Monday, 16 November 2009

WRITING ADVICE: Marketing Your Book: Clues from the Formerly Clueless

Marketing Your Book: Clues from the Formerly Clueless

by Guest Blogger:
Janice Hardy


Janice Hardy is the author of The Pain Merchants (UK Title)/The Shifter (US Title)

You can read an interview with Janice Hardy on tall tales & short stories by following this link

In the first of three WRITING ADVICE posts, guest blogger Janice Hardy discusses Marketing Your Book.

Running in conjunction with Janice's posts is a chance to win a signed copy of her debut novel. Details can be found at the end of this post.

When I sold my novel, I knew I’d have to do some marketing to help promote it. But like many other debut authors, I had no clue what I’d need to do. A website certainly, probably a blog, some kind of social network like Facebook or MySpace. Beyond that? I had no idea.

I did my research, read lots of sites, but even that didn’t help all that much. I found too much conflicting advice, or advice that something worked or didn’t without any context to put it in. Even the marketing classes I took left me with questions.

So, here’s what I learned and what worked for me, with the all important reasons why. (Oh, keep in mind that I’ll be talking about the marketing and networking pros and cons. There’s also a lot of fun involved in some of these as well)

Getting Online


A website is a must in today’s publishing world. Many agents now Google potential clients, so while it used to be you didn’t have to worry about this until you had an agent or sold a book, the sooner you can get one the better. You want this to be a professional looking site, since this is often one of the first things people see about you.

Things to include:
Pre-published: - Your bio, photo, ways to contact you.
A little about your book if you’d like (if you worry someone will steal your idea, it’s okay to leave it off).
Any credits or information that aids you in your agent quest and makes you look like a professional writer they’d want to work with.

Published: - Your book cover, blurb about the book.
Any good reviews you get.
Links to where people can buy the book.
Links so the media can download high and low resolution files of your photo and the cover.
A longer bio is not uncommon.
Trivia facts and a little bit of fun if your genre lends itself to that.
Contact info for your agent, publishing, and marketing & publicity people (your publisher will likely assign these folks to you, but you might even hire some of your own).


Blogs are great ways to interact and connect with readers, but they do require a lot of upkeep to maintain. If you enjoy blogging, you can set up a blog in a matter of minutes. If the thought of blogging makes your flesh crawl, just don’t do it. Put your efforts into something you enjoy. If you do blog, they key to getting readers is to offer content they want to know about. Once you’re famous, they’ll come on their own, but until then, they need a reason to visit. Find something you can regularly talk about that would be of interest to the people you hope might buy your book.

If you write historical, perhaps blog about the period you write in. You might write about writing (I do). You might write about something you love that has nothing to do with your book, but slip in book stuff from time to time (which is fine).

It’s okay to promote your book once in a while, but no one wants to come back to read PR gunk all the time. You don’t have to write every day, but unless you’re posting several times a week, there’s not much to encourage return readers.

My experience: Blogging has been a huge benefit (and enjoyment) for me. I wouldn’t be here guest blogging now if not for that. I’ve made so many great contacts through my blog and have had so many bloggers help me out and talk about my book when it was released earlier this month. I’ve also found lots of opportunities by reading other blogs.

Social Networks

Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Red Room, Good Reads. There are tons of sites out there for both writers and readers.

Facebook and MySpace are easy to set up, but like blogging, they can take maintenance to stay connected. They’re not as intensive as blogging though, so they could be a happy medium to keeping people updated without spending all your time doing it.

Twitter can reach lots of people, but you need to be the type who can say things people want to know about in 140 characters or less. And unless they already know and care about you, you might ask why they’d follow you. But if you’re the type who can easily dash off a few lines all day long, it could be the right tool for you.

Other sites like Goodreads or Red Room allow you to connect with readers and don’t take a lot of upkeep. These sites also provide things for people to find when they Google you.

My experience: I’m on Facebook, (plus a lot of other sites like Goodreads, Red Room, Jacketflap, Authors Now) and I’ve made connections with other writers. Again, so many friends posted about my book and sent links to all their friends when my book came out, so I reached hundreds of people I wouldn’t have otherwise. Every new friend is a possible opportunity, and who knows what I’ll be able to offer to someone else in the future, paying back the good fortune I’ve had.

Forums and Online Groups

Good writer’s forums like Absolute Write and Backspace offer wonderful communities that can be both supportive, and lead to great opportunities down the road. But you can’t just start posting and expect everyone to flock to you. You need to join early, get to know folks and become part of the community first. These groups can smell a poser a mile away, and no one is going to help someone who’s clearly there to market themselves or their book. But for those who make an effort to help others, and have done so long before they sold their book, many are delighted to help. Like blogging, it can take time to stay involved, but well worth it. Also like blogging, if you don’t enjoy it, or feel you have nothing to offer, don’t frustrate yourself by trying.

My experience: Absolute Write has been a fantastic forum to belong to. It’s a great bunch of folks, and it’s led to lots of great opportunities, from blogging to reviews to interviews.


I heard pros and cons about getting business cards and bookmarks printed up. Some said they were great, others said they wound up in the trash as soon as the singing was over. I printed them anyway.

Business Cards

I didn’t do just my name and contact info. I used this as a mini-brochure and marketing tool. I found that before my book came out, lots of people asked me about it and said they’d have to look for it later. But we all know that the odds of them remembering it are slim. So I printed two-sided cards with the book cover, tagline (more on that later), and website on the front, and contact info for both me and my publisher and the ISBN number on the back. I carry them all the time, and when someone asks about the book, I have an easy thing to hand out. These are also quite handy to have since my book came out, as I’m able to hand them to booksellers at events too. Everything they need to order the book or set up an event is right there on the card. And they can clearly see what book it is and why they want to remember it.

Book Marks

I did the same thing with bookmarks, making them attractive and something you might be more inclined to keep and use. I put the same cover, tagline, website on the front, then a longer blur and quotes from reviews, and the same contact info on the back. Bookstores love them, so I give each store I visit a stack. While I’m not sure if they do any good to hand them out to readers, I think they work to get readers to pick them up and look at them in the store. They might ask about it, or notice it next time they’re browsing the shelves.

Other Items

As a middle grade author, I’ll be visiting schools. Kids love pencils, so I got a bunch of color-shifting pencils (since my book is called The Shifter, it works thematically) and printed the logo title and the website on them. During visits, I toss them out to good questions and other random times. A rather inexpensive treat that gets kids talking and when their friends ask where they got them, hopefully they’ll mention me. No way to know for sure, but my visits are a lot more entertaining with them than without them, so they’re worth it just for that. You can’t get them excited about your book if they’re not paying attention to you.

Any other items you might do, you want to weigh the cost per item versus the benefit gained. I found some really cool things, but I’d spend my whole royalty per book (or more) on it, so giving them out didn’t make financial sense. It’s easy to go overboard and spend too much, so watch yourself and only do what makes sense.

If you’re thinking about doing giveaways, I think using them to make a connection to your audience is what’s important. Free stuff doesn’t do anything to sell your book. Getting someone to talk to you or remember you can.


Taglines are a great thing to have, as they capture attention and can pique interest. We all know we have to be able to talk about our books in one sentence, but also look for ways that you can promote the book the same way movies do.

For The Shifter, my one-line summary wasn’t something that would get people to pick up my marketing pieces, even though it usually got attention when I told it to them in person. So I created a tagline to use on my website, the business cards, and the book marks.

For comparison, my one liner is: “The Shifter is the story of Nya, an orphan with the unique ability to shift pain from person to person, and when her little sister goes missing, it turns out to be the only weapon she has to save her.” I wanted something punchier that captured that same idea.

So I went with: “Sister. Healer. Deadly Weapon. Nya has a secret she must never tell. A gift she must never use. A world she must never question. And a sister whose life depends on her doing all three.”

I’ve gotten tons of compliments on that, and it really draws attention to the printed pieces.

Taking Advantage

One of the most important things I’ve learned is to take advantage of every opportunity that comes my way. I read industry blogs daily, and have found marketing opportunities there I wouldn’t have known about otherwise. All it took was me emailing them and seeing if I could get in on whatever it was they were offering. Some said no, but enough said yes to make it worthwhile. At events, I talk to everyone and collect business cards (and hand mine out). When I get home, I email them, letting them know it was nice meeting them. If there’s something I can do (like a book signing if they’re a bookstore owner) I make the offer. I also offer to help them if they need it.

Networking is all about connections and helping others as well as yourself. Don’t think, “they wouldn’t be interested in me.” You never know, and if they are, you just got yourself another bit of press. And you never know what one meeting will lead to.

Hopefully I’ve shed a little light on this often confusing topic.



  • One winner will win a signed copy of Janice Hardy's debut novel.
  • The winner will be randomly picked from the entries.
  • The competition is open to all countries.
  • To enter please leave your name and email address in the comments box.  Please specify which copy you would like - the UK or US version.  
  • All comments are moderated and no personal details will be posted on this blog.
  • Further rules and conditions can be found in the sidebar.



Tracy said...

Thanks Danielle and Anonymous,
Your entries have been received.

Tracy said...

Thanks Clare - entry received. :)

Tracy said...

Thanks Megs - entry received. :)

Tracy said...

Thanks Stephanie - entry received. :)

Tracy said...

Thanks Louise - entry received. :)

Tracy said...

Thanks Sheere - entry received. :)

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