the word “Naked” prominently displayed—and when they ask, I feel free to tell them all about my books. I also try to keep a sense of humor about promotion. When I’m in super promo mode, I carry my bookmarks and hand them out to everyone—the bank teller, the mammography nurse, the lady getting information from me before my colonoscopy. I sent some to one of my sons who was in college a few states away. He was supposed to give them to local bookstores, but was unsuccessful in this endeavor. Instead, he handed them out to all the women who came to the next party he and his roommates sponsored. Hmm. I guess I’m happy about that. . . .
—Sally MacKenzie, The Naked Marquis (Zebra)

I do extensive promotions—ads, mail-outs, conference goodies. My RWA chapter is holding our first conference this month and I took the opportunity to hold a book launch.Now I have 80 fellow romance writers to invite to my launch and it will be a great chance to meet people and network. When I learned Jo Beverley, a New York Times bestseller and one of our founding chapter members, would be visiting and wanted to do a signing, I arranged one for both of us. So my first signing will be with one of my favorite authors. I also search for venues that are not the usual romance targets to broaden my audience.
—Sharon Page, Sin and Wild Nights (Aphrodisia)



Anonymous said...

The funniest - and most shameless - self-promotion campaign I ever heard of was by Preethi Nair. She self-published her first book - and then created a PR company in order to promote it. The result? A three book contract with HarperCollins, and now a BBC movie of one of her books! Her third novel is actually based on her experience as self-promoter.

Here's the whole story:

Anonymous said...

Hey -- I love that "reverse shoplifting" idea!

A woman after my own heart ...

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I got a phone call and submitted my blog entry before I was finished!

My shameless promotion: I got this idea from another author I won't name. But I take my bookmarks and when I'm at the grocery store or Target or whatever, I find romances issued by my publisher, or other historical romances, and I'll stick one of my bookmarks inside. I guess you could say I spam other books??

Sariah Wilson said...

Thanks so much for posting these - I always find it incredibly helpful to hear about what other authors are doing for self-promotion.

Jaye Wells said...

I know Sharon Page's name cause I got one of her awesome koozies at the RWA goody room. It is red and says "Sin" on it in big black letters. Quite a conversation starter.

Anonymous said...

These are some neat ideas, shameless or not -- thanks for sharing!

Lexi said...

These are awesome! Thanks! I can't wait until I can "reverse shoplift"!

Anonymous said...

Jaye Wells, What's a koozie?

I liked the pin idea. And the notion that self-promotion should be fun.

I was appalled at the reverse shoplifting.

And I find it annoying to have people on lists constantly (or even once) spam their book, unless they otherwise contribute to the list dialogue. So I refuse to buy those books (a negative effect of "self-promotion")

Anonymous said...

I think there's a point where self-promotion crosses the line and becomes irritating and pushy. There are a couple of authors I won't read for that reason. I've become weary of seeing their names on every listserve and blog I visit.

Then there's the editor of a small press who's an active participant in a list I belong to, but has clearly become frustrated with her promotional efforts. She resorted to sending out spam. When recipients told her that was a no-no, she became snippy and defensive. "How else am I supposed to promote my authors?" Not too smart.

I don't get how the reverse shoplifting thing works. Wouldn't the book have to be in the store's system already?

Jaye Wells said...

Xiqay, a koozie is one of those sleeves you put a drink can in so your hand doesn't get wet and the drink stays cold.

Kate Douglas said...

Jessica's seen me in motion with my bookmarks and she seemed only moderately embarrassed when I handed one to our waiter in Atlanta--the interesting thing is the amount of email I get in response to passing them out. I have a regular conversation going with a flight attendent I met on the trip home from RT in Daytona Beach. She's bought my books and recommended them to her frieinds. I know the bookmarks work because complete strangers write and tell me that's how they found my series.

elysabeth said...

Great ideas and I have to question the reverse shoplifting idea as well -

For Christine Wells - instead of doing a paper booklet - some authors are doing the little discs that look like business cards - and they can pack a wallop of info on those small cards and they pass those out at like conferences or conventions and things they make special appearances, probably not at the book signing itself (Jennifer Cruisie comes to mind with her promotional CD - she was a guest speaker at the SCWW workshop last fall and our President had brought a few extra copies, I unfortunately checked it out and sent it to another friend in Reno - so don't have it but - that is something else to look into as far as promotional ideas - you could have the front of the CD look like your book artcover - and you have the first chapter right there on the CD along with promoting upcoming events, your website, bio, et cetera - E :)