Monday, January 8, 2018

Carolyn Howard-Johnson Says, Promote Your Own Way

Today we’re excited to have Carolyn Howard-Johnson as our guest. She has provided us with a dynamite post about promotion, something writers must do, but sometimes dread or simply don't know where to start doing. Carolyn's a savvy, successful promoter who shares her expertise as she has here, but also in her multi-award winning books. More about those below! 

A Promote-Your-Own-Way Case Study

Saturday Night Live Writer Uses
Article/Essay Route for Marketing

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-winning
 HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers

In the second edition of the flagship book in my multi-award-winning series of books for writers, The Frugal Book Promoter, I suggest writing articles and selling them (or giving them away free). It is an especially good way to get exposure for authors who are shy or think they’ll hate marketing but admit they love writing. So I was pleased to see an op-ed piece in the LA Times written by Patricia Marx, former Saturday Night Live writer and a staff writer for The New Yorker.

The little credit at the end of her piece said it was an essay excerpted from her new book Let’s Be Less Stupid: An attempt to Maintain My Mental Faculties. She let her Saturday Night Live voice shine throughout the piece and added a sidebar that was a quiz on “how to be brainier.” The essay included a nice byline for her, and the essay was illustrated with a brain-map of the worries we tend to have as our brain ages—in color no less. And it was huge attention getter!

This kind of marketing is pure genius because:

   The piece was a marketing time-saver. Marx didn’t have to write anything she hadn’t already written. She probably only tweaked the excerpt a bit to suit space requirements and maybe added the sidebar.
   She carefully slanted the article to related topics that are in the news right now. Think: Aging population. The fear of Alzheimer’s. Dementia. These are topics news outlets from CNN to the Wall Street Journal are covering these days.
   Her humorous voice immediately captures readers who then want to know more about her expertise and about her personally. Thus, a huge percentage of readers probably do what I did—that is they read through to that little bio/credit line to get that information. (It didn’t include a link, but that is probably because a URL or link goes against the LA Times’s stylebook.) Neve fear. You may not write humor, but I trust you have developed an appealing voice!
   Marx can repeat this particular marketing approach to every paper in the nation. I mean, she has a whole book of chapters and subheads to choose from so she could accommodate papers that require an exclusive.
   If her credentials had not been quite so stellar, she might well have done the same thing submitting guest posts to blogs that may not be quite as hard to impress as the major newspapers. She probably will do that in any case. Stephanie Meyers of Twilight fame used blogs effectively to propel her young adult zombie series to bestseller status.
   And, because this was Op-Ed for a major newspaper, Marx probably got paid and paid pretty well. That money could be put toward a great marketing budget for her book.

You can do the same thing. Yes, you may have to adjust your technique or approach a tad to fit your title, your writing style, and whatever happens to be news in the moment (or you can wait until a topic that complements your book becomes an in-the-moment subject—and I promise if you keep your marketing hat on, you’ll recognize something related to some aspect of your book when it comes up!).

Note: If you write fiction, you can use this technique, too. It will take more thought to find current events related in some way to your fiction, but it’s possible. You may be able to work a quotation from your book (even a longer excerpt) into your op-ed piece or article. Maybe a first-person essay about your writing process or path becoming an author would work just as well.

Carolyn on AMAZON
Nonfiction Bio
Carolyn Howard-Johnson brings her experience as a publicist, journalist, marketer, and retailer to the advice she gives in her HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers and the many classes she taught for nearly a decade as instructor for UCLA Extension’s world-renown Writers’ Program. All her books for writers are multi award winners including the first edition of The Frugal Book Promoter. TheFrugal Editor, now in its second edition, won awards from USA Book News, Readers’ Views Literary Award, the marketing award from Next Generation Indie Books and others including the coveted Irwin award.

Howard-Johnson is the recipient of the California Legislature’s Woman of the Year in Arts and Entertainment Award, and her community’s Character and Ethics award for her work promoting tolerance with her writing. She was also named to Pasadena Weekly’s list of “Fourteen San Gabriel Valley women who make life happen” and was given her community’s Diamond Award for Achievement in the Arts. 

The author loves to travel. She has visited eighty-nine countries and has studied writing at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom; Herzen University in St. Petersburg, Russia; and Charles University, Prague. She admits to carrying a pen and journal wherever she goes. Her Web site is

If you would like a sample of one of my first-person essays related to my work with fiction or poetry, e-mail me with your request at

Order paperback or e-book on AMAZON

Ta da! The Second Edition of 
The Frugal Book Promoter 

How to get nearly free publicity on your own or partnering with your publisher
(Second Edition)

From the HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers

  • First Edition Awards: Winner USA Book News, coveted Irwin Award
  • Award for Second Edition: USA Book News winner, silver medal from Military Writers Society of America, honored by Global Ebook Awards

ISBN: 9781463743291 Distributors: Ingram, Baker and Taylor, Createspace

Thanks, Carolyn. This is great information that all writers can adapt for our own needs. 


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That was a brilliant idea, especially since she didn't have to write anything new.

Natalie Aguirre said...

Yes, I agree with Alex. That's a great idea, and one I never thought of.

Heather M. Gardner said...

Creative and smart.
Thank you for sharing with us!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Articles are a great way to market. I used a lot of excerpts from my publishing book that way.

H.R. Bennett said...

Ooo~ Now THIS I could use.

Christine Rains said...

Fantastic idea, especially for us shy ones.

cleemckenzie said...

Thanks again, Carolyn. This was perfect for writers.

Anne R. Allen said...

This is such a great tip! I've had my best sales when I landed interviews or had pieces in magazines that appeal to my demographic, like More magazine and other fashion or regional magazines. Not only is it free but you may get paid a tidy sum for your piece.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I used to write more articles when I first started out. I need to get back to that.

Pat Hatt said...

Been a while since I did articles, but yeah, awesome idea indeed.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

Thanks to all you Insecure Writers Group members. @CleemcKenzie, you do a beautiful job with this blog. And @Christine Raines, your "shy writer" point is right on. I make that point in The Frugal Book Promoter--that there is some kind of great promotion for every writer's personality--or pocketbook. As it happens, this one is both frugal and comforting for authors who aren't yet ready to get out and meet the public. Best to all of you, and thank you for your positive comments.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

PS: I've been coming by to read and comment for some time now. It's to hear from you all on a more personal level. Hugs.

nashvillecats2 said...

An excellent read, thoroughly enjoyed it.


Bryan J. Fagan said...

There's about a million blogs in the world where writers create to promote themselves and soon I will be one of them. On one hand it sounds like a sad idea but on the other it's not so sad. If a writer loves a good talk, if they enjoy creating fun topics with a dash of humor or intrigue it just might work. I'm awfully brave with humor and insight behind this keyboard. Wish me luck.

Maryannwrites said...

Just proves again that blog tours work for fiction writers who may not have material for the big publications but have something interesting to write about. The key is to not just write a post that is all about the book. Good tips here, Carolyn. Thanks.

BTW, I host authors on my blog and humor goes a long way.

The Cynical Sailor said...

Great tips, thanks for sharing. And 89 countries - impressive :-)

Michelle Wallace said...

Such a great idea! I'm sure that every work of fiction has something the author can tweak and use towards an 'exposure article'.
It just requires donning that marketing hat. Something all authors can work on.

All Carolyn's books for writers are multi award winners... wow! Impressive!