Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Go Forth and Pimp: Self-Promotion 101

Maven Jacqueline Barbour I promised on Friday that my first “official” post would be about promoting your book(s), and by extension, yourself. Some of you are probably already thinking, “Well, this has nothing to do with me, because I don’t have a book to promote.”

To which I say, “Au contraire, mon frere (or soeur, as the case may be).” The perfect time to start thinking about how you’re going to promote your books and your “brand” as an author is before you sell. (And I'm betting that most of you who have blogs have them, at least in part, because you know there's self-promotion value in them, so it's not like you haven't thought about this already!) Having sold something, however small, I’m already behind the eight-ball and have to play some catch-up.

Before I go into any specifics, however, I need to credit the source of this information and send you to her website. Carolyn Howard-Johnson is a multi-published author who has made a sideline career out of teaching writers how to promote their work in ways their publishers just won't. If you visit her other website, http://howtodoitfrugally.com/, you can order her book, The Frugal Book Promoter: How To Do What Your Publisher Won't, which goes into a lot more detail about this stuff than I'm permitted to do here without being accused of plagiarism!

Now, Carolyn shared a lot of different ideas with us during her presentation, but the one I want to talk about because I think it's most applicable to writers at the beginning of their careers is the Media Kit. Your Media Kit is exactly what you think it is--a group of materials you send out with a media release (not a press release, folks; this is the age of multi-media, remember!) to introduce yourself to a story editor and make it easy for that editor to choose to do a story about you and not someone else.

Building a media kit is a significant endeavor. You'll need to write two bios, one long and one short. You'll want a list of your awards (yo, contest finals) and publications (and blogs count :>). You should try to get some reviews of your work from other authors or experts, again one long and one short, to include in the kit. If you have any areas of special expertise related to your writing (think Kalen Hughes and costuming), consider putting together seminars or podcasts on the subject and including that in your media kit.

And that just scratches the surface. There's more. Go get Carolyn's book for the details. (Should I mention at this moment how well Carolyn's self-promotion efforts worked for her? She came and gave a talk to about 40 women at an RWA chapter meeting. Today, I'm here pushing her book to you, my blogosphere friends. Can you say snowball effect? That's what you want for yourself and why being able to give seminars on writing-related subjects can be very effective.)

I think you can already see that there's quite a bit of work involved in getting all that stuff written and compiled. In addition to the actual materials, however, you also need to start scoping out media outlets to which you'll want to send your kits when you've actually got something cool to announce (your first sale or, for those who've sold already, your next sale or next release).

Here, you need to be thinking not only of the obvious places (RWR, Romantic Times, etc.), but of places outside the romance-writing-and-reading community. Sure, you want to sell your book to people who already read romance, but how about broadening your audience by attracting more readers to the genre? So look at your local newspapers, both where you grew up and where you live today (that's your hook into them), the little freebie papers that you often find in delis and restaurents (which people actually read because they're there eating alone, and so can be even more effective than traditional newspapers), as well as radio stations, online media, etc. Carolyn's recommendation is that you have a list of at least fifty different media outlets along with the names of the story editors.

But the beauty of doing this before you sell your first book is that when it happens, you're ready! You write your media release, tweak the details in your media kit to appeal to particular media outlets, and package and send your releases to the folks on your media list.

Of course, there's no guarantee that any of these news outlets will ever pick up your story. But if you don't send it, they certainly never will. Your goal is to get your name out there and eventually, the effort will probably pay off. You just never know.

Carolyn told us a great personal anecdote that illustrates the value of sending out these media kits, For two years, she sent media kits to a local paper in Pasadena and they never printed a story about her. Not one. Then, early this year, she was recognized by that very same paper as One of the Ten Women Who Make Life in Pasadena Happen. So, they were paying attention, even if it didn't seem that way!

Since I don't have a media kit but I do have a release coming up in August, I have to get cracking!


ERiCA said...

*pause while I take a deep breath*


(That was for you and Maven Darcy finaling in the Summer Sizzle--I know I squeed yesterday, but I'm still so excited!)

Great suggestions and great post. I can totally see how self-promotion could help further my plot for total and complete world domination. (Er, I mean: writing career.)

Can't wait to get started!

lacey kaye said...


Great post, J. Hey, why don't we call you TM? Then you can really go nuts with your split personality thing.

Anyway, the more often I hear you talk about this the less daunting it seems. Maybe if I run out of things to do I'll start up on this. I do love step-by-step projects, where each activity can be cleanly crossed of a list. Thanks for sharing!

Tessa Dare said...

Congrats to you and Darcy on your contest final! So exciting.

Just wanted to throw that out there, although I have little to contribute yet on the topic of self-promotion - perhaps something will come to me later. Need coffee first ... :)

Bill Clark said...

You Mavens are something else! Congrats to Jacq and Darcy on finaling! Sounds like the blogplot for world domination is well underway.

Y'all head on over to Diana Peterfreund's blog, "Diana's Diversions", for a timely example of graceful self-promotion on the occasion of the release of her new novel, "Under the Rose". And then head out and get a copy, if you haven't read it already!

Vicki said...

Great post, I hadn't even begun to think in that direction yet.

Congrats to both you and Darcy for the final. So exciting. :)

Mary said...

A marketing plan doesn't sound so scary now. Thanks for a great post. =)

Darcy Burke said...

Thanks for the congrats! I'm still squeeing myself! The scene from Glorious that finaled is hot, hot and includes some of my favorite writing ever, so I'm so glad other people (namely contest judges) liked it!

Awesome post Jacq! I admit I haven't begun to think of media kitness yet, but it's good, as Lacey said, to have a list.

ERiCA said...

Lace: A check-off list! Great idea!

Tessa: Coffee comes FIRST. Maybe you need a *morning* check-off list... *g

Bill: Thanks for the reminder! Speaking of Diana's book, you can win free copies HERE on Friday, or RIGHT NOW on Carrie Ryan's blog and Diana's blog, which also contains a hilarious comment trail--do read!

Vicki: That's pretty much what I said to Jacq, too! One of her big takeaways was that it's never to early to start thinking about promotion, so as to get your ducks in a row when it's time to launch. (What weird imagery--launching ducks?? I need a new metaphor here...)

Mary: Yay! We love it when we don't scare people! =)

Darc Vader: (Yes, you will never live it down now. I love it.) Glorious is glorious! Of course it rocked the charts!

India Carolina said...

First, congrats to you and Darcy! Great blog. I don't really know anything about media kits so this was quite helpful. Eloisa James actually has her media kit as a link on her website if anyone wants to see an example. Of course, she has quite a few credits to her name!

Isabel said...

Congrats Jacq and Darcy on your contest finaling. :)


Another good blog. Need to get home tonight and re-read it again.

Kelly Krysten said...

Congrats Maven J and D. That's so awesome!
What an awesome post.
I have zero to contribute other than...Lacey, YOU run out of things to do? Never gonna happen. Unless, of course you gave up a blog...lol.

lacey kaye said...

Wow, Isabel logged in. I think the sky might collapse!

Kelly, LOL. That's what happens when you mix overachieving and procrastination. A lot of great things never seem to actually get *finished* :-)

Isabel said...

Wow, Isabel logged in. I think the sky might collapse!


I'll take it as a very good sign I'm here to stay ;)


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