Friday, February 15, 2008

Zen and the Art of Book Hawking

by Trish Milburn

I've been in this writing business long enough and gone to enough writer conferences to have seen the typical kinds of book promotion a zillion times. I've picked up countless bookmarks, pens and magnetic calendars from authors who hope these items will increase their book sales and name recognition. Now that I have a release date for my first book, I'm beginning to think of ways to hawk my own work without having to take out a second mortgage or lose my sanity. But I want something new, creative, unique. That got me to thinking about what book promotion efforts I've seen before that impressed me, and I wondered if these types of things interested readers as well. Here's a sampling.

1. It seems that more and more authors have book trailers now, but the problem is that so many of them are utterly forgettable or look cheap and cheesy. Here are some, however, that I thought were well done. Each author has done a great job of making them memorable, in a good way.

Jessica Brody's The Fidelity Files

Jody Wallace's A Spell for Susannah

Anne Mallory's What Isabella Desires

Diana Holquist's Sexiest Man Alive

2. Everybody loves to win contests. Just look at all the happy winners of items from the Banditas. We, as readers and writers in the romance genre, are used to giveaways of books, ARCs and the like, but if you really want to make a splash, why not give away something big? Kelley St. John has given away vacations to the beach in the past, and her current contest is a $500 Spa Giveaway Package. I like Kelley's giveaway ideas so much that I'm mulling trying to do something along the same lines but connected to the setting in my book somehow.

3. Book signings are a staple form of promotion, but I've heard lots of authors say they're a waste of time. And from the reader's point of view, they might not have time to go to the book signing or they might feel pressured to buy a book they might not otherwise want, particularly if it's a multi-author book signing. If an author goes the book signing route, however, why not think outside the bookstore box? Janice Lynn once held a very successful book signing at her local Curves.

4. Readers love to get that little something extra, kind of like the extra material that is included on most DVDs now. If you can give them that something extra while also getting another benefit for yourself, all the better. Esri Rose took this approach while trying to build her mailing list ahead of her first book's debut in May. She sent out an e-mail to everyone she new, offering to write a short story set in her book's universe when her e-mail list reached 50 subscribers. Click here to see how she promoted it.

So now I want to hear from you, readers and writers alike. (By the way, why do we make that distinction? We writers are big readers too.) As readers, do promotional efforts by authors make any difference in what books you buy? If so, what influences you? Have you seen any spectacular or interesting book promo efforts? What wild and crazy book promo effort would definitely attract your attention and make you lean toward at least looking up an author's book?

And because readers like to win things (grin), I'll be giving away a $10 gift card to Barnes and Noble and a mystery book from my overflowing bookshelves to one lucky commenter.


Eva S said...

Hello there and welcome!

Trish Milburn said...

Eva gets the Golden Rooster! :)

doglady said...

Awww, Eva! I was SO CLOSE!!!

Eva S said...

Hi Trish,
when I find an interesting book I buy it.Seldom the promotions have made any diffrence...The booktrailers are often so forgettable and I don't like booksignings,it's always so crowded there.
I like contests when the author is new to me. Then I may find some new,great books (I usually buy all books I can find if I like the author)for my library.
I like blogs, there a new author can talk as much as she likes about her book and if I like it, I buy it (again, I'm repeating myself, maybe I should stop now).
Congrats to your release date, hope we will see your book soon!

Eva S said...

Yes, I learned from Aunty Cindy yesterday to be sneaky...LOL!
Let's see,what I will be doing with this beautiful Rooster today...

jo robertson said...

Yay, Eva! Keep him safe! Aww, Doglady, so close, but no cigar, maybe next time :-D.

Good questions and topic, Trish. Like Eva, if I find a book I like within the first few pages, I buy it. I don't care what the cover looks like (I KNOW, isn't that awful?), how long it is, or what gimmick the author has. It's what's between the pages that I'm interest in.

That said, however, I LOVE bookmarks, unusual, different or funky ones. I have so many books that I can never have too many bookmarks. I used to make them myself out of my scrapbooking materials and laminate them, but I've gotten too busy for that now.

I like to LOOK at the trailers, but only to get an idea of what the book is about. I agree that most of them aren't well done. I think it takes a very creative person to do a good one.

p226 said...

Schwag is ok. I have tons of schwag from various vendors that are trying to get me to buy their software. Honestly, it doesn't factor into the purchasing decision at all. Features, support, cost and other stuff are what drive the actual purchase. But the marketing efforts behind software are truly amazing. They are all about brand/name recognition.

My point is, if you're looking to go outside the book industry norm, look at other industries. What catches your eye? What gets you to ask the question? That's one of my favorite marketing tactics. Cause the target to ask the question. Remember all the ING commercials where it looked like half a company name was obscured? I don't know about you guys, but I had to know what ING was. Turned out, I didn't care what ING was once I found out.. But the advertising weenies obtained a good portion of their goal. They got my eyeballs. They got my eyeballs because the curiosity was killing me.

Participation is attractive, if a reader's participation would be taken seriously. Look at this blog! People are getting inside scoop. They're getting insight into YOU they wouldn't get just by reading your books. They're reading about your process. They're reading about your day-to-day life. They're... "in the know." THAT is also a very attractive lever. Exclusivity. Maybe you can find a way to include your readers in the process.

I'm probably no help here. I'm talking in generalities, because the normal way I work with this is to throw ten people in a room, and let everyone brain-storm ideas. Even the most idiotic and impractical ideas are welcomed. They're even encouraged. Because ponying up a ridiculous idea might send someone down a useful mental path. Then the group narrows things down to the more attractive and realistic options.

My wife says that she reads her authors' websites. She's mostly asleep right now, or I'd press her for "why? What attracts you there? What sends you back?"

I think you all should poll your readership. Do some of your own market research. Which, in a way, I suspect is a major purpose behind this blog. And I think this is a successful blog. And what makes it successful? YOU are ACCESSIBLE to your READERS.

Pam P said...

Honestly, if I like the premise and/or excerpt for a book, I'm going to try it contest or not.

Everyone likes to win something for free, so I don't think it matters really if you give away something small or big. Whatever it is, people will enter and hopefully will take the time to read about your books. Giving away a copy of the book for a new author, or GC to buy it, is a good idea I think for a brand-new author, if they like it, they will tell all their friends about it.

Some of the book trailers are cool and well-done, but really, who has the time to watch them all, and they don't really tell you much about the book like an excerpt will.

Tawny said...

Eva - congratulations on the GR nabbing!

Trish, FAB topic, and one I'm always curious about. Promotion is a lesson in frustration for me, since its one of those "never know" things that is hard to gauge, success-wise. I'm loving what I'm seeing so far, though and think we should hire P226 to be our Bandita Promo Dude!

I will say, as much as I don't really like book signings (sitting alone is sad, sitting there listening to pervy stories and wanting icky people to go away is really gross) the booksellers are usually fab about having authors sign the leftovers and then hand selling them. So even if I only sell 3 of the 20 books sitting in front of me, I get to sign and leave the other 17 for possible future sales. Yanno?

limecello said...

Hi Trish,
I think what most motivates me to buy a book is an excerpt. I need a good teaser to get me interested. (Something way more than 300 words.) That essentially is the deciding factor for whether or not I'll buy a book. Also, other reader reviews, such those posted as amazon. I also admit to being heavily swayed and more favorably inclined to authors who hold contests - a free book, or gift certificate. I don't get much SWAG so I don't have an opinion on it, other than, well it doesn't do much for me. Coverflats are a let down in my opinion, and not much of a prize. If I'm going to "win" something, I'd like it to be more than a postcard. (Free coverflats etc are lovely as promotional items, I supposed, but they won't factor into me buying the book or not.)
As to actual promotion - advertisements in bookstores, and emails, notices on websites pretty much covers it. Not to the degree of spamming, but maybe a timely reminder or two. And of course, with big enough contests, the word gets out. (Sometimes that has the opposite effect and people think they won't win and just stay away) - so maybe a lot of little giveaways to keep the hype up?
Those are just my muddled thoughts and what I can come up with @ 2 am - I hope it helps!

danetteb said...

I love swag. Being out in HAwaii,there is not that many romance events where I can constantly reecieve swag. But I love joining in contests where there's swag included.
I like the short story ideaa, I read Night Season by Eileen Wilks last month and she has a short on her website that picks up from the end of Night Season.It was a nice treat to get to read the short.

Hugs, Danette

flchen1 said...

Woo! Congrats, Eva! The GR's moving around this week!

Trish, congrats on your release!

I've loved real-participation author blogs (like the Lair--you Banditas are all amazing at this!) and all the promo ideas you hit on work for me--I love contests, little extras on the website, bookmarks or other items... I think the interaction and chatter on sites really helps motivate me to get new titles--often if there's a contest and talk, even if I don't win, that book goes right onto my gotta-get-next-time-I'm-shopping list!

Caren Crane said...

Eva, congrats on the GR! Please make sure he rests today. I'm not sure what he got into yesterday...

Trish, effective promo is an interesting topic. As Tawny said, you can almost NEVER be sure what was effective and what wasn't. I have to say, though, I have a friend who is an NYT bestseller and had a slow, steady build over 16 books or so. From the first, she kept a mailing list and sent postcards every time a book was coming out. She also did bookmarks had a website (as soon as people had those) and did a newsletter, but this was her main promo tool. We thought she was crazy, mailing hundreds of cards for each book, but it paid off!

I think the reason it did is what P226 was saying. It was a personal touch. The author thought enough of her readers to take time to make labels and send cards to her devotees.

Oh, and sending bookmarks to booksellers is a great thing! They love having them to stick in books, customers love getting bookmarks (as Jo pointed out). Not sure how effective they are on the customers, but they are meaningful to the people selling your books. Something to ponder.

Btw, even though I enjoy contests, they rarely lead me to buy a book. Unless I win a free book and they hook me. I usually assume I won't win a contest so I either: a) don't enter; or, b) forget about it as soon as I do.

I know, I'm contrary like that. *g*

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

I am really into the blog thing as far as promo goes. I have found more "new" authors that are now auto buys by being right here in the lair and hearing about them. Too many times I have read the blurb, read a few pages and bought the book only to be greatly disappointed. Actually getting to "hear" how a book was plotted or how the characters came to life makes a difference to me, it intrigues me and I in turn buy an unknown author because I have to know the rest of the story.
I have to say too that occasionally winning a book from an author I have never read before will send me looking for the backlist or anxiously awaiting the next book from that author. Winning a book from an author in a genre I don't usually read has gotten me hooked as well. Just to name a couple were Terri Garey and Stacey Kayne.
The little extras are nice, I am like Jo, I love bookmarks, but as far as making me want to buy the book, no, that doesn't do it for me. I really believe the blog and talking to the authors does it for me.

Terry Stone said...

Since I am unpublished, I thought I would chime in on this one.

I love websites with previews, those hook me faster than anything. I love winning a book-doesn't matter if I've read them before or not-more than one author has went on my autobuy list after I've won their book and fell in love with their writing style. And I love reading about the book on blogs, the author's and others.

Booksignings are not something we have ANY of around here (deep in the mountains of WV), bookmarks I hardly ever use (I've got the tons I've won in a manila envelope and forget I have them when I need them), and the bookplates are really nice to look at, but that's about it.

I have been known to run out and buy a book when the author sends me a postcard on or near it's release date. And book trailors, they must be really well done and make insatiably curious, otherwise I just get this glazed look in my eyes.

Just a reader's opinion, I hope it helps.

PJ said...

Morning Trish! Great topic today. I agree that the Blogs are a terrific promo tool. When Squawk Radio first started I had only read three of the six authors involved but, after reading Eloisa James's first blog, I loved her "voice" so much that I rushed out and bought her latest book. Then, I loved that so much that I bought her backlist.

When Christine Wells guested as Mystery Author at RNTV I was captivated by her sparkling sense of humor. I was lucky enough to win a copy of SCANDAL'S DAUGHTER but, if I hadn't, I would have immediately ordered it.

Magnets don't do it for me. I love bookmarks! An author I read sends bookmarks to her mailing list at the start of each calendar year. On the bookmark is printed the titles and release dates of all her books being published that year. I love that! She also includes a page of stickers to put on your calendar for the respective release dates. Great reminders so that I don't forget to buy her books.

The postcards are a nice personal touch and good reminders. Just make sure that they are mailed before the release. They're somehow not quite as effective when received a couple weeks after the book has been released.

I'm collecting items for the raffle at Celebrate Romance and one of my fav authors sent me a sturdy, pretty blue tote bag. On the front of the bag, in bold black script, is the author's name, her tag line, her website addy and a graphic that ties in to one of her series. If I saw someone carrying that bag it would definitely grab my attention and I would most likely ask about the author. If I won a bag like that, I'd be telling everyone I know, IRL and Cyber, about the author who sent me the terrific book bag.

I know you get a limited number of ARCs but they can be a very effective promo. Last May I went to my mailbox and there, out of the blue, was a pkg. from a fav author. It contained an ARC of her first paranormal, due to be published in July. She had autographed it to me with thanks for being a loyal reader of her books. I was totally blown away and spent the next two months telling EVERYONE about this generous author and her fabulous upcoming book. I have no doubt that many, many copies of her book were sold because of that one gesture.

Sorry, didn't mean to write my own book! LOL! Guess I had a lot to say this morning. Good luck with the new book, Trish!

PJ said...

Back from my shower with more words. LOL!

I recently won a mousepad from y'all. It's very classy and printed with your logo, Romance Bandits and the blog address. It's the first time I've seen a romance promo mousepad and I love it. If I worked in an office I have no doubt it would generate a fair amount of buzz.

I've also been thinking more about the use of blogs, bulletin boards, etc. as a promo tool. When you, the author, make yourself accessible to me, talk and joke and commiserate with me daily, you become my friend. As a friend, I want only the best for you. As your friend, I now have a vested interest in your success and I want to do what I can to ensure it. I tell all my other friends about your website, your books. I buy your new releases the minute they hit the shelves and encourage all my other friends to do the same. You're no longer just a name on the cover of a book.
You're someone I care about and I love to see you giddy with joy over the success of your "baby" and know that I had just a tiny, little bit to do with it.

terrio said...

Since PJ and I hang out in most of the same places, I can attest that she RAVED about that book. LOL! So I pretty much suggest recruiting PJ as your megaphone. Just sayin'...

Blogs/BB's do it for me. For years, before I was part of the WWW, I bought authors I knew and every now and then picked up a new one based on the blurb on the back of their book. Now, it's an ENTIRELY different story. I counted my TBR pile this week and it now caps out at about 200. I'd say 75% of those books I have because I found the author on a BB, blog or had the book recommended to me from someone on a blog/BB.

I hope you guys know what a gold mine you have here. And the fact you guys combine pubbed and soon-to-be-pubbed (notice the optimism there!), you just might be the best group blog out here.

For promo materials, I want something I can use. Bookmarks (book thongs are awesome!) and pens are good. Maybe a post-it pad. The odd shaped cards and coverflats are nice but I can't use them. That mouse pad is a great idea. I might have to steal that one.

Trish Milburn said...

Eva, hope you and the rooster have a grand time. Perhaps you could curl up on the couch with a couple cups of hot chocolate and you can read a good book to him. :)

Jo, I agree. I buy a book because of what's inside. That said, I wonder how many wonderful books I'd really love I've missed simply because there are so many books on the shelves. I think that's the purpose of creative self-promotion -- to get readers to notice your book enough to pick it up and see if they'd like it.

Trish Milburn said...

P226, good ideas there. And I totally agree with the ING commercials. And they did a good job eventually of making people remember what ING is. Lots of really cool commercials aren't that way. They're cool and memorable, but I can't remember WHAT they are a commercial for.

doglady said...

I am back now. My internet had technical issues right after I tried to nab the GR. Sabotage, Eva S??? Aunty Cindy teaches some wicked ways!

Congrats on the new release, Trish!

I love blogs like this one because like p226 said I get to meet and know the authors and that makes me want to read their books.

I love the postcards giving me a heads up about a new release AND most of them are so lovely and frame-worthy. I have them on my walls as inspiration.

The idea of sending out bookmarks for all the year's releases and stickers to mark your calendar is a great one.

The tote bag is a winner too. I have the highly coveted Dianna Love Snell tote bag and it has definitely generated buzz about her books. It is big, classy and embroidered.

I love bookmarks and keep them in a coffee mug on my desk. That's another thing. Coffee mugs are a great promo item. I am a tea drinker but I use a mug and that is something people often take to the office.

I happen to love book signings. I treasure my autographed books - they have their own special bookcase in my office. The best book signings have been after luncheon events. We have an author luncheon every year in our little town. The authors rotate from table to table (they get to eat before we do) and it is so much fun to meet them and talk about their books, their lives, anything.

And p226 we are planning a raid on your house to get the mousepad. That is a brilliant promo idea, Banditas.

Esri said...

Wow, what a bunch of great ideas. You know, this whole golden rooster thing is good. It doesn't even exist and I want it! I guess the competitive spirit is enough to get people going. I think that's why I sometimes enter for a free book even though I know nothing about the author. A free book! Gotta have it! Excerpts are a big sell for me. I also like bookmarks, and as a crafter, I guess I should make up some personalized ones and have a contest. I loved the stickers for a calendar idea. I have what I think is a fun sticker idea up my sleeve.
Postcards only work for me if I already read the author. Otherwise I get a little "oh, more junk mail" reaction. I think it might anti-sell me, but that's just because going through the mail has defaulted to me and if I don't keep up with it, there's this big paper monster. So anything non-necessary gets a little growl. Unless it's a coupon. I'm always open to coupons.

One of the promo books I read talked about people who really talk up a product, and how it's worthwhile to give these people a book. (clears throat) So tell me, PJ... What kinds of books do you like to read?

Trish Milburn said...

Tawny, do you think we should get P226 some letterhead and business cards that say Bandita Promo Dude on them? :)

limecello, thanks for giving us your point of view on the subjects. It's interesting that you point out the idea of lots of smaller giveaways. I'm actually doing that right now on my personal blog. I recently went through and culled a lot of books from my bookshelves. The vast majority of these books are ones that have not been read, and if I live to be 200 I won't get them all read. So what am I doing? I'm giving away three books to one blog commenter each week between now and my release date in September, then 7 books during the week of my release. That's a totally of 100 books I'm giving away. You can see the info at

Trish Milburn said...

danetteb, that's a cool idea to have a short that takes place after a story ends. People love to return to a favorite world/characters. I'm like that in that I'm subscribed to the Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8 comics and the Angel After the Fall comics. These stories take place after the storyline of the TV shows ended.

flchen1, I'm like you. Whenever I see some promo for a book that looks interesting to me but it's either not out yet or I need to hold off on buying more books for a bit, I stick that promo material in this fat "Books to Read" file folder I keep in my office. As an example of a piece of promo that captured my interest and caused a book order months later, I was at the RWA National Conference last summer and saw a stack of postcards on a table in one of the common areas. It was of the cover of Kiss of Fire by Deborah Cooke. The cover caught my interest, I picked the postcard up and read the back, liked what I read and brought the postcard home and kept it until the book was available for order.

Trish Milburn said...

Caren, you make good points about the mailing list (Trish puts on to-do list) and the bookmarks being a promo tool for booksellers.

dianna, I've gotten several books because of interviews done here on the blog too. Two of Terri Brisbin's just got added recently and I have a running list of others.

terry, you bring up a point that I've also thought about -- the lack of book signings in small, rural communities. I grew up in such a place, and there was nada to do unless it was something sponsored by the school. I have a YA book coming out next spring (which is also set in a small town), and I thought I might do some crazy book tour to small towns, might even have some sort of contest to determine where I go.

Trish Milburn said...

PJ, it looks like bookmarks are a universal favorite. And that's a really cool idea with the stickers for release dates.

That's interesting about the effect of the book bag on you as a reader. A friend of mine, Colleen Gleason, has a series of T-shirts that tie into her Gardella Vampire Chronicles books.

Thanks for all your insights.

Wendy said...

I love postcards! As a promotional thingie they work for me. I've never gone to a book signing but guest blogging works too.

Trish Milburn said...

terrio, good info to know about PJ. PJ, Queen of Word-of-Mouth Prom. :)

200 books on your TBR pile, huh? Remember the culling I mentioned? Before that, I had more than 1,000 books on my shelves. Remember that saying, Stop the Insanity!? :) I still have more than 700 that I'm not parting with until I read them. Well, that's my plan anyway.

Thanks for the kind words about the blog. We certainly like it and have a great time.

Wendy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Trish Milburn said...

doglady, what a cool idea to frame cover postcards for inspiration. And some of them are really pretty just as pure pieces of art. When I get my cover, I plan to blow it up big and frame it. It's been a long time coming, and I want to see that baby every day. :)

Hey, Esri's in da house! This is the Esri mentioned in the post, she of the hot elf on her cover. LOL on the Golden Rooster. It is rather fun to see the good-natured jostling to capture him each morning. Poor traumatized bird.

Wendy, thanks for weighing in on the postcards. Seems kind of like everyone is split on that idea. I've actually had both reactions. Ones that grabbed me like the Deborah Cooke one, and ones that showed up in the mailbox that kind of gave me Esri's reaction. Maybe I was just in a bad mood that day. :)

Trish Milburn said...

doglady, I'm actually going to one of those author/reader events in May. I wonder if it's the one you attend. I don't think I know what neck of the woods you're from.

Esri Rose said...

1000 books. A thousand books? I applaud your idea to get them out of the house and use them as promotion. (runs over to Trish's blog to comment).

Trish Milburn said...

Esri, isn't that insane? It comes from years of going to conferences, book signings, etc. Some of them were freebies, lots of others I've bought, especially when I was targeting a line. For instance, I have lots of Bombshells, but I'm getting rid of many of them because the line doesn't exist anymore. They're likely good books, but with limited reading time I've got to be practical and just read my friends' books or ones that I really, really want to read.

Joan said...

Wow, what a wonderful day in the lair! Trish, you rock!

First of all, as a Bandita, I want to say thank you to ALL our Bandita Buds for your thoughts about our blog. You truly, truly have become friends to us and PJ...glad you liked the mousepad!

As to what works for ME as a reader. I have to tell you that I've been enticed to purchase new authors (for me) from THIS blog.

I've not as a rule been a blog reader before RB but our fabulous guests have won a new fan in me...among them Jane Graves, Sandy Blair, CL Wilson and a host of others.

I like booksignings fine especially multi author ones (though the Literacy signing at National is nerve wracking. I cannot possibly buy every book so I go up and down the aisles avoiding eye contact because the authors have puppy dog eyes and ....(deep breath) I can't stand to say no).

Bookmarks are fine. I became a fan of paranormal author Robin D. Owens because of a bookmark. I was chilling in the lobby of the hotel in Denver (trying to recover from altitude sickness)when she sat down next to me. We chatted, she gave me a bookmark of "Heartmate". I thought "Looks interesting". Of course that night she went on to win the RITA (and I was sitting right behind her). I've devoured every title of hers since then.

p226 I also appreciate what you bring to this blog. Your sharp wit and thoughtful insights make you the head "dude" for sure.

Now Eva, I hear the GR calling....he needs more cocoa.

Maureen said...

I think the thing that is most important is to have people reading about your book so if an author is running a contest and I have to read the excerpt and information about the book to get the answer to win then I will buy the book if I liked what I read so far.

Trish Milburn said...

Joan, I know exactly how you feel at the Lit Signing at National. I hate walking past people and not buying their books, but there are hundreds of authors and it's just not possible to buy one from all of them.

Maureen, you've hit on something other authors have told me. Don't just have a giveaway; have the readers have to read an excerpt and answer a question to be able to enter. It gets them interested in the story, which will hopefully lead to a book sale, and it helps prevent serial contesters who just enter things and don't give two hoots about the books.

Lois said...

Hiya :) Sure, I love promo efforts and contest -- and I imagine plenty of the authors here know my name because of it. LOL :) I'm always happy at getting any of the goodies that you guys have, but sure, always love it when there's a book or gift certificate as a prize -- and so many times I either get introduced to an author that I hadn't already known and do get future or even past books -- and for authors I already have every single book, now I can say I have a signed one! :)

I'm a huge collector of the bookmarks, coverflats and love the pens (alas though, sure wish there were more blue ink than black, but I digress LOL). Book trailers, to be honest, I rarely see the point -- in the end, it's what the book about that draws me in, and it's much quicker to read the blurb than see the trailer. . . and booksignings are nice, (alas, only been to one), but those can be expensive or just rarely around in the area. :)

And that's all I can think of right now. :)


Trish Milburn said...

Thanks for commenting, Lois. I too have an entire basket full of pens. My personal motto is one can never have too many pens. :)

Donna MacMeans said...

Eva - Great nab on the GR. I wonder if I can snag some of that bird frequent flier miles. He's definitely a world traveler.

Trish - Welcome to the promo world.I'm still learning, experimenting as to what works and what doesn't. Reader feedback is critical so everyone email your favorite authors (hopefully, me *g*) and thell them what you like and what you don't.

I find I get a lot of feedback from face-to-face events. Yesterday I did a reading that I hope intriqued some of the audience esp. as I got to answer questions. I love reader events where I can talk one-on-one with avid readers. (PJ - wish I could make Celebrate Romance this year, but just can't. I'll send you something for a basket, though). Currently, though I'm booked for Lori Foster's event in Cincinnati in June and Lora Leigh's in Ashland, KY in September. But - I am a talker - hard to keep me quiet when addressing romance, so those kind of events work for me. Hey - if any of our readers know of a good reader function, let us know. Maybe we can get a bandita there with a prize basket.

PJ - loved the idea of stickers - hadn't thought of that.

Trailers? It's hard to make a good one for historicals *g* All those costumes.

Magnets, pens, post-its -- I use them all but I've never bought a book based on these things. Now that I know how much they cost, I'm not sure it's the most effective method of promotion.

Of course, the best promotion is an excellent book followed by another excellent book and so on... It's hard sometimes to find the time to devote to writing, though, when one is devoting a lot of time to promotion.

Diana Cosby said...

For me an author's voice will make me buy a book every time. The cover and time frame of the story catch my attention, but the first few pages, the author's voice is what convinces me to buy thier story. I do love bookmarks, and I love it when author's websites have personal tid-bits about them. Thank you for the interesting topic.

Diana Cosby

Trish Milburn said...

Donna, I think reader events will be great. I'm looking forward to the Heart of Dixie one in May.

Diana, I, as a reader, love to look at an author's Web site and learn more about her, get a sense of her personality. I think a Web site, like every other bit of promo, needs to be very memorable.

Suzanne Welsh said...

Aww P226 we love you, too!

Great post Trish! I LOVE book promo! If I find a book or author I'm passionate about, I'll promo it to everyone I know! And of course I've never met a stranger, so that's lots of people to promo to!

Book Trailers...I love book trailers and the ones you posted were great. My friend is doing some now.
And I think they're done well. Here are the URL's:

Websites are the best investment I think an author can make with her money. BUT it has to be updated frequently or have unique content. JR Ward's site has added interviews with the heros of her series. After the first book, I went to her site and read each one. Made me salivate for more of her books!! Sherrilyn Kenyon's did the same with all her profiles and hints at future books. It was like a whole new world opened up for me.

I do know some readers collect signed cover flats and either trade them or sell them on e-bay! (Reader's baseball cards?) And I know some who collect bookmarks like JoMama. Me, if a postcard has a sexy man on the front, well, I will collect that!

Then there are blogs. Mostly, I like fun, informative, interractive blogs. WE had this discussion a while back about group blogs vs individual ones. Done right, I think it can market the authors to mass number of readers with little cost to the author, except time and energy of course. That is why I love our Bandit blog. WHEN I get published, I hope to have a whole reader base built in!

Suzanne Welsh said...

Joan, WHEN you and I sell, we'll have a little lesson I call "Stand, don't sit" at book signings. Drive me crazy at National. There are 4-500 authors!!! Unless your known to me, make me want to buy your book, dang it! Hopeful puppy dog eyes really won't do it. Stand, smile, hold the book out to me when I approach. Comment on what kind of book I like to read. Make me want yours. Engage me!

Okay..stepping off my soap box now! :)

Minna said...

Blogs, webpages, those little advertisements on the last pages of a book, contests... Those are excelent ways to find out about new books and new writers, for that matter. But in the end it's that little bit of information about the story that makes me decide whether to buy the book or not.

Minna said...

Unless it's a book from one of those writers whose books I buy no matter what they write.

Joan said...

LOL, Suz....I hear you!

I was kind of thinking the gladiator standing behind me might draw potential buyers attention.... I should go ahead and hold try outs...



Christine Wells said...

Hi Trish--great post! I'm interested in this topic too, of course:) I always think there are different purposes to promotion--to get your name and 'brand' known and to get people to take that extra step and buy your books. No piece of merchandise will get me to make that purchase unless I've read a great excerpt or heard a lot of buzz about the book, so bookmarks and other paraphernalia don't directly make sales, to my mind.

A lovely idea I've seen is to make a miniature booklet of your first chapter or excerpt with your cover on the front. Anne Gracie did that and they were very successful. But fiddly and expensive, unfortunately.

Hey, PJ! Thanks so much for saying nice things about me:) PJ is the detective extraordinaire over at Romance Novel TV who smoked me out in no time flat when I was Mystery Author. That was so much fun, what a pity I can only do it once. Sven says hello, PJ!

Oh, and Eva, congrats on the GR. My, he has been getting around lately.

Anna Sugden said...

Great topic, Trish. And one I hope to use the info from, one of these days.

I know bookmarks are useful and I do like them - but I only keep the ones with info on future releases. I use the same one or two bookmarks which have great sentimental value, so I don't tend to use other ones.

I like postcards, email updates and short, snappy info on forthcoming books. Love Tawny's cards with the recipes - Julie Ortolon did those too. Like excerpts and extras.

I'm not a regular blog surfer - not enough time. But if I do have a number a cruise around on slow days or when I'm procrastinating. These are probably my main source for trying new authors. I always check out websites and if I get a new author I like ... will definitely get the backlist - especially for connected books.

Give-aways are fun - but prefer free books (as if I don't have enough in my TBR room - which is shared with DH) and fun items.

Trish Milburn said...

Suz, those book trailers are nice too. Wow, those firefighters are HOT. (Trish fans self.)

Trish Milburn said...

Minna, thanks for mentioning the ads at the back of other books. I wonder how the publisher decides whose to put there? Must find out.

LOL, Joan. You should so hire a model to dress up as a gladiator for your signings when those hot Roman books of yours sell to some wise publisher.

Christine, I've seen some of those little booklets. They do seem like they'd be time-consuming.

Anna, when you sell, you need to see if one of the New Jersey Devils players wants a gig hanging out with you at book signings. :)

Wendy said...

Like Donna said - Magnets, pens, post-its are nice but I don't think I've ever brought a book because of them.

Actually, this author sent me a magnet a few months ago and now I can't wait to read her first book when it comes out. :)

Esri Rose said...

Trish, I've thought more than once about dressing a guy up as Legolas, bringing him to promotional parties, and taking book buyers' pix with him. There's a guy in Chorale who bears a remarkable resemblance to Orlando Bloom. Haven't approached him yet. It would be fun to have an elfy costume for the gal to wear, too, like in those old-West photos. Just something open in the back that she can pull on over her clothes. And pointy ears, too. Gotta have the pointy ears.

Nancy said...

Congratulations, Eva! Doglady, maybe next time.

Interesting topic, Trish. For me, booktrailers are no help at all because I don't have high-speed internet. Watching videos is torturous because the download time is so long, so . . . I don't. A bookmark might get my attention, at least enough that I'd look for the book if it sounded interesting.

Count me in on the "first few pages" group with Jo, Pam P., and Eva. I also agree with Limecello about excerpts. I bought S. L. Viehl's Stardoc series because she put an excerpt handout in the goody room at RWA for a book that was clearly SF/SRE. That was before "paper handouts" were banned, of course.

I do look at free books, but if they don't interest me, they're gone pretty quickly. I don't have room to keep them.

Caren, the postcard bit is interesting. I used to sign up for mailing lists, back when they were hard copy, but I stopped because authors who had publicists turned the lists over to them, which resulted in my getting cards about every author those publicists represented who wrote in that genre.

I agree with Esri. If I haven't indicated an interest in an author, a postcard is just more junk mail. So I think the idea of sending cards to people you know like your books, versus people who haven't indicated an interest, sounds good.

PJ, the tote bag sounds cool. I have a weakness for tote bags, especially good ones that have a closure mechanism of some sort.

I really, really hate being signed up for e-newsletters without my permission. I assume we can all spell "spam." That's how I regard the ones I haven't asked for.

I second Joan's thanks for all the comments about the blog. It wouldn't be nearly as much fun to do without y'all stopping by.

Suzanne Welsh said...

Grins at Trish...I got permission to let you know they were created by author Jane Graves. She's working on forming a company to produce them, **cough**areyoupayingattentionBanditas?**cough**

I think she does a great job. Now if I JUST had a book to promo!!

Trish Milburn said...

Esri, I so have to come watch your Chorale. The Banditas know how much I like Orlie. :)

Nancy, I can't imagine having to go back to dial-up Internet now. I LOVE my high speed.

Suz, cool that Jane is getting into the book trailer biz. As a big fan of movie trailers, I think there's a definite market here IF they are done well.

MsHellion said...

You've pretty much nailed it. *LOL* The first two are the biggest draws for me. (Bookmarks get discarded right off; I don't mean to...but they're just not very memorable! A lot of them look alike.)

The trailers get pretty hit or miss, but I think Kimberly Killion did a really good one for her book coming out this July. I can't wait to buy it. Plus it features a Scotsman. You just can't go wrong here.

I don't now how to make the trailers...less cheesy. The Vagabonds did a great job with Eloisa James' trailers by being a bit goofy on the onset. Not taking themselves too seriously. They did one for Desperate Duchesses that featured the song from Charlie's Angels. Very clever.

I think the trailers that crash and burn are the ones that are way too serious about it. But maybe that's me...I don't take a lot seriously.

And free ARCs work for me. *LOL*

Okay, and this is weird, but here goes: I like character interviews. Especially if it's the hero. I know we should be half interested in the heroine, but I'm shallow--so I'm not. The hero is the DRAW...and if we get to "meet" him, that's sexy to me. I remember reading an interview for one of Elizabeth Hoyt's books and couldn't wait to buy the next book after "meeting him"--and it was simply an interview stuck at the end of her book. That I borrowed from the library...but by then I knew I was *buying* that book. From the interview.

PJ said...

So, Terri, are you saying I have a big mouth? LOL!

Esri, my reading tastes are vast and varied. I just jumped over to check out your upcoming book. Sounds like its right up my alley. I love books that make me laugh. I'll definitely be looking for it come May.

Trish Milburn said...

mshellion, that's interesting about the character interviews. Definitely something to think about.

MsHellion said...

And to be quite honest, the character wasn't very forthcoming in his interview. He got secretive and mysterious.

I bet he'd have thrown a phone if he'd known what one was.

But dang was he readable. *LOL*

Helen said...

Congrats Eva on the GR

I do love all the bookmarks and coverflats that are given as promo's I have a beautiful collection of coverflats that are very special to me some I have won some have been sent to me by some wonderful authors that know how much I love them. At Rendezvous where I buy my books they usually put in some bookmarks or occasionally a coverflat and I have orderd some of those books because I have liked what I read about it from them. I also like the magnets I have as well, I like to look at the trailers some good some not so good, but in the long run I read the authors I know and from recomendations and I surf the blogs that give me even more books I want.
Great blog Trish and I am very much looking forward to reading your book.
Have Fun

Helen said...

As for meeting Authors I have been lucky enough to meet two of my favourite authors I drove 3 hours a few years ago to a book signing by Stephanie Laurens and I loved it Stephanie is such a lovely lady and signed all of the books I took with me and the ones I had bought at the bookstore as well and I have meet Anna Campbell. Anna did a talk at a library near me and I would not have missed it for the world a truly amazing talk and Anna as we all know is such a wonderful easy going person and of course she signed my book for me. I do love to meet the authors as well. There are still a few more who live in Australia that I would love to meet personally.
Have Fun

Trish Milburn said...

Helen, thanks for chiming in. I admit that it's a little scary as I get closer to my release date. I'm excited to hear what readers thing but kind of scared too. Writing is such a personal craft, and I want everyone to love my "babies." :)

Esri Rose said...

PJ, can you email me at Esri.Rose @ I think I'd better send you an ARC. I'd put something in the Celebrate Romance raffle, but I'm not getting my ARCs until April or something. If that's still in time, let me know. If anyone else is collecting basket/raffle material around that time, feel free to contact me.

I'm copying all these good ideas to a file. Thanks for starting this, Trish!

Also, I'm with you on being nervous about reader responses. I might have Angel Joe vet all online stuff before I read it. I just discovered a big new source of new reviews. I'm not even going to tell you what it is. No, trust me. You do not want to know.

Nathalie said...

Promo efforts... anyone blogging arounf and talking about his work is making an effort :)

Anna Sugden said...

Trish - yes please! I wonder if my boy Zach Parise would do it?

Joanie - oh yes on the gladiator! Suz Brockmann always used to have her SEAL buddy.

Meant to say - I love Post-its and use them all the time. Would it make me buy the book - depends *g*.

Trish Milburn said...

Fine, Esri, tease me with that hidden info. :)

Anna, hey, you could always ask. :)

Amy S. said...

I buy a book because I like the blurb and the excerpt. Promoting your book around the net like on blogs with excerpts really helps me find new books. There is no bookstore close to me so I have to find out about new books online and buy them online.

kim h said...

i read excerpts on the authors websites to see what book interest me. covers are not a factor for me

ruth said...

I browse through the books at the bookstore and check out the blurb on the back, this is the most reliable method to determine whether I will enjoy it. I think that promotions, giveaways and contests are helpful since you learn about new books and authors. I do not bother much with trailers.

pearl said...

Authors who have blogs and contests always are appealing since the new releases are featured. This works well and is effective in giving me the background and information I need in order to buy the book. A new author is always a treat to find.

Jane said...

Everybody likes free stuff. I don't care if it's a pen or coverflat. I appreciate all freebies. It doesn't cost me anything so there's nothing for me to gripe about. I agree that you can never have too many bookmarks. I admit that ARCs are the best, but you've got to be lucky or know the right people to get your hands on these. Blurbs have the most influence when I'm deciding to purchase a book. If the book sounds interesting, I will buy it. I really enjoyed the trailer for "What Isabella Desires," but since I was already a fan of Anne Mallory, the trailer didn't influence me as much as her name did.

diane said...

An author's website draws me into their world, their books and the contests and blogs that they have. It is new for me since blogs didn't exist before and I find that they are great. Having their books available and reading the excerpts helps to decide upon whether it would suit me or not.

Aunty Cindy said...

Good Afternoon all!
Eva, so glad you picked up on a bit of sneaky craft and snagged the GR. ;-) Yesterday, I took him to lunch with Jo-Mama and he got to read/hear the latest on our WIPs. While he seemed to enjoy them, he did suggest we both add a couple of car crashes and some explosions! hmmm... (Aunty casts a suspicious glance at p226)

As for what makes a person buy a book, I'm really interested in what all of you have to say! When I EVER get a firm publication date and a cover (sigh -- Feels like it's taking 4 EVER!) I will need to start promoting the heck outta this book!

VERY BIG THANX to all of you who have said such nice things about our blog. YOU truly make it worthwhile for all of us!


catslady said...

Winning a book is the best! It gets me to try new authors. And if I like it I will buy either backlist or new books. I always appreciate any goodies given away and especially when I get a reply back whether it's a blog, group or contest.

Trish Milburn said...

From what everyone is saying, it sounds like the blurbs on the back of books are useful. Unfortunately, we authors don't get to write those. Not as a general rule at least.

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

This is great info, Trish! I love that the blog posts have turned into a great big promo brainstorming session! :>

Eva, congrats on the GR.

Like P226, as a marketeer I like brainstorming sessions best for getting ideas on how to promo-ing a particular thing. Your idea for going to small towns since the book is set in one, for example, relates both to the content and appeals to the niche market you'd promo to. Perfect! Picture with the Mayor...lots of promo...

The other thing is PR - public speaking in particular. Anna C's done a bit of this and it really gets the word out in a free way. :>

I loved the ING commercials, but then again I didn't "buy" because I didn't need the product. If I was a beer drinker, I'd buy Bud though because of the Clydesdales and the Dalmatian commercial from the Super Bowl. Ha!

p226 said...

I was kind of thinking the gladiator standing behind me might draw potential buyers attention.... I should go ahead and hold try outs...


*thumps chest*

*I* am Sparticus!

Trish Milburn said...

catslady, discovering a new author and finding out she has a backlist that I can glom is always fun.

Jeanne, this has been a fun brainstorming session -- fun and useful.

Joan said...

*thumps chest*

*I* am Sparticus!


I needed that since I just wasted $4 on DVR to watch "The Last Legion". All fancy sword fights, no plot. Although the guy playing a Goth is the same one who was Voreneous in HBO's ROME!

Good're the front runner for sure :-)

doglady said...

Joan I think we would ALL pay good money to see p226 dressed like Leonidas in 300. Now THAT is a promo that would get you some readers for sure.

Trish, I live in LA (Lower Alabama) I attend all of the luncheons in the Birmingham area and some others in other parts of Alabama. I have even made it to some of the ones in Georgia. I would LOVE to see you at one!

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Hey JoanieT, can you just get whoever the guy is that posed for your website? YUM!! (If you're curious go see www. Joankayse .com) without the spaces, of course

Now...we could have a 6-pack, Gladiator contest in the Lair. I volunteer to be a judge....

Joan said...

LOL, Jeanne. My orthopaedic surgeon friend claims HE'S the six pack gracing the page! VBG

It is a nice website if I do say so myself. Dawn at Austin Designworks did a fantastic job!

Hope ya'll like it!

Trish Milburn said...

doglady, I'm going to the Heart of Dixie one in Huntsville in May. Any chance you'll be there?

doglady said...

Trish. I have never been to the Heart of Dixie although some of those girls come down to the Southern Magic luncheon in Birmingham (my local chapter)I need to put my head together with my partner in crime and BFF and see if we can make it to Huntsville. I would LOVE to see you there!

Joan! I just looked at your WEBSITE and that guy almost melted my monitor! Oh my goodness!

Trish Milburn said...

Great, doglady. Let me know if you do decide to attend.

Trish Milburn said...

Thanks for all the great comments and ideas today, everyone!

Keira Soleore said...

Making distinction between auto-buy authors, super auto-buy, and new-to-me authors. In the first category are writers that I will buy if they write the kind of book I'm interested in, kinda like I would buy her historials but not her paranormals. The super-auto-buys are ones whose work I'll always buy even if it's a grocery list. Then we come to the new-to-me category. This is purely word-of-mouth by people who's judgment I trust.

Keira Soleore said...

Then again, cover are important. I've bought books without knowing the name of the author or the type of book, let alone title or blurb.

Esri Rose said...

Just a general word to everyone... That was kind of graceless of me to pick PJ out for a free book, but I couldn't bring myself to pass her up. I'll make sure to announce my later contests here, so that more people get a shot at a free book.

S F said...

Great blog!

I like bookmarks but only if they're really unusual. Otherwise, they're the #1 thing I see get dumped at conventions.

I love meeting authors at conventions. But I have to say, authors have to be on their toes there. I've had authors I loved, but when I met them they were jerks and I never read another one of their books again.

Book trailers aren't really meant for traditional readers. They're fun for readers, but they're really meant for potential readers. And booksellers LOVE them. Even is allowing author to upload their book videos now.

Here are a few that you might like to check out-

The Price (suspense)

Hard to Handle (went viral – book is #2 on NYT)

Lessons of Desire (Historical)

Safe Harbor (#1 NYT)

It isn't good enough just to have a trailer. You have to know what to do with it. As a digital video distribution specialist I can tell you that not all video upload sites are created equal when it comes to finding book buyers.

For those of you who upload video to the web as part of your job, or for authors who do their own video check out TubeMogul. It's a great site for uploading video.