Monday, October 3, 2011

Penelope's Hot Tips For Romance Writers: The Promo Checklist

What happens if you write a book and don't do anything about promoting it?'s an analogy.

You spend 9 hours getting ready for the prom. You do your hair. You put on make-up. You pick out an apricot-colored Gunne Sax dress with ruffles. You spritz on perfume.

And then you sit in your living room and never leave the house.

Don't you want to get to the prom? Dirty dance with Robby "Boom-Boom" Football Player? Spike the punch bowl? Make fun of other people's outfits?

Sure you do!

Likewise, if you spend years writing a masterpiece, and then finally get a publisher, it would be a big-ass downer if no one bought your book. Or read it. Or reviewed it. Or liked it, and sent you a nice fan letter. Or recommended it to her friends.

If you are a first time author with a small publisher, unless you get off your butt and start promoting your new book, it's possible that you'll be stuck in your living room for all of eternity. You could have dismal sales. No one will be reading your masterpiece and discovering what a talented and wonderful writer you are.

Plenty of authors focus on their craft, and the difficult path to publication. But there's more to this writing adventure than just creating a story and getting it published. Doesn't matter if you are a big-time author with a New York publisher, or a self-pubber, or an author with a small to medium sized publisher. Every author needs to take some responsibility for promoting her own work. You are ultimately responsible for your own success!

I could go on and on about this topic (and often do...hee hee!) but today I am just going to post a helpful checklist for writers who have a new release coming out. Make a promo plan or strategy for your book. Get a calendar and fill it up with events...supplement your publisher's review requests with your own, schedule interviews, guest blog posts, contests/giveaways and book signings, buy advertising spots, do chats, plan a virtual tour. Don't forget to post announcements on release day.

Here is a handy-dandy checklist to organize these events and stay on top of your responsibilities. Please comment/email with any questions! I'd love to hear from you!

Penny's Promo Checklist

6-12 months before release (or more).....

*Get a calendar and make a plan!

*Determine money and time budget first.

*Contact folks about advertisements, especially places that fill up far in advance.

*Contact reviewers/bloggers/romance sites about supplemental reviews, interviews, guest blogging, giveaways, etc.

*Create a PROMO FOLDER on your computer w/ jpeg of book cover, blurb, excerpt, bio, head shot, purchase links.

*Contact bookstores about signings/Register for conferences, etc.

*Update blog/website with announcements.

*For first time authors, make sure you have a website in place, a Goodreads author page, blog if you would like one, FB author page, etc.

2-4 months before release.....

*Make ads/hire someone to make them for you.

*Design/order promotional items such as bookmarks, Romance Trading Cards, pens, etc.

*Start working on interview questions, guest blog spots, etc. Get ahead with this work! It will start steamrolling as release day approaches!

*Update blog/website with any new info about book. If you have any early ARC reviews, add positive quotes/snippets--on website, on Twitter, on FB, etc.

1-2 months before release.....

*Email/confirm with all bloggers/sites about virtual tours.

*Step up pre-release promo, but don't over-do....maybe once a week announcement with a positive review snippet, or a quickie excerpt.... Save biggest promo for when you have your PURCHASE LINK!

*If you have a newsletter, send reminders about release day.


*BIG DAY! Try to schedule highest traffic/highest visibility event online for this day.  Participate! Leave comments and chat w/ readers!

*Announcements: On FB, Twitter, Goodreads, Yahoo Loops, Writer's Groups, Appropriate Message Boards, Newsletter, Chats, Blog/Website.

*Send follow-up thank-you notes to bloggers/sites.

Release week/month (1-2 months out).....

*Continue with aggressive promo for launch week/initial month. Try to schedule 3-5 events/launch week, then 1-3 events/the rest of the month.

*MIX IT UP! Don't have 5 interviews in a row. Try for an interview on Monday, new review on Wed, giveaway on Friday.

*As readers check out your new book, they post their own ratings/reviews and discuss it online. That's your promo!

*Do book-signings, organize a book launch party, attend conferences (give workshops, participate in book fair, etc).


*For seasonal releases, promo is essentially done after the holiday season is over. For non-seasonal releases, you can ease up (1-2 events/month?) until the next release is out. Opt for more general promo events, not necessarily geared for that particular book.

I gave a talk to the Rhode Island Romance Writers on Saturday, and we discussed this topic. What a great group of writers! They had tons of energy and enthusiasm.

I'll be picking topics from this checklist to discuss in more detail each week on my blog. Next to determine a budget in terms of time and money for your promotional needs.

Hope this helps! Please comment with any questions/concerns.

All my best,


Kate George/Bodacious Betty said...

Penelope, I really need to put this in a file - with the head shot, links, cover etc...

I am SO aweful at promotion! But I want to go to the prom so I'd better step up...

Nina Pierce said...

Promotion is such a hard thing. There is nothing worse than being the announcement everyone deletes because they're so sick of hearing from you.

On the other hand, like you said. You've got to do something. Such a hard line to walk.

(Sorry I missed your talk. I heard wonderful things.)

Unknown said...

Geez am I so disappointed I missed this. I've been hearing nothing but rave reviews about this workshop. Had a bad weekend so couldn't drag myself out of bed to meet you. :(

Great list.

Penny Watson said... would look great in a Gunne Sax dress.

Seriously, make the promo file. Then you have everything at your fingertips when someone asks for your promo materials.

Penny Watson said...

Hi Nina! Good point....there is a fine line between being interesting and being a pain in the ass! Folks who only use social media for promotion are bordering on spam. Folks who use social media to connect with people, and occasionally use it for announcements, are doing the right thing. Sorry I missed you on Saturday! Darn it!

Penny Watson said...

Hi take care of yourself, missy! First priority always!!!!! If you ever have any questions about promo, just shoot me an email!

Julia Rachel Barrett said...

Really good advice and promo is very hard work. There's no getting around it.

Penny Watson said...

Hi Julia! I know you hate promo, but if you make a big initial investment in your career, then you can reap the rewards later (less promo, more fans!). You already have a great posse of fans!

Mia Marlowe said...

Great ideas, Penny. I think the key to good promo that keeps your newsletter from being deleted is to offer value to readers, whether it's a free novella or deleted scenes on a writers' website. I'm always trying to ask myself, "What would my reader want?"

Penny Watson said...

Hi Mia! Very good point! I also like newsletters that have some fun personal info...w/ photographs, info about travel, recipes! You need some "pop"!!!

Lindsay said...

I think that it's great that you are sharing all of this.

Penny Watson said...

Hi Lindsay....thanks for stopping by! Glad to help!