Nathan Bransford, Author

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Guest Blogger: Michelle Moran on How to Promote Your Book (Part 2)

Michelle Moran is the acclaimed and bestselling author of NEFERTITI, published by Crown in 2007, and THE HERETIC QUEEN, which just came out last month. She will be stopping by as time allows to answer questions.

Thanks so much to Michelle for putting together these incredible posts!

Get A Professional Website
Right around the time your final book cover appears, you should have a website up and running (or close to it). I don’t mean a free, do-it-yourself website, but a real, professional-looking site with a photo of you that wasn’t taken in the 1980s. When readers go surfing for author websites, they are looking for more information about you, your books, and what’s coming next. If you really feel like going all out, create a page that’s just for Bloggers, or a page that’s just for Book Clubs, where readers and reviewers can contact you to set up talks, guest posts, Q&As, etc. This way, your website isn’t just providing readers with great information, it’s also actively working for you.

Start A Blog
On a similar note, if you’re going to begin a blog, make sure there’s constantly changing content which will keep people coming back day after day. If you’re not sure where to start, check out what other authors are already doing. A great example of a blog which revolves around a particular theme is historical fiction author C.W. Gortner’s Historical Boys, and a wonderful example of a more eclectic approach is historical romance author Deanna Raybourn’s Blog A Go-Go. What I really can’t recommend is starting a blog in which the posts are all about your book, your promotional activities, and where you can next be seen on tour. Who in the world is going to want to come back day after day to read that? Besides, news of that sort should be featured on your website under a “News” section (unless you find it easier to update a blog versus your website. In which case, make it clear you are not writing a blog, but an author-news page). Of course, if your blog has a theme or interesting content other than your promotional activities, it doesn’t hurt to slip in a post every now and again about your own books.

Get To Know Reviewers
There are hundreds upon hundreds of reviewers out there, many of whom would gladly review your book if given the opportunity (and a free one). Every author receives copies of their own book after publication, and the day these arrive at my house are the same day they leave, signed to several dozen reviewers I’ve met online. Along with signed copies, I also ask the reviewers if they would like a guest post on a particular topic of their choosing (or a generic one), a Q&A of their own making (or, again, a generic one), and whether they’d like two free books to give away on their site. I do this until my books run out. This doesn’t mean you should expect a good review (after all, you want the reviewers to be honest, otherwise their readers won’t trust them), but you can expect “free” publicity. Book bloggers are some of the friendliest people in the world. They are also incredibly kind, and an email asking if they’d like a book to review is almost always answered with a yes (assuming you actually read their blog and know that it’s the right blog to review your book).

Look to the newspapers
Writing an op-ed piece for a newspaper is a fantastic way of creating a little extra buzz for your book. Historical fiction author Robin Maxwell has contributed several pieces to the Huffington Post, many of which mention the subject of her previous books and all of which come with a bio. If you don’t think you have anything to say which would warrant an entire column in a major newspaper, start thinking in terms of historical metaphors and similes. In one of Robin’s columns, she compares Hillary Clinton to Anne Boleyn, the subject of her debut novel. By writing this piece, she increased awareness of her work and added a publishing credit to her already long list. Visibility never hurts (well… unless you’re getting caught for plagiarizing). Just take a look at the hoopla surrounding Sherry Jones’ novel The Jewel of Medina about the prophet Mohammed’s nine year old wife. What began with an outraged reviewer and subsequent cancellation of her book turned into a publicity juggernaut and windfall for her. Almost any publicity is good publicity. If you don’t believe that, just take a peek at James Frey’s Amazon numbers three years after the publication of A Million Little Pieces, which caused Oprah to cry – and not in a good way. Of course, Amazon purchases count for a very small percentage of a book’s overall sales, but nevertheless, the point remains. Publicity is your friend, and when it comes for free, it’s your BFF.

Consider Hiring an Outside Publicist
While every author wants publicity, the in-house publicist who has been assigned to you is busy. In fact, she’s more than busy, she’s overwhelmed and probably spread too thin. She has many books to tend to, some of which may have been written by larger and more successful authors than you. Even if you’re not at the bottom of the totem pole, you’re still not going to be receiving weekly emails updating you on where books are being sent, and you’re almost certainly not going to be getting phone calls asking which publicity ideas are your favorite and whether they should be implemented this week or next. The fact that your in-house publicist can’t do all of this for you isn’t personal, it’s simply business. She is already doing everything she can to help your career and is probably even going out of her way to follow up on leads that may or may not go anywhere (unless you’ve acted like a jerk, in which case she’s not going out of her way. With so many authors to juggle, who needs high-maintenance whiners?). Given all of this, it is possible that you may want to look into hiring an outside publicist, assuming that you’re given the okay by your house.

The time to hire an outside publicist is a year before your book comes out. This will give the new publicist time to read your work, come up with a marketing and publicity plan, and hopefully begin implementing some of the more complicated plans long before your in-house publicist is even allowed to start working on your book (which is about three to five months before publication). A publicist is paid in a variety of ways. Some charge by the project, others work at an hourly rate (expect a quote of $50-$150/hr), while still others work month by month and will expect you to commit to a minimum number of hours for a minimum number of months. Usually, the minimum number of months is three, which is really a very short time for a good publicist to put together and implement a fantastic plan.

How do you know if a publicist is going to be worth it, since most will cost at least $10,000? Look at her list of past and current clients, then feel free to email them and ask their opinions. However, keep in mind that no one can guarantee a review in the NYT, and anyone who tells you differently probably has a side business selling used watches out of their trench-coat. Instead, what a good publicist can do for you is guarantee exposure. I happened to be at RWA in San Francisco while I was looking for a publicist, and after hearing bestselling author Debbie Macomber praise her publicist Nancy Berland, I had a meeting with a Borders Book Buyer who also recommended Nancy (out of the blue). Thinking that this was surely some sort of a sign, I did some research on my own, then decided to hire Nancy to help publicize (and market) my third book, Cleopatra’s Daughter. The book comes out a year from the time of writing (September 2009) which makes this the perfect time to start planning a campaign.

Consider Doing Some of Your Own Marketing
Once the first chunk of your advance comes through (it’s often sent in thirds: the first third upon signing, the second upon acceptance of the edited manuscript, and the last third upon publication) you may want to set aside a percentage for marketing. This can be anywhere from $500 to a whopping $150,000. If $150,000 sounds like an eye-popping amount, it certainly is, but some of the really big authors do set aside those kind of dollars for their outside publicists to market their work (or brand, in their case). For most authors, however, a few thousand dollars is more than enough, and once those dollars are set aside, the difficult job of deciding where to spend that money begins. Marketing can be done almost anywhere, and when I was looking into marketing my debut novel, I checked out every possibility, from radio commercials to display panels on public phone booths (yes, all five remaining ones). I even checked out billboards and theatre advertising.

The conclusion I came to was that online marketing gets the biggest bang for your buck. You’ve heard it before, and probably ad nauseum, but the internet is the future (and the present) of advertising. When Perez Hilton can charge $18,000 for a week’s worth of advertising on his site and have so many ads they are stacked one on top of the other, you bet there’s money to be made online. And he doesn’t make that money without good reason. Whether or not you like his site, 49 million viewers a week check in, and that’s a lot of eyeballs on your ad if you decide to buy a spot there. Ads like his can be purchased at, or you can forget the hassle of doing it yourself and go through MJ Rose, who also offers her fantastic Author Buzz service to new authors which I can highly, highly recommend (in fact, if money is tight and you can do only one thing for your book, this might be what you want to purchase). MJ gets special rates on blogs like Perez, and her own blog, Buzz, Balls & Hype, has wonderful information on book marketing.

When choosing where to advertise, consider your book’s target audience. I don’t just mean male or female, old or young. I mean what do your readers do with their spare time? Are they gardeners or café dwellers? Do they own cats or dogs? When considering this for my debut novel on ancient Egypt, cat-lovers sprang to mind, and of all of my ads, the ones on cat-related sites have done the best. I also saw significant click-thrus on romance sites, even though my books aren’t romance. And don’t be afraid to call up or email places like the NYT or CNN to ask for their advertising rates. But before you do, be familiar with the lingo, because some of the bigger sites, like USA Today, will quote you prices in terms of CPM (cost per mille, which is Latin for a thousand) and ask what your ideal flight date is (a date which should correspond with your co-op).

When looking into places to advertise, some authors will consider radio ads, but my guess is that if you're going to do radio, you need to already be a brand. Since there's nothing for the listener to see, they must decide to purchase or not purchase the book based on a name. King is a brand. Patterson is a brand. For an author who isn't widely known, visual is probably better. I think radio is a reminder to readers that a new [insert brand name] has come out, whereas TV commercials can flash the book cover of an unknown author and see a bigger movement in sales. I would need to ask my marketing department to back me up on this, but that's my gut feeling.

Of course, an author can choose not to do any marketing at all. For my first novel, I set aside a part of my advance for it. But for my second novel, I did very little. Instead, my publishing house was willing to do most of the extra marketing (which I had done previously) on their own budget, and this is where knowing the difference between marketing and publicity (and meeting the people who work in these departments) comes in. Once you’ve done some of your own advertising and you know firsthand what works, you’re in a much stronger position to email your marketing department and ask if they would like to foot the bill for a particular ad. Sometimes it will be a yes, sometimes it will be a no, but it’s much more likely to be a “yes” if you can prove it’s worked in the past.

Yet even with my publishing house paying for more ads, when my third novel comes out next year, I will be back to doing my own marketing. This isn’t because my house will be doing less (Crown is wonderfully supportive, and any author who lands there is lucky in the extreme). It’s because I believe that pitching-in is a good business decision. Moreover, the one who pays the bill is the one who has the control over the look and layout of the ads, of where the online ads should be linked, and which dates the ads should run. Being in control is rather nice, and I’ve discovered that although I’m definitively a Type B personality in everyday life, like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, I morph pretty furiously into a Type A when it comes to business decisions. Not only that, it’s a matter of already having done the hard work. Since I took the time find out which online sites worked best for my first novel (and which designers could be counted on to produce something eye-catching in a timely fashion), purchasing an ad here and there no longer takes the time that it used to.

Create A Book Trailer

Books trailers come in many shapes and sizes, and by this I mean anything from home-made movies to studio-productions. A book trailer can be made for any type of novel, from nonfiction (see The Dangerous Book For Boys) to adult fiction (see The Judas Strain) to YA (see Rumors). If you decide to make a trailer for your book, the first thing you’ll need to consider is your budget. If you’re doing something produced at home, well then, no worries, but if you want to have photos with professional voiceover and copyrighted music, you’ll be looking at spending at least $800. For something more upscale an author can hire a company like Expanded Books which made C.W. Gortner’s trailer for his novel The Last Queen. And for a trailer made by an actual director who will use green-screen, hire actors, rent costumes, rustle up props and have an on-set stylist, you’re looking at $5000 or so. I found the director I hired to shoot my book trailer for Cleopatra’s Daughter on GalleyCat. Brady Hall was punctual, charming, enthusiastic, and best of all, open to any and all ideas. From concept to finished product, it took about a month.

Once your book trailer is finished, however, an author needs to start thinking about unique ways of utilizing it. Will you be playing it in theatres, using it for commercials, navigating the right channels to display it on B&, or will you simply be posting it on YouTube and hoping for the best? Publishers rarely pay for book trailers themselves, since there’s no way of knowing whether or not they work. Of course, you can always incorporate the trailer into an online ad and study the click-thus versus a static or flash ad. Then, armed with these numbers, perhaps your publisher may be more willing to pay for the next one. If not, an author must look at those numbers him/herself and determine whether the cost is worth it.

Get The Inside Scoop
Getting the inside scoop means knowing which options are available to your publishing house for promoting and marketing your book. By becoming familiar with these various options, you can be in the position of mentioning them to your editor or marketing contact as possibilities. Why wouldn’t your publishing house simply act on these options versus waiting for you to bring them up? Because many of them are expensive, require extra time, and are only done for the books that are being given a huge marketing push.

The White Box, Red Box Program is something your publishing house can choose to participate in if they so desire. It is run through Indie Bound, which will send red and white colored boxes to all of the independent bookstores on their list. In the boxes are things like ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies – like galleys), tear-off shelf-talkers (paper displays which sit on the shelf and draw the reader’s attention to a particular book), easel-back signs, posters, postcards, bookmarks and more. Each of these items come with a different price tag. In 2005, for example, sending a shelf-talker each to the nine hundred stores cost $50, while bookmarks cost $350. If you send these items to a bookstore on your own, the chances are that they will end up in the garbage (and cost a pretty penny to produce and mail). That is what makes WBRB so useful.

The White Box, Red Box program, however, isn’t the only way of sending out these promotional items. Shelf-talkers can also be shipped to the big chains, like B&N and Borders. Getting them made will require the permission of your marketing department, just as floor displays (which go under co-op), require your marketing department’s approval. You’ve seen these cardboard stands in B&N featuring twelve of an author’s most recent books. They are quite pricey to make and ship, but if your publishing house hasn’t mentioned them, ask anyway. The answer will probably be no, but it’s worth a shot! And a firm “not possible” this time around just might turn into a “let’s see what we can do” for the next book.

That means leave negativity alone. One would think this goes without saying, but a quick skim of Dear Author can tell you that many authors suffer from badreviewaphobia. This is the abnormal fear, and possibly even the uncontrollable rage, over a poor review, be it on Amazon, in a newspaper, or anywhere else. Take it as a fact that there will be readers who dislike your book. Forget dislike. There will be reviewers who loathe your book entirely (and maybe even you, as well). Justified or not, it is exceptionally foolish of an author to get into an online debate with a reviewer who doesn’t like your book. Worse still is the author who sneakily asks a friend to go online and bash the reviewer. Take my word on this: you will be found out. In one way or another, even if no one can prove it, this will be discovered and readers will not trust your reviews or your books after this. So don’t do it. Aside from the fact that everyone is entitled to their own opinions, it is just poor form (and possibly karma – the jury is still out on this) to go after someone who is simply posting a review of how the book made them feel. There is no pleasing everyone, and if you got into publishing to be universally applauded, you are in the wrong business. Even if the reviewer completely got the name of your narrator wrong and is erroneous on several other points, let other readers point that out. If no one does, take a big old sip of that refreshing drink called Suckitup. You will face worse things in your career. Of course, you can insist that correcting a reviewer is simply standing up for your own work and that speaking out is your responsibility. Well… okay. But if you find readers making snarky comments about you on blogs over it, don’t say I didn’t I warn you. And if you think defending your reputation by going onto web forums or blogs in the guise of an anonymous poster (or more obvious, a new poster) is going to help sort things out, well then… there’s just no helping some people.

Think Outside the “Box”
Lastly, don’t be afraid to try new ways of publicity and marketing, even if you’ve never heard of anyone else doing it before. This is what a great publicist will do for you, and what you want to do for yourself. There are so many ways of promoting a book that aren’t widely used, and many of them are free. You can host a cyber-launch party for yourself, which is what Elle Newmark did with her self-published novel now entitled The Book of Unholy Mischief. The cyber party began on Tuesday, and one week later she was signing a two-book deal with Simon & Schuster for seven figures. Or perhaps you want to set up your own virtual blog tour, which also comes “free” and is a great way of spreading the word about a book. Research, explore, and above all, save a little of that advance money in case any of the more expensive ideas appeal to you. No one can make your book a bestseller, but you can certainly give it the best chance possible by being proactive.


Josephine Damian said...

Michelle, thanks for much for driving home the point that BSP should be kept to a minimum on blogs (and I'l add blog comments as well). The primary reason I stop reading the blog of a published author is because all they do is talk about their darn book.

And I see so many writers shoot themselves in the foot with a DIY website - bad design, not user-friendly, etc. - unless you're a professional web designer like "Conduit" writers should save up and hire a pro to design their website.

Great info here. Thanks!

Marilyn Peake said...

Hi, Michelle,

Thank you for such wonderfully detailed book promotion suggestions!

I purchased your novels, Nefertiti and The Heretic Queen, today. They look like fascinating reads!

Aubrey said...

Amazing, amazing info on here!

"Book bloggers are some of the friendliest people in the world. They are also incredibly kind, and an email asking if they’d like a book to review is almost always answered with a yes (assuming you actually read their blog and know that it’s the right blog to review your book)."

Firstly thanks for the compliment! Secondly, I am such a blogger! Along with my pal Speed Reader who also reads this blog. Along with this post on self-promoting I will leave my e-mail and website for any authors who want a free publicity/Q&A. I am currently reading 2 ARCs and our blog in NOV is going to be dedicated to new author reviews/Q&A's.

Michelle, my question for you, is how can I maximize the publicity for our authors? We are posting our reviews and q&a's but we want to help out these new authors as much as possible. Cause let's face it, all authors can use free publicity!

Aubrey said...

P.S. When you have something new coming out we would love to interview you Michelle! You are a great poster and I'm sure you would give an amazing q&A! ;)

Michelle Moran said...

Hi Aubrey,

Thank you so much! I think one way of maximizing publicity for authors is to post news of any contests on,, or Something else I've seen work really well is when a contest host gives extra consideration to bloggers who post about the contest on their blog.

As for maximizing publicity for things not related to contests - Q&As, guest posts, etc - I might suggest joining a forum where you can post news of this kind. For example, I belong to, and one of the members updates us whenever she has a new Q&A. Now, I probably wouldn't suggest joining a forum solely to post such news (it's considered bad form, as you probably know), but it's one way of steering traffic to your site.

A few other ways might be link exchanges or commenting frequently on other people's blogs which you enjoy, so when you do have a new Q&A up, you can mention it on those blogs without being a spammer.

bryan russell said...

Hi Michelle,

A lot of wonderful information the last two days. It's much appreciated. I did have a question though, and it's about prioritizing these avenues of book promotion. For some people, let's say, who own their own business and work long hours, six days a week, with two small children at home, what would be the best things to focus if you want to avoid becoming an absentee parent? (Cough cough... a theoretical case here, of course)

So, what be the highest ranked priorities, as you see it? And maybe a highest ranked category for "free" options and "expense required" options?

Basically, if you were one of these theoretical persons with little money and time to spare, what options would you take?

And thanks again. Even if you don't have time to answer, I greatly appreciate these posts.

Sheila said...

As a consumer, I purchase a lot of books based on seeing them reviewed on blogs.

I also buy the books of authors who go to great lengths to help other authors. I can't wait to read your books, Michelle. Thank you.

Stacey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aubrey said...

Thanks so much for the advice Michelle!

And Nathan, thank you for having her on! Your posts in general are wonderful. I have used your blog for research for articles on my own blog and I just love ya (in fact we have your blog linked to ours we like you so much!).

Michelle Moran said...

Marilyn: Thank you for purchasing the books - I hope you enjoy them!

So, what be the highest ranked priorities, as you see it? And maybe a highest ranked category for "free" options and "expense required" options?

In the "free" category, assuming I had limited time, I would probably write one or two Op Ed articles, see how they went, and if they didn't get picked up, then I would switch my plan to getting to know bloggers (but I would set a time limit for this activity, like half an hour or an hour each day).

In the expense category, I would probably save my money for purchasing my own blogads(because you can control the time/dollars/flight date), then do Author Buzz with MJ Rose if I had money left over.

It's hard though. There's no surefire way to success (however you define that), but no one can argue that exposure doesn't help, and that's what bloggers and blogads do. And again, keep in mind this is just one writer's opinion. If you spoke to another writer, they'd probably have different priorities.

Leslie Johnson said...

Thank you so much for dropping by. These two posts have been very strait forward and I am sure that these lessons will come in handy (if anyone ever decides to publish anything of mine).


Margaret Yang said...

I admire your positive attitude. It came through in both your posts. Asking yourself "what can I give?" (Useful information) rather than "what can I get?" (free publicity) is the road to this book buyer's heart. Your books had been on my wish list, now they're on my buy list.

Gwen said...

This stuff is GOLD.

Thank you so much, Nathan and Michelle! Bookmarking all of it.

Anonymous said...

Dear Michelle,

Thanks so much for your informative postings. Any ideas regarding authors who don't want their picture on book covers or websites?

Michelle Moran said...

Hi Anon: Sure. Don't provide a photo. I'm not being sarcastic, I'm serious. Don't post photos on your website (or anywhere, for that matter, because a clever blogger will find it and repost it!! People like photos and they like associating a face with a name... but there are several reasons I can think of not to post a photo).

As for the book cover, request that your photo not be included. A publishing house should be fine with that. Sometimes authors purposely don't include photos because they want their sex to be ambiguous (which is one reason people use initials when writing).

JES said...

Two outstanding posts. Thanks so much for the advice.

Although I gotta admit, the thought of funding a publicist ("most will cost at least $10,000") with a book advance gave me the willies. Guess it depends on the size of the advance. :)

nomadshan said...

Again, thanks so much for taking the time to pass this information on to us. Detailed, current, and relevant -- can't wait to sink my teeth into it.

Michelle Moran said...

Jes: It definitely depends on the size of the advance (unless you have a trust fund, in which case, hire away!). For an author with a $25,000 advance, hiring a publicist would be the last thing I would recommend (or for that matter, making an expensive book trailer).

Some of these ideas should only be used (imo) by people whose advances are in the mid-high five figures and above. Other ideas - cyber launch parties, blog tours - can be used by anyone.

Michelle Moran said...

Thank you for taking the time to read it, Nomadshan. I hope it helps!

Anonymous said...

Uh..... just wondering.... but should the non-negativity section have a different heading? Seems like it should be under a different catagory.

Kimber An said...

Hi, Michelle!

Oh, we love Michelle over at the Enduring Romance blog. I've reviewed both her books. We've thrown her a Cyber-Launch Book Party. Done a Q & A. Michelle is unfailingly kind and generous too. We enjoy doing stuff for authors who have good books, but also who are nice and fun to hang out with on-line.

An author cannot buy enthusiasm and a enthusiasm is a huge key to 'word-of-mouth' promotion.

P.S. If you want to check out Michelle's stuff at Enduring Romance, pop over and click on her name in the directory.

Stacey said...

Michelle, would you suggest that an unpublished author start a blog and get involved in the online book community as a way to get their name out there? Do you think this sort of thing would at all help getting a book picked up for representation?

Michelle Moran said...

Kimber An: It's like a party of all of my favorite bloggers over here!

And Stacey: that really depends on what your goals are. There are so many blogs out there that to start your own blog with the purpose of getting noticed (read getting an agent/book deal) would require a really unique concept, a HUGE following, and exceptionally smart, witty writing on the topic/s of choice.

However, I can think of many other reasons to start a blog which don't include getting noticed by agents or editors. For example, Kimber An has several wonderful blogs, one of which hosts author Q&As and book reviews. In order to do those Q&As, Kimber had to contact the authors and get to know them. She's making contacts, which can be very important if those contacts happen to write in the same genre she does. Now, when she publishes her first book, she can go back to those authors and ask them for blurbs. It doesn't guarantee a blurb, but it is far more likely that a busy author is going to read her galley versus a galley written by someone s/he doesn't know.

Blogs help generate free publicity for authors, but they can also help the blogger make invaluable contacts. So it all depends on the type of blog, I guess...

AC said...

Thanks, Michelle. Your post is incredibly helpful.

I definitely read blog reviews to find new books. I keep a "to read" list on my Blackberry, and whenever I come across something that looks good, I just add it to the list.

Sandra said...

Thank you so much for sharing these great ideas with us!

Deaf Brown Trash Punk said...

that's nice, but I barely have any money to build my own website, let alone hire a publicist.

These are some good advice, though.

Michelle Moran said...

Deaf Brown Trash Punk: I think that's the case for most people.

Perhaps you can concentrate on the free: blog tours, blog Q&As, guest posts, op-ed articles, cyber launches, book signings, link exchanges, etc. I know I'm forgetting a few things here, like myspace which some authors really like... Or even giving away books for free to increase awareness. That's what MJ Rose is doing and she's blogging about it today on Buzz, Balls & Hype:

Huff Post even did an article about it. So by giving away something for free, she's getting new readers and national publicity.

Laura D said...

Michelle, I am really impressed with your candour and generosity with all this info. Thanks so much because time is running out for me to get publicity since I self-published. I can only sell my books for two years before I have to pay for a re-publish. Now at least I have a place to start.

Jessica Burkhart said...

Thank you so much, Michelle! This is excellent advice! :)

Ms. I said...

Awesome advise. Wow. I never knew there was so much to it. This was very, very helpful!

Marilyn Peake said...

Hi, Michelle,

Do you have a link to the Huffington Post article about giving away books for free? I looked for it, but couldn't find it.

cindy said...

this rocks! thanks again, michelle! i'm gonna link on the blue boards for more traffic! =)

Crimogenic said...


A very detailed fantastic post on marketing and an author's ability to help her book (but unpublished and published). Thanks so much again.

Michelle Moran said...

Hi Marilyn,

Here you go:

She wrote the piece herself, so I'm not sure I was accurate in saying "Huff Post did an article about it". Perhaps I should have said they ran an article about it.

Interesting stuff.

And thank you, Cindy!

Genella deGrey said...

Michelle -

The info you've shared with us about book promotion is invaluable!

Thank you so much!
Genella deGrey

Yat-Yee said...

Thanks for the wealth of information, may all the goodwill you put out there come back hundred fold!

Now that I know where to go to get information about promoting a book, I just need to go polish up mine.

Anonymous said...

While it's true that people aren't going to buy your book if they don't know about it, and while it's true that personal marketing does have benefits of spreading the word and impressing the publisher and things of that nature, I have to wonder if self marketing really has any fundamental benefit to one's career.

In other words, there's no question it does make *a* difference, but does it make *the* difference between selling out an advance and leading to book number two?

I suspect that taken as a whole, the books whose authors do self-marketing will earn out their advance (or even break out) at the same percentage as books whose authors make no effort.

In other words, luck and chance, which a writer has no control over, play a far larger role in terms of the big picture, the book's ultimate success and the author's career. (Even a publisher getting behind a book in a big way is no guarantee the book will break out)

Don't get me wrong: I am not a grouch saying self-marketing is not worth it. And who knows, since this is just informal opinion, I could be wrong.

Laura D said...

In response to Annonymous, of course exposure can make "the" difference. How do you think Britney Spears made it? She was everwhere and probably was before you even knew she existed. Sometimes it's a matter of just hitting at the right time, but exposure has always been the way to go...and self exposure shows people you're willing to put yourself out there. (Both fans and the people putting money into you)

Marilyn Peake said...

Michelle -

Thanks for the link to the Huffington Post article.

Michelle Moran said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michelle Moran said...

Anonymous 3:55: "I suspect that taken as a whole, the books whose authors do self-marketing will earn out their advance (or even break out) at the same percentage as books whose authors make no effort."

I have no hard facts, and Nathan can't share the percentage of his published clients who sell out their advances because that would go against client confidentiality. However, I can tell you this. I am very close to quite a few published authors, and most of us share our numbers openly. Of all of those authors, however, a very small fraction (less than ten percent) have sold out their advances. Maybe I just happen to know a lot of authors whose advances were higher than they "should have" been if you're looking purely at economics. Or maybe that reflects the state of earning out advances in general - I don't know. What I can say with certainty, however, is that every one of the authors I know who sold out their advance did (or started off their career by doing) significant marketing and publicity on their own.

Sometimes, lightning does strike and a book takes off on its own. But when I'm giving advice to my friends, I don't tell them to wait for lightning. I know it's not what people like to hear. It's unfair. It sucks. Authors should be writing, not spending their time have to promote. But since they're my friends, I want them to know the truth (as I've experienced it, and as many authors I know have experienced it).

Michelle Moran said...

Oops - make that "having to promote".

Tia Nevitt said...

As a successful blogging reviewer, I must say that I LOVE Michelle's "For Bloggers" webpage! In one convenient place, Michelle has placed all the things that I hunt down all over the Internet for a typical Debut Showcase. (Sometimes, I can't even find a decent cover image on the publisher webpage.) In fact, her "for bloggers" page has given me some ideas of things I can add to improve my showcases.

So if you are an author, I second her recommendation to add a "For Bloggers" page. Great idea! I'll be looking for more of these for my upcoming debuts!

Steppe said...

Herman Melville wrote Moby Dick and everyone said it sucked. A stupid story about a big fish. Eventually he believed his critics and got a nice cozy job as port inspector of New York.

I haven't read your books but I admire you pluck and spunk and go to it attitude... But mostly it was the little revealing tidbits you threwin as answers to questions that I found very valuable.

In all those books that didn't earn the publisher back the advance money there may be a great piece of literature that survives. Nobody really knows for sure.

Keep writing and congratulations on your suceess so far and as to the future "Break a leg"

Mr Anti-Jinx

thx again P.S. I could never do all that stuff described but for those who can I salute you sincerey.

Maggie Stiefvater said...

This was brilliant! Thanks, Michelle, for giving me other ideas to add to my arsenal. I love the idea of adding a "for bloggers" page to the website -- you're right, we get asked for the same things again and again. Just common sense. Duhhhhh.

Thanks, so much, Nathan, for having her!

C.W. Gortner said...

Michelle, as usual, FANTASTIC information!

I also "ditto" everything she says. I met Michelle before my novel The Last Queen was released. Her generosity and sage marketing advice helped me enormously. I hired MJ Rose for Author Buzz, did three separate rounds of blog ads, as well as MJ's other programs, and went on virtual tour through Pump Up YourBook Promotion. All the bloggers who hosted me were unfailingly kind, enthusiastic and helpful; I owe a great deal of the book's success to their efforts.

Without this type of support, facing the release of my novel would have been a daunting experience; instead, I found it to be fun and interesting. Like Michelle, I got great support from Ballantine Books, but the truth is publisher marketing budgets are finite, and today, with so many entertainment options competing for consumer attention, a well-planned marketing schedule can make the difference between getting that next book deal and despairing over massive returns and remaindering of your treasured book.

You take years to write it; with some money set aside for marketing, you can reap the rewards.

Marketing may not be an author's favorite activity but as Michelle points out, it's essential these days for most writers unless you're a brand name, sold your book for a huge advance that guarantees your publisher will do big-time marketing or you're a celebrity (which usually means you qualify for all of the above).

Erik said...

I have my own secret ... :-)

Michelle Moran said...

All right Erik... Are you spilling the beans or am I emailing you?

Maris Bosquet said...

Thanks so much for taking the time and passing along such terrific advice, Michelle!

I was wondering about taglines: Does it help authors to have taglines for their work, especially if they go the trailer route? Thanks!

Zoe Winters said...

This is great advice, but I think it's important for writers to be very careful in where they spend their money and how. If the advance doesn't warrant it, I wouldn't blow a lot of money in marketing. I mean if a publisher is unwilling to invest in and push your book, it's a little silly to expect the writer to shell out a lot of their own money for that.

We hear all the time that money flows to the author, but as more and more publishers expect more and more promotion on the part of the author, and more are encouraged to spend a lot of money doing this...doesn't the line get very fuzzy over who and who isn't "paying to publish?"

If one would spend that much money, why not invest in one's own product and have full creative control? Not to stir the pot, but I'm just saying.

Also, as for websites, keep in mind there are several ways to skin a cat. Hiring a web designer may or may not be the wisest decision. I once spent about $800 (about 9 years ago) on a site for my wedding coordinating business.

I'm so fussy about what I wanted, that I would have been better served by getting Frontpage or Dreamweaver and learning to design myself.

Some people either have or can learn the design skills they need. Or one can get a wordpress blog (there are more templates available on as opposed to the freebie .com site.)

The most important thing about a website, IMO, is the author really needs to be able to update it herself. Otherwise it's just more money down the drain for simple site updates.

Michelle Moran said...

Erik: Thank you for responding to my email!

Maris: For taglines, I find them extremely helpful in creating ads (and hopefully it works on trailers... I guess I'll find out!). Plus, many authors use taglines when creating their websites or the signatures on their emails.

Zoe: I couldn't agree more about learning design skills. I taught myself html (which is very simple) and DreamWeaver, and I can't imagine the money I've saved in doing so.

Maris Bosquet said...

Thanks, Michelle! The way I see it, if taglines work for movies, they ought to work for books and book trailers, too. I'm sure you'll do just fine if you use them in your trailers. ;)

mkcbunny said...

Came late to the blog this week (vacation!). A belated thanks for two great columns, Michelle.

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