Deb Marlowe’s question about book trailers on Amanda’s post Saturday got me thinking about promotion. Believe me, after you get that magical, most-sought-after, long desired book contract, you immediately start agonizing about promotion. After wanting so desperately to get the book published now you want the book to do well. That means promotion.

I haven’t a clue what promotion really works so I’m asking our Risky Regency community. What works for you?

I’m not talking about reviews or word-of-mouth or bookcovers or backcover copy, because we really have no control over those things. I mean the promotion we do have control over, the kind that helps you remember the book or the author.

Are you influenced by Book Trailers?
Here is one I think is great! So clever. Done by Diana Holquist.
Speaking of clever, you can’t beat these by fellow Wet Noodle Posse Noodler Jill Monroe, for her Primal Instincts and another for Gena Showalter’s Savor Me Slowly.

What about websites? We’re told a website is an essential promotional tool. Last year I made a big investment in a new website. Do you think a website is important? If so, why?

Do you think the cover of Romantic Times magazine helps you remember a book or its author?

How about an ad in RT?

What about banner ads? I don’t do many of those but I wonder if they are good advertising.

How about promotional materials? Totes? T-shirts? Here are some I did through as contest prizes.

This is my absolute favorite promotional item that I’ve ever done. I only gave away a limited number and I didn’t care if they were effective or not. They were sooooo much fun. (Get it? It’s a “Reputable Rake”)

What about things like magnets, Do Not Disturb signs, mirrors, emery boards (love those!), chip clips, pens, pencils–all those thing we get in conference goody bags and goody rooms? I’ve never done any of those.

And last of all—Bookmarks!!
I always do bookmarks for my books and I really love them, because you can carry them with you easily and you can give them out at booksignings or anywhere! I often give them out like business cards.

Do you like bookmarks?

Sometimes photography is used in promotion. Like this promotional photo from PS I Love You (Gerard Butler reclining, Keira!)Lots of questions here, Riskies…..Tell me what you think!

About diane

Diane Gaston is the RITA award-winning author of Historical Romance for Harlequin Historical and Mills and Boon, with books that feature the darker side of the Regency. Formerly a mental health social worker, she is happiest now when deep in the psyches of soldiers, rakes and women who don’t always act like ladies.
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Keira Soleore
14 years ago

YUM!! Keira’s seeing Scottish stars. YUM!! Now, I wish I had the Photoshop skills to substitute me in place of whatzhernamenobody.

Professionally-done Website: Essential. If you invest in only one thing, then this is it. Just be sure to update it at least once a month and talk it up everywhere.

I’m an enormous fan of booksmarks from authors that I collect and scrapbook.

Blog: Group, not solo, unless you’re a whiz at coming up with seven cool and fun topics every week. And even then, comments have to be varied.

Guest Blogger: Singleton days, yes; week-long or month-long, no. Boredom sets in.

Banner ads: Nope. I find ads on a page annoying.

Book Trailers: See comment to Deb in Amanda’s blog on Saturday.

Ads in RT and other mags: No clue.

Small booklets that booksellers can handle-sell: LOVE those and love my favorite bookseller for handselling books.

Buttons: Love ’em. Collect ’em.

Cafepress: An inexpensive way to build loyalty. If you can do rakes through Cafepress, more power to you, otherwise a bit on the expensive side, I would think.

Pens, Mugs: So-so. If you can do rollerball/gel pens, those are cooler.

Magnets, Do Not Disturb signs, Emery boards, chip clips, pencils: Meh.

Mirrors: Love my FogCityDivas one, but I don’t see myself collecting a dozen of those.

Candy: Waste of money. I eat it, throw away the wrapper, and forget about it.


Keira Soleore
14 years ago

Booksignings: Definitely, and as wide a radius as you can cover.

E-mail Newsletters: Another necessity.

Postcards in the Mail: Love those for my scrapbook.

Book Excerpts: On website, via e-mail, special to certain sites, limited-time viewings, etc.

My comment on book trailers copied over here for completeness-sake:

“Deb, I love the book trailers by Christina Dodd (para series and individual paras) and by Lisa Kleypas (contemp and hist). But as a reader I have to tell you that good ones are thin on the ground and the trailers I see are because I love the author already and am eager for the book, the trailer’s for.”

14 years ago

First of all, I dont think I am an average romance reader but I’ll answer. The most important factor in me picking up an author I have never read before is word-of-mouth. But as DG wrote, since authors dont really have control of that, the next best thing an author can do is guest blog and actually talk about the book they are promoting. In detail. There are certain keywords and plots that will make me pick up a book every single time. The two authors I have picked up and added to my auto-buy list in the past 2 yrs from author interaction have come from this exact situation.

Book trailers — I hate them. Reading romances is not a visual medium for me.

Website — important for basic information about backlists and connected series. I dont check any author’s website regularly because most of them dont talk about what they are currently working on and how the writing is going which is the things I want to know.

I let my subscription to RT expire 11 yrs ago. I think AAR has pushed it by the wayside if you have computer access.

Promotional materials — if it’s something functional like a pen, OK. Otherwise, I have too much clutter in my life and try to avoid receiving stuff I wont be using.

Bookmarks — I like em because they are functional but I dont go out of my way to get them.

14 years ago

Why not sign up for a survey program like Survey Monkey and ask readers what they like?
From a marketing stand point-
YOUR opinion doesn’t matter.
“Your” meaning, the person trying to promote something.
What matters is the opinions of the people you are trying to promote to.

I see people make this mistake a lot. People create the things that they like, instead of researching to find out what readers or potential readers like.

There’s a saying in marketing-
“50% of all your marketing works. You just don’t know which 50%.”

As a side note, those people who are selling their Cafepress promo items, you may want to double check on the legality of selling something with your book cover on it. Professional book cover artists make a lot of money and they don’t allow the publisher to sell their artwork without a license or written consent. You can, however, in most cases, purchase those items and give them away, thus making them a promo item, which does not infringe on copyright.

I don’t care for banner ads, but I can tolerate them.
I love pay-per-click. Very good way to spend your promo dollars.
Love book trailers, because I know they work.
I also like the booklets that are given out at bookstores or conventions.
Website is probably the most important tool, in my opinion.

Great blog!!!

Michelle Styles
14 years ago

Self Promotion or self delusion – -with much of PR, you do not/can not expect to see an immediate return. See Donald Maass — The Career Novelist for more info. Or about Debbi Macomber’s experience. PR is like a snowball and takes time to gather momentum.
What works for one person might not work for another.
And are you thinking local or global. Most PR efforts are successful when they start out locally and then start expanding.
So sending press releases to the local paper as generally they are desperate for news. Then hopefully getting picked up by the regional or the national papers.
The radio is a good medium, and appearing on talk shows can help. Local TV news is also very good and certainly can shift books. You need to keep a log plus tape of your appearances in case you are asked by a PR company.
Sending thank you notes and responding to reader feedback.
Ultimately what you are trying to do is to build the word of mouth.
Some of the social networking sites such as Shelfari, eharlequin or myspace can be useful.
Butthe important thing to remember is that if your shop front is empty, there is little point in doing the selling. In other words, as Bernard Cornwell once told me — the best sort of promotion is to have books coming out on a regular basis…Quality books that appeal to that unique subset of readers — yours.
For the record, I have never bought a book based on a bookmark, postcard, magnet, or video. That’s just me.

Diane Gaston
14 years ago

thanks for reinforcing my decision to do the website and — duh — the value of blogging! Hey, I’m doing promotion right now! Who remembered. GB is my gift to you!

Seton!!! How good to hear from you. I’m glad to know that you think AAR is important, because they have been pretty good to my work.

Sf, I’ll look in to survey monkey and I confess I do not know what pay-per-click is. More to learn!

And I never sold a Cafepress item, not that you said I did, I understand. Mine were always for promo. Thanks for reminding folks about the copyright of the bookcover!

Michelle! my fellow Mills & Booner. More wise words. Of course, my local paper, The Washington Post, is NEVER desperate for news!!
(just jesting. We do have local advertising newspapers)
But I’m just impressed beyond anything that you have spoken to Bernard Cornwell!!! I once spoke to him and said, “Would you sign this book, please?” but I doubt he would remember me. He generated a Nora Roberts worthy line at a booksigning! Very interesting man.

More later. I’m off to my critique group.

Elena Greene
14 years ago

Since I’m a slow writer I always worry about spending too much time on promotion. It’s hard to say what works because what works well for one author might not for another. I think as authors we have to try to figure out what would work best for our own target audiences.

Obviously I think a website and blog are worthwhile.

I also think one can make simple efforts to “seed” word of mouth. I always send a press release around to local media; since I don’t live in a big city I often get some nice coverage. I have done some really good booksignings. Lately that has become more difficult to set up. I may do a book launch party instead when I have a new release. I also give copies to my hairdresser and my kids’ teachers, who often tell other women they like my books. Like I said, it’s humble but easy.

As for RT ads, buying a cover may be a good thing. In my naive days I didn’t realize you could pay to be on the cover–I thought it meant someone at RT had decided you were the next hot trend. I wonder if there are readers who still think that.

But getting back to Bernard Cornwell, continuing to write good books for your target audience is the most important thing. So now I’ll get back to m-i-p!

Amanda McCabe
14 years ago

Of course I’m always very interested in this topic! πŸ™‚ I’ve discovered I can only do what my time/budget allows, and on-line is important and comparatively easy. At first, i would sometimes let promo time cut into the writing time/energy and that just can’t be–the book always has to come first, or there’s nothing to promote (and nothing to build workd of mouth!)

Speaking as a reader, I pick up stuff like bookmarks, pens, emery boards at conferences and use them, but they have never once led me to buy a book or even remember the author’s name. So I’m not sure how effective those are. But they sure are fun! πŸ™‚

Janet Mullany
14 years ago

I think nothing beats getting yourself out there online, either guest blogging and with a few strategically placed ad banners. Because while you can’t control word-of-mouth you can certainly encourage it.

I’m unconvinced by RT or print advertising in general; it makes a statement that you can afford it. Period.

A lot of the stuff writers do seems to be targeted at other writers, not readers, and while there’s some overlap, it makes you wonder whether all that tchotchke production is worthwhile. I think bookmarks are useful because people expect them and it builds name recognition.

Book trailers? zzzzzzzzzzzzzz. But again, it’s more what you do with it, and where you place it, than having it.

Riskies buttons… strangely enough, we’ve been thinking along those lines, too. I’ll say no more.

Elena Greene
14 years ago

I’m unconvinced by RT or print advertising in general; it makes a statement that you can afford it. Period.

I’m not totally convinced either, but being able to afford an ad implies you’re already successful. If an author isn’t depending on her advance to live, she can very well spend a big chunk of it on an ad, just as someone might splurge on an expensive suit for an interview to help them look more professional and experienced.

But I honestly don’t know if it works the same way. Opinions differ as to whether an ad in RT or other publication helps. Again it may depend on the book and genre.

Diane Gaston
14 years ago

I think Kathryn Caskie and Sophia Nash did jumpstart their careers with RT covers and ads. It helps that they are both talented and gorgeous ladies, but I think their use of RT covers worked for them.

14 years ago

I LOVE my rake!! πŸ™‚ I keep bookmarks of my favorite authors and use them. If I’m sent extra I’ll leave them at different stores in the romance book section. I like websites for keeping track of my favorite writers and what’s coming out next. Amazon has suggested writers from my buying history. But for finding someone new, my first preference is word of mouth from someone who likes what I read. Blogs also introduce me to writers I’ve not yet read. However, the single most likely thing to entice me to try something new is whether or not what I read on that back cover captures my interest.
~Judy T

Keira Soleore
14 years ago

Riskies, take note. Diane gave GB to meeeeeeeee. She can’t unsay that, or delete her comment, because you’ve all read her comment and mine. GB’s mine (at least for today, because Diane’ll probably arm-wrestle him away from me tomorrow), and I’m that lady in the picture.

Keira Soleore
14 years ago

Michelle and s_f, that is an amazing array of information.

I’m saving a permanent link to this blog.

And I’d totally love to meet Bernard Cornwell IRL.

Diane, Kathy and Sophia are PR Gurus. They have great product, great attitude, and great PR.

Elena, I blush to confess that I thought making the cover of RT was like making the cover of Vogue. I had no idea that those spots could be bought.

Janet, did you say Riskies buttons?? Cor blimey! She did. I’ve only been clamoring for them oh for the past 18 months. That’s OK. I’ll take one or ten, fresh from the factory.

Diane Gaston
14 years ago

Keira, you may have GB all day and all night and then you have to give him back to me!!

Sometimes, like with my rake (and Ladyhawk is one of the lucky few to have one), I do the promotion I enjoy. I really enjoy blogging with Risky Regencies.

We’ll keep you posted on the button plans.

Susan Wilbanks
14 years ago

But I’m just impressed beyond anything that you have spoken to Bernard Cornwell!!!

I’ve spoken to Bernard Cornwell, too! He was one of the keynotes at two of the last three conferences I attended (Surrey 2006 and Historical Novel Society 2007). At the first one I was a stuttering fangirl, but by the second one I think I had my hero-worship under reasonable control. He’s one of my favorite writers I’ve actually met, and not just because I’m such a fan of his books–I like his approach to the writing process, and he has a deliciously snarky sense of humor. Since my alternative history WIP is at least as much like Sharpe as Naomi Novik’s books are like Aubrey/Maturin, I picked his brain for research tips and asked him if it was OK if I played in his literary sandbox, as it were, and he was very generous and helpful to newbie me.

OK, enough fangirlishness. Suffice it to say that I hope I’m as cool if I ever get a chance to be a Big Name Writer.

As for promotion–websites and blogs, websites and blogs! The rest doesn’t hook me. I do always come home from conferences with a stack of bookmarks, which I use and gradually lose. You can tell I haven’t been to a conference in awhile when I’m marking my place with used baseball tickets, junk mail, or magazine subscription cards. I enjoy mismatching books and bookmarks–putting a fluffy pink chick lit bookmark in a Bernard Cornwell book or an Elora’s Cave bookmark in a book on politics and religion. It’s possible I’m too easily amused.

However, the one thing bookmarks DON’T do is induce me to buy books I wouldn’t have otherwise read, so they’re not working for the author’s intended purpose.

Cara King
14 years ago

I really love the book trailers you linked to, Diane. The more conventional book trailers I’ve seen, though, I found boring.

I think bookmarks are great because they’re cheap, but most other promos (magnets, chip clips, etc) I really can’t imagine being worth the cost.

I mean, the way I think of it — most of the folks who get a promo don’t buy the book. So if, say, one in five does (which I suspect is much higher than reality), is the author’s profit per book equal to the cost of five of the promos? With mass-market paperbacks, I just think it can’t be for anything but bookmarks. (Okay, color me cynical!)

And yes, I know we’re also upping the sell-through numbers, and creating long-term fans, etc — but I’m not sure ten or twenty more books sold can make a dent.

Amanda wrote: Speaking as a reader, I pick up stuff like bookmarks, pens, emery boards at conferences and use them, but they have never once led me to buy a book or even remember the author’s name.

I’ve occasionally remembered a name, Amanda, but otherwise I quite agree with you! I’ve never understood the logic of marketing to other writers like that… I mean, sure, when the first RWA members started doing it, it was great — I suspect with the idea that if a romance author ever said to someone “I love so and so’s books” it would have great impact… But now that everyone does it — how can it work? Most authors I know are years behind reading their favorite authors — and then we all have so many friends with books we want to read. And then there’s pressure to read whatever the new It book is, to keep up with the current market…so where’s the time to read books by someone who’s magnet we have on the fridge?

Anyway, that’s how I see it.

As to ads… The only ads I’ve seen work are the sort where:

1) it’s a book of the sort that an audience will definitely buy it once they hear about it, and

2) the ad makes them much more likely to hear about it.

And I think this pretty much only works either with someone very new and different (such as Karen Harbaugh’s vampire Regency was when it first came out), or with a dedicated market that doesn’t have a lot of new product.

Anyway, that’s all just my humble take on things!


Cara King
14 years ago

BTW, I do actually know how to spell my name. πŸ™‚

Silly blogger.


Deb Marlowe
14 years ago

Hey, look what I started! Thank you all for the book video recommendations. Diane, I did LOL over Diana Holquist’s!

I really appreciate hearing everyone’s views on promotion and what works for them. As a newbie author, I’m really not sure what works, and what doesn’t. And I two have critique partners on the complete opposite end of the spectrum who have both done amazingly well, which only confuses the issue.

14 years ago

Hmm… promotion is a big question, it seems.

I agree with Keira, a clean easy-to-navigate site is very good. One that allows your readers to contact you relatively easily.

Agree that a group blog seems to work best for most writers–takes some of the pressure off having to be frequently creative in yet another way.

I tend to ignore banner ads and don’t tend to watch book trailers–I’m not into the whole visual presentation for a book–I’d rather get a rec from a friend or “meet” an author via a blog or something like that.

Don’t subscribe to RT so that doesn’t do much for me.

I do tend to use bookmarks a ton, buttons are “meh” for me. I do use pens; magnets are OK; I do love notepads or sticky notes.

And big yes to a nicely done e-mail newsletter!

Hope that helps πŸ™‚

Diane Gaston
14 years ago

Gee thanks for all the feedback, ladies!

Susan, shmoozing with Bernard Cornwell as colleagues sharing research ideas…….THUD!!!!!

Hey, anyone who commented today who would like some of my bookmarks, just email me your snail mail address at

Put something clear in the subject line, like BOOKMARKS or RISKY REGENCIES so I know you are not trying to sell me products to enlarge body parts that I do not possess.

14 years ago

OMG, Diane, I almost fell off my chair at that last comment!! I do admit some of those enlargement ads do make me say OUCH! I went to a great book signing in our local bookstore for a guy named Bob Morris. He writes a series of comic thrillers featuring an ex pro football player, ex con and current exotic palm tree farmer. (love it, right?) His titles include Bahamarama, Jamaica Me Dead and Bermuda Schwarz. At the book signing he had a small palm tree growing out of his traveling companion – a coconut named Martha AND he served drinks! The National Drink of Jamaica which consists of Rum and Ginger Beer. He acted as bartender and we all gathered around and talked about his books. It was a hoot. I don’t do alcohol (half Native American – half English and Welsh, didn’t like the odds on becoming an alcoholic so didn’t start) BUT the ginger beer which he brought from Jamaica was fabulous. Oh and he had key chains of the bottle of rum he prefers. Memorable promo and a lot of fun!

Diane Gaston
14 years ago

That is a great signing, O Doggie One. Maybe I should serve brandy at my signings. My heroes are always drinking brandy. Bet I’d attract a bunch of people!! I could serve it in those little paper cups like they use for samples at Costco.

And if nobody came, at least I’d have brandy to drink.

14 years ago

You know I had something intelligent to add until I saw Gerard Butler sprawled on the floor.

I think websites are an essential part of an author’s promotional arsenal. I also enjoy book trailers. However, nothing bugs me more than an author having a website and no way of contacting the author or, worse yet, where the author does not respond to emails.

Blogs are great whether they are done as solo efforts or with a group of other fabulous authors like Risky Regencies. Guest blogging is also a great way to promote.

I love winning coverflats and getting bookmarks. I only pick up those promotional items I may need like pens, post it notes, some magnets. I love buttons, thematic stress dolls and, for the record, I LOVE my rake (thanks again, Diane)!

I also think newsletters are great on a quarterly basis with email alerts when books are released.

Georgie Lee
14 years ago

Love the Girard picture. I like bookmarks, guest blogging, Yahoo Groups, Myspace, message boards. I’m still new at this so I haven’t branched out to other promotional items yet.

Elena Greene
14 years ago

More thoughts regarding bookmarks.

I see too many of them left behind on tables at romance conferences and conventions to think they’re much use there.

But I have heard the manager of a romance-friendly bookstore say her customers like them, so that may be worthwhile.

I think bookmarks are most effective when given out along with books purchased at a signing. Yes, they don’t contribute to immediate sales but they can list the author’s past and upcoming books, website, blog, etc…, so if the reader enjoys that book it will be easy for her to find the rest. It’s not about return for that individual release but more about creating long term buzz.

Amanda McCabe
14 years ago

“so if the reader enjoys that book it will be easy for her to find the rest. It’s not about return for that individual release but more about creating long term buzz.”

I think this is true, Elena! I really like Diane’s bookmark that has all the past cover images on one side. Very easy to see the back-list, contact info, etc.

LOL on the brandy! Now THAT would make a good booksigning. They may not remember they bought a book after, though, unless you limit them to one Dixie cup. πŸ™‚

Diane Gaston
14 years ago

Santa, you, too, are one of the few who possess a precious Rake! You make me feel more secure in having invested in my website.

Elena, I think of my bookmarks like a business card. It is cheap enough that it doesn’t matter to me if someone leaves it on a table, but if someone wants my book and can’t remember my name or the title of the book, they might remember they have the bookmark!

Amanda, the trouble with that bookmark is that it became obsolete with the arrival of the new book. But it did what I wanted it to do. It just promoted me, my new website and my backlist.