Pub Rants

Perseverance Pays Off

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STATUS: Triumph. Maybe. With technology I’m always a little skeptical but supposedly we have fixed all the errors with the e-Newsletter subscribe process. So, subscribe away.

And here’s another hint about our electronic submission database that we’ve recently discovered. Don’t try and upload your sample pages from your workplace (besides, wink, aren’t you suppose to be working?). Several writers have knocked their heads against the company’s stringent firewall that won’t allow uploads. Even if you’re on your coffee break, you should wait until you get home.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? DON’T WORRY, BE HAPPY by Bobby McFerrin

It’s no secret that many authors lament the stingy promotional budget/plan they receive from their publishers—if they even receive one at all.

But here’s a nice encouraging story. I have an author who sells well but certainly would be considered mid-list. For the last two years, she has plugged away mightily on her own promotional campaign—always keeping her editor in the loop. And her publisher has certainly done some terrific publicity stuff in conjunction with her efforts but nothing higher end.

But personal perseverance is finally paying off. Her publisher plans to cough up some dough for her next book release.

So even though you may feel like your wallowing all by your lonesome in the promotional dark, your unstinting and determined efforts can eventually translate into publisher dollars. Publishers like to see that can-do attitude and will often reward authors who soldiered on by themselves to start with.

Just a thought to keep in mind when embracing that daunting task called self-promotion.

16 Responses

  1. heidi said:

    I’d love to hear more of your thoughts on promotion, specifically self-promotion.

    I see some authors whose self-promo campaigns don’t seem to work at all (I think they’re not doing the right things) and then I have one author friend who is doing an extremely good job of self-promo. But then, he’s got some great gimmicks.

    The idea of self-promo is rather intimidating to me at this point–not the face-forward stuff, but the little fiddly behind-the-scenes stuff.

    I mean, are bookmarks really that effective? (Fridge magnets on the other hand…)

  2. An Aspiring Writer said:

    From a reader’s standpoint, I attended the RTCon this year where there were tables upon tables of book promotions. I came home with a huge bag full of just stuff, most of which is still in the bag.

    The winning entry to me was MaryJanice Davidson’s “Betsy Rules” buttons. They were big, which made them very noticeable, they were white, so they stood out, it was clever (referring to Betsy, Queen of the Vampires from her “Undead” series), and absolutely everyone was wearing one.

    Other things that stood out …

    *Marjorie Liu’s book cover which she autographed for me (gorgeous artwork)

    *MaryJanice’s “Bitch Out of Water” bookmarks promoting “Sleeping with the Fishes”

    *Stickee notes, which I’m working my way through (I’m to Eden Robins now). Each time I open one up, I check out the author’s web site.

    Also, Jeanne Stein ordered some magnets from Cafe Press using her cover art that she handed out at her signings. They are quite nice, and that’s the only author magnet I have on my fridge.

  3. Anonymous said:

    For the best ideas on marketing, I suggest frequenting the blogs and websites of authors in your genre, or subgenre. Many have articles full of ideas and lead by example too. Also, the ones I’ve emailed with questions have been very patient and generous with their answers. If you haven’t already, start your own blog too. It’s a great way to interact with people in the same boat and to learn from the veterans.
    Kimber An

  4. Anonymous said:

    Totally daunting. And overwhelming. And there is always something else one can do that one reads about and had never thought of doing. And the list gets longer and longer. And sometimes I feel like I should just quit before I’ve even begun.

    But I know I can’t. And I won’t. I’m stubborn that way.

  5. katiesandwich said:

    The idea of self promotion frightened me at first, but the more I read about it, the more I actually start to get excited about it and think it might be fun. Especially since I read Author 101: Bestselling Book Publicity, which I reviewed on my blog recently. I’m really glad to know that hard work on the publicity front might earn me some money from my publisher. (But first I have to get a publisher to agree to take my book! And before that, I’ll need an agent, and before that I have to finish revisions…)

  6. Anonymous said:

    I think an effective promotion is one which raises awareness of a given book. Convincing people to buy something is damn near impossible, and I think it’s a waste of time trying.

    On the other hand, if you can get a book title or an author’s name to stick in someone’s brain for a bit, there’s a chance they’ll recognise one or the other next time they’re browsing.

    Now, if someone picks up one of my books in a store and decides not to buy it, I don’t believe any amount of advertising would have made any difference.

    One exception I can think of to this is where the cover art & blurb don’t actually represent the contents very well. If someone sees a bunch of recommendations from people they trust, they’re more likely to buy a book despite the cover & blurbs.

  7. Christine Wells said:

    I agree with you, Simon! I looked at a bookmark I have used for more than a year the other day and realized I had never looked for the book it advertized on the shelves. But I was in the bookstore one day, and recognized the cover of one I had seen reviewed and advertised in a few places–for some reason the cover design stuck in my head. It drove me to pick it up off the shelf, but I read the first page before I decided to buy it. Thinking about what prompts *you* to buy a book, you can see what works and what doesn’t.

  8. joanr16 said:

    Kristin’s post and the subsequent comments are all very interesting… something I’ll need to keep in mind. Lucky thing my kid bro is an award-winning P.R. man. I can’t wait until Kristin and I make that first sale, and I have to call my brother for his advice. He’ll love it, too.

  9. Anonymous said:

    Thanks for these posts on the marketing/publicity side of the biz. It helps hearing the ‘perseverance pays’ party line from an agent’s perspective.

    What’s the most effective (bang for your buck) kind of self-promotion a first time novelist can do? I know there’s a big list of things you SHOULD do, but if you had to start with one and really hit it, what would it be?

  10. Anonymous said:

    It’s an expensive proposition, but I’d be willing to use any advance I got on self-promotion. There is no deep well of money in my budget otherwise. So, with my small press publishing (no advance), there isn’t much I can afford to do.

  11. Anonymous said:

    Ah, the promotion black hole – truly a problem for the author. This is my opinion based on what worked for me and it’s only my opinion:

    You must have a website. If you cannot make a professional site yourself, spend your money on having a professional build it.

    Create an internet presence through blogging/myspace long before your release.

    Bookmarks are only effective if you hand them out or have friends that will. My dad has handed out more bookmarks to total strangers than I will probably ever speak to. Is it working – heck yeah. I get an average of one email every two weeks for some poor woman he’s accosted in Walmart, grocery store, dr’s office, etc and handed a bookmark. If I’m actually getting email from some I have to assume there are more out there. Plus, as a corporate trainer, I travel a lot and meet a lot of different people. I’m never afraid to hand out bookmarks at the end of a class or to any captive audience on an airplane.

    Of course, there are far more things you can do, and more expensive, but these are the basics for me. I’ve done a lot more than that, but I’ve also been fortunate to have some publisher push behind me.

    Jana DeLeon

  12. Anonymous said:

    I second the blogging and myspace recommendation. I joined Myspace around September last year, and soon afterwards I began to recommend it in my articles & in conversations with a few authors I know.

    The overall reaction was negative, ranging from those who couldn’t see the point to those who hated the user interface to those who had ‘better things to do’. Some of them ridiculed the layout on a profile or two to make their point.

    Fine by me. In the meantime I’ve made myself at home and am enjoying myself. I have over one thousand contacts, more than half of whom sent me the invite instead of the other way round, and I spend much more time on Myspace than I do fiddling with blogs or mailing lists.

  13. katiesandwich said:

    Okay, so what’s the deal with myspace? I always thought it was just another blogging community, like blogger or livejournal. I could be misunderstanding, but are you suggesting that I have a blog AND a myspace page? Could someone help me clear this up?

  14. An Aspiring Writer said:

    Anonymous said…
    Ms. Nelson,

    Do you want to see a couple of sample pages c&p’d into the query, or no?

    Anonymous … no. Do not send sample pages unless she specifically requests you to. I also recommend you take a look at the query recommendations and requirements on the Nelson Agency web site @

    Katiesandwich … myspace has become an unexpected cultural phenomenon. I originally discounted it as being a glorified blog and more for the teenage set, but used properly it can be an enormous promotional boon. My teenagers have “friends” who are actually bands where they post upcoming projects, new albums, appearances, etc. You can only access some of these musical sites if you have a myspace name/page of your own. Were I a published author (which I am not YET), I wouldn’t hesitate to invest a little time in checking it out. It looks like it’s been a great marketing tool for Simon. And did anyone mention it’s free? 🙂

  15. Anonymous said:

    “I always thought it was just another blogging community, like blogger or livejournal.”

    The difference is that Myspace is about the profiles, not the blogging. Not only that, it’s crammed with people for whom Myspace is their first & only presence on the web. They put their photo up and list their favourite books & movies and so on, then seek out similar folk with similar interests. Many don’t even post blogs.

    The other benefit is that if you send someone a message via Myspace it doesn’t use the email system. You don’t get delays, bounces and so on.

    Back to the profiles: Imagine you write SF/Humour. You might seek out people on Myspace who love Star Wars, Hitchhiker’s Guide and Red Dwarf, and each of those people may have anything from 20-500 friends with similar tastes. Now, if that one person happens to like your book they might mention it to their friends via a bulletin or blog post, and you’ve just reached a whole lot of potential readers.

    Now imagine you set up a Myspace profile and gather 500-1000 people in your friends list who enjoy the sort of books you’re writing. When you multiply that by the 50-200 friends they have, you begin to see the power of Myspace.

    I’m not suggesting anyone get on there, blindly add as many people as possible then market-market-market to them. Nobody wants to be the channel for your advertising. However, if you put all thoughts of selling aside and just participate, you’ll find that over time you’ll build a network of people you really do know as individuals.