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Book Promotion Tips

by Donna George Storey

The New Year always inspires me to do some housecleaning, but this year I found myself craving a deeper level of de-cluttering. Of course, this involves more than just filling up the trashcan, it means asking a lot of questions, too. What’s in this box that’s been sitting on top of my filing cabinet for years and do I even need what’s inside? The answer led me on a little trip down memory lane, but also posed new questions for the future of writerly self-promotion.

The particular box I mentioned just so happened to contain my promotional materials for the original paperback edition of my novel, Amorous Woman, which was released in the US in June 2008. (Predictably, it’s been re-released with another publisher as an ebook and takes up no space in my office). This included postcards, bookmarks, a well-thumbed reading copy of the novel and a sample press kit as well as a stand-up sign decorated with Japan-themed stickers: “Take An Exotic, Erotic Trip to Japan with an Amorous Woman.”

Ah, the memories!

It was educational—and utterly exhausting—to promote my novel all on my own, as the majority of writers must. In some ways I still haven’t recovered, and yet I met so many wonderful, generous people and had countless adventures that still make me smile. Reading with “In the Flesh” at the glitzy Hollywood Hustler. Speeding past the junkies collapsed on the sidewalks of downtown LA in a decrepit taxi at 1 am after taping the Dr. Susan Block radio show. The countless emails, phone calls, guest blogs, radio interviews, bookstore readings, bookstore visits begging the owner to help out a local author. This experience, more than any other, made me feel like I was a real writer because my eyes were truly opened to the reality that writing a book is but the small first step in reaching readers.

With Eden Bradley at our exotic, erotic booth (that’s my kimono in the background)

The contents of the aforementioned box took me back to one event in particular—the West Hollywood Book Fair where I was part of a booth of “California Erotica Writers” in September 2008. (For anyone interested in a more detailed description of that hot, busy day, check out my blog post, The Last Hollywood Hustle).

Advised by a book fair veteran to provide freebies for the fairgoers to get their attention, I ordered some fortune cookies with my own erotic fortunes as follows:

Sip hot tea; swallow. French kiss your lover’s most sensitive spot.

Blindfold your lover; order him/her to remain still. Do things to make this difficult.

Caress your lover’s body with silk; try velvet, then your tongue.

Have your lover pick a number from 1 to 10. Caress his/her secret pleasure spot for that number of minutes.

FOR HIM: Sip crème de menthe; spread it over his member with your tongue. Blow gently.

Your lover’s been naughty. Maybe s/he needs a gentle spanking?

Give your lover an erotic book; mark your favorite passages first.

FOR HER: Don’t take off your lingerie tonight—make him (or her) “work around it.”

Have phone sex—even if you live together.

Make love anywhere but the bedroom. Be creative with the furniture.

The cookies–Would you like to try a grownup fortune cookie?–actually were relatively successful in getting the grownups to come over to the booth so I could chat them up about my novel. Without them, I probably wouldn’t have gotten a single person to listen to my pitch! Although I didn’t intend it to be self-serving, those who got the fortune suggesting you give your lover an erotic book smiled cynically, and I vowed to substitute a different fortune next time. (I still believe an erotic book is a good gift, and it doesn’t have to be my book!) While I would never call myself an outgoing person, for the sake of my novel, I took on the role of salesman as best I could. One athletic, silver-haired gentleman even asked me if I was from L.A. When I replied I was from the Bay Area, he smiled and said, “You seem like one of us,” which pleased me then, but feels more complicated as a compliment in retrospect.

Of course, I can’t let the rosy haze of nostalgia mislead you about the thrill of my self-planned book tour to Hollywood. I stood at that booth from 10 am to 5 pm and sold 5 copies total, all to strangers—which was the best record of all of my boothmates. And all the visitors weren’t so nice. One boozy woman monopolized my time for 20 minutes, driving away potential customers. Another older gentleman chatted for a long time without buying a book, but before he walked away, he did press his crumbled, uneaten fortune cookie into my hand as a return gift.

It was fun to sift through the contents of the box and reminisce, but my present goal to clean house called me back to 2014. Would I ever use a sign, a press kit or even the bookmarks again? Would I ever attend a book fair to promote my work or traipse around to local bookstores, discovering all too intimately which owners respected erotica and which seemed to take pleasure in sneering at smut?

This, Dear ERWA Blog Reader, is my question for you. Is face-to-face promotion a thing of the past? Are bookmarks and homemade signs merely momentos or worth keeping as tools in my arsenal for promoting my next book? I cannot say that a single event I attended resulted in monetary profit, although I came away with invaluable memories. It seems to me that for reasons of cost and convenience, the future of promoting now lies solely in the Internet ether.

In the midst of writing this month’s post, I happened to read Rachel Kramer Bussel’s column in Dame, “Why Is Self-Promotion Considered the Eighth Deadly Sin?” Most writers, including myself, are more comfortable sitting alone at their computers making stuff up, so it’s no surprise that many, even the successful ones who’ve gotten world-class promotional opportunities like Jonathan Franzen, bemoan the necessity to peddle our own wares. Online promotion certainly does offer real benefits to a writer who is more comfortable writing than soliciting fairgoers to come over to her booth for a chat-up. On the other hand, I sometimes feel that all the Facebooking and Twittering is too much like making faces at myself in the mirror.

Promoting my book is not about me and my wonderful talent, as the uninitiated might think. That was one of the most valuable lessons I learned from my first efforts back in 2008. Promoting is about making connections. In her article, Rachel has a great quote from creative badass blogger, Justine Musk:

“Social media is about finding a way to tell this ongoing, multiplatform kind of story that resonates with your so-called audience because it’s about them, it’s not about you. It serves the audience, not you. Not all marketing is bad marketing. Good marketing is about making an emotional connection with the people whom you are meant to serve.”

I couldn’t agree more. But I have to admit that thus far social media has not provided the same potential for intimacy—although I do feel all warm and fuzzy from the Facebook messages on my birthday—and as I look ahead, I know it will be a challenge to find ways to make a real connection amidst all the noise and distraction of the online universe.

If you have any words of advice, please share!

Wishing you a Happy and Creative 2014!

Donna George Storey is the author
of Amorous Woman and a collection of short
stories, Mammoth
Presents the Best of Donna George Storey
. Learn more about her
work at www.DonnaGeorgeStorey.com
or http://www.facebook.com/DGSauthor

Elizabeth Black writes erotica, erotic romance, and horror, and she lives on the Massachusetts coast. See her bio at the end of this article.

—–

It seems everyone is
self-publishing these days. More authors are jumping on the self-publishing
bandwagon when they read about success stories like J. A. Konrath and Amanda
Hocking. Why pay a publisher most of your earnings when that publisher
(especially if it is tiny and for the most part operates out of someone’s
kitchen) does little of the work? Authors who are published by large publishers
these days must do most of their own promotions. Some authors must distribute
their ARCs to professional reviewers on their own because their publishers
don’t send books out for review. It’s even tougher to find readers to review
your works on reader blogs. So lots of people self-publish, hoping to repeat
the successes of Konrath and Hocking.

Not all of them succeed.
In fact, cases like Konrath and Hocking are rare. From what I understand, most
self-published authors barely sell fifty copies of their books in the book’s
lifetime. You don’t hear much about that.

As an experiment, I
self-published two erotic fairy tales, “Trouble In Thigh High Boots”
(erotic Puss In Boots) and “Climbing Her Tower” (erotic Rapunzel).
Like so many small press authors, I was tired of working my ass off promoting
and writing and taking home only about 40% of my book’s worth. I wanted the 70%
I could get from Amazon, especially since I did most of the work myself anyway.
Far too many small publishers are really self-published authors operating a
start-up out of their kitchen. They add a dozen or so authors (often new
authors) to their catalogue to give the appearance of professionalism. These
are people with little to no publishing and/or marketing experience. These
publishers provide editing and cover art – and that’s about it. Since I did
most of the work including promo as opposed to most of my publishers promoting
author’s works, I wanted to see if I could make a go of self-publishing.

It’s much harder
than most people think. Granted, I’ve been self-published for only four months.
It’s too soon to say whether or not I have been successful.

I choose to avoid
Kindle Select. I wanted my books to be available on as many distributor sites
as possible, so I opted for Kindle Direct, Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, Kobo,
Sony, Apple, and a few others. I never made it to AllRomanceEbooks although I
should list the books there. I’m still figuring out Calibre. Now that I’m
considering Kindle Select for a three month trial run, I’ll forgo ARe for the
moment. I’ve also chosen only ebooks for the moment, since I can’t afford to release print books. 

One big problem many
writers face is that their books are lost in a sea of millions of books,
especially on Amazon. This is especially true of self-published writers. How do
you get noticed? That’s where creative promotions come in. The Holy Grail is to
find readers rather than promoting to other writers. Here is some of what I’ve
tried so far:

Professional editing and cover art: I hired a cover artist and an editor. That
was the first thing I did. They put me back several hundred dollars for both
books, but the expense was worth it. My books are professionally edited –
something all self-published writers should strive for. One valid complaint of some
self-published works is that they are full of errors and are presented in an
unprofessional manner. My covers are beautiful and easy to read. I’ve seen some
self-published authors and even small presses skimp on the covers. There’s more
to making an effective cover than choosing free or low cost stock photos and
slapping some text on them.

Professional and Reader Reviews: Some small presses don’t even send out books
for review. I sent my ARCs to review sites and individual reviewers myself. Good
reviews drive books further up in the ranks, but they can be hard to come by.
Amazon recently removed what it considered questionable reviews from author’s
books, including perfectly legitimate four and five star reviews. Hit-and-run
one-star reviews that serve no purpose other than to attack the writer
remained, driving the overall rating of the books down. Reviews can be gamed.
Sock puppets were a big problem. Like so many writers, I was disturbed to learn
some best-selling authors (most notably self-published wünderkind John Locke)
had paid online services several hundred dollars to write positive reviews of
their books to artificially boost sales.

Social Media Sites: Facebook and Twitter are mixed bags.
Facebook’s new algorithm allows for only less than 100 of your friends to see
your posts at a time, therefore you lose a great many potential readers. You
must be careful promoting on multiple groups because Facebook may ban you
temporarily or permanently for spamming. Even seeking friends who are possible
readers is risky, since there is a new item below friend requests asking if you
know the person outside Facebook. Ignore that feature. If you click on
“no”, that person’s account may be penalized for up to a month.  Despite all that, Facebook is one of my
favorite places to be, especially when it comes to networking with other
writers and publishers, and finding submission calls. I do see results from my promoting on
various reader groups, so Facebook is worthwhile. I’ve heard from writers who
get plenty of mileage on Twitter, but I’m not as active on Twitter as I am on
Facebook.

Reader Forums: Forums such as Kindle Boards and Goodreads
are great places to find readers. The problem is writers are discouraged on
most reader forums from plugging their own works. If they plug, they are
sometimes flamed and attacked. I’ve run into many writers who have had bad
experiences with Goodreads. According to Hocking and Konrath, rather than
endlessly advertise your books, you must engage readers. I agree with that. So
go into these forums with the intention of talking about your favorite books.
Join in the crowd. Get to know people. A big problem with this approach is that
it takes an incredible amount of time and it’s not guaranteed to get anyone
interested in your books. Time that could be spent writing is spent hanging out
in reader forums hoping to get lucky. I used to post on Kindle Boards but I’ve
since slowed down. I’ve never had much luck with Goodreads.

Live Chats: I highly recommend live reader chats if you can find them. My favorite
live chat is the Night Owl Romance Live Chat. I’m a member of an online
writer’s organization that meets with readers on Night Owl every two months or
so. Plus I have set up my own individual chats on Night Owl. These chats are
scheduled a year in advance so if you’re interested in participating, keep an
eye on the forum towards the end of the year to sign up.

Contests: Giving away a book for free is a great way to get noticed. I’ve found
initially I’ve given away more books than I’ve sold. It takes time but there is
a payoff. Everyone loves free stuff, and people will come out in droves for a
chance to win a free book. Just be careful of the collectors – those who are in
it only for the freebies. These people have no intension of actually reading
the book or buying your other books. They collect free stuff for the sake of
having it. Hosting contests on your blog or Facebook page, for instance, is a
great way to lure lurkers out of the shadows. Ask a contest question that
requires more than a “yes” or “no” answer so you get some
personal information about your contest entries. Then, engage them briefly. A
little attention goes a long way. Plus you may make some friends doing this.

Loop Chats on Yahoo Groups: Yahoo groups are a mixed bag in similar ways
that Facebook and Twitter are mixed bags. A big problem is that most groups are
promo dumping sites readers don’t visit. So it’s all an echo chamber of writers
promoting to each other. Yes, writers read but the purpose of posting to Yahoo
groups is to promote your books to readers who aren’t necessarily authors. I
participate in live loop chats on the Love Romances Cafe Yahoo group several times per year. An
advantage of loop chats over live chats is that readers don’t have to be
present during your chat to benefit from it. There is an archive of your posts
so readers who drop by hours later have written material they may view at their
leisure. This includes blurbs, excerpts, and buy links. You can’t post long
excerpts in live online chats. You’ll end up with a case of TL;DR.

Blog Hops: I’ve had great results from blog hops. A blog hop is where a number of
blogs with a common theme are linked on one web site, most often to celebrate a
holiday. For instance, there are Valentine’s Day, Christmas, and Halloween blog
hops. I’ve done both romance and horror blog hops. You register your blog on
the blog hop page and have a post prepared for the day(s) of the blog hop. Some
requires a contest giveaway of a book or other swag. Want to try a blog hop and
you write romance? Sign up for the July 4th romance blog hop at The Blog Hop
Spot: http://thebloghopspot.com/sign-up-here/

Blog Tours: There are companies that will set up blog tours for you, but I’ve
found it easier to simply set up my own. I contacted writer blogs and reader
blogs, and asked if I could put up a guest post. Everyone I contacted said
“yes”. It helped that I already knew most of the people from
Facebook. I often swap with them – I’ll host them on my own blog. I set up a three week blog tour, running Mondays through Thursdays.
Blog tours are a great way of getting exposure to a wide variety of people in a
short period of time. If this sounds too overwhelming for you to do on your
own, there are plenty of companies online that will do it for you, for a fee.

Radio Shows: I’ve co-hosted romance and horror radio shows on Blog Talk Radio with
Marsha Casper Cook. Radio is a great format for you, your interests, and
books in general. Plus it’s interesting to put a voice to a name. Radio shows
make you seem more real and human.

Special Sales And Free Books: One way to attract attention is to lower
your book’s price to $0.99 for several days as a promotion. An even better way
to attract attention is to make your book free for a few days. Think of it this
way. Your free book is downloaded on Amazon by 1,000 people. 100 out of those
people actually read it. 20 of those people chat up the book with other readers
because they liked it. Then those people buy and read the book, and pass on
their own views of it to their friends. A snowball effect occurs.

These are the two
books I have self-published.

TROUBLE IN THIGH HIGH BOOTS

Erotic Puss In Boots

Amazon US: http://tinyurl.com/trouble-amazon-us

Tita is a Puss In
Boots with a little something extra. Being a magical creature, she shifts from
a kitty into the form of an alluring, ginger-haired woman when the situation
demands it. And what a situation she finds herself in! Her new master Dylan is
a poor man who needs a boost in the world. Sly Tita uses her seductive wiles to
pass him off to the villagers and the king as the Marquis of Carabas in order
to help both of them gain their fortunes. Her plan is not without its problems.
Dylan’s malicious brother, Zane, lusts after Tita, and he wants her all to
himself, but she refuses to succumb to his treachery. Being a cat first and
foremost, she purrs in the arms of her many lovers but her heart belongs to
only one man – the king. She hopes that in ensuring Dylan his lofty place in
the world the king finds a place in his heart for her. Her life becomes an
erotic adventure in reaching her goals.

CLIMBING HER TOWER

Erotic Rapunzel

Amazon US: http://tinyurl.com/climbing-amazon-us

Rapunzel has never
known life outside her tower. She has never felt the company of a human being
other than Mother, and she has never been in close contact with a man – until
Prince Richard of Norwich climbs into her tower one dark night and sweeps her
off her feet. Prince Richard introduces Rapunzel to erotic pleasures beyond her
wildest dreams, and she wants more! In order to make her both his wife and his
sex slave, Prince Richard needs to spirit her away from that tower, but Mother
stands in his way. Prince Richard and Rapunzel begin a tantalizing and
dangerous adventure in order to be together as one. And “let down your
hair” takes on an entirely new meaning in their fevered embraces.

ABOUT ELIZABETH BLACK

Elizabeth Black
writes erotica, erotic romance, speculative fiction, fantasy, and horror. She
also enjoys writing erotic retellings of classic fairy tales. Born and bred in
Baltimore, she grew up under the influence of Edgar Allan Poe. Her erotic
fiction has been published by Xcite Books (U. K.), Circlet Press, Ravenous
Romance, Scarlet Magazine (U. K.), and other publishers. Her horror fiction has
appeared in “Kizuna: Fiction For Japan”, “Stupefying
Stories”, “Zippered Flesh 2: More Tales Of Body Enhancements Gone
Bad”, and “Mirages: Tales From Authors Of The Macabre”. An
accomplished essayist, she was the sex columnist for the pop culture e-zine
nuts4chic (also U. K.) until it folded in 2008. Her articles about sex,
erotica, and relationships have appeared in Good Vibrations Magazine, Alternet,
CarnalNation, the Ms. Magazine Blog, Sexis Magazine, On The Issues, Sexy Mama
Magazine, and Circlet blog. She also writes sex toys reviews for several sex
toys companies.

In addition to
writing, she has also worked as a gaffer (lighting), scenic artist, and make-up
artist (including prosthetics) for movies, television, stage, and concerts. She
worked as a gaffer for “Die Hard With A Vengeance” and “12
Monkeys”. She did make-up, including prosthetics, for “Homicide: Life
On The Street”. She is especially proud of the gunshot wound to the head
she had created with makeup for that particular episode. She also worked as a
prosthetic makeup artist specializing in cyanotic blue, bruises, and buckets of
blood for a test of Maryland’s fire departments at the Baltimore/Washington
International Airport plane crash simulation test. Yes, her jobs are fun.
 😉

She lives in
Lovecraft country on the Massachusetts coast with her husband, son, and four
cats. The ocean calls her every day, and she always listens. She has yet to run
into Cthulhu.

Visit her web
site at http://elizabethablack.blogspot.com/

Her Facebook
page is https://www.facebook.com/elizabethablack

Follow her at
Twitter: http://twitter.com/ElizabethABlack

This month, in my last installment of Shameless Self-Promotion, I discuss the pleasures and challenges of appearing on radio shows to promote your novel. I’m including two of my sample queries here for your reference. The first is geared to a more high-brow host.

Dear Ms. X,

Ms. Y suggested I get in touch with you about a possible interview on “Book Talk” about my new novel, Amorous Woman, and other US-Japan intercultural issues related to the book.

Amorous Woman was published by Orion in the UK as part of their Neon line of literary erotica and was released in the US in May 2008. The novel was inspired by Ihara Saikaku’s 17th century Japanese erotic classic, The Life of an Amorous Woman. Intrigued by Saikaku’s picaresque, but emotionally complex tale, I decided to translate it into the modern story of an American woman’s experiences in Japan during its economic “bubble.” I’m a Princeton graduate with a Ph.D. in Japanese literature, and I’ve lived in Japan for several years. Amorous Woman is my first novel, although I’ve also published nearly a hundred literary and erotic stories and essays and my work received special mention in Pushcart Prize Stories 2004.

I’ve appeared on five radio shows including Ellen Shehadeh’s “View Point” on KWMR in Point Reyes Station, Denny Smithson’s “Cover to Cover” on KPFA in Berkeley and also read another literary essay for KQED’s “Writer’s Block” in San Francisco. In interviews I’ve discussed US-Japan cultural stereotypes such as the myths of the submissive geisha and the samurai salaryman, the historical and literary background of the novel, my definitions of erotica versus porn, the paradoxical prejudice against erotica in a consumer environment saturated with sexual messages, and how an academic and self-acknowledged feminist came to “talk back to porn” with a woman-centered exploration of eroticism as a complex element of human experience.

I’ve attached a brief synopsis and sample reviews of the novel below. I’d be happy to provide you with a copy of the book, print interviews including one in the East Bay Monthly, and links to other radio interviews at your request.

Thank you very much for your consideration of my proposal. I look forward to hearing from you.

Of course, ideally each query should reflect the intended market and not all interviewers are so serious. For a show that focuses on entertainment, I emphasized the more humorous possibilities as you see in the excerpts below:

Amorous Woman (Orion Publishing in the UK/US release through Trafalgar Books on May 28, 2008) is my first novel. It’s about a woman’s love affair with Japan and her adventures with as many men and women as she could pack into her futon along the way. Based on a Japanese erotic classic known for its wit, the story is rather like “Sex and the City” meets Memoirs of a Geisha with some David Sedaris thrown in for good measure.

I have a Ph.D. in Japanese literature from Stanford and have taught Japanese at U.C. Berkeley and Stanford. I have over eighty publication credits, including stories and essays in Gettysburg Review, Wine Spectator, Best American Erotica 2006, Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica and Best Women’s Erotica. I’ve been featured in magazines in the UK, translated into Italian and received special mention in Pushcart Prize Stories 2004. As part of my promotional efforts, I’ve appeared on Ellen Shehadeh’s View Point on KWMR in Point Reyes Station and have held several in-person readings and discussions. Because of my academic background, I am comfortable with public speaking and Q&A sessions. I enjoy bringing a humorous slant to my topic as well as talking about Japan, a country that still fascinates me twenty-five years after I first visited.

During the interview, I would be able to:

Discuss US-Japan cultural stereotypes such as the myths of the submissive geisha and the samurai salaryman—do the Japanese have better sex than we do in those love hotel dungeon rooms? And what about those vending machines that sell women’s “used” panties?

Talk about how a Stanford Ph.D. came to write a dirty novel and thus endanger the reputations of academics everywhere

Relate which aspects of my heroine’s adventures really happened to me—yes, I did have a boyfriend with one sensitive nipple and a group encounter on a spring night in Kyoto, although not exactly the way it happened in the book

Explain my take on the difference between erotica and porn—erotica’s what I like and porn’s what you like, but I’ve got some other provocative answers, too

Describe how erotica can change our lives by encouraging the exploration of how sex feels, a radical act in a society that focuses on how sex looks

Discuss the obstacles I’ve faced promoting the books and the pleasures in connecting with readers

If you’ve ever sat in a college class wondering if your professor had a secret life, I’m here to say the answer is definitely yes!

I’ve attached a brief synopsis and sample reviews of the novel below. I’d be happy to provide you with a copy of the book and print interviews at your request.

Thank you very much for your consideration of my proposal. I look forward to hearing from you.

For both queries, I also attached the information from my sell sheet including a one-paragraph pitch and a few brief excerpts from my favorite reviews. Good luck with your queries and have fun on the show!

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

This month in my Shameless Self-Promotion column I discuss a cutting edge and visually-stimulating way to get your book before new viewers (and potential buyers)–the book trailer. There are plenty of professionals willing to help you make a trailer, but if you’re a do-it-yourself type, it can be lots of fun to make your own. So check out then trailer for my novel, Amorous Woman, then read all about how my husband and I did it. I mean made the trailer, of course!

I hope you enjoy your erotic trip to Japan…,

This month’s Shameless Self-Promotion discusses the cross-media thrill of creating a book trailer. I have the pleasure to interview professional book trailer producer Kim McDougall, who has graciously agreed to share her experiences promoting her work in general and creating book trailers in particular. Kim is a professional photographer, award-winning and prolific author and the founder of the new book trailer promotion site, Blazing Trailers. She writes fiction that “ignores boundaries, mixes genres and confounds classification”—which is definitely my kind of fiction! Her many credits include the fantasy titles The Golden Hour, “Luminari,” and the Twisted Tales series. She writes for children and young adults as Kim Chatel with titles including The Stone Beach, Rainbow Sheep, and A Talent for Quiet.

Shameless Self-Promotion: What have you found to be the most effective ways to promote your books? The most enjoyable?

Kim McDougall: The most enjoyable for me is definitely visiting schools and libraries to read my book to kids. Sometimes we do a craft too. This brings me full circle, back to the beginning of the creative process. It’s a reminder (after all the hard work, waiting and promoting) of why I write for kids in the first place. I have also made decent sales this way. I usually get about a 10% return from these visits. So if I see 300 kids, I might sell 30 books.

SSP: The least effective ways or biggest challenges?

I’m not convinced that chat groups and forums are a great way to promote. I know some authors have been successful with these, but I just feel like I preaching to the choir. And while it’s pleasant to chat with other writers, I haven’t seen any indication that this translates in many sales, especially considering the time involved.

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

I was surprised that local chain bookstores were so difficult to deal with. Barnes and Noble won’t have me in to do a book signing because my book is POD. Yet another author in with my publisher is having great success with her POD books at her local B&N in California. The biased against POD is a local thing and I don’t understand it. There is nothing for the bookstore to lose.

SSP: Any tips about designing a website?

I’ve received one comment from a viewer on my site www.kimmcdougall. It was positive. She was impressed with my site because it was clean, simple and easy to navigate. She complained that so many writers try to jam everything and the kitchen sink into their sites. I have to agree. When I go to a site that has so much clutter I can’t find anything, I’m immediately turned off.

SSP: Do you have any thoughts on blogging?
Because I’m such an inconsistent blogger, I’ve found that keeping a blog myself is a waste of time. These things need to build steady steam to be effective. For myself, I have found two effective ways of making blogs work for me.

First, I guest blog at other people’s blogs. This gives me exposure to varying audiences, without having to keep a blog myself.

Second, I use Google alerts to find blogs talking about subjects similar to my book. For instance, I get Google alerts about needle-felting, and when I find someone blogging about it, I go in and invite them to my site to see the movie about me making a felt sheep. This is a soft sell. I may mention my book, Rainbow Sheep, if it’s appropriate, but if I get them to visit my site, they’ll find the book themselves. This is a tricky way of promoting though. You don’t want to spam a blog with a simple ad for your book. Rather, this is a way to strike up a conversation with others who may have the same interests as you and hope that something will come of it.

SSP: Can you share your experiences with book fairs or in-person events?

Because of the craft element in Rainbow Sheep, I have been able to sell my book quite successfully at local craft fairs. In fact, I do better at these than at bookstores. Some craft fairs will allow author signings. It’s a good thing to look into locally. I also make many great contacts in the community this way.

SSP: How about swag–such as postcards, bookmarks, pens, flyers, T-shirts, magnets, etc. Which has been the most useful?

I don’t believe giving away books is a good way to sell books. If you have a series, this might work, by holding a contest to win the first book. However, in general, when I hold contests, I give away other things. For December, I had a giveaway for my short story, “Luminari,” from Eternal Press. I made necklaces of little glass vials filled with gold glitter to represent the “Luminari” in the story. I gave these away free to the first 25 buyers of the story in December. I also used them for contests on chat forums.

The cost of the supplies and the mailing was more than my royalties on the story, but I consider it a loss-leader. It brought people to my site and enabled me to start a mailing list.

SSP: You specialize in creating book trailers for other authors (and yourself), do you have any specific tips for beginning book trailer artists–maximum or minimum length, use of effects, things to avoid, best places to buy images or music?

When all is said and done, a trailer is a commercial and I think many authors making their own forget that. The three things you want your viewer to take away from the trailer are: your book title, your name and a vague memory of your cover. You want to engage the viewer with the imagery and music, but those three factors need to pop, too.

Here’s is a description of many author trailers I view that I feel don’t work as a promo: 4-5 minutes of static photos, with long lines of description, ending with the book cover. If I had already read the book, the passing images might hold relevance to me, but as a possible buyer, they make little impact. And while these slide shows may be beautiful to watch, they aren’t a good selling tool because they don’t leave the viewer thinking, “Wow, I’d like to read that book!”

I try to combine video with photos and bring movement to the still images. Also, I prefer to use fewer images, but choose those with more impact. Music is also really important. Dramatic music can make a huge difference to the feeling of a trailer. Finally, I try to limit my trailers to two minutes. It’s so easy for a viewer to click away from a video that is too long or doesn’t interest them.

SSP: Which trailer(s) would you consider good examples of your work?

Here’s an example of a trailer that uses still imagery but is not static. “River Bones” by Mary Deal. It uses only a few images, but they are all dramatic as is the music. This would be a fairly inexpensive trailer to make.

“The Locket,” by Suzanne Lieurance is another example of static images, coming alive. This one uses sound effects to good measure.

One of my favorite trailers using video clips, is one of my earliest for my YA novel “The Stone Beach.” This would be a more expensive trailer to make, but it is quite dramatic. You’ll notice, there is very little text on this one.

Another alternative is to take one video clip and split it into pieces so to spread it over an entire trailer. This in an inexpensive way to bring movement to a trailer. An example of this is my trailer for “Barbegazi.”

SSP: How do you get book trailers noticed?

The reason I established Blazing Trailers, was because there were few places to showcase trailers properly. It is important to post your trailer all over the net. There are many sites other than YouTube and a simple Google search will call up a dozens of them. Let these sites bring traffic to your site.

But when it comes to inviting people to see your trailer, you’re best to offer a link to your site or a place like Blazing Trailers where the viewer has an immediate opportunity to buy your book. If you’re on a chat and you say “look at my trailer on YouTube.” The viewer may go look at it, but then what? It’s a dead end. But if you post your trailer on your site with a buy link, they have to opportunity to find out more information about the book and possibly buy it.

That’s why at Blazing Trailers, each book page has the trailer and then a blurb, excerpt, review and buying information.

Here are a couple of sites that get good viewer clicks that some authors might not know about.

Gather.com

Break.com

Previewthebook.com (for shorter book trailers)

SSP: Thank you so much, Kim, for sharing your experiences and especially for the insights into making book trailers! For more very helpful information on creating your own book trailer and using it to market your book, check out this interview with Kim at Book Talk Corner.

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

This month’s Shameless Self-Promotion discusses in the flesh book promotion events such as book parties, readings and signings. Stella Price, the promotional genius at Phaze Books, has agreed to talk with us about some of her favorite methods of meeting new readers, with signings at the top of the list. Stella is the author of numerous romance/dark urban fantasy novels, including 2009 Fantasm winners Deep Water and Frost & Flame, along with her sister Audra Price. It’s a real pleasure to welcome Stella and hear her extremely useful tips for dealing with bookstores, arranging signings and enchanting readers.

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

Stella Price: Word of mouth helps a lot. Along with special promotional items that are specifically for your books.

SSP: The most enjoyable?

I love signings! I love meeting people.

SSP: The least effective ways or biggest challenges?

Loop chats are the worst in my opinion. Unless your with a certain publisher, or a favorite, you don’t get much out of it.

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

The amount of people we have met from giving stuff out, who LOVE the ideas and don’t read romance, but end up buying your work because of the gimmick.

SSP: Did it change your view of your writing and the writing process?

Nope. Everything is still the same, just a lot more promotions to get the work out there.

SSP: 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?

Get out there and make yourself and what you write known. Get to as many conventions and events as possible to get your name out there. Relying on online promo alone is unwise, because so many online readers have already chosen their favorites and don’t want to try anyone new.

SSP: If you’ve used a publicist or other professional consultant to promote your work what have been the benefits? The downside?

No I haven’t because I don’t believe in paying someone to do something I can do myself with money I don’t have.

SSP: How helpful do you find the following promotional tools:

Setting up a website—did you do it yourself or hire a professional?

Websites are the way to go. a place to have your work for all to find it is paramount.

Blogging:

I like it, And I do it at several places, usually group blogs.

Mailing lists/author newsletters:

Recently these have been doing extremely well for us. The newsletter lists have been beloved because there’s a concentrated set of “fans” in one place. Getting sales for new books is easiest this way instead of dispersing Emails around the net. The mailing lists we have are snail mail lists. Every month we send out goodies, even if it’s just a signed bookflat of a new book to the snail mail list. As of now we have over 300 people on those lists, and it has worked out great. It’s also an awesome way to send out signing information.

Blog tours:

I don’t use them, though I have done guest spots on blogs.

Getting your book reviewed—the challenges and successes:

I love reviews. They help a lot with selling the work to others with quotes, though the sites the reviews don’t really matter. It’s what you take away from them that works best.

Contests:

Something we do all the time, though we rarely get people entering.

Book fairs:

LOVE them. Any kind of event is fantastic to meet new and old readers!

Radio interviews:

They are fun, and amusing, but I haven’t gotten much out of it by way of sales.

Approaching local bookstores directly:

Tricky, but luckily I have perfected this. It’s extremely time consuming, almost a full time job. You need to be diligent, and keep on the stores. I suggest making a PDF of the information they will need. Signing dates you’re looking for, genre, what you will offer, ISBN’s, book names, etc. The easiest way to get a signing is to call them and touch base with their Community Relations Manager, (B&N) or the Inventory Manager/Floor manager at Borders. Ask for an email address after you pitch the signing to them, tell them you will send them the PDF so they can check it all out and decide. Then if you don’t hear in a week or so, call back. You have to keep on them. Also, as an author, you need to know your signing rights. Both B&N and Borders have brochures that tell you what they expect and what you can expect from them.

Bookstore readings:

I don’t do readings.

Book parties:

We do a lot of these. We have a group that does then and we tend to sell pretty well.

Book trailers:

Fun and get people interested, but I don’t think they have gotten us sales.

Interviews in local or national media:

Pretty interesting and have helped with local sales.

Promoting at writing workshops or through other businesses:

VERY good

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

People love promo. Stickers, pins and pens work best for us at the normal every day signing, but for conferences and such I bring out the big guys: soaps, metal bookmarks, bath salts, candles, matches, etc.

Any other strategies you’d like to suggest?

Signing tours! These take place in bookstores. Actually we do them in groups. It helps to have other people there to talk to and to help with the personalization of the event. We do them mainly in chain bookstores, like Borders, BN, Books a Million, Hastings, Etc. Also, at indie book shops, though they are a bit tougher to work around because they have to have a large readership in the genre you write in.

Thank you so much, Stella, for sharing your insights and suggestions!

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

This month’s Shameless Self-Promotion examines creative uses of the Internet for book promotion. Speaking of examinations, I’m very pleased to welcome Sue Thurman, a writer who promotes her work as a freelance journalist with the Arizona Examiner. Sue has graciously agreed to share her experiences writing for Examiner.com and other suggestions for book promotion. Sue is the author of the children’s book Maybe We Are Flamingos and contributor to Inside Scoop: Articles about Acting and Writing by Hollywood Insiders, winner of the EPPIE award in non-fiction anthologies and an honorable mention in Foreward Magazine’s Book of the Year Awards.

Shameless Self-Promotion: What have you found to be the most effective ways to promote your books?

Sue Thurman: Prior to joining the Examiner family, I don’t think I’d found the most effective way. When an author signs with a small publisher that doesn’t offer any marketing, it’s difficult to find the best avenue. Good reviews are great, however it doesn’t always transfer into sales if you don’t already have an established audience. With my YA novel currently in progress, I’m building my audience first. A good book trailer is a very effective tool and mine was done by Kim Chatel of Blazing Trailers.

SSP: The most enjoyable?

Personal appearances to autograph books, or just meet people.

SSP: The least effective ways or biggest challenges?

Trying to get into the major chains when with a small publisher.

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

I’ve learned from other authors that virtual book tours aren’t very effective.

SSP: Tell us more about your experience with the Examiner.com.
The Examiner that I write for is looking for writers all over the country. The requirement is 3-4 articles per week on a dedicated web page in their network. They provide the template, there is no cost and you do make a tiny bit of money based on how many hits you get per month.

They are doing a special referral program and if anyone is interested, send an email to: safari at safarisue dot com, and I will give you the information to sign up.

You can view my page at http://www.examiner.com/x-2174-Arizona-Family-Examiner

If you don’t see a category you like, you can suggest one and there are a wide variety of people and interests. It’s fun and since I started in January, now people are asking me to cover stories. Some of the writers have gotten national attention and appeared on several network shows. The exposure is incredible and the network is getting millions of hits per month.

SSP: How did you get started writing for the Examiner?

Depending on what I write about and I do a variety of things, the research varies. The articles don’t have to be long, so time can be pretty short. However the research takes longer, but again that depends on the subject.

We include links in articles too. I do an editorial calendar for each month so I know what local things are happening. Right now I’m seeing which articles my audience likes. So far, the top ones have been UFOs, ghosts, on the movie sets with local productions, and everything related to Twilight.

SSP: How much time do you spend and how many articles per week?

Sometimes an hour to write and post a story. Other times longer.

SSP: Do you think it’s gotten your name out there? Any sense it is leading to sales or other useful benefits?

Yes. Since joining Examiner, now people are contacting me for stories and reviews. Therefore when my next book comes out, I’ll promote it on my Examiner page, which is part of a large network that’s growing everyday.

SSP: You mentioned that you are writing a YA novel–how do you see the Examiner experience helping that?

I’m working on a YA book that will target the same audience as the Twilight series. This time I’m building the audience before the book is even submitted to an agent.

Thank you so much, Sue, for sharing your experiences with us.

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

Book promotion is a daunting task for a beginner, but fortunately there are generous veterans of the process like Brenna Lyons who are willing to help guide us in the first shaky steps of our journey. Brenna is a prolific, best-selling author of sci-fi and erotic romance including the Renegade series, the Night Warriors series and the Kegin series. She lectures frequently on book promotion at conferences, and her discussions on the topic are without a doubt some of the most useful and well-organized materials I’ve consulted. I’m thrilled that Brenna has agreed to an interview in conjunction with this month’s Shameless Self-Promotion column on creative uses of the Internet for book promotion.

Shameless Self-Promotion: I know you especially enjoy promoting your books as a featured author in chat rooms. What are the benefits of this form of promotion?

Brenna Lyons: All marketing is selling you first and then the books. Readers want a piece of you, personally. Even more than talking to them on mailing lists (and a less stressful environment than talking to them face-to-face), chat rooms allow the readers to get a real-time idea of what it’s like to talk to you. No long, thought-out replies as you have in e-mail, for instance. It’s more intimate and more real.

SSP: How do you arrange to be featured in a chat room? Any places that are especially friendly to erotica writers?

There are a lot of places that are friendly, but I find it’s easier to join promotion groups like IWOFA (Infinite Worlds of Fantasy Authors) or your publisher in group chats to start. Once you’ve done some “buddy chats,” built up a name with the readers there, gotten comfortable with the situation, go back and ask those venues if they ever do single author chats. Another benefit to belonging to promo groups is that they will sometimes post opportunities for single promo.

Now, if you do a single, it’s easier to do it with several books under your belt. An hour is a long time to talk about one book. If all you’ve got is one, it might be better to do a buddy chat with a friend who is of a similar genre and temperament…or one of you is the nurturer in chat and the other needs coaxing. You never want to get into a position where you have one quiet chatter and one overbearing chatter that doesn’t coax the former out. It’s unsatisfying for the quiet chatter and for the readers in attendance.

SSP: Are there ways a beginner can prepare for a chat?

In addition to doing buddy chats to start? Sure.

Pick venues that are to your comfort level. Some chat rooms are moderated or have a strict stand-in-line-and-wait-your-turn policy about asking the author questions and/or have rules about what questions are too personal to ask. Others are no holds barred and fast-moving. I prefer the latter, but not every author does. Ask around and attend someone else’s chat in the prospective room to see how theirs runs.

Go in prepared. If you cannot type quickly, have a DOC or RTF file open with things like your blurbs in it. Most chat sites allow a small amount of copy and paste instead of typing, so break the blurbs down into a sentence or two per “copy line.” If you get flustered, have Post-It Notes around your desk with pertinent facts on them. Since so many people ask me for things like my current resume or how many releases I have in the next quarter, I tend to count it before chats and use a Post-It to keep the up-to-date numbers on hand.

Relax. Keep in mind that the readers aren’t there to jump on you. They are interested in you and/or your work. They are looking to buy new authors. They WANT to like you. So, try not to get too nervous.

Typos are expected. In fact, we jokingly call them “chatroomese,” and that’s spoken in all chats. No one expects your typing to be perfect in a chat room.

And don’t forget to promote your chat! On your site, Facebook, blog, MySpace, lists that allow a promo post for such things (but remember that it’s considered rude to promote a chat at review site A’s chat room at review site B’s list). You’ll find that there is a core readership that routinely makes all a certain chat room’s chats, but you may draw in new readers, and they like that.

SSP: Any advice on mistakes to avoid while discussing your work in a chat room?

I already said to familiarize yourself with the chat room etiquette of the room you’re in. Keep your responses to the room level. If it’s a staid room with taboo topics, don’t be too over the top. If it’s no-holds barred, you don’t have to go full bore, but you don’t have to worry about it either.

These people want to know you, but they are not your confidants. Think about a cocktail party with strangers. There are just some things you don’t want or need to tell them.

SSP: Can you tell us about one or two other favorite ways to promote your books?

One of the best (and most enjoyable) promos I do would be either free reads or writing stories for the byline (or for charity anthologies). It also tends to give me a good return on investment.

I also enjoy making banner ads (animated GIFs) and book videos. That’s my down time…an enjoyable sideline to writing.

SSP: Do you have any general words of advice for a newbie promoter?

Like anything else in book marketing, everything you do will appeal to a certain percentage of the readership. You can’t just do one thing. You want a wide variety of them, and then you want to net them together so you (for instance) use good reviews on your blog, in your signature line, your mailing list, etc.

Should chats be all you do? Of course not! That’s one facet of marketing. All told, there should be several subdivisions of online marketing…

ONLINE PRESENCE- author web site, MySpace, Facebook, Amazon Author Central, Red Room Authors, Manic Readers page, TRS page, Ning, author newsletter or newsletter list, etc.

BLOGS- Blogger, LiveJournal, Amazon, Ning, MySpace, etc.

MINI-BLOGS- Twitter, Google Wave, Facebook, etc.

GROUPS- Yahoo or Google groups, and don’t forget your tag line…not just reader loops but also author loops…don’t heavy sell it; talk about whatever they are talking about

FORUMS- depending on your genre

CHATS- I think we’ve covered that. Grinning…

INTERVIEWS- not just print ones online but also internet radio and so forth…don’t forget to use these other places…all promotion should be a web of overlapping and interlocking efforts

REVIEWS- it’s not enough to have them…use them with your other efforts

CROSS-LINKING- with other authors, publishers, on sites that keep lists of certain genres and book content

BANNER ADS- not just pay ones on review sites but also free ones on all of your online presence (blogs, pages, etc.) and cross-banner with other authors

PROMO/NETWORKING GROUPS- places like IWOFA, BroadUniverse, and Bookwormbags

CONTESTS- not just on your own site but also group contests with places like IWOFA

SPOTLIGHTS- often held for several hours or all day on Yahoo or Google groups…or for a week or month on review sites…which means having representative blurbs and excerpts, which rank high in the online return on investment scale

FREE READS- at least for short periods of time and/or short stories that tie to existing worlds you write in

WRITING SHORT STORIES/ARTICLES for magazines or charity anthologies (for the byline) and anthologies (for small payment and exposure of the byline)…small investment from you and big returns

And so forth. For the best return, authors should choose at least one or two of the possible promo types in as many of these SUBDIVISIONS as he/she is comfortable with and then make them work together in a promo web.

In addition, though online marketing has double the return (in general) that physical promo does, a little physical promo is always a good idea.

ADS- online and in magazines…get into group ads, when possible, but don’t overdo it, since research shows you need to repeat ads in the same venue upwards of 6-10 times to get the best return from it, and few people can afford that

PROMO CDS- especially if you can get into group ones with a low overhead

WEARING/CARRYING YOUR OWN PROMO GEAR- bumper stickers, t-shirts, carry the book, keychains…carry extras of small things with you…carry business cards with you

STREET TEAMS- wearing/carrying your promo gear and passing it out, wherever they are

CARD CULT- this is a fun one and very inexpensive

SIGNED BOOKPLATES- enough said…these are very popular with some readers

DODADS- pens, pins, etc. Pens are a good choice, because people are less likely to throw them away. Some people do collect signed paper promos, but they are more likely to be trashed than pens are; if people don’t keep them, they pass them along, and that’s good. Be sure to have a catchy tag line on them. Use them in group efforts like Bookwormbags. BUT…don’t just leave them places or stuff them in bills or whatever, willy nilly. Pens are about the only promo that does well when left in places where people use pens (signing checks, making out bank deposits, etc.) Most left-behind promo gets trashed.

ALL promo is cumulative. What you do, combined with what they do, combined with what other authors with the publisher do that brings people to the publisher site, benefits you…and vice versa. So, don’t be shy about passing along recommended reads of other books/authors with your publisher. Don’t be shy about passing along special events the publisher is doing, even if they don’t directly seem to benefit you. Don’t be shy about teaching the other authors how to market, if you know more than they do.

I could go on and on, but the full class I teach on this is 30 pages of notes.

SSP: Thank you so much, Brenna, for this wealth of helpful information! You can read more advice from Brenna at Broadsheet or attend one of her talks at your next writer’s conference.

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

I continue my series of author interviews for my “Shameless Self-Promotion” column with a kitchen table chat in the charming company of Jeremy Edwards, one of the most prolific and talented erotica authors working today. Jeremy is a frequent contributor to print venues such as Scarlet Magazine, Forum UK, The Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica, and anthologies by Cleis and Xcite, as well as numerous webzines like Clean Sheets, The Erotic Woman, and Oysters and Chocolate. His first novel, Rock My Socks Off, will be released by Xcite Books in January 2010.

As readers of my column well know, selling a novel requires a lot of self-promotion, but Jeremy already has an impressive track record of introducing his work and his “brand” of witty, smart erotic fiction to the world in creative, unexpected ways. One of Jeremy’s main tools for promotion is the Internet, the topic of this month’s column, and so he’s graciously agreed to share some of his experiences with his fellow authors. Jeremy’s example is proof positive that every writer can benefit from early self-promotion.

Shameless Self-Promotion: What have you found to be the most effective ways to promote your writing?

Jeremy Edwards: It’s sometimes hard to measure these things, of course; but one promotional opportunity I had that seemed to be particularly effective was an interview (with story excerpt) at a website whose flagship merchandise consists of sex toys. Though they also sell books–and that was the raison d’etre for their featuring an anthology I’m part of–I would speculate that their audience may include a lot of people who don’t spend as much time exploring and researching the world of erotic literature as some of us do, but who *are* interested in it when it’s presented to them. In other words, I’m thinking that doing promo in a context where you can be exposed to a number of people who haven’t already heard of you, but who are likely to dig what you do, may be especially rewarding.

My other answer, I guess, is just to do as much online promotion (the area I’m primarily familiar with, thus far) as is reasonably possible and reasonably relevant. Even in the close-knit world of
erotica-author blogland, it seems that everywhere one goes, one encounters fans and colleagues of one’s colleagues whom one hasn’t previously had the chance to perform for, despite the mere two degrees of separation. And these are just the vocal people–think of all the lurkers out there, too! Everyone with a blog or a podcast has his or her own loyal followers, so you’re pretty much guaranteed to reach at least a partially new audience wherever you go. And if you’re invited back after some time has elapsed, well why not go back? There are sure to be people who missed you the first time who catch you the next time.

Mind you, with all this talk of reaching a new audience, I’m not in any way discounting the “old audience”! On the contrary: how wonderful–and fun!–it always is when friends and colleagues show up to lend support. And, hey, even established friends and fans can sometimes use a reminder that a new book is available–and an online promotional appearance is the perfect reminder.

SSP: What have been the most enjoyable ways to promote your work?

I love all of it–basically, I’m the stage-struck type, whether it’s the relatively literal stage of a live reading or the more metaphorical platform of a radio interview or blog appearance. One of my favorite formats is the combination interview/reading/conversation with a radio host: it’s fun to go back and forth from the structured Q&A to the casual discussion to the rehearsed on-air story readings. It’s a nice blend of the prepared and the spontaneous, discourse and banter, anticipated topics and surprises.

SSP: What has been the most surprising thing about the experience of book promotion?
It’s been a delightful surprise to see how many scintillating, generous people there are out there
who are eager to use their time and bandwidth to feature erotica writers on their online turf. This has struck me even as a short-story author, i.e., someone without a book that’s “all mine” to promote (though stay tuned on that one!).

SSP: Did it change your view of your writing and the writing process?

This answer doesn’t exactly correspond to the question you asked… but the support and enthusiasm of all the people who give us time in their spotlights is one of the things that motivates me to KEEP WRITING. Because, you know, there are people who care!

SSP: How about sharing your thoughts on a few specific strategies. How about blogging?

I think that regular blogging can be immeasurably helpful to a writer’s public presence. Whether it’s in-depth essays, day-to-day life-of-the-writer reports, bulletins and book covers, random musings, recommendations, links, interviews, contests, or anything else… just putting in an appearance once a week or more, in my opinion, really gives your readers a sense of your personality; keeps them from losing track of what you’re publishing; and makes them–quite rightly–look upon you as an online friend and not only as a “body of work.”

SSP: Mailing lists/author newsletters?
It’s so easy to maintain an e-mail mailing list–especially if you draw on content you’ve already assembled for your blog. My feeling is that if there are people out there who care enough about what I’m doing to ask me to mail them updates, and who prefer to have this info sent directly to them rather than (or in addition to) visiting my blog… then I’m sure as heck going to accommodate them!

SSP: Radio interviews?
If you’re not prohibitively shy, and if scheduling and time-zone issues aren’t an obstacle, then I strongly encourage you to take advantage of offers to appear on radio shows/podcasts. There’s nothing like hearing an author’s work read in her/his own voice, and a friendly audio interview adds a nice new dimension to a reader’s image of a favorite writer.

SSP: Any other strategies you’d like to suggest?

I think creativity is a big plus in online promotional strategies, especially where it directly involves the readers. I do love conventional interviews and guest-blog essays, both as a featured writer and an interested reader … but if your host is open to something “different,” consider turning your appearance into something more novel–a game, a quiz, a character-playing session, or whatever your inventive writer’s mind can concoct. These devices (or, okay, gimmicks) can even be combined with something more sedate like an interview, so you can really have it both ways.

SSP: Thank you so much, Jeremy, for sharing your inspiring ideas with us!

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

This month my column on shameless self-promotion deals with strategies for getting your book reviewed. Here are two samples of cover letters I’ve used to query reviewers both by email and snail mail. The first is aimed at more mainstream/literary review sites, the second at an erotica site.

Here’s the literary version:

Dear [Book Review Editor],

I would like to inquire if you’d be interested in reviewing my novel, Amorous Woman (Neon/Orion 2008) for the [insert name here] website.

Amorous Woman is the story of an American woman’s love affair with Japan and the insights she gains into the culture in her roles as English teacher, wife, and bar hostess. Inspired by Ihara Saikaku’s 17th century Japanese classic, The Life of an Amorous Woman, the novel incorporates my doctoral research in Japanese literature at Stanford University to give a nuanced view of Japanese culture and sexual mores. Although classified as “erotica,” Amorous Woman is a thoughtful and thought-provoking treatment of inter-cultural relations that transcends the genre.

I’m appending (or enclosing) a sell sheet, bio and sample reviews below. Please let me know if you are interested in reviewing the book. I can send a hard copy of the book for review or a pdf as you prefer.

Sincerely,

Donna George Storey
[electronic signature with link to my website and book trailer]

Here’s a version I sent to erotica publications:

Dear [Editor],

I’m writing to inquire if you’d be interested in reviewing my erotic novel, Amorous Woman, which was published by Neon/Orion in the UK in late 2007 and released in the US in 2008.

Amorous Woman is the story of an American woman’s love affair with Japan and her steamy encounters with the sexy men and women she meets along the way. Lusty, wise-cracking Lydia—the modern Amorous Woman–experiences every flavor of erotic pleasure Japan has to offer from illicit encounters in hot spring baths to fantasy orgies straight from manga porn. Inspired by Ihara Saikaku’s classic 17th-century erotic novel of the pleasure quarters, Amorous Woman takes you on a journey to a Japan few tourists ever see.

I’ve included a brief bio and some excerpts from reviews for the UK release below.

Please let me know if you’d like me to send you an advance review copy of the novel in hard copy or pdf, as you prefer.

With best wishes,

Donna George Storey
[electronic signature with link to my website and book trailer]

For snail mail, I include my sell sheet and synopsis-and-bio page. For email, I include this information as well as the appropriate blurb and bio from the sell sheet (literary or erotic depending on the site).

AMOROUS WOMAN
By Donna George Storey

Neon/Orion Publishing
Price: $7.95
Category: Literary Erotica
Pages: 352
Book Type: Paper
Size: 4 1/2 x 7
ISBN: 1905619170
ISBN13: 9781905619177
U.S. Release Date: May 28, 2008

If you’re like most authors, only a portion of the review sites will request a review copy. Of those, not all will actually follow through on the review. It’s all part of the business. And always be sure to write a thank you note to any thoughtful reviewer. Not only will your mother be proud of your good manners, but you may have another book to send around soon.

Good luck with your reviews!

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

Hot Chilli Erotica

Hot Chilli Erotica

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