I know I'm in my own little world, but it's OK.
They know me here...


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

TOPIC: Being a Published Author - Promotion & Marketing

Authors no longer just write. Promotion and marketing is expected by editors, and to some extent agents, and it's one thing you can have some control over.

It's a necessary evil as it takes you away from what you should be doing - writing the next book - but who else is better qualified or more invested in making sure your book gets the exposure it needs?

I have just two pieces of advice for anyone wondering how to start.
  • Make a plan & a budget (be flexible with your plan but stick to your budget).
  • Be organised (well in advance first time around).
Why? Because the whole snowball that is promotion and marketing will be overwhelming enough to handle without the added stress of doing everything at the last minute.

Every plan will be unique to the author and book and as I can only speak from my experiences, some of the things I did may or may not appeal or apply to anyone else, so read with a critical eye. I apologise for the length of this post but there was so much valuable information to share that to cut it would short change you.

I'm also no expert, but I'm willing to share ideas that may give you a launching point or spark some thoughts of your own. So take on board whatever you find useful and discard the rest.

My debut novel, VENGEANCE BORN, with Berkley Sensation released on February 7th, 2012. I began working with my publicist in June 2011.

I wrote out a rough plan of what I wanted to do in the months leading up to release day, emailed my editor and publicist to keep them informed and find out what they were doing so we didn't double up.

Here's what I came up with.

  • Contact my publicist & editor to begin discussion on promotional ideas. I began so far in advance because I had no idea what was involved and wanted to be well prepared.
  • Create an ARC list of paranormal romance/fantasy blogs for early reviews (easy to do if you've spent the time previous knowing which ones accept your genre & what their review policies are, I became familiar over the last few years with these sorts of blogs and bookmarked them for easy recall).
  • Send list to publicist.
  • Begin formulating a personal wishlist of network contacts for my blog tour in February - include other authors, friends & book blogs.
  • Decide on how many weeks I'd run my blog tour. I went for two weeks prior to the Feb.7th release date and four weeks after. Six weeks total. And then I worked out how many visits per week I could handle - I went with two to three.
  • Saved old book packages ie. from orders received from The Book Depository, as I knew I would need them for my giveaways in January/February.
  • Publicist began sending out ARC's to reviewers from our lists.
  • I contacted local Australian specialist romance bookstores here in Australia - Rendezvous, Intrigue, Rosemary's Romance Books etc. - to let them know I had a book being released in the USA/Canada on Feb.7th. I emailed them first with a letter of introduction and asked if they would be interested in promotional items or information about the book. All replied in the positive, happy to promote a local Aussie author. Some even offered to feature the book on the front page of their monthly catalogs, websites and in-store book displays.
  • Sent out a Media Kit to these bookstores - author bio, photo, book cover & blurb, release dates & where, website links, book postcards for distribution to customers - and to the couple who requested an ARC, I sent a copy to them for review.
  • Discovered Vistaprint and their "free" items.
  • Contacted via email friends, authors & book blogs requesting the opportunity to guest blog or be interviewed.
  • Contacted local area bookstores with the same information.
  • Continued to save book packages.
  • Created a budget covering anticipated expenses like postage, Vistaprint products (aka postage), travel to talks/visits/signing in local area, paper, paperclips, envelopes etc.
  • Began writing & scheduling blog posts & snippets of VENGEANCE BORN teasers for my own blog in the lead up to and through the release date month. I wanted this all done so as I wasn't tied up with my own blog when I was "out on my cyber tour" with VENGEANCE BORN.
  • Began examining and looking at other author's newsletters as I wanted to create one of my own to coincide with my release date. Eventually decided to trial Mad Mimi and began writing first newsletter.
  • Kept an eye out for Vistaprint specials (Vistaprint is my new friend has become my mantra).
  • Responded to replies from friends, authors & book blogs for blog tour dates and formalised my itinerary for late Jan./February.
  • Began answering interview questions, writing guest blog posts for blog tour.
  • Plan giveaways and surprise swag packs for blog tour.
  • Continued to save book packages.
  • Started mentioning the pre-buzz build-up on my website home page (continued to post monthly updates featuring buy links and advance reviews).
Copies have arrived!
JANUARY 2012 (pre-buzz build-up to release day)
  • Organise and run Goodreads giveaway of a VENGEANCE BORN ARC - I ran it for a month, from Jan.7th to Feb.7th and ended up with 2300 people entering and almost half that many adding it to their To Read list.
  • Contacted local media - newspaper, libraries, bookstores etc. to arrange articles, interviews and visits.
  • Pre-buzz updates on my website home page (featuring buy links and changed advance reviews).
  • Took advantage of Vistaprint freebies for flyers & postcards advertising these events (Vistaprint is my new friend!).
  • Donated a copy of VENGEANCE BORN to three local area libraries (a one off decision to kick start local interest).
  • On my own blog began posting snippets and pre-release posts on VENGEANCE BORN books characters, world-building etc. - a bit like the special features section on a DVD, to generate interest.
  • Finished and scheduled my first Mad Mimi author newsletter to go out a week before release date.
  • Continued writing & completing the last of the guest blog posts and interviews for VENGEANCE BORN blog tour.
  • Editor asked me to write a "Dear Reader" letter for promotion opportunity on the Berkley Paranormal website page.
  • My author copies of VENGEANCE BORN arrive - celebration time!
  • Collate advanced reviews for promotional posts on website & blog.
  • Write personal thank you emails to book reviewers.
  • Agent contacted me to inform me of interview requests from some other book blog sites who wanted to interview me for the release of VENGEANCE BORN. Scheduled them into my tour.
  • Began promoting pre-buzz build-up on all social media sites ie.Facebook, Twitter, my blog etc.
  • Sent on positive advance reviews to my editor & publicist (which they use as further promotion).
  • Local friends ask to buy my book - order in copies for them.
  • Blog tour commenced late January.
  • Every post on my personal blog scheduled to further promote VENGEANCE BORN.
  • Local media interviews in newspapers, library visits, bookstore visits etc.
  • Blog tour continues - posting replies to commenters takes a lot of time.
  • Advertise on my social networking sites dates of my blog tour.
  • Goodreads giveaway finishes.
  • Giveaways and surprise swag packs being won by readers.
  • Collate advanced reviews for promotional posts on website & blog.
  • Send reviews to publicist.
  • Write personal thank you emails to book reviewers.
  • Connect with readers via email and social networking sites. Maintain these connections.
  • Locals still asking to buy my book - sold out of copies I'd previous ordered, have to order more in. Sell out again. Rinse & repeat.
  • Locals still asking to buy my book - have to order more in. Rinse & repeat.
  • Finish blog tour.
  • Analyse positives and negatives of the whole promotion & marketing process.
  • Begin thinking about next blog tour for ALLIANCE FORGED.
Book Signing
Lessons learned from my first release day and everything associated with it:
  • Interviews, guest blogs, preparing personal blog posts ahead of schedule and advertising on social media all takes time.
More than you expect or think. What I expected and got were two different results. I think I can safely say the time I anticipated doubled. But that's something that comes with experience and every author needs to go through the process to understand and realise what it costs them personally.
  • Stick to a budget.
It's tempting to go all out but don't. Invest a percentage in promotion but there is such a thing as going overboard. Time, followed by postage, were my two greatest expenses. Next time all international giveaways will be ordered from The Book Depository instead of being sent from me.

As much as I liked giving away signed copies, it's cheaper to send a book plate than a book, particularly overseas, and if I want the best bang for my buck then this is what I need to do (at least until I earn mega-bucks as a best-selling author and can budget more to this area! (-: )
  • Vistaprint is my new friend.
If you haven't discovered this company then get thee to the website (or a similar company) and explore. They will become your new best friend with the freebie deals they run regularly and are great for things like book postcards, magnets, pens etc.

Keep in mind your brand when you design items (see previous post by Nikki Logan).
  • Kiss goodbye to the majority of your productivity time for any new book writing for whatever time period you designate for release day/blog tour activities, especially if you're juggling another career, a family, other commitments or all of the above.
Promotion such as writing up interviews, guest blogs, pre-buzz build-up, social media sucks a huge amount of creativity and energy from you. And the excitement associate with it is also a drain.

I had promotion for VENGEANCE BORN, line edits for ALLIANCE FORGED, and I was writing Book #3 first draft along with whatever life threw at me. I don't think I slept more than 4-5 hours a night from late January to the end of February. Not something I'm keen to repeat ever again.
  • Analyse the blogs you visit while on tour.
Look at exposure/following readership numbers of the site. How they present your guest blog or interview. The quality of the comments left. Interaction of readers. If they run a rafflecopter style counter, how many people enter your giveaway.

Some blogs I felt warmly welcomed at and reader interaction was tremendous and some commented more than once, engaging in a dialogue and wanting to connect with you.

Others not so much.  Some blogs, while large on follower numbers and potentially good exposure, were inundated by frequent fliers, commenters participated just to win the giveaway - eg. "I like the sound of this book." or "Thanks for the chance to win." It made interacting difficult and I felt like I was wasting my time being there.

View book blog sites with a discerning eye. Was reader participation worth your time and effort to do the interview/guest blog? Does potential exposure outweigh this? I ended up writing a list of book blogs and other sites I'd revisit next time around. I couldn't justify returning to some, despite the potential exposure value, because the time and effort wouldn't be worth it. Certainly food for thought.
  • Make local connections.
Library Visit/Talk
Where ever you live there are nearby bookstores, libraries and media. The whole media interview thing was my bug bear this time around - I honestly don't like newspaper interviews or radio, give me a library talk or any other sort of informal chatting event any day.

One of the positive spin offs of contacting and personally meeting local bookstore owners for me was that one of them featured my bio and VENGEANCE BORN in their Australian page in their Autumn book catalog - home grown local Aussie author slant - and also advertised our arranged book signing event. The catalog was distributed to a target audience of 50 000 households in the Central and Western regions of NSW. Talk about excellent exposure!
  • You will check out reviews of your work - good, bad and ugly.
It's human nature. The important thing is to celebrate the good, promote that and try and ignore the bad and ugly. DO NOT BE TEMPTED TO RESPOND IN ANY SHAPE OR FORM. Hard to do, but necessary.

Let me repeat that.

Ignore the bad and ugly.
Celebrate the good.

 Your sanity won't survive otherwise.
  • Let readers know when your books are on sale.
When your books are discounted, tell your readers. For example, I did this when The Book Depository had 24% off special for ALLIANCE FORGED (pre-order as AF had yet to be released). The really cool kicker- they also had a bonus 10% everything sale going at the same time (so, a double bonus!).

I also mentioned the savings made if they wanted to purchase VENGEANCE BORN too. I posted an announcement on all my social networking sites, my blog and subscribers newsletter.

Two things I noticed as a result of doing this.
  1. From my newsletter & Facebook analytic information my subscribers or followers clicked through to The Book Depository - no definite idea if it resulted in sales BUT...
  2. The TBD sales rankings of ALLIANCE FORGED & VENGEANCE BORN rose over the next few days.
ALLIANCE FORGED's sales ranking jumped from #78 548 to #37 667, while VENGEANCE BORN went from #14 334 to #13 231. Coincidence? You decide.

So, there you have it - my plan, the details of my first blog tour, the lessons learned and experiences shared. I hope some of this has been useful to you. If anyone has any questions about any of this, please ask, and I'd be more than happy to answer them.

Stay tuned for my next post - "Vistaprint is my new friend!" - where I share the sorts of promotional items I designed and used for my books.


  1. Thank you so much for posting this! I found it insanely helpful. I have a Science Fiction Romance novel being released in print and ebook in August, and while I did a blog tour for a contemporary novella last year, this will be the first time I'm trying to branch out and use avenues like Vista Print and hand-selling. You've answered many of the questions I've been dying to ask a more experienced author. I'm looking forward to your next post!

  2. Wow! What a daunting schedule. well done Kylie. I'm in awe and wondering how I'll manage if I ever make it as far as you, while working full-time! Phew! Fantastic notes and such a help.

  3. Heather, so glad this was of use for you.

    Rowena, it seems like a daunting schedule - and it did get pretty manic as the release date came closer but if you take it in small chunks and plan what to do when, it's not really.

    A little bit at a time rather than all at once so you can enjoy the whole process instead of dreading or feeling overwhelmed by it all.

  4. The reader interaction differing on various blogs was really interesting. I haven't been keeping a list of review sites but I'll start getting myself informed pronto. Damn girl, you think of everything! You're amazing! Will be interested to see how things vary with the release being solely digital for the time being.

    Thanks for sharing, Kylie. Much appreciated.

  5. Kylie, thanks for sharing your experiences and thoughts with us. I've added some of your items to my "Book Release Action List". (Still in the works.)

    The power of social networking, planning ahead and also, common courtesy when dealing with bloggers who can provide you with a platform to launch your book, can't be underestimated.

    Great post!

  6. Kylie
    I would love to be so organised! I have done all of the above in a mish mash fashion. I can tick them all off...however the logical sequence and planning in yours is superb. Off to create a flow chart now! Woops..I was going to write today!

  7. Thanks Kylie, You have given me an insight into what is ahead WHEN I am published. I knew that a plan needed to be in place but looking at what you have done (and realising that it is much more than I anticipated) and the way you have done it has given me, and everyone else starting out, a head-ups that will be so helpful. Very much appreciated

  8. Kylie, you're a legend! Thank you for a well-timed post and excellent advice. It's come along at exactly the right time for me :D

  9. I'm so glad this has proven a useful tool/post for so many. Please feel free to share the link to those you think may also benefit from this. :-)

  10. Very impressive! One thing that struck me is that having done so much of the hard slog in advance you would be less likely to be depressed by the lack of instant response. I didn't start promoting until the launch and have been completely overwhelmed. I shall share & tweet this excellent post for the benefit of all my writing friends ~ thank you.

  11. Thanks, Kimm. While it seems like a lot to do, I consciously made the decision to spread the workload over months, especially for my debut release, as I was juggling quite a few other commitments at the time. Also being the personality I am, I like being prepared. Probably a little OCD about it (LOL) but it certainly helped when the time came.

  12. If I ever decided to publish a book I know where to come for info, your wealth of knowledge and tricks of the trade are very insightful...organisation seems to be the big key...skills I sorely lack!!!

  13. Wow, so much more work than I would ever think. Thanks for posting this and letting us in on the inside track!

  14. Awesome post again, Kylie. Very generous of you to share your tips, thank you!


  15. Oh my gosh. If only I'd had all this info before my debut launched!!! This is invaluable and I might need to print it out and stick it on the wall to keep me on track for next time! Thank you for sharing :-)

  16. I just wish I had access to this sort of info before I began down the publishing track - so if this helps anyone, then my purpose is achieved. Good luck! :-)

  17. Great blog. All posts have something to learn. Your work is very good and i appreciate you and hopping for some more informative posts.
    custom bags

  18. A late response but - WOW! I'm not there yet, but this is really insightful as to the preparation that goes into the successful launch of a new book. I love your post about Vistaprint, it looks like an amazing (and fun) resource. Thanks for sharing so generously, Kylie :-)