Thursday, January 31, 2013

Marketing For the I-Hate-Marketing Writer

Judith Arnold

          If I’d wanted to become a marketer, I would have gone to business school. Instead, I earned a master’s degree in creative writing, where I learned a bit about how to move readers with my words but not a blessed thing about how to move my books from bookstore shelves into readers’ hands. This was fine when I began my career. Back then, publishers took care of marketing for us.
          Gradually, however, publishers chose to do less and less marketing for most of the books they published, and dumped more and more responsibility for marketing onto the authors. We knocked ourselves out designing and distributing bookmarks, maintaining websites, traveling to conferences to present workshops at our own expense, donating books as giveaways, writing articles for professional journals, compiling mailing lists, creating blogs, buying ads in fanzines, and on and on. These are all activities people who want to become marketers might actually enjoy, but they take precious time, energy and creativity away from a novelist’s primary job, which is writing novels.
          Today, many writers are independently publishing their own books. We are the publisher dumping marketing responsibilities on our writers—who happen to be ourselves. While I still have a publisher for my new novels, I’m also running a flourishing business indie-publishing my out-of-print backlist titles as ebooks. I’m now a publisher, and I’ve tried to become a marketing expert.
          Alas, an expert I’m not. But I’ve learned three important lessons about how to help readers find and buy my books.
          LESSON ONE: Forget humility.
I’m a naturally humble person. I don’t like tooting my own horn. I’m kind of an introvert; I enjoy socializing, I’m fun at parties, but I’m more of a listener than a talker. Listening is how I learn about the world around me and the people inhabiting it. Listening is how I get ideas for my stories. Talking about myself—or my books—doesn’t come easily to me.
          But marketing is all about reaching a market—my readers—and telling them about my books. So I do it. I maintain a mailing list. I post on Facebook. I write blog posts, both on my website and in group blogs like this one. I occasionally make one of my books available at a discount price or for free and urge readers to download it, so they can read something I’ve written, hopefully like it, and buy some of my other books.
          LESSON TWO: In the ebook world,  you don’t have to reach a mass market. You just have to reach your market.
          It is possible—in fact, quite common—for ebook authors to make a nice living without ever hitting a bestseller list. One of the wonderful things about the ebook world is that the books we indie-publish don’t have to appeal to everyone. They just have to appeal to our readers. I’ve never written romances about cowboys, vampires or billionaires. Popular though they are, such heroes don’t appeal to me. I like to write about real people, people you and I might know, people we can relate to. My romance novels, which skew heavily toward the women’s-fiction end of the genre, appeal to a niche market. Not a problem. I don’t have to promote my books to all the romance readers in the world. I only have to promote my books to my market.
          LESSON THREE: Cooperate. Collaborate. Don’t try to do it all yourself.
          I have joined forces with eight other indie-publishing romance novelists to share marketing insights and cross-promote our books. We communicate constantly. When one of us hears about a marketing opportunity, she shares the information with the rest of us. We cheer one another on. We support one another. We learn from one another. If you don’t know how to market your books, gather a group of similarly positioned author friends and learn together.
          I now understand why business schools require two years of a student’s life to teach the mere basics of marketing. I’m a first-year student, and my name won’t be appearing on the dean’s list anytime soon. But I’m studying hard, doing my homework and keeping up. And trying not to let my marketing efforts deplete me so I have nothing left for my writing.
     Because, when all is said and done, I’m not a marketer. I’m a novelist.

Judith Arnold’s most recent marketing coup was to have her novel Safe Harbor included in “Book Blast,” a promotional newsletter emailed to thousands of ebook readers. Her next novel, The April Tree, will be released this spring by her publisher, who—she hopes—will handle the bulk of the marketing. For more information about Judith, please visit her web site. “And sign up for my newsletter!” she requests humbly and introvertedly.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Book Marketing and Promotion, 101

By: Sandra Novack

I am notoriously bad at self-promotion and marketing, probably because I am cursed to be one of Jung's INFJ personality types.  Still, most writers (okay, ALL writers I know, myself included) do their fair share of book promotion, and this quickly translates to expending time and financial effort.  Here’s some things I’ve learned over the course of having two books—my literary debut, PRECIOUS, and my short story collection, EVERYONE BUT YOU—hit the market with a major publishing house.


If you have a traditional publishing contract, squirrel away some of that "big" advance for personal efforts at marketing.  You'll probably need it!  The truth is that unless your book becomes a smashing bestseller or tops out at “x” amount of sales the first week, your publicist only has so much time to spend with your book, before moving onto the next.  Designating some advance money specifically for promotion will allow you to travel to events not paid for by your publishing house.  It might mean you have some cash on hand for buying ads, or have funds available to hire a personal publicist over and beyond what your house provides.


Have you ever thought about grants?  You might be able to get some free money! Who knew? I didn’t, until my second book, EVERYONE BUT YOU.  In Illinois, for example, you can apply for an individual artist grant (a free $2,500.00) for promotion of an artistic work.   Having this grant allowed me to travel to NYC overnight and do a reading gig at The Center for Fiction.  That, in turn, allowed me to meet some pretty cool people, so it paid for itself and more.  I also had money left to put toward cyber ads.


Talk with your publicist, agent, and/or editor about things you can do to help promote and market your work.  The reality is that the burden of promotion falls more and more on writers these days.  When I got my grant, the marketing department at Random House weighed in, advising what would give the most bang for my buck.  This leads to a second point: Just because a house has legitimate constraints on how much time and money they can give any given book doesn’t mean you are alone and can’t get solid advice.  They do this for a living, and they are a resource.  Use them.  Also, be nice when you's not their fault the publishing world is changing, either.


Making Actual “Contact” with People (INFJ Sandy says: Ack!):  Most writers like to give readings and meet their audiences in person, but every writer will also tell you book readings and signings are a crap shoot.  I’ve been at readings where a bunch of people attended, and I've felt loved and appreciated and (nervously) sold a lot of books.  I’ve also been to ones where 2 people showed up (probably enticed by the bookstore owner), and I spent the time wishing no one had showed up at all, just so I could hit the bar early.  All the publicists I’ve worked with (four (?) now, all of whom seemed to be named "Jennifer") have said that readings don’t generally yield great sales results, but they seem to keep readings around regardless.  Anyway, and for both my books, I’ve done my share of readings, events, lunches, book clubs and signings.  On my own, I’ve visited local bookstores and talked with the owners or sales staff.  I’ve contacted colleges in the area.  I've contacted libraries.  I’ve reached out to book clubs and offered to give talks.  I’ve researched what literary events are in my city, and offered to be on panels.  Every little bit helps, and many of these local connections are lasting.


Cyber Contact:  It goes without saying that having a nice FB and Twitter presence is useful. (Confession: I don't 'tweet', nor have I once stalked someone on FB.)   In addition (and for both books), I’ve used, which yielded me a lot of hits at various high profile websites.  The benefit of Blogads is that they run continuously for a specified amount of time.  They are also awesome and very professional/fun to work with.  The downside is that it can be difficult to say how exposure translates to actual SALES.  Same thing with FB ads, Goodreads ads, Shelf-Awareness, and Author Buzz.  I’ve used each of these at least once.  Would I do it again?  Sure.  Exposure is exposure.  Additionally, I was very pleased with TLC Book Tours.  Basically that site books you with various blogs, and there you might get your book reviewed, do a Q&A, or hold a giveaway.  Nice exposure, for a relatively small cost.


Always keep a working list of contacts.  I am sort of bad with this, because I don't like to bother people at ALL, but I'm getting (a tiny bit) better.  The world is getting more and more informal, and I think all of us need to get on board with that.  This might include other writers who have blurbed your book, people you’ve met at events, or people who have reviewed your work previously.  I am pretty shy myself, but I make a point to seek out Facebook friendships with people after I've met them, or to make contact with reviewers.  I have this weird pre-req, though: I have to have actually (and intuitively) LIKED them when I met them. :)   It's important, imho, to be sincere.


When you're scrambling to promote yourself and your work, always remember: It's still important to be decent.  It's really, really more important than ever to be that.  Expect the best, not the worst, from other people.  Most people are decent.  Most are even better than that.


My grandfather always said, “A faint heart never won a fair lady,” and these days that holds even truer when it comes to book marketing and promotion!  But it's also true that however you handle your own marketing, you need to do what you can, as you can, and always be truest to yourself.  In the end, it could be that an old-fashioned idea still carries the most merit:  There are no easy answers for getting a fan base quickly, so at the end of the day, writers still build their base over the course of many years, one book at a time.

With that in mind, I say:  Try and write and publish consistently and with all the love and heart you can muster.

Happy Writing, My Beautiful Friends!  Much Love, and Luck, and Many Good Wishes for Success.

Sandra Novack’s literary novel, PRECIOUS (Random House), was a Booklist Top Ten Debut of 2009.  Her short story collection, EVERYONE BUT YOU (also from Random House), was published in 2011.  Currently she is at work on a new book.  Visit her at:

Monday, January 28, 2013

Time, the Only Thing You Can’t Make Up

By Laura Spinella

We could each write a character with pristine time management skills. In fact, I’m working with a guy right now who is an incredible specimen of man and management. Levi St John is the composite of a shrewd, buttoned-up editor-in-chief I used to call boss, and the sexy geek-god I rode an Orbit bus with every day to North campus but never really knew. Levi’s outer shell, well, that’s wrapped in Tony Robbins confidence.  You know, the iron jaw motivational guru who, I suspect, but don’t know for sure, harbors some critical flaw. Levi’s flaw is his past, but his current time management skills are stellar.
Sadly, Levi has to rely on my time management skills for his next breath. And in this effort, I’m afraid I fail him miserably. If I did work for Levi (which metaphorically I suppose I do), he’d have fired me months ago. But I think that’s standard fare for authors who write books and don’t earn a living from them. My typical day gets divided into thirds. How about yours? Part one is spent running this house and the beings who reside inside. You know how that goes. I’m not whining, but I am responsible for everything from trips to the veterinarian to the dry cleaner, as well as deciding what’s for dinner 365 times a year. Yes, even the much frequented Rancho Chico is a decision, one that generally falls to me. Complicating this third is that pesky child rearing thing, which runs on no manmade timepiece. While we’re on the downside of the hill, and my crew toes-the-line for the most part, you never know when a crisis will arise. It’s guaranteed to knock the Levis of my life right off the radar until all has been averted or resolved.
            The middle portion of my day is dedicated to a multitude of other authors and their needs. For the past year, I’ve worked for AuthorBytes, a very cool web-developer. As time goes, I’m fortunate in this respect. I only have to switch from the computer in the sunroom to the computer in the study. After arriving, I tend to a cornucopia of tasks, everything from assisting in the redesign of a website to showing one of our 500 clients how to navigate the inner workings of their website. It’s an interesting gig for a girl who stumbled through blog posts when she joined GBC two years ago. Seriously, who knew I had untapped mad computers skills? Well, that’s sort of a fib. My co-workers, aka computer wizards, don’t really ask anything that requires too much computer literacy. Mostly, I was brought on board to translate. Suggest to the tech folks how authors might see things, and to guide authors through the treacherous but necessary minefield of web technology. Still, it’s a singular job with fun perks, like rubbing elbows with New York Times bestselling authors.  Although, I also enjoy chatting with our first-time, nervous-Nellie clients—I once knew somebody like that! The chance to pay-it-forward is more gratifying than I might have imagined. But hours during this third can be erratic. If something big is brewing, I must defer to AuthorBytes, just when I’m on the brink of a major plot point between Levi and Aubrey (love interest whose skill set, while intriguing, also does not include good time management). Again, he, his story, and his developing love life are sent to the back of the line.
Gratuitous Seussical photo of Grant (center)
            Finally comes the last third of my day, which is really the first third. It can begin as early as 5:30 a.m., though cutoff is noon sharp. But even here time management can take a beating. For reasons I suspect writers can relate to, it is excusable to abandon a WIP if the insurance man I’ve been trying to get a hold of for days calls at 10:00 a.m., or, God forbid, my editor emails. If Grant, my 15-year old, forgets his biology textbook, you know I’m leaving Levi mid-thought to run it up to the high school. Of course, that was a purely facetious example, as Grant would never purposely call asking for his biology textbook.  But things will go my way eventually, including a string of days, usually two or three rainy ones, where it’s nose-to-the-grindstone writing. Interruptions are avoidable and I walk the romantic linguistic walk that writers’ dream of, or at least embellish to their friends. No, time management is not my strong suit; I am a greased hourglass in that regard. I have no spunky or foolproof advice to offer. But what I will have, maybe late this fall—despite the lack of regimented writing—is a decent draft. The one where Levi St John’s story will be told and, hopefully, book number three will be well in hand.       

Laura Spinella is the author of the award winning novel, BEAUTIFUL DISASTER and the forthcoming title-pending Penguin novel, for which we may soon hold a GBC suggestion contest! Visit her at     

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Good Girls Do It Their Way

 by Jane Porter

On Friday I finished writing the 3rd book in my Brennan Sisters trilogy about the sprawling, Irish-American Brennan family in San Francisco.   I have loved this series, and family, inspired in large part by my younger brother’s in-law.

My brother, Rob, lives in downtown San Francisco, and is married to a gorgeous girl whose father, Tom Callen, was a San Francisco fire fighter, and served on the San Francisco Fire Department at one point with his grandfather Callen, several uncles, and two of his brothers  

I love family and community and the Callen family’s commitment to their city resonated with me, as did my brother and sister-in-law’s decision to raise their kids in San Francisco proper, making their kids sixth generation San Franciscans.  They  are proud of their history and continuity, and I—the storyteller—can’t stop my imagination for running wild with story possibilities.

The Callen famiy might have inspired by Brennan family, with a fire fighter for the patriarch, but from there, the series is all my own, with strong family dynamics, tons of sisterly love, and lots of self-discovery.

The first book, The Good Woman, is about the oldest sister, Meg, a mother of three, who works as a publicist for a Napa winery.  Meg is the quintessential good woman.  She’s responsible, to a fault.  But frazzled and flattened from juggling work, marriage and motherhood, Meg makes a serious mistake that threatens to cost her not just her marriage, but her family support.

In The Good Daughter, the second book, Kit, one of the middle sisters, and the family peacemakers, discovers that its impossible to always please everyone else.  In fact, pleasing others just might mean you’ll never end up happy yourself.   Now Kit must decide if she is going to continue keeping the peace, or do what she needs to do for herself, even if it means alienating those she has always loved best.

In both books I tackle some meaty stuff but I deliberately chose to keep the books from being so gritty that they were depressing.  Greif and loss and change is all difficult enough, without making it dark, and suffocating.  I don’t just want to make readers cry.  I want them to laugh, to sigh, to smile, to dream.

I’ve been through very difficult things, and so when I write about death or grief, abuse or violence, its not to bury my reader in wet cement, but to give her a hand, and say—I get it.  I’ve been there.  You can get through this.  And we get through hard things with love and faith and support.

My readers know my themes, too.  The Good Daughter is my 8th women’s fiction novel, and my readers know what they want from me, and that’s a story about real women finding their place in the world.  They want to read about real women overcoming adversity to find love, and happiness, with maybe some sexy sizzle thrown in to remind them they’re alive and desirable.

When my readers finish one of my books I want them to feel validated, supported, loved.  It’s important to feel good.  Its important we feel valuable as women.  Otherwise, how do we raise children?  How do we take care of our aging parents?  How do we love ourselves if we’re fearful and broken and trapped in a dark place?  I don’t know that we can…so I do what I do because its my passion and my mission.  It gives me joy to create joy, and if I’ve made one reader happy, then I’ve done something wonderful. 

I say this because critics don’t necessarily agree with me.  They think I’ve failed to dig deep enough into domestic violence or depression.  I’ve been accused of glossing over the hard things, and truthfully, yes, I do, to a certain extent.  Because I’m not writing about domestic violence or depression because it’s a creative topic.  Its real.  But its not pleasurable.  If you’ve experienced it, its not interesting to even read about.  It takes you back to pain, and suffering isn’t glorious.  Suffering is suffering.  It hurts.  It wounds.  It scars.  So yes, I put it out there, but then the goal is to move on.  To move forward.  To move forward with hope, and strength, courage and optimism.  Maybe these themes aren’t for everyone, but they’re mine, and its why my readers read me.

As a writer I don’t think we have to appeal to all readers.  Instead we must simply be true to ourselves. 

            For a chance to win a copy of The Good Woman and other fun goodies, tell me what makes you happy.   Two winners will be picked on Wednesday and each receive a signed copy of The Good Woman, a $5 Starbucks drink card, and some other fun Jane Porter reader goodies. 

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Saturday Book Give Away! The Good Daughter by Jane Porter

by Maggie Marr

We have a winner! Sheena, the 11th commenter below has won an autographed copy of Jane Porter's upcoming book The Good Daughter and a $5 Starbucks card!

I am so very excited that this week for the GBC book give away we have a $5 Starbucks card and a signed copy of book 2 in Jane Porter's very popular Brennan Sister series: The Good Daughter. Coffee and a Jane Porter book? Sounds like the perfect Saturday morning to me!

The Good Daughter

Love was given to all, except herself...
Kit Brennan has always been the most grounded of her sisters. A Catholic school English teacher for seventeen years and a constant giver, her decisions have been sound—just not very satisfying. Her fortieth birthday is right around the corner, causing Kit to consider some wilder notions, like skipping right past the love and marriage to raising a child all by herself...

A girls' weekend away is just the reprieve Kit needs from school, Mr. Wrongs, and life-changing decisions. It's there that she meets a man who's dangerous; a man who challenges who she thought she was, or rather should be. Kit wants to indulge herself this once, but with one of her students in crisis and the weight of her family's burdens weighing heavy on her heart, Kit isn't sure if now is the time to let her own desires take flight...

Please leave a comment (with your email addy) below about where you'd like to go for your perfect girls weekend and on Sunday, January 27th will select one very lucky winner of The Good Daughter!

Maggie Marr is the author of the Hollywood Girls Club Series, Can't Buy Me Love, and Courting Trouble. She is currently at work on Hollywood Hit, the next book in the HGC Series. She lives in LA with her family.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Book Marketing: Guest Blog Posts

by Sara Rosett

We’re talking book marketing here at Girlfriends Book Club.

Over the years, one thing I’ve done consistently for promotion is guest blog. I don’t have any hard data that guest blog posts drive sales, but they do help me spread the word about my books, and I get to interact with mystery readers, which is always a great thing.

Here’s a fun “Day in the Life” blog I wrote from the perspective of Zoe Hunter, the protagonist of Elusive, for Dru’s Book Musings.

A Day in the Life of Zoe Hunter

A typical day? That’s a tough one.

See, I don’t have a set schedule, and I love it.

I tried the nine-to-five office routine, but it was like the death of a thousand cuts—paper cuts, that is. But still, I couldn’t take it.

I guess you’d say my days are fluid. I’m a “Jill of All Trades.” I do it all:  freelance copy-editing, property management, even dog walking. I like the variety. Sure, it’s a little insecure, but I’m not exactly what you’d call cautious. I don’t look before I leap. No, I’m more likely to charge over the edge of the cliff and worry about the consequences later.

Normally, I love surprises and the unknown. This situation with my ex, Jack, is the exception. Ah, Jack—that was probably my most impulsive move ever—getting married on the spur of the moment. It was crazy, but it felt so right…at least at the time.

Anyway, right now everything is getting a little too bizarre, even for me. Jack has disappeared, there’s a ton of money missing from the banking account of the small business he owned with a partner, and the investigators think I know what happened.

I’m not sure what Jack was involved in, but I’ve been dragged into it, too. Normally, I’m up for new experiences, but being investigated by the FBI was never on my bucket list, so I’ve been poking around. It seems Jack left out a few key details about himself. I’m counting on his cousin in Vegas to have some answers. After that, who knows? I’ll follow the trail until I figure out what’s going on, so I can get back to my “normal” crazy life.

You can read about Zoe’s search for answers that takes her from Las Vegas to Italy in Elusive (Book #1 in the “On The Run” series). It’s available in from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple, and Smashwords.


P.S. Book giveaways are another marketing thing I do. I have one going on right now for Elusive at Library Thing. (Scroll down about a quarter of the page.) Happy reading! 

Sara writes mystery (Ellie Avery series) and suspense (On the Run series). As a military spouse Sara has moved around the country (frequently!) and traveled internationally, which inspired her latest travel suspense books. Publishers Weekly called Sara’s books, "satisfying," "well-executed," and "sparkling."

Sara loves all things bookish, considers dark chocolate a daily requirement, and is on a quest for the best bruschetta. Connect with Sara at You can also find her on FacebookTwitterPinterest, or Goodreads.