Wednesday, January 29, 2014

You’re The Best Publicist for Your Book by Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Today the IWSG has the honor of hosting the master of book publicity, Carolyn Howard-Johnson.

You’re The Best Publicist for Your Book
Why Your Publisher Can’t Sell Your Book Without You

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson

If your name isn't King or Grisham or Roberts you've probably already figured out that you need to do a lot of publicity on your own. But did you know that your publisher can’t do it without you?

Sure you can hire a publicist. A big publisher might even assign one of their own to you, but you are the one who must show up for the signings. You are the one readers want to know about. And you are the one who is most passionate about your book.

I have a publicist friend who is also an author. He rightfully claims that he could never find a PR person who would do the same kind of job he does, including the time he spends on his own PR work. How could anyone argue with that? We all are our own best publicists, even if we hire someone else.

But what if we don't have the time or expertise?

We can learn to do it ourselves. After all, we are writers. We should be able to grasp the knack of how to write a media release.

But the best way to do it is to learn a lot about the marketing of books and then partner with expert publicists or people who can help you with specific projects like online book tours. And partnering with them in a way that won’t eat up your advance or cost you more than you’re likely to make on your book.

Here are some suggestions for preparing yourself to be the best publicity partner around.

1. Join organizations like IBPA (Independent Book Publishers Association) where you’ll learn to understand the world of publishing from every angle—your, that of your publicist and that of your publisher. And get the support you need along the way.

2. Subscribe to newsletters sent out my experts in the field of publishing. Dan Poynter, John Kremer, Penny C. Sansevieri, and one of my favorite publicity gurus Joan Stewart are all online resources for getting online information that isn’t rooted in myth and gossip. You’ll learn tons from my Sharing with Writers newsletter, too. Subscribe by sending a SUBSCRIBE message to

3. Take a class in public relations. The only way I know how to avoid drastic mistakes in choosing a class is to patronize your local college or attend writers’ conferences sponsored by universities.

4. One of the most frugal ways to learn a new skillset is to read. Most of those who publish free newsletters like the ones I mentioned above have books that will get you off on the right foot. Find mine here.

The next question is how do you find the best help with publicity possible.

1. Consider what you need and how much time you can put into it. Your budget may not accommodate a full-service publicist. You may not have the time to fully participate with all of those services.

2. If that’s the case, consider people who will work with you piecemeal like Penny Sansevieri. You may need an online book tour. I like Denise Cassino's book launch service for that. Contact her at . It shouldn’t be too expensive to get help when you do it in bits and pieces. And when you work with others, many of the contacts you get from your service will become contacts for the life of your writing career. Or you may need help writing your first release so you can do it yourself. That kind of help is available, too, from people like Mindy Philips Lawrence, .

3. Before you hire anyone consider their Rolodex. I'm talking about a file of contacts that are real personal, working relationships with editors, radio hosts, etc. Ask what kind of publicity have they gotten for their other clients? Consider whether those contacts are people who might have an interest in a project like yours. A book publicist who has had mostly experience with mystery writers, deals mostly with books stores that dedicate themselves to stories about crime, and has a huge file of names of reviewers interested in psycho/thrillers probably won't be able to do you much good if yours is a literary novel. And vice versa.

4. As you have already guessed, you want someone who has clients similar to you. Check that out, but also check with the clients. Were they satisfied? If not, why not. Their expectations may have been different from yours. Further, if there were some gaps that you consider important, you may be able to negotiate with your newfound partner to include those services in the publicity package you are contracting for.

Am I speaking from experience? You betcha. And lukewarm results were not the fault of my publicist. She did a great job with what she had. She just didn't have what I needed! If you do your homework, you’ll be happier with your publicity campaign and your publicist will be able to help you reach your goals more quickly…and they’ll be happier with you.


Carolyn Howard-Johnson is the author of so-called hard-to-promote genres ( and of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers, because she likes helping other authors avoid the same promotion potholes she once fell into. She blogs frugal book promotion and great writing ideas at Sharing With Writers and read her multi award-winning Frugal Book Promoter and the just-released e-book version (2nd edition!) of multi award-winning The Frugal Editor where you’ll learn how to write killer query letters—to agents, publishers, feature editors and all the other gatekeepers who can make a difference for your book.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Why Don’t More People Buy Your Book?

Many factors go into the success of a book. To neglect just one of those factors is to miss giving your book the best chance it can have to sell well. Below I’ve listed just some of those factors.

The Cover. The cover is one of the most important selling points for a book and yet it’s often underrated. It’s the first impression the book offers. It has to express what your book is about, if not specifically, then in a subtle way. For example, it should show what genre the book belongs to, it should have recognizable elements, including a readable title, and it should look professional.

The Title. If a reader buys your book with a false expectation born from the title of your book, they’ll end up returning it and won’t buy any more of your titles. The title doesn’t necessarily have to be short, but it does have to give the right impression for the book. For example, a book titled Dead Man Walking will give you an impression that it’s fiction and might belong to crime, paranormal or horror. You’d be pretty certain it wouldn’t belong to romance. If your book is non-fiction, then it needs to be a lot more specific to hook any potential readers.

The Editing. Don’t underestimate the importance of professional editing. A book with many typos and grammar mistakes will pull a reader from the story. Not only that, but the author will lose credibility. The reader will be less likely to buy any more of your books.

The Hook. Because of the vast array of choice readers now have, it’s important to hook them early. If your beginning pages drag on, few people will be willing to read further. It’s an unfortunate fact of publishing. So give them a hook—a promise of great things to come--make it early, and deliver that promise in the continuing pages.

The Target. Sometimes a story has a way of writing itself. The author will get caught up and carried away. It’s a wonderful phenomenon when it happens, but there is a danger that the target audience is forgotten, or misinterpreted. For example, if you’ve written a story you want to target to teens, then you shouldn’t make the protagonist a forty-year-old woman. If you are writing the story for the wrong audience, then your book won’t sell.

The Marketing. Oodles of information is around to learn more about marketing--just check out the tabs here at our IWSG website--but to break it down to its simplest form: Know your market. If you aren’t marketing toward your audience, then you’re missing an opportunity. Also, you can’t always expect your readers to come to you. You’ll need to find out where they are and spend time in those places.

The Spam. While this point belongs in marketing, it’s so crucial it stands on its own. If you are spamming everyone and their dog about your book, then you will guarantee yourself a lost readership. Avoid the spam at all costs.

The Reality. Every writer who wants to sell a book needs a realistic idea of how many books they should be selling. Not everyone can be a J K Rowling. Also, for self-publishers in particular, it takes time to pick up momentum when you’ve released your first book. Don’t expect to sell thousands in the first month. On top of that, if you’ve only written one book, then sales won’t be as great as having a collection of books available. If readers like your first book, then they will be more likely to read your second, and so forth.

What are some tips and tricks you’ve found works best for selling your book/s? What are some other factors that may influence higher or lower sales?

Lynda R. Young found success as a digital artist and an animator for many years, and now as a writer of speculative short stories. Her work is published in a number of anthologies and online. She is currently writing novels for young adults. In her spare time she also dabbles in photography and all things creative. You can find her here: Blog, Twitter, Facebook

Monday, January 20, 2014

What Works – Online Marketing Symposium

What Works – Online Marketing Symposium

Hosted by Arlee Bird, Yolanda Renee, Jeremy Hawkins, and Alex J. Cavanaugh.

As an author, we want people to find and enjoy our books. That means placing our books where people can find them. Not just any people, either – our target audience. And there are a lot of ways you can do that!

Blog tours – Visit blogs with large followings that cater to your genre’s readers. Also look for new blogs outside of your circle of blogging friends.

Websites – Write an article or ask if they would be interested in reviewing your book.

Goodreads – Do a giveaway.

Twitter parties – A set time with a specific hashtag where you talk about your book in conversation/interview style. You can get someone to host one or be featured on a regular chat.

Word of mouth – Have friends announce your book’s release. Ask and encourage those who like your book to post a review or let others know they enjoyed it.

Newsletter – Let your fans know you have a new book or that one is coming.

Conventions and conferences – This is an offline thing, but you can announce these events online and promote them. You can make an appearance, either selling your book or as a speaker, or the convention can give away promotional materials for you. (Many have freebie tables or giveaway bags.)

Get involved – When you’re involved in the online community, more people will find your site and your books. (So make sure they are in your sidebar and featured on a separate page of your blog.)

These are just a few suggestions – I know there are many more cool ways to get your book in front of your target audience. Please share your ideas in the comments or sign up and join the Online Marketing Symposium today.

Be sure to visit others for some awesome marketing ideas!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Best Practices for Self-Publishers

By Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

Digital self-publishing has been an exciting development for writers. We’re able to connect with readers without worrying about the cost or logistics of distribution. We have complete control over our pricing and product. This is an industry that’s changing quickly, but the best practices for self-publishers remain the same:

Take our time. Strong writing will be our book’s best advertisement. Beta readers can help us determine any weak spots. If you need more information on a writing-craft topic, the free Writer’s Knowledge Base search engine can help you learn more about plotting, characterization, pacing, and more.

Have our book professionally edited. Beta readers are helpful, but nothing beats a good editor.

Consider getting a professional cover designer. Unless we have talent, time, and a good image manipulation software, a designer is worth the money and will help attract readers to our books. The free Ebook Services Directory is a good place to start, if you’re looking for a professional to help you with your book.

Upload the ebook to every format available (and, later, print and audio, if the book enjoys good sales). Although Amazon’s Kindle remains the most popular, don’t forget to upload your files to Barnes & Noble. Uploading a file to Smashwords ensures that your ebook is distributed to multiple types of e-readers. If your book connects with readers and shows strong sales, consider moving into print, using a service like CreateSpace. Now audio is also available to self-publishers, through the distributor ACX.

Find a social media platform that we enjoy most and build a community there. It’s important not to spam potential readers…instead, we should develop relationships online and support others.

Play with pricing. Opinions on the “right” price for ebooks changes frequently, but running our own experiments can help us sell books and increase our visibility on online retailer sites.

Write the next book. Ultimately, moving on to our next book is the most helpful thing to do. Not only does having more books ensure more visibility and help promote discoverability by readers, but it helps us improve.

What tips for self-publishers can you add to the list?

Elizabeth S. Craig writes two mystery series for Penguin Random House and self-publishes another. She shares writing links on Twitter as @elizabethscraig.

Monday, January 13, 2014

A Creative Ramble

You are wrapped in the golden silence of a ceiling-to-floor booklined study, hunched over the oak desk on which 50-odd pages of your latest manuscript are spread out...

A cool pine-scented breeze wafts gently through the open window. From the third-floor level, you can soak in the green landscape and distant mountain peaks.

Pen poised in mid-air, you and your muse in perfect harmony, as your mind collects a myriad of images, all restless and impatient, waiting and hoping to be chosen as “the one”, the next popular idea for the epic story unfolding. You examine the next idea...


Your eyes pop open. The rancid smell from your neighbours overfried lunch assaults your senses, while the brat screaming at the top of his lungs eliminates every trace of the verdant pastures!

Creativity gone – in a puff of smoke (and that’s from the jalopy that has backfired in its tenth attempt to get going!)

Goodbye exotic writing location!

Hello blank Wordpress document...

The myriad of images scatter, scared away by the string of vocabulary which has been unleashed by Brat Mama, who appears determined to compete with the toddler, in the Who-Can-Scream-The-Loudest category. New images pop up. They flood the creative well. This includes the mouthful that may be delivered to Brat Mama, censored words that are far removed from the epic world of the booklined study moment. But wait. Some of these thoughts are good. Mmmm, can’t rule them out completely. There could be some gems hidden amongst that batch. Great ideas for that scene on conflict.

Okay, back to the Word document. Type a few sentences. And then... blank. Meanwhile, the screeching contest has subsided. Desperate for a few more writerly ideas, you entertain a fleeting moment of madness... maybe the screeching contest should continue... there’s a need to wrap up the conflict scenes. Ha! The muse refuses to budge!

So what next?

I think that the essence of creativity doesn’t really take place in front of the computer, or hovering over a blank sheet of paper at the oak desk. It’s all around you, every day. It takes place in the totality of your day-to-day life, everything that has happened before you actually sit down and face that blank page.

All life experiences contain numerous creative moments, story possibilities which are waiting to be shaped into workable ideas and then put down onto paper. You have to be aware of your surroundings – all the time! It’s in the snippet of dialogue at the supermarket checkout point, that billboard image you pass everyday, a classified newspaper advert, that obituary that brings your character to life. And you need to explore different ways of doing things - for example, make contact with somebody you’ve never met before, interview a journalist, street artist, video game designer...

There are hundreds of places where characters are lurking, waiting to be found. For example, you need never be stuck with character ideas again. Find inspiration by checking out 365 encounters with strangers HERE. And remember, that’s only one example.

So watch the world go by.

Look around you.

Connect with people.

And listen.

The story ideas are there, all waiting to be snatched up.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

IWSG Post Day, Upcoming Events, and Share a Link

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. I encourage everyone to visit at least a dozen new blogs and leave a comment. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs.

The awesome co-hosts today are Bob Milne, River Fairchild, Julie Dao, and Sarah Foster! Please be sure to thank them for their time and effort to make all IWSG members feel welcome.

Don’t forget we have an awesome Facebook Group as well and invite you to join. We have a regular schedule of Motivational Mondays, Wow it’s Wednesday, Fun Fridays, and introducing News and Promo Saturdays. It’s a great place to network and share with other writers.

Next Wednesday we are hosting our very first guest here – the awesome Elizabeth S. Craig! She’s co-founder of the Writer’s Knowledge Base and an amazing author, so you don’t want to miss it.

We continue to add to the database of websites here, listing those that can help writers every step of the journey. Please let us know if we’ve missed any sites – you can leave a comment on the Share a Link page. And if there’s an area that you’d like to see us expand upon, let us know. We are here to serve you!

Monday, January 6, 2014

By the Numbers

Last week on my blog, Susan Says, I mentioned some numbers about how many Twitter followers, blog views and newsletter subscribers you have that could title you as notable all the way up to impressive. I mentioned them as entertainment and the fun of comparing our numbers to others. I don't know why by I've been thinking about numbers a lot lately.

I read another article about how important titles of blog posts or magazine articles are in attracting attention and getting readers interested. In my quest to always improve my writing and share that with my wonderfully insecure fellows here, I researched some good articles that give us advice by the numbers.

Writer's Digest always has some great free articles to read on their site. You can sign up for their free newsletter on their site and get the free download of the 101 Best Websites for Writers. That's a deal.

This article, also in Writer's Digest, by Brian Klem, gives his opinion of the 5 Biggest Fiction Writing Mistakes (And How to Fix Them) is interesting reading. I like his first one about happy people in a happy land mistake.

Writing-World.Com has pages and pages of interesting reading for writers, but in keeping with their numbers I highlight this article by Sally Sigmond, The Top Ten Mistakes New Fiction Writers Make. It has a general list of things to watch for in your fiction.

Over at Holt Uncensored, Pat Holt, not only list ten mistakes, he give excellent examples on how to fix them. He writes about Ten Mistakes Writers Don't See. Two of his examples are my personal demons. Check it out and pick your own.

The Insecure Writer's Support Group is all about helping and encouraging each other. There is so much help out there from people you meet here and from advice you can find online. The numbers may be infinite.

Do you use numbers in blog titles or in articles? Does it attract attention? Any of the mistakes above sound like you?

Don't forget the first IWSG blog hop for 2014 is this Wednesday, January 8th. I'm looking forward to another year of learning from all of you. Are you ready?

Susan Gourley is published in epic fantasy as well as science fiction and romance which she writes as Susan Kelley.
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