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February 27, 2010

Promoting Yourself

On the heels of yesterday’s remarkable How Do You Decide Which Books to Buy? comes another side of the equation, wherein our manly man Rod Pennington shares his secrets for Influencing Those Who Are Deciding Which Books to Buy . . . man, if I did all this stuff, I’d be cashing fatter royalty checks.

Promoting Yourself

by Rod Pennington

Give away at least 100 signed copies of your novel to complete strangers.  Make it a habit to hand a book to every woman you see reading a novel in public. It can be in the waiting room of the dentist’s office or the place where you’re getting the oil in your car changed. Have copies of your books with you at all times. Anyone with a dog-eared novel in her purse is your kind of gal.

Make friends with Independent Booksellers.  I would rather have 50 “Indies” who loved my book and talks it up to their customers than having it collecting dust at Barnes & Noble. I sent an email to every independent book store and offered them 3 free copies of my book. One signed for their personal library and two to put on their shelf. Dean Russ, RT Times Book Review ‘Bookseller of the Year” wrote a blurb we used on the rear cover.   

Cater to your market. Because of the subject material, “The Fourth Awakening” is doing huge numbers in the San Francisco to Vancouver corridor and Denver/Boulder market.  We have scheduled the release of the next book for October when I will be in San Francisco anyway for Bouchercon.  From there I will be doing a Pacific Northwest book tour, stopping for two days in Denver before returning to the Eastern Time zone.

Cater to your Demographic – Top Level. “The Fourth Awakening” has strong appeal to people on a personal spiritual quest, particularly women, and those with an interest in the science of the mind. We identified around 100 “Influential” people in this space – authors, scientists, theologians, etc – who have strong niche followings and sent them an ARC. Several provided blurbs and reviews for us (Allan Combs “Radiance of Being” and Mega Internet marketer Joshua Shafran for example). More importantly, they supplied “Buzz”. We printed 100 ARCs but sold over 3,000 pre-release copies of the title based on good word of mouth. One in the group, Dr. Noel McInnis of Portland, is actually teaching a class on the science and implications of the underlying story in the book. I sent him 3 free cases of books (84), one for each of his students. Another PhD is planning on starting a similar class in Boulder in April/May.     

Cater to your Demographic – Second Level.  We hired a college kid to compile a list of spiritual centers, New Age bookstores, yoga instructors, etc who also sell books. We made them the same offer of 3 free books we had made to Indie bookstores. Our spreadsheet has over 3,000 names on it.

Build a list.  The last page of “The Fourth Awakening” has a “tease” with a link to sign up to get updates for the next book. It is no accident that it is placed at the end and not in the copyright section. It is no accident that we do not have the actual first chapter of the next book in this space. We wanted to capture the moment when the person is sorry the book is over and give them the opportunity to continue reading. In exchange, we want their email address. We currently have over 2,000 people on our list.      

Be creative. Do something memorable which will set you apart. Here are two recent examples

I'll be 60 on March 22nd. The first 60 people to send me an email will get an autographed copy of “The Fourth Awakening” and a copy of the ARC for "The Gathering Darkness" when it comes out in June.

I'm thinking about doing a promotion where I will come to the home of one luck winner of a drawing, anywhere in the continental US with an airport, and do their book club. Wait, that didn't come out right. I will SPEAK to their book club. Cool off, Xena.

Don’t count on the marketing department of your publisher. While your book is your life, to them it is just one of this month’s titles.

Attend Book Conferences.  Getting out and meeting and greeting your readers is part of the package.  Be polite and be professional. Always try to get on a panel and do your homework. While these can be freeform, don’t go in and “wing” it.  Find out who is the “Bookseller” for the event and be sure they have your book available for sale in their booth. 

Work the room. Don’t spend all of your time hanging out with other published writers. Walk up to the people milling around and introduce myself, hand them a business card and ask them if they’re published. Have a simply two sentence bio ready that flows naturally for you: I have six published novels and I’ve sold two screenplays. My seventh novel will be out in October.  

Not only is it fun, you will make someone’s day while getting a fan for life. 

Blog.  I understand there are these newfangled things called a log or blog or something like that that some people find interesting. Go figure. Anything to raise your profile.

The Big Question.  What kinds of stuff are writers doing that annoy you and overjoy you?  What kind of a promotion would appeal to the Tarts and Tartelettes?

[Harley’s note: what is the masculine of Tart? Is it Tarto? Tartuffe? Tar?]


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Hi, Rob! Your marketing strategy is amazing -- your books even more so!!
. . . oh, and Happy Birthday!!
Time for me to rest now (I have no one to tell me to do that, as Penelope does, so I have to tell myself).
I'm not even going to try to figure a male variant of "tart." Maybe I'll be more inspired by morning . . .

Mary, I'm shocked. I'm counting on you to return in the morning with your imagination on fire.

Happy Birthday Rob.

I blog and have the first chapter of three of my books posted.

Writers who go to conferences and ignore the unpublished annoy me. Writers who take the time to say hello and join in on conversations overjoy me.

Harley, would that be Tartar--oh, wait, that's raw meat...well, um...never mind.

Live from SleuthFest 2010! I’m not sure if the Hilton has a 14.4 modem or two tin cans with strings for internet access. Download times are making my teeth hurt. Still, I will try to respond to all of your comments during the day in a timely manner.

Apparently the entire word of Tartdom has been infected with “Harley disease”. It is “Rod” not “Rob”. Unless, of course, you’re all just messing with me before I’ve had my coffee. I once had a person had I had to call “Linba” for a week before “LINDA” got it right. Ahh, the burden of an unusual name that is so close to a common one. My parents had a sick sense of humor; ask my brothers Rob and Ron.

Since I’m a father and a grandfather – how about “Pop Tart”?

To Caroline in Honolulu – You are the first one in.

My stepmother has three sons, Art (who doesn't figure here), Ron and Don. My dad was Con. Margaret sometimes had a hellava time reaching for the person she wanted. Then Art made it worse by naming one of his boys Don, so there are now two Uncle Dons in the family.
I like Pop Tart. William, are you up for that?
Happy Birthday, a month early, Rod.

I have cousins who are brothers named Billy and Gilly. (William and Gilbert, named after their dad and uncle, also brothers). And my next-door neighbor, like the handyman on the old Bob Newhart show, has a brother named Daryl, and another brother named Daryl. "Little Daryl" is Big Daryl's son, and he was born with MS, so the grandparents adopted him when he was small to legally help pay for his care. So technically, he's another brother.

Good work laying it all out, Rod.

A very interesting list. Good ideas and I don't write anything longer than ten pages.

I think tart can be gender neutral but I am not wearing a red dress no matter what it does for my legs.

Hate to tell you Rod, I skip all of those blurb reviews in the front of books.

Ah, come on, Alan. You'd be gorgeous in a red dress! LOL

I'm the same about blurbs--don't bother to read them.

Karen: I had dinner last night with one of my favorite people on the planet, your youngest daughter. I see young women like her and it restores my hope for the future. We were chatting with an author, Vincent O’Neil, who happens to be a West Point grad. When he saw THE RING he nearly had a heart attack.

The Male Equivalent of "Tart" is WGS for 'Warrior God Stud'. I thought we'd had this talk before, although it was before Rod's time here. And it has to stay WGS, as I cannot qualify for 'Pop Tart', and no way can any of us be relegated to 'One of the Girls' status.

Now then. (koff koff) On a more serious note, Mr. P does make some excellent points. Having been on both sides of the Writer/Reader Meeting Experience, it's amazing how it can feel when there's a real connection. I've had some brief brushes with it from the Author Side, but far more meeting a favorite author. Some have become close friends over the years, others have been brief meetings, only twice was there a negative experience. There's something magical, even today, about meeting the person who crafted a story that captured your attention and opened the floodgates of imagination. It never gets old, it never becomes blase, and it's never ever boring.

And man, it can make a difference in sales.....

You tell 'em, William!

Rod, that's very cool. I'm so proud of her I could bust. But then she's just taking after your girls.

Now, see, as an author who tends to hang with other authors, I must say it's because I worry other people at the conference will worry that I'm going to pressure them into buying a book. I can see it in their eyes. "No, no, no! Stay away from me! I have a limited budget, and I spent it all on the registration fee, and I have no room in my luggage! Stay away!"

Great Blog Rod! We've had these talks at Mystery Lovers and I'll be sure to pass along your blog.

As for William - I can think of several things that WSG stands for, but surprisingly, none of them are the same as yours.

I personally like "Men of the Blog" but Pop Tart might stick.

Thanks for being part of TLC, Rod, and all you other Men of the Blog/Pop Tarts.

For any and all who feel the designation 'WGS' is inaccurate, inappropriate, or in-whatever, I present the following:


Nancy: We look at conferences very differently. I think people are there to see their favorite authors in the flesh and many are afraid to approach you. I save them the trouble by walking up and handing them my card – which has the book cover on the front – and ask them if they have anything published.

William: You will get my buy in on WGS if we change the 'Warrior God Stud' to ‘Warrior God Studmuffin.’

William: You will get my buy in on WGS if we change the 'Warrior God Stud' to ‘Warrior God Studmuffin.'

Sorry about the double post. I'm going to blame it the Hilton's internet. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Rod! Wonderful blog..and wonderful advice. ANd happy birthday!

One thing some readers may not know--I, for one, am kind of shy. Yes,its completely true.SO I really have to make myself brave before I go up and introduce myself! But people are always charming and welcoming..

ANd when I meet a favorite author, it's always a memorable experience. NANcy, people are thrilled to meet you~! ANd it's so sweet to think you would even hesitiate..

Still in NOrth Carolina--having a great time--more updates to come!

Alan & Karen: On the blurbs – like someone is going to put up a bad one. My favorite story was a review which said “This book is a great big pile of steaming dog poop.” The blurb, “This book is… great.”

Snort. That sounds like some movie reviews, which you just know are really truncated criticisms, rather than raves.

Hank, you're so incredibly gracious, how could anyone be anything but welcoming to you!

FYI to ALL: The highlight of the conference.

This weekend I got to meet the lovely and talented Elaine Viets. Is she perfect or what? Tall, smart, as funny as you would expect from reading her books and a wonderful public speaker. I attended her workshop on Thursday and it was a total riot! If you ever get the chance to hear her speak in person or she is doing a book signing within a few hundred miles; run don’t walk.

I am about to jump into my car and head north. If I can find a McDonald's or topless bar with Wi-Fi along the way I'll check back in.

On marketing, I'll leave you all with this...I moderated a session at Sleuthfest Friday on "Promoting Yourself" -- gee, I wonder where I got the idea for this blog? On the panel were James Grippando and Charles Todd. Between them they have had around 837 New York Times Best Sellers. The takeaway – don’t expect your publisher, no matter who you are, to build your image. That is your job.

Happiest birthday mudstuffin! #1 I am in the continental US. #2 I am a stones throw from the Miami International Airport and like the rental company will pick you up. #3 I do have a book club you can do. Please bring your package. #4 If you don't make my day that's okay. You will be 60 years old soon...no? Besides I am sure it will be a memorable promotion if you are up to it.
Go ahead. Make my day anytime. Otherwise you won't be Pop Tart. Your name will be toast.
Sorry not to get up to see you in the flesh but I have a rehearsal for the South Florida Writer's Association. No not my usual Princess Warrior part. I'm reading the part of Mother Earth at the Coral Gables Whole Foods March 6th.

Nancy, you do yourself a disservice! Talking to you at Malice Domestic was a highlight of my trip. But I am afraid I am intruding when authors are standing around together so I have a tendency to not step up. Besides, why not push your book on your adoring readers, maybe offer to autograph their book. I, for one, would quickly and happily hand over the book (or run get it if I didn't have it already and bring it back to you). I agree, RoD, I am so thrilled to meet my favorite authors and share a few words of adoration of their work with them. Hank, I understand the inner shy, outer extrovert issue. I have that same issue. When my shy side takes over I'm often taken as aloof, so I work really hard on stifling Ms Shy.

Speaking of head, er, going somewhere. Not only will I pick you up but I'll wash the leopard sheets!
Be careful. I hear they have topless oyster bars up there too.

Hank, that's me too. My default mode is shy. In moments of stress, it still takes over, but mostly, I push through it, shove it out of the way, and tear down the walls that exist only in my head. It's one of the joys for me of growing up, see that one quality recede into the background. But I, like Nancy, am always scared someone's going to think I'm pressuring them into buying a book. Possibly because I myself have no defenses against buying people's books. And I have the floor-to-ceiling bookcases (in the dining room) to attest to it.

Rod/Rob - your ideas for marketing are awesome. I imagine they're quite effective, and the birthday/email one is a great idea.

I sometimes feel bad when I'm attending a signing where there are several authors, and I can't buy a book from each one. However, I have found that they're always gracious and understanding about people having budgets and limits as to what they can buy. Often, just from talking to them, I'll buy something I hadn't expected to. Other times I'll tell them I'm sorry I can't buy today, but I will definitely look them up in the future. Sometimes their stuff is just not my cup of tea, and they're fine with that, and we chat about other things. That would prompt me to talk them up to others who I feel might enjoy their work. Nancy, IMO, I would much rather a writer speak with me than worry I'll feel pressured if she does.

Great post! And I believe the masculine of Tart is Tort. Or maybe Tarto.

Rod, this is a great and informative blog.
As a Tartlette I can only imagine the courage and imagination that is takes to market work that you so painstakingly worked on for a long time.
Attending one book signing which by no means qualifies me to make any assumptions I was struck by one thing..the author exuded honesty. She is a YA author who is a fiend of my daughter's since kindergarten so naturally I had a lot of emotion invested.
She did not spew grandiose notions of herself. She answered questions graciously and thoughtfully. I stuck my hand up a few times and she respected my questions and were in her opinion well thought out. I was shy to approach her but then I think authors are shy too, After all an author is isolated for years sometimes and then they thrust themselves to the wolves, so to speak.
I commend you and congratulate you on sharing your expertise and will be looking for your titles in my next book jaunt.
And there is something intriguing about a man who writes...

Funny how so many people are really, genuinely shy in Real Life. Personally, I've come a long way, but personal preference to this day is to walk into a room, find a corner, and observe. Only if there's a reason can I/do I make myself 'get out there', so to speak.

Then again, as an editor once told me, "Face it... few of us in this business were BMOC or Head Cheerleader. Most of us were the Library Nerds sitting quietly at a desk."

I thought about it, ran a quick review of my friends in publishing (authors, editors, agents, etc.), and realized how right she was....

Xena: I was crushed when you didn't show up I understand the ankle bracelet thing and having to stay in Dade County so I'll get over it.

Tort? I've already been involved in enough lawsuits and restraining orders to last a lifetime. As Xena can tell you the ankle bracelet chaffes.

Travel tip: The McDonald's with both Wi-Fi and a play area on a Saturday afternoon are not the best combination.

Marie: I think few authors circle the writer's conference or book signing on their calendar and start "X"ing the days off in anticipation as it approaches. What if no one shows up for your signing? What if you say something really stupid in a panel? It is like performance art and can be exhausting. I know when I get tired I get sarcastic as hell and I really have to watch myself.

One snippy old bitty asked me once “Isn’t that just formula writing?” I said, “Yes, but so is advanced calculus and most people aren’t smart enough to do that either.” When a comment like that flashes through my brain I know it is time to start packing the bags.

This will sound weird, but the 8 hour drive home with a book-on-tape playing is the most enjoyable part of the weekend. Well, that and getting to meet Elaine.

Sorry Rod, would it help me if I blame it on 65 lbs of bull terrier trying to climb onto my lap as typed? {Didn't think so but it was worth a shot}

Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

William: I’ve always been astounded by how superficial none readers/writers tend to be. Think of all of the boorish people you know and try to imagine them with a book in their hands much less trying to compose anything any one would pay a nickel to read.

When it comes to women, smart and well-read is the new sexy. Give me a woman who can keep up and I’m a happy guy. Of course this is coming from a guy who is married to a lady who is both a former head cheerleader and also can keep up. Proving writers are smart too.

Peg H: The pictures of your dogs on your link makes me want to start humming the theme from "Patton."

Now I'm missing Emma the Wonder Mutt.

Hi Rod, great discussion yesterday--and I especially like the hand outs. One thought that occurred to me about unpublished authors (you can pass along blogging today or not), but something unpublished authors don't often think about is that the minute they sell their first novel, they will be writing their second novel under a contractual deadline. That means less time for publicity stuff... In other words, as someone said, it might be overkill to have your own website as an unupublished author, but you should be at least thinking about these things and lining them up so that when deadlines come, you have time to do both your writing and publicity. Just a thought. Anyway, thanks again!

James Grippando

Tarts: Back to car and back to civilization.

Good job Peg H. and Bev. Like I said earlier, I love women who can keep up.

On that note, I'll leave the rest of you scratching your heads

Rod, I am so sorry -- I really was tired when I wrote that . . .
I like Pop Tart!
Back from Borders -- only three young listeners and their parents, but they were lively ones! I added activity to every story -- and a giraffe to Wide-Mouth Frog -- to accommodate their very young ages. They did sell one CD and gave me a free tea! . . . ;-)

Mary: All is forgiven and I am still very much in your debt. With precious little eyerolling at my spelling and grammar, Mary did a proofread of "The Gathering Darkness" for me.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Mary is one of only 8 people to have seen the new manuscript. She actually got it before my co-author!

Oh Mr. P, I knew you were a man into jewelry. I have accepted a few love offerings on occasion. Well maybe more than a few. Please make mine with amethyst. Less chaffing you know.
And what are you talking about us women who can keep up? Keep up what? Is that what makes you such a happy guy?
You realize I was not only the head cheerleader but the captain as well.
Go team!
What was our Florida slogan years back? Arrive alive I believe.
Don't you go getting distracted sugar!

Sorry to barge into the conversation between Xena and Rod, but I wanted to say something before I was distracted . . . oh, yes: Rod's and James' wise words about self-promotion, so true. My friends who have been on best-seller lists several times each did not get there because their publisher cared to get them there--if it weren't for my friends following some of the strategies Rod suggests, and having local book clubs host signing PARTIES (friends will come along for the food and fun and then buy the book after being charmed by the author!), and doing events with local independents, and buying their own tickets to visit other cities and promote their books, they might not have made it to the lists the first time around, or possibly even the second or third.

Forgot to say on yesterday's topic, there's nothing quite so charming as having an author set her/his story in your backyard and do a GOOD job of it. I picked up one of Harley's books before having heard of her or ye Tarts, thinking it would be a distraction when I needed a break, but Wollie was so smart and funny and lives so convincingly in the L.A. that I know and love, Harley became a 'must read' author for life.

I guess Ozzie Osbourne read your blog today, Rod, as he was appearing at the local Barnes & Noble today and had people lined up into the street to get his book? We bypassed the line as we didn't want his book or his autograph but apparently he was doing great. He started at 3 and was signing until he could sign no more. We left at 5ish and he was still happily signing and people were still waiting in line. Crowd control was in place. hmmmm

Laraine! Thank you!

Xena, I just knew you were once head cheerleader. Or perhaps you still are? Is head cheerleader a lifelong position, like being on the Supreme Court?

To All:

I have arrived safely back in Charleston after a 548 drive from Sleuthfest.

I will never eat another chicken McNugget again.

In re: Tarts, Pop Tarts, WGSs, etc.; I myself am more of a scone.

I'm glad you are safe at home, Rod, and have survived the McNuggets. An apple might be a good antidote ;-)
I concur completely in your description of Elaine as a public speaker/entertainer . . . and a really good person! Some of her book signings here in St. Louis include a % of sales to charities . . . That might be a good thing to add to the list of things to do, and perhaps Elaine would blog on it sometime. It definitely makes for a "feel good" event.

BTW, I'm liking Studmuffin as a counterpoint to Tart -- keeping it on the food theme and recognizing that some of the TLC Men might not want to go along with the "pop" part . . . .
Maybe we can keep the Pop Tart designation for one favorite Pop Tart, Rod (note that my spelling has improved) -- and if you were not already a happy (and fortunate) married man . . . well, I'm just not going there . . . but watch out Xena! ;-)

Great tips, thanks for sharing! It was great meeting you at SleuthFest.

Thanks for all the great marketing advice.

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