“Shameless” Promotion Tips from Kirsten Menger-Anderson

by | April 6, 2009 | General | 1 comment

As part of my column on book promotion for first-time authors on the ERWA Authors Resources page, “Shameless Self Promotion,” I’ll be posting some interviews here with writers who’ve graciously agreed to share their experience over coffee and cookies. So pull up a chair at the ERWA blog kitchen table and come chat with me and debut novelist Kirsten Menger-Anderson today.

Kirsten recently published a thought-provoking and elegant novel-in-stories entitled Doctor Olaf van Schuler’s Brain (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill), which follows the lives of twelve generations of New York City physicians who are trying to better the human condition, each in his or her own misguided way. While it’s not erotica, it kept me in its thrall with its intriguing journey through the fads of medical science over the centuries, all told in lovely prose any writer would envy. The book has received glowing reviews from the Washington Post, the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle and was nominated for a Northern California Book Award. I tend to regard mainstream critics with a critical eye myself, but in this case, I’m in hearty agreement with their praise. Literary fiction should always be so fresh, relevant, and provocative.

Of particular interest to shameless self-promoters is the fact that Kirsten’s publisher treated her with respect and made a significant effort to publicize the book. So, believe it or not, it can be done! However, in spite of this support and excellent reviews in national publications, the author herself has still had to do a lot of work to promote the book. Here’s what Kirsten had to say about her experience:

Shameless Self-Promotion: What have you found to be the most enjoyable and/or effective ways to promote your novel (or story collection or anthologies)?

Kirsten Menger-Anderson: I like maintaining my Olaf web site, and (perhaps oddly) find this most enjoyable. I used to do a lot of web production, so it’s kind of fun to fiddle with HTML. And I can do it on my own time, when I have time, without any logistical issues. Plus, it’s really nice to have links to all the book reviews, news, etc in one place if I ever need to reference them.
Most effective? I’m not sure. I think that’s one of the things I find frustrating about promotion. It’s really hard to know how the hours I spend writing essays, blogs, etc translate into “effect” (raising awareness and/or sales). I choose to believe that everything helps.

What have been the least effective ways or biggest challenges?

Least effective? Also not sure. The biggest challenge is usually making time for x,y,z promotional activity and not feeling sad about all the other things I’d rather be doing (like working on my novel or hanging out with my family and friends). That said, I know it’s important, and I appreciate every opportunity I have to talk about my book.

What has been the most surprising thing about the experience of book promotion?

How consuming it can be. Even something simple like a brief essay takes time because I want to make sure it will reflect well on the book. I don’t want people to read my essay, etc. and walk away thinking that it isn’t well written or well thought out.

What advice would you give to a person just starting out as a published author who would like to promote their novel/stories? Is there anything you would definitely do differently if you had the chance to do it over?

I’d recommend getting a web site up (or blog–something online so people can find you if they do a search and you can position your work as you choose). Even before the book is out.

Nothing I’d definitely do differently. Not that I can think of at the moment.

What have been the benefits of using a publicist to promote your work ? The downside?

I did not hire an independent publicist. But, the publicity team at Algonquin did a lot of great work getting the book out to print and online publications that either reviewed the book or asked me to contribute a piece. They also organized a number of events and appearances. No downside.

Can you tell us about the effectiveness of any or all of the following promotional tools:
Setting up a website—did you do it yourself or hire a professional?

I did it myself. It was fun.


I set up a blog that gets very little traffic. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it going forward.

Mailing lists/author newsletters

I set up a mailing list as well as a list on Facebook. I think Facebook is a pretty good way to get word out to a lot of people via status updates, fan pages, or groups.

Getting your book reviewed—the challenges and successes

The Algonquin publicity team did this work, so I don’t have much to say except that they did a great job sending the book out and following up.

Contests (as in submitting your work for a literary prize)

I submitted individual stories to a number of contests. Never won, but I was short listed a few times. I think that helps the book. People can see that the stories have been acknowledged and (hopefully) conclude that they might be good.

Book fairs

I went to a couple independent book seller fairs where I signed copies of my book or spoke. Talking directly to book sellers was a great opportunity to raise awareness about the book. Plus, it’s nice to meet and talk to people who love books. My publisher organized the appearances–I’m not sure what was involved with that process.

Radio interviews

Did a couple of these. I love the idea of radio–how many people might be listening.

Approaching local bookstores directly

I had mixed luck approaching bookstores directly and asking them to stock my book. However, every bookstore that had my book was willing to let me sign the copies.

Writing articles related to your book for print or online media

I didn’t write any print articles, but I did a number of guest blog posts. I have a stat counter on my web site, so I can see traffic referrals (usually very few, even from the high traffic web sites). But that doesn’t mean that people didn’t read and have an opinion about my post.

Bookstore readings

Did a few of these, all in California. Never a large audience, and sometimes just a couple people. But I think readings are nice, whatever the turn out, because your book is usually mentioned in the bookstore newsletter or website or the local newspaper and that raises awareness.

Book parties

I decided to throw a book party at my home. That was a lot of fun and a great way of celebrating the release.

Book trailers

Didn’t do an official one. I did make a small video of my phrenology head spinning around on the record player because I was a member of red room, and (if I remember right) I couldn’t post my book before it was published, but I could post a little video about it. So yes, just the head spinning with me saying that the book would be out in October. Silly, I know. Broke the record player, too.

Promoting at writing workshops or through other businesses

No. not really. Only in that I had an email sig on all my outgoing mail (business and personal). I work as a freelance technical writer.

Swag–such as postcards, bookmarks, pens, flyers, T shirts, magnets, etc. Which has been the most useful?

Business cards. That’s all I made, but they have been useful.

Any other strategies you’d like to suggest?

I think you’ve covered it!

Thanks so much for sharing your experience, Kirsten. It always helps to know what’s worked for other authors.

Find out more about Donna George Storey and her adventures in shameless self-promotion at her blog.

Donna George Storey

I want to change the world one dirty story at a time. When I posted this mission statement on my website, I hoped my cheeky ambition would make my readers smile. I smile every time I read it myself. And yet I’m totally serious. I truly believe that writers who are brave enough to speak their truth about the erotic experience in all its complexity—the yearning, the pleasure, the conflicts, and the sweet satisfaction—do change the world for the better. So if you’re here at ERWA because you’re already writing erotica, a big thank you and keep on doing what you’re doing. If you’re more a reader than a writer, I encourage you to start dreaming and writing and expressing the truth and magic of this fundamental part of the human experience in your own unique voice. Can there be a more pleasurable way to change the world? I'm the author of Amorous Woman, a semi-autobiographical erotic novel set in Japan, The Mammoth Book of Erotica Presents the Best of Donna George Storey  and nearly 200 short stories and essays in journals and anthologies. Check out my Facebook author page at: https://www.facebook.com/DGSauthor/  

1 Comment

  1. Maryanne Stahl

    a wonderful book, and how nice to read about a positive experience!

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