Promotion - keeping up with the changing whims of publishing!

I've been writing my entire life, but I didn't really write my first full book until the early 2000's. And then it was time for promotion! My major in college was marketing, you'd think I'd have how to promote and market myself down, correct? Well you would be wrong.

Everything changes faster than I can keep up with. By the time I get used to one way, it's old and doesn't work anymore. Let's do a quick run down of how I've changed through the years.

About the same time I published my first book, I joined my local chapter of Romance Writers of America. They had many promotion workshops and I avidly wrote everything down. Some of the advice I received was to do a marketing packet to send to the bookstores. I'm not sure if this is what it was called for sure, but something like that. Basically it included a cover flat, your business card, a letter of introduction that included a blurb. And it was recommended that I make this presentable, so I got one of those plastic see through folders and included all my information, requesting that my title be placed on their shelves. Very professional. Then I spent over $200 on postage and sent a packet to every Borders and Barnes and Noble bookstore, including the marketing department of both.

I actually received a received a rejection letter from Barnes and Noble, my book was published with a small publisher at the time. And they actually said: You must understand that we have no bias against self publishing. ... But our stores are simply not capable of representing the vast number of self published titles... Imagine my surprise, I was self published? Go figure. Now I am self published, Barnes and Noble still hasn't changed their stance.

My author friends encouraged me to join Yahoo groups, and I wholeheartedly threw myself into this. About 200 groups to be exact. You could post your blurbs and your links and people could go straight to you buy links it was awesome. Or so I thought.

Eventually I realized that the groups were turning into drive by promo, people would post their blurbs and links and be off to the next group. No discussions, etc. And I was the best of the best of the drive by promoters. Because I just didn't have time to play on all of them. Did my sales increase? Not that I could tell. I even shared my thoughts, because I thought I was a pro, having a bit of marketing background and all LOL. In 2006 I wrote a blog post on Internet promotion.

Anyway back to my current post.

Then it started! My Space blossomed and it was all the rage. But it was slow to load, and it caused me and others problems with viruses, etc. The kinks had not been ironed out before it went live. Next came Facebook, and the social media craze began in earnest. Now I have three Facebooks, one friend page and one fan page and then a family friend page. I am on twitter, Pinterest, Goodreads, Linkedin and Google+. I still haven't figured out about Google+ and Pinterest is evil because I play far too much on it. But it's fun, does it promote me? I do not have a clue.

Things have changed a lot since I started, and I've tried many things that I haven't mentioned, from ads, book signings, to paid for newspaper lists for press releases. Mostly it's cost a lot of money and I honestly can't see what the difference is in sales. Mostly. I do find that KDP Select helps boost sales when I have a new release. Goodreads if I have a giveaway will generate extra sales. But those are the only two things I've tried that I've actually noticed a change in sales.

I have cut back on my Yahoo groups. I believe I'm on maybe five, which includes a couple of independent author groups, my local RWA chapter and Coffee Time Romance and my small publisher author group. I'm checking into a few new things, Bookbub and independent Author Network are a couple, both cost money so we'll have to see.

I told a friend, Sheri McGathy, that I was going to do a promotion blog post and she said: I think personally, it is finding readers who will spread the word. You can start it yourself by finding a friend or a cousin no one knows is related to make a oh, you have to read this book comment, and the word slowly spreads. I have often thought my promo money would be better spent hiring two very good looking college kids to ride a bus or a train (probably different ones daily) with book in hand and talking loudly about one of my books :)

Since I ride the bus/train every day, I'm actually thinking of investing in a couple of my books and handing them to people I see reading books every day, preferably in a genre I write. Then ask them if they like the book to tell some of their friends. We'll see how that goes.

Then I decided to ask a few more friends a couple of questions on how they promote, here are their answers/responses:

I'm L.L. Muir and I write romantic fiction in a number of genres. Time Travel is my biggest seller with Regency running a close second. In this new age of publishing where we can write whatever we want, I write whatever I want. I'm on Twitter and Facebook, though I post sparingly. My website is

I have a few books on KDP Select. Other than that, I do no promotions. I put all my efforts into getting more books written for my fans who are waiting for them.

Q: What promotion do you currently do?
A: When I first started, I did a blog tour and that's how I got some editorial reviews for my first book.

I had a big name author review my YA romance because she just picked it up and started reading it and loved it. That was luck alone.

Q: What have you done in the past and why did you change?
A: I stopped worrying about blog tours because it is a time suck and I'm pretty sure my readers would rather I hurried up with the next book instead.

So right now, my readers are king. I don't see that changing unless I suddenly start writing things they don't care for. Since I jump around in genres, that's a possibility.

Q: What do you find works best for you?
A: What works best for my sales is to put another book up in a series. Right now I'm working on filling in three series.

I've also changed my goals recently and in the next 12 months, I hope to write nearly a million words. I'm doing this along with another writer, so the support is helpful. Publishing is great, but I've got to be a writer and leave the publishing details to a minimum.

I work best at night, from about 9pm to 2 or 3 in the morning. I sleep until 10 or 11. My family tries to respect that schedule. I get 8 hours sleep. I can work with that, but not with less than that. When my brain is working as hard as it is, I sometimes need a power nap. I hope to have a new book written every month. I only hope my editors can keep up.

KyAnn Waters bestselling author or erotic romance:

I live in Utah with my husband, two children, and two dogs. I spend my days writing and my evenings with my family. I enjoy sporting events on the television (Soccer is my favorite. Go RSL), thrillers on the big screen, and hot scenes between the pages of my books.

You can find me on
and on my website

Q: What promotion do you currently do?
A: I’m a terrible “regular” blogger, but I love to do blog hops and I am a new fan of blog tours. Not only have I had great success with tours of my own, but I enjoy visiting other tours to discover new authors.

I have an online App for Iphone and Android.

Facebook and Twitter are my online home. I love the interaction. But my favorite promotional venue right now is Pinterest. I think it gives readers more insight into who I am not only as an author but the activities I enjoy outside of writing.

Q: What have you done in the past? And why did you change?
A: It seems as though most venues run their course. I’ve participated on yahoo group events, online chats, My Space, and other social networks. As new venues become popular, others slow down and become obsolete. It’s important to stay current with trending social media.

Q: What do you find works best for you?
A: Like every author, we’d rather be writing. So with any promotional tool, I have to enjoy what I’m doing or it becomes tedious and more like work. Lol So for me, I do what I enjoy. I believe the best tool for selling books is to write another book, so I make sure to keep a balance. Promotion is necessary, but without sacrificing that personal time needed to write the next story.

Marie Higgins is a best-selling, multi-published author of sweet romance; from refined bad-boy heroes who make your heart melt to the feisty heroines who somehow manage to love them regardless of their faults. Visit her website / blog to discover more about her –

Q: What promotion do you currently do?
A: I don't have a lot of time to promote, but I do most of it on Facebook. I also join blog hops and giveaway books. And I try to find people to interview me on their blogs. Once in a while I'm on Twitter.

Q: What have you done in the past and why did you change?
A: I used to join email loops where authors promoted their books. And I used to pay for ads on bookstore websites and review sites. I stopped doing it because it wasn't working.

Q: What do you find works best for you?
A: Word of mouth. Also, putting my books on KDP Select (their lending program) helps a lot!

Tiffinie Helmer is an award-winning author who is always up for a gripping adventure. Raised in Alaska, she was dragged “Outside” by her husband, but escapes the lower forty-eight to spend her summers commercial fishing on the Bering Sea. A wife and mother of four, Tiffinie divides her time between enjoying her family, throwing her acclaimed pottery, and writing of flawed characters in unique and severe situations.


Q: What promotion do you currently do?
A: Facebook and Twitter primarily.

Q: What have you done in the past? And why did you change?
A: I’ve tried Google+ but don’t seem to understand it as well and haven’t had the time to study. Pinterest is another that I have dabbled with, but more for my own pleasure, creating scrapbooks of my stories and places that I want to visit rather than promo. It’s play time for me. I’ve quit signing up and paying for websites to promote me since they didn’t seem to help me more than I was helping myself. I’m still stumbling around with Twitter, feeling like I’m lost in this huge party. But I have a fair number of followers so I might be doing something right over there. I did link my Facebook and Twitter accounts to help with the time suck, which I think is smart.

Q: What do you find works best for you?
A: Facebook is my favorite and easiest for me to use. I have brilliant and entertaining readers and it’s been great to interacting with them on Facebook. I’ve developed some great relationships with people that I would never have meet because of Facebook. I also get to share more and get feedback in a way that Twitter doesn’t do.

Thank you, L. L., KyAnn, Marie, and Tiffinie for sharing.

So, then it almost sounds like very little promotion is needed. And word of mouth is the easiest and the best way to get your name out there. And as L. L. Muir said write your next book, your fans are waiting for it. I just wished I had long hours to write. But some of us have a day job. UGH. However, maybe my bus/train thing will work. But still what about all the other things? Like Pinterest, Goodreads, Bookbub and Independent Author Network? I would love to hear all of your thoughts on promotion. Do you write full time or do you have a day job? What do you do? And what works best for you?


Terrific post, Mary! I must agree with L.L., Marie and Tiffinie. I've watched the Indie loops and heard from a number of best selling authors. The advice is always, write a great book, put it out, and then write the next great book.

Thank you for sharing your stories.
I was coming to this realization and it's good to know I'm not delusional.
Tiffinie Helmer said…
Thank, Mary, for having me. This was great information. I have to agree, word of mouth is still the best way to sell a book.
L.L. Muir said…
Thanks Mary!
Natalie Brock said…
As a newly published author and friend of Mary's, I greatly appreciate the information and the contributions made by the other authors. Thanks so much ladies!
Marie Higgins said…
Great info, Mary!
Mary Martinez said…
Thanks everyone for coming out had chatting and sharing. Pass the word, I'd love to have some other authors comment and tell us what they do.
stanalei said…
Great post, Mary. Great questions. Looks like the number 1 thing out this is write the next book. Think I'll start on that today!
Thank you for sharing your experiences.

I've found it helpful to do blog tours or send out review copies to book bloggers. I don't do a long blog tour. In the past, I've done a one week tour or I've done a "release day" tour.

I find that this helps to gain reviews, which is important in the first month of sales. People are more willing to take a chance on a book that has a few reviews.

Some blogs use widgets for readers to sign up for your facebook, twitter, or newsletter, so I find that helpful for connecting with new readers.

I have tried ads in the past, but they are hit-or-miss. I think it can help with name recognition, but it's not necessarily something that will get you a lot of sales (unless you're doing a Bookbub or Ereader News Today spot).
Mary Martinez said…
Thank you Vivienne for dropping by to share your promotion experience.
Sheri McGathy said…
Very informative! I'm still considering those college kids :) Sheri
Virginia Kelly said…
Very interesting post with various opinions on promotion. Bumped into it after finding your most current post on FB, which, incidentally, I really don't like :-) Too much of what I do, other than KDP, is the "drive by" type of promo, or is only intended to Like or Follow other authors. I also love Pinterest, but it's mainly for me.


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