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Author Promotions: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Okay, I've sold my books (yay!), and now it's month two. What's the worry du jour? Promotion. How much is enough? How much is too much? You can spend TON$ of money on promotion and it may not be worth it. The great fear of mine (and probably others) is, if I do nothing, will my book just wither away on the shelves, collecting dust, or getting the notorious ripped-cover. So, this month, I decided to pick six of the finest writing and PR minds in the business, Stephanie Bond, Suzanne Brockmann, Susan Grant, Holly Jacobs, Maudeen Wachsmith, and Jo-Ann Power. I asked a few questions, nothing ground-breaking at all. Different people have different approaches. There is no silver bullet or no "you must do this," however, I hope you get some new (and cheap!) ideas that help you out.

The first question concerned inexpensive PR opportunities. Holly Jacobs, author of I Waxed My Legs For This? mentioned writing articles for local newsletters and also sending press releases. Some of the places to send a press release? Local newspapers, TV and radio stations, organizations you belong to, booksellers, libraries, your hometown newspaper and your alumni magazines. Stephanie Bond, whose latest release is Our Husband, mentioned going to your publisher and asking to be featured as author of the month on the website. Suzanne Brockmann, two time Rita winner, mentioned several items: 1) press releases, especially RT. She noted that RT loves pictures and to include a picture of you with a noted author. 2) starting your own email newsletter. 3) your own website. 4) romance bulletin boards. Susan Grant, award-winning author of The Star King, mentioned getting reviews from online romance and review sites. Maudeen Wachsmith, a publicist, indicated having a contest on your website and advertising it via RT online. Use the emails you get for your email newsletter.

I also asked about print advertising and got mixed responses. RT and RWR were mentioned. Stephanie Bond and Holly Jacobs both noted the RWA publication, Romance $ells, which will get you a full page for $175 (pretty good deal). Romance Sells goes to over 4000 bookstores and 1700 librarians. RT ads are about ten times more costly; however, it is targeted directly to romance readers and is considered the premiere romance magazine.

Of course, I could not overlook asking about bookmarks. Stephanie Bond makes it a practice to put a bookmark (with her backlist) in every book she signs. She designs them herself and then gets them printed professionally (5 to a page). Maudeen Wachsmith mentioned using bookmarks as thank-you's to reviewers, websites, booksellers, etc. Suzanne Brockmann wrote writing articles when she first getting started and attached promotional materials on the back. She sent copies to the chapter conferences listed in the RWR. Suzanne also noted that now that she has name recognition, she is doing more with bookmarks and postcards. She named Getz Color Graphics in Kansas as a cheap place to get these done. Susan Grant said she hasn't made any bookmarks yet, but is about to start. She mentioned "useful" trinkets such as to-do list pads, mugs, etc. At the same time I was gathering information for this article, AARLIST ran a question on whether a bookmark will cause a reader to seek out a book. Several readers mentioned that yes, this is true. They love getting bookmarks and postcards from their favorite authors. So, it sounds to me like bookmarks are great for your established fans, but unless your cover art is pretty stellar, they might get overlooked. Many authors are now doing refrigerator magnets and Stephanie Bond also mentioned that she believes excerpts to be very effective. Jo-Ann Power said, "To produce a promotional item that is cheap and looks it, brings

you nothing, except the impression of cheap and looks it. It is better to do nothing, than to do something which inspires a potential customer to never buy your book (having gained the impression that poor quality is chosen by those who value and produce poor quality.)"

There are several on-line reader lists to send information to, Holly Jacobs mentioned RRA, READ, and cata-romance. Also, I just learned that Jo Beverley has an RWA email list, RomExcerptLinks that is an announce only list that will send out book excerpts. For more information on these links, see my website (www.kathleenoreilly.com and look at Favorite Links) (Heh-heh-heh, I'm learning).

I asked what the best promotional thing each person had done was and got five different answers. For Holly Jacobs, the best thing was giving out small pink ladies' razors with a bookmark attached for her book, I Waxed My Legs For This? Susan Grant used her day job as a 747 pilot to bring herself "brand recognition," dubbing what she wrote "aviation romance." Stephanie Bond said that her website (www.stephaniebond.com) was the best thing she's ever done. She has pages for readers, writers and booksellers. For Suzanne Brockmann, the answer is to give away as many copies of your books as you can afford to buy. She mentioned that at a booksigning for your second book, you can give away a copy of your first book as a freebie. Also, she set up a flyer that would let people write in with an SASE and she'd send back a signed copy of her first book. She got a great response and everyone got a free book PLUS Suzanne's promotional materials on her latest releases. Maudeen Wachsmith mentioned that she is working on a promotion now to contact Bed & Breakfast's in the area where the book is set, and giving away copies of previous titles in the series for a summer library. Information on the new book in the series is included, of course .

For the worst promotional thing, Stephanie Bond and Suzanne Brockmann both mentioned mass book signings and book signing tours. Both said they now tie book signings to conferences. The upside to book signing is that the bookseller will order MANY copies of your book and you can sign them, the down side is that you may not sell them while you're sitting there alone at your little table. Stephanie said that she mainly visits the booksellers while she's out and about and asks to autograph their in-store stock.

The most overlooked promotional items listed were:

Respondent Item

Holly Jacobs: "Mothers. My mom actually scares people into buying my books!LOL."

Stephanie Bond: "Not asking your editor to put a mention of your next book in the current book. Not listing your P.O. Box or website in your current book. Not having a website. Not giving out bookmarks or other promo items when you sign a book for a reader. Not sending excerpts of your other books when you reply to reader mail."

Susan Grant: "schmoozing at conferences"

Suzanne Brockmann: "buying copies of your book and using them as a promo tool"

Maudeen Wachsmith: Free publicity on the Internet

The last question I asked was to rank four target markets in order of importance. I got five different answers, but booksellers showed up high on the list.

Respondent Booksellers Book Distributors Romance Readers Romance Writers
Susan Grant 2 1 3 4
Suz Brockmann 1 4 3 2
Stephanie Bond 2 1 3 4
Holly Jacobs 2 3 1 4
Maudeen Wachsmith 3 2 1 4

The purpose of this article is not to tell you how to promote your book. There are as many opportunities for promotion as there are books published, and which one that is right for you will probably not be right for someone else. Promotion depends on your time, your money, and your interest in PR. All that said, the best promotion is to work on writing your next book and make it even better than the first. Nothing will sell a book faster than if it is a great one, and no promotions in the world can help a bad book.

I appreciate the generous time and creativity from my respondents.

Holly Jacobs, I Waxed My Legs For This? Harlequin Duets, 1/01, Do You Heart What I Hear? Silhouette Romance, 11/01, Ready, Willing and .Abel?/Raising Cain, Double Duet, Spring 2002.

Stephanie Bond, Midnight Fantasies (her story is After Hours), Blaze Anthology, 6/01, Two Sexy! Harlequin Blaze, August 2001, Got Your Number, St. Martin's Press, October 2001

Suzanne Brockmann, The Defiant Hero, 2/01, Taylor's Temptation, Silhouette Intimate Moments (Tall, Dark, and Dangerous), 7/01

Susan Grant, The Star King, Love Spell, 12/00, The Star Prince, Love Spell, 11/01

Maudeen Wachsmith, Maudeen is a publicist for romance writers and can be contacted at maudeen@olypen.com:

Jo-Ann Power, Power Promotions, http://PowerOnTheWeb.com, http://PowerInBusiness.com

And last, but not least, ME -- Kathleen O'Reilly, DragonSlayer, Jove, 1/02; A Christmas Carol, Harlequin Duets, 12/01.

About Kathleen Oreilly

Kathleen Oreilly

Kathleen O’Reilly wrote her first romance at the age of eleven, which to her undying embarrassment was read aloud to her class. After taking over twenty years to recover from the profound distress, she is now proud to announce her new career – a romance author. Kathleen lives in New York with her husband and their two children who outwit her daily.

You can visit Kathleen at www.KathleenOReilly.com