Friday, August 14, 2009

GUEST BLOGGER MARCIA JAMES ON AUTHOR PROMOTION



Petit Fours and Hot Tamales is thrilled to welcome author, Marcia James.
Marcia James writes hot, humorous romances and finaled in eleven RWA chapter contests before selling her first comic romantic suspense, At Her Command, to Cerridwen Press. In June 2009, her short story, "Rescue Me", appeared in Tails of Love, a Berkley charity anthology along with stories by nine other authors. Marcia is an advertising copywriter and marketing consultant, and she presents author promotion workshops. In her eclectic career, she has shot submarine training videos, organized celebrity-filled nonprofit events and had her wedding covered by People Magazine. After years of dealing with such sexy topics as how to safely install traffic lights, Marcia is enjoying “researching” her novels' steamy love scenes with her husband and hero of many years. She offers her 200+ page file of author promotion options to any RWAer who requests it. Just email her through the “Contact Me” page on her Web site: www.marciajames.net


Self-promotion. Say the word aloud in a room full of authors and watch a fingernails-on-the-blackboard shudder run through the crowd. I sometimes feel like a freak of nature, because I LOVE promotion. How about you? Is the idea of promoting your author brand and your books as appealing as a root canal? Answer the following multiple-choice question to get a handle on your PR feelings:

Promotion is…

A. A voracious time-suck

B. A pain in the proverbial butt

C. A scary and expensive chore

D. The source of much stress and guilt

E. All of the above.

If you answered A, B, C, D, or E, you’re in good company. But there are ways to make your promotional efforts relatively painless.

First, strive for GUILT-FREE promotion. Give yourself permission to concentrate on a few specific PR options and let the others go. No one person can take advantage of every promotional opportunity out there, even if you hire a publicist. So stop worrying about keeping up with the authors who seem to be everywhere—from reader loops and chat rooms to Twitter and podcasts.

How do you narrow down which promotional options are right for you?

1. Learn what PR options are out there, so you can make educated decisions. I have a 235-page Microsoft WORD file on PR options that I give away free to other writers. If you would like the file, go to my Web Site, to my "Contact Me" page, and request the file by emailing me that way. I'll attach the file to my response to your email.

2. Determine how much money you have to spend on promotion. You’ll hear people comment that you need to spend a certain percentage of your advance or royalties on promotion. This isn't written in stone. Only you can decide what monies you have to spend. And there are many FREE PR options available.

3. Budget your time as well as your money. Unless you can afford a publicist or an assistant, it will fall on you to do whatever it takes for your PR push. And any time you spend doing promotion is time spent away from creating those books you want to promote. So take your time constraints into consideration.

4. Take into account any limitations due to your physical location. Where you live can greatly limit opportunities for in-person promotion, such as networking, booksignings, and presenting workshops. And authors who want to promote outside of their countries have to deal with other concerns, such as customs and mailing costs. So your physical location (and travel budget) will impact your PR choices.

5. Consider the PR limitations or requirements of your specific books. For example, there are different opportunities and concerns when promoting an e-book vs. a print book. And shelf life can play a part in how you promote a category print book vs. a single title print book. Once you know what PR options are out there, you can choose which would be best for your specific books.

6. Determine what niche markets are worth targeting given your specific books. Who is your target audience? The romance-reading community is huge and voracious, but finite. If you can spot elements in your book that lend themselves to niche promoting, you can win new readers and help grow the romance market. For example, I have Chinese Crested hairless dogs in my books, and I have promoted my books on “crestie” message boards and dog-themed blogs.

7. Don't duplicate the promotional support your publisher is providing. Nothing can beat or replace publisher support, especially when it comes to distribution and brick-and-mortar bookstore placement. Some publishers' promotional teams will work with authors and some won't. Learning as much as possible about your publisher's marketing plan will help you avoid duplicating efforts. For example, ARCs (Advance Reader Copies) of your book are expensive to make, so sending ARCs to the same bookstores and reviewers your publisher does is a waste of money. And authors need to dole out their PR dollars very carefully.

8. Don't discount the role your personality will play in which PR options are best for you. Not everyone is cut out for every PR option. And your experience (or lack of experience) can be a deciding factor, too. For example, I’m technologically challenged, so I pay my Webmistress to maintain my Web site (my #1 PR tool) vs. trying to learn the skills I’d need to do it myself.

To help you determine your PR Personality, take the following quiz:

WHAT'S YOUR PR PERSONALITY?

1. Do you enjoy interacting with readers? Which of the following options appeal to you?

-- Participating on a reader forum/message board, informally posting on topics as time allows.

-- "Appearing" as the guest in an online chatroom, answering reader questions for an hour.

-- Chatting up readers at booksignings—by yourself or as part of a multi-author booksigning.

-- Giving presentations to readers at libraries, bookstores and conferences.

2. Do you enjoy networking with other authors? Which of the following options appeal to you?

-- Participating on writers' email lists, sharing craft and business information as time allows.

-- Cross-promoting with other authors—linking to each other's Web sites, guest-blogging on each other's blogs, etc., as time allows.

-- Joining with other authors to create a multi-author Web site, blog or MySpace page—all of which would require a regular commitment of time.

-- Power-schmoozing with other authors at meetings and conferences.

-- Co-presenting workshops (online or in-person) and participating on panels.

3. Do you enjoy working alone to promote your books? Which of the following options appeal to you?

-- Writing articles on the craft and business of publishing for chapter newsletters, RWA's Romance Writers Report, RT Book Reviews, online e-zines, etc.

-- Building and maintaining your Web site and social media sites (e.g. MySpace).

-- Sending PR materials to conferences, bookstores and readers' groups.

-- Writing press releases, mailing out press kits and being interviewed by the media.

4. Do you factor in your strengths when deciding on which PR options to pursue?

-- Are you an introvert or extrovert? Public speaking, podcasts, and live interviews aren't for everyone. Give yourself permission not to do them if they're difficult for you.

-- Are you a computer whiz or technologically challenged? If Web design isn't your thing, budget for a Webmistress or enlist your teenagers to help you maintain your site.

-- Are there skills from your "day job" or past experience that can be useful in your promotion? Desktop publishing skills? Marketing experience? Article writing?

5. Do you prefer using tried-and-true romance author self-promotion options, or do you look for PR options that are "outside the heart-shaped box"? For example…

-- Do you pay a romance author PR site, like AuthorIsland or Writerspace, to handle your newsletter mailings, contests, chats, and other promotion?

-- Do promote your latest release or your author brand or both?

-- Do you try to "grow the market" by chatting up non-romance readers, or do you go after a piece of the voracious but finite pool of established romance readers?

-- Do you write articles for romance publications or do you look for "angles" to place an article in a mainstream magazine or association publication. E.g., if you're over 50, you could pitch an article about your second career as an author to AARP's magazine. If you graduated from college, you can pitch a story about your novels to your alumni magazine.

-- Do you look for elements within your book that could lend themselves to promotion to a niche market? There are groups/associations for everything from hobbies to sports to good causes.

-- Do you booksign at the usual venues or do you look for venues offering an interested audience (e.g., Curves women's workout centers or a tea room) or tie-ins to elements of your book (e.g., if your hero drives a vintage car, you could hand out PR items at a vintage car show; or if you write Scottish historicals, you could get a booth at a Scottish festival).


Now that you’ve taken the quiz, can you see any trends in your answers? Once you determine the best promotional options for you and your books, you can focus on those specific PR opportunities for a set amount of time each week and let go of the pressure to do more. You’ll be surprised how doing just the PR you enjoy (or tolerate) and letting go of the guilt of not doing more will take the stress off self-promotion.

For more information: I have a number of author promotion articles on my Web site www.marciajames.net/articles.html, and I also present online PR workshops. My next workshop is Sept. 14 - 25, 2009: “A PR PRIMER: Promoting Yourself Before—And Just After—‘The Call’”. The Mid-Willamette Valley (OR) RWA chapter will host the workshop. Visit http://www.midwillamettevalleyrwa.com/online.classes.htm

I’d love to hear about your PR challenges and successes. And I’ll randomly pick one commenter to win a free download of my comic romantic suspense, At Her Command.

Happy promoting!
-- Marcia James ;-)

36 comments:

Cyrano said...

Good morning Marcia,
So glad to see you here on PFHT.
First I'd like to say, I love Chinese Crested Hairless dogs. I don't own one, but my aunt rescued one from the pound and it's the sweetest most well behaved dog. And I think she's adorable, all naked and tufted (the dog of course, not the aunt, though aunt Ellen is cute too). One day I hope to have CCHD of my very own.
I'd also like to comment on your blog post. What great info. I am yet unpublished, but know I will be one day. My critique partner, however, just sold to The Wild Rose Press and I believe e-published authors who sell downloadable books need great self promotion. There are so many authors and so many novels on TWRP, Pam really needs to get herself noticed so that readers can find her, buy her books and come back for more.
I'll email her today so she can take a look at your post and refer to your website. I plan to do the same. When I'm finally in print, your suggestions and wisdom will come in so handy.
Thanks so much for visiting this morning.
Have a fantastic day and a productive weekend!
Tamara

Tammy Schubert said...

Thank you for joining PFHT's blog today. A few months ago, I requested a copy of your promotional page file. It's wonderful. It will come in handy when I'm finally published.

Sandy Elzie said...

Good morning Marcia,

Wow, a lot of great information. I've sold two to Avalon. They publish in hardback (costly) and promote primarily to libraries. Due to the expense of the books versus paperbacks, I hesitate to promote too much outside of close friends and family. They also pay advances at the low end of the spectrum, so just how much should I be doing to promote my name?
(Yes, I'm currently submitting to the larger distribution companies, but as yet, I'm still waiting on either the rejection or the request for a full)

Any suggestions?

Sandy

Marcia James said...

Hi, Tamara! That's cool about your aunt rescuing a "crestie". They are adorable dogs! ;-)

You're being very smart by learning about promotion before getting "The Call". There's so much to do after selling a manuscript that you don't need to be learning PR from scratch on top of everything else.

I appreciate your letting your critique partner know about my guest-blog. And if she wants to post the blog link on the Wild Rose Press author loop, that would be great. The more, the merrier! I love chatting about promotion!
-- Marcia ;-)

Marcia James said...

Hi, Tammy! Thanks for your kind words about my PR options file. I give it away free because the information it contains was shared freely by other authors. And the better we all do at promoting our books, the larger our pool of romance readers will be. I'm a big supporter of growing the romance market!
-- Marcia ;-)

Sandy Elzie said...

Marcia,

I just got back from checking out your website. It's a must-read.
I encourage everyone to take a peek. You're quite a lady after my own heart...you love animals and charities. Thank you for joining us at PF&HT today.

Sandy Elzie

Sally Kilpatrick said...

Marcia,

Thanks for stopping by. I'm not published yet, but I filed away all of your practical information for later perusal. I can't wait to check out your web site later today.

My question has to do with unpublished authors. I just got my first set of business cards for conference this year, but I normally hesitate because I don't feel I have anything to promote since I'm not published yet. What are your thoughts on what we unpubbeds should be doing?

Marcia James said...

Hi, Sandy! I have a friend who is published by Avalon, and she faces the same challenge. The small hardbacks are expensive, and most readers aren’t willing to pay that much to sample a new author. I would suggest three things:

1. Focus most of your efforts on promoting your author brand. Do you have a tag line that sums up your brand? Are your books in the same romance sub-genre? Time period? Tone? When a reader picks up one of your books, what can they expect? A funny read? A hot historical? An edgy paranormal? There’s a lot of things you can do (many of them free) to promote your brand and gain name recognition.

2. Promote to a niche market. Are there elements in your books that lend themselves to niche marketing? Do your heroines ride Harleys, knit, or play golf? Do your heroes volunteer at an animal rescue place, gourmet cook, or drive a vintage car? Are your books set in an historical time that might be of interest to groups such as Civil War Reenactors or Renaissance Fair attendees? Are there national holidays that can be tied to elements in your book? For example, my recent Tails of Love anthology features animals in each short story. My story has to do with a rescued crestie and October is Adopt-a-Shelter-Dog month. So I could send out press releases about my story and that holiday to see if anyone in my local media might want to do a short piece about the book.

3. If it’s in your budget, promote to your primary audience. If libraries are the top market for your Avalon books, how do they decide whether to buy books? Do they refer to RWA’s Romance Sells publication? You could buy an ad in that. Or you could attend the national American Library Association conference and “power-schmooze”. RWA has a booth at that conference, and authors can sign free in half-hour increments IF their publisher is willing to donate a book of books. I signed my debut book there in 2008. It was a lot of fun, and I had a free day pass to the conference that allowed me to chat up librarians and publishers, while giving out my signature keychains – a pair of thumbcuffs.

Best wishes on selling your current manuscripts, and happy promoting!
-- Marcia ;-)

Debbie Kaufman said...

I recently booked and managed a blog tour for GRW author, Rita Herron and her new release, DARK HUNGER. Boy, was that an eye opener as to what is involved in promotion. Neither of us had any idea how much time it was going to take. It was a good learning experience for me and helped me to think ahead for my own promotion when published.

One thing I learned (there were many :)), was that I should have had a standard email template that I could have personalized. I also forgot to think through the contest/book drawing aspect. Next time (OMG, did I say that?), I'm going to be sure to specify who draws for the contest and where the winner information is sent.

Or, better yet, I'll hire next Friday's guest blogger, Kim Castillo, who works as an author assistant. Cause the time suck is amazing!!

Marcia James said...

Hi, Sally! It’s never too soon to start building your author brand. My September PR workshop will go into detail about author branding and what you can do before selling that first manuscript. Here’s a few suggestions:

1. Pick your pen name and lock in your domain name. Whether or not you’re ready to design your Web site, you need to lock in your domain name now, so someone else doesn’t get it. And your pen name IS your name in the publishing community. Use it on your emails, your conference name badges, any articles you write for industry publications, etc.

2. Determine what your author brand will be. Have you written enough manuscripts to know what your core story is? Do you concentrate on one romance sub-genre or are you writing one historical romance, then a paranormal one, then a YA one? Once you have a good idea what you want to write and what your “promise to your readers” will be, then you can determine your brand.

3. Once you know your brand, you can pick a tag line that sums it up. My tag line is very simple: “Hot, Humorous Romances”. This gives me some wiggle room as to what sub-genre I write (for example, I could write a sexy, funny contemporary or a sexy, funny romantic mystery or a sexy, funny historical). I use that tag line on my business cards, my Web site, and all of my promotional materials. My readers know what to expect when they pick up one of my books. They won’t be getting a bloody suspense or a terrifying paranormal.

4. Design your Web site, even if it’s only on paper. Whether or not you are ready to have a Web site, you can determine what that site will look like by checking out the sites of other authors. All authors sites have some of the same key pages: Books page, Bio page, Contact page. What else do you want on your site? An online press kit? A monthly contest? An articles page? The tone of your site should reinforce your brand. My site is humorous, obviously. And I try to have the text, images, etc reinforce that humorous tone.

5. Start building name recognition by doing promotional things your enjoy. This gets back to your PR Personality. Do you like writing articles for your local RWA chapter newsletter? Can you present online or in-person workshops? Do you enjoy volunteering at conferences or running your chapter’s contest? Do you participate on reader forums? Networking is a powerful way to get your name in front of readers and other writers. And you don’t have to be published in order to network.

So there are lots of things a pre-published author can do. Best wishes on making your first sale very soon!
-- Marcia ;-)

Marcia James said...

Hi, Debbie!! Helping Rita with her blog tour was a wonderful way to get some hands-on promotional training. Yes, blog tours can be exhausting. I love to guest-blog (it's part of my PR Personality), but having more than two or three guest-blogs a month (along with other PR efforts) can make it difficult to keep up with my romance writing schedule.

Being prepared with email templates and basic answers to common questions can be helpful for online chats, as well as blogs. Plus coming up with answers is a good way to prepare for media interviews, too.

If you have the money for an assistant, that’s great! Or you can draft members of your family to help you out. I enjoyed listening to recorded books while putting together a HUGE promotional mailing for Tails of Love, but other authors would have pulled out their hair before the job was half-done. So if you can delegate jobs you don’t enjoy or have time for, that’s perfect.

Thanks for inviting me to guest-blog! Have a great day!
-- Marcia ;-)

Marcia James said...

Hi, Sandy! I almost missed your second and so kind comment about visiting my Web site. Thanks! Yes, I'm definitely pro-animal, and that's why being part of the Tails of Love anthology (which raises money for a no-kill animal shelter) was so wonderful. ;-)

As a friend of mine says, "Go pets!"
-- Marcia ;-)

J Hali said...

Yay! a supporter of animal shelters. WTG.

The advice you gave here is tremendous and I'm heading over to your site - you will be getting an email from me.

Thanks for the awesome info and thanks to Petit Fours and Hot Tamales for having you here.

Marcia James said...

Hi, J! I love supporting animal causes. I just donated 18 raffle baskets to a local charity (Cat Welfare) that is a no-kill shelter for cats. I enjoy shopping for the raffle baskets and putting them together (part of my PR Personality). Shrink-wrapping gift baskets has the same calming effect as popping bubble wrap. ;-D

Let me know if you don't get the PR file I just sent to you.

Happy promoting!
-- Marcia ;-)

J Hali said...

Got it and I just briefly glanced through it - I never knew there was so much out there. I'm one who loves to post at sites and chat with readers when they dare to come out of lurkdom. LOL

Thanks again for all the wonderful ideas.

Marcia James said...

J. -- Chatting online with readers is a wonderful way to promote -- especially e-books and small press books. If that is one of your skills, then you're already doing great. ;-)

-- Marcia ;-)

Lynn Raye Harris said...

Absolutely fabulous thoughts! I'm going to have to refer back to this post quite a bit. I'm lucky to have great publisher support for the line I write for -- and a built-in readership b/c of the line's brand. But I still want to reach out and brand myself within the line, if that makes sense.

Marcia James said...

Hi, Lynn! Yes, it's important to brand yourself even if the readers know what to expect from a line or imprint. Best wishes on building and promoting your brand!
-- Marcia ;-)

Marilyn Baron said...

Marcia,

Thank you so much for taking the time to share your expertise with our blog. I had already downloaded your promotions file and found it very helpful.

I'm not published yet, but my "day" job is in the public relations field so that will be helpful in promoting a book in the future.

In the meantime, rather than create my own Web site, I am lucky enough to be part of the fabulous Petit Fours and Hot Tamales blog. We're doing some neat things like writing a book on a blog and promoting that and now we're creating a sequel to our first book.

I loved your advice on the post and in your answers to readers.

Marilyn Baron

Marcia James said...

Hi, Marilyn! Thanks for your kind words about my file and my guest-blog. ;-)

Being part of a group blog like this one is a great way to co-promote with other authors. (Some other co-promotion options are presenting a workshop together, doing a chat together, doing a booksigning together, and buying ad space in RT Book Reviews together.)

I still recommend getting your domain name and designing your Web site on paper, in addition to being part of this blog. For example, you can go to the RWA national Web site – to the Author Web sites list (http://www.rwanational.org/cs/rwa_author_web_sites) – and click on the links and check out what other authors have done. Then you can make a list of what you like and don’t like, which will be very helpful, especially if you end up working with a Web designer to make your Web site.

I’m technologically challenged, so I hired Karen McCullough (who is both a Web designer and a Cerridwen Press author) to put together my site. I had very definite ideas about what I wanted. Plus I had paid a caricaturist to develop some of the images I wanted on my site. I knew what pages I wanted on my site, the tone and colors of the site, and what text I wanted on pages. Karen had my site up and running within days of my selling my first novel. If I had to do it over, I would have had my site up BEFORE I sold. But I saved time and money by being prepared when I hired Karen.

By the way, the blog book idea is a wonderful one! Congratulations on thinking outside of the heart-shaped box. ;-)
-- Marcia ;-)

Patricia Sargeant said...

Hi, Marcia.

I love your approach to promotion. Reading your advice always makes me feel calmer and more in control.

And keep writing your wonderful, hot, humorous romance stories!!!

Best!

Patricia

Tami Brothers said...

This is awesome information!!!!! I’m bookmarking everything (and printing). Not only was your blog post phenomenal, but your responses have had just as many gold nuggets in them! Thank you so much for visiting with us today. I can’t even think of any questions, you did such a fabulous job of answering them.

Thanks for joining us today.

Tami

PS – I LOVE you website. Lots of great information.

Autumn Jordon said...

Love your website and this blog was great. I'm glad I stopped by tonight. Looking forward to reading your guide.

AJ
2009 Golden Heart Finalist
www.autumnjordon.com

Marcia James said...

Patricia -- thanks for stopping by! I really enjoyed your June release, Sweet Deceptions!
-- Marcia ;-)

Marcia James said...

Hi, Tami! Thanks for your kind words. ;-) You're making me blush! I've really enjoyed guest-blogging here today!
-- Marcia ;-)

Marcia James said...

Hi, Autumn! I'm getting caught up right now on sending out my PR file. I hope you find it helpful.

Happy promoting!
-- Marcia ;-)

Diana M said...

Marcia,

Thanks for sharing that PR is not such a "Scarey" thing. The quiz was great. Made me realize there are some areas I would feel comfortable doing PR. On to your website!!

Marcia James said...

Hi, Diana! Thanks for stopping by! Best wishes on determining the best PR options for you.

Have a great weekend!
-- Marcia ;-)

Maxine Davis said...

Marcia,

I can't wait to get a copy of At Her Command and read it. You certainly wrote an interesting and valuable blog.

Wow, I'm going to print this and keep it for that day when I become published and hope I won't be so old I forget where I put your info.

Sorry, I did not get to commment yesterday - a little under the weather and mostly just sprawled in the recliner!

Rick said...

My time is worth a lot more to me since I went full time. You'd think it was the opposite but I have to cut those activities that don't make money and work on the one's that do

Rick
http://newbieservices.com/

Marcia James said...

Hi, Maxine! I hope you are feeling better today. ;-)

Thanks for the kind words about my guest-blog! And "break a leg" on selling very soon. ;-)

Have a great weekend!
-- Marcia ;-)

Marcia James said...

Hi, Rick! Are you the Rick on the Marketing For Romance Writers loop? Thanks for dropping by!
-- Marcia ;-)

Joy Harris said...

As a review site owner (JoyfullyReviewed.com) & the person that sends out the review notifications to authors & publishers, it sends me insane when I can not either find an email addy or contact page on an author's website or the publisher website. Authors please make sure that you have a way for people to contact you.

Marcia James said...

Thanks, Joy, for mentioning a contact page on authors' Web sites. So much of promotion is done online now that readers get as frustrated as reviewers (like you) when they can't contact an authors by email. I love hearing from readers and I especially love it when I get a great review from Joyfully Reviewed! ;-D Thanks for stopping by!
-- Marcia ;-)

Ana Aragón said...

Hi, Marcia,

I realize that this is VERY late but I had a very busy first week of school and just fell into bed on Friday when I got home!

Great ideas on promotion and super website! Thank you so much for stopping by this week!

Ana Aragón

Marcia James said...

Hi, Ana! Thanks for the kind words about my guest-blog and Web site! ;-)

-- Marcia ;-)