Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Business of Writing by @KimHeadlee: The Promotion Plan, or “We Don’t Need No—Yes, We Do!”

4th of July fireworks over Seattle
(c)2008 by Andi Szilagyi (Wikimedia Commons).
You've published your fabulous book, and now it's time to promote the dickens out of it, right? 


To achieve maximum sales success—whether you are a traditional, independent, or hybrid published author—you need to formulate your promotion plan in conjunction with your publication plan several months in advance of your anticipated release date.

If the book you wish to promote is under contract with a publisher, then chances are they have developed the foundation of its publication plan for you. If the title you have published with them is so hot (in terms of projected sales) that they feel compelled to alert FedEx of the tonnage of its global shipments, then chances are they are managing the lion's share of your promotion plan too. And, chances are, you are not reading this post. :D

For the rest of you, I offer the following advice, honed over the course of my 16-year "hybrid" (first as traditional, now indie) publishing career.

The ARC. No, this is not a geometry term; it's an acronym for Advance Reader Copy. The ARC may be either digital or printed.

If you're traditionally published, as I was for my first two novels (Dawnflight and Liberty), you may receive a box of ARCs that your publisher printed and expects you to distribute to reviewers and local bookstores. If you need to create a printable ARC of your manuscript, I strongly suggest converting it to PDF first. Either way, printed and digital ARCs need to get into reviewers' hands a minimum of 3 months in advance of the release date if you want reviews to be posted in conjunction with your book's release. But do your homework, and pay attention to the fine print. Some review organizations, such as Publisher's Weekly, require a 6-month lead time.

Note: If you're releasing your book yourself, Publisher's Weekly's site for indie authors, BookLife, will not accept ARCs in any format prior to the release date.

The Media Kit isn't what it used to be. My first media kit, assembled in 1999, was a physical collection that included my publicity photo and bio sheet, book cover flats (publisher slang for the physical cover with marketing information about the book printed on the back), synopsis, press release, and review blurbs. It's still a good idea to carry such a folio with you to personal appearances, especially the high-profile events where you might run into news reporters. But anymore all this information is collected and distributed digitally, along with the book's retail links, excerpts, and social media links pertaining to the book as well as the author.

I recommend keeping a separate media kit for each book, and keep them updated when new reviews, awards, and links become known.

Social Media. This is such a broad topic that I will delve into greater depth at a future date. But for the purposes of your promotion plan, especially if you are a brand-new author who's just landed a contract, start expanding your networks NOW. Don't do what I did and wait until after the book's release to begin that process. Unless you're lucky enough to have a blockbuster on your hands, you'll find it difficult to gain any sort of sales traction that way. For the average author, it takes between one and two years to develop a respectable following on any of the major platforms. This can be accelerated via more personal interaction, but the tradeoff is the time investment—time that could be spent writing your next book.

Blog Tours, Facebook Parties, and the like should be an integral part of your promotion plan whether you are publishing independently or not. Every event, even the ever-popular cover reveals, should be scheduled with either preordering or purchasing your book in mind. If you are releasing your book on Kindle, coordinate the virtual tour or party with either a Countdown or Free Download promotion to maximize interest in your release. If you are soliciting reviews for the event, schedule it at least four months in advance to give reviewers as much time as possible to read your book.

Note: Reviews cannot be posted on Amazon while a book exists in the preorder phase, so if you're trying to line up reviews to be posted right away, back up the actual release to at least a day or two before your event, to give time for your book's product pages to go live worldwide. Bloggers are busy people too, so if they visit your book's product page but cannot post their review, they might not return to do so at a later date.

HOT TIP FOR YOUR AMAZON BOOK LINKS: You can set up free links to all editions of your books that are sold via the Amazon product catalog that automatically click through to Amazon in the reader's home country—and you can specify your Amazon Affiliate ID for each country where you have one—via With BookLinker you can also set up a worldwide link to your Amazon author page, and the per-country click statistics are fascinating.

In-person events. These days I sell more print copies in person than via online catalogs, so I make every effort to attend as many of these as my schedule and budget and family's patience allow. If you wish to be placed on the guest list at conventions—many of which come with perks such as free membership and table space for signing & selling books—contact the organizing committee at least six months in advance. If you can provide additional content, such as participating in panels or presenting a workshop, all the better!

Print Media. This aspect doesn't get as much attention in the promotion plan as it used to, but it's still a good idea to keep your local news media outlets in mind. Prepare a page-turner of a press release, keep it short and snappy but make sure to include all your contact information, and submit it to their news desk at least two weeks in advance.

Audio/Visual Media (podcasts, radio, TV). One of my longtime writer-friends produces his own weekly podcast about his books. That's not my thing, but if it happens to be yours, by all means go for it. I have been interviewed during conventions for podcasts, which is a lot of fun. If your budget is big enough to pay for radio and TV advertising, all the more power to you!

Book Trailers. You can do these yourself, such as this one for Dawnflight that I threw together with Windows Movie Maker. Or you can invest in high-quality products that look like you're watching a movie trailer, such as this one for Liberty! (I would gladly share the producer's contact information, but in viewing her site the other day, it appears that she might not be doing them for clients anymore, alas.)

Promotional materials come in all shapes, sizes, and functions: bookmarks, note cards, charms and other book-related jewelry, display banners, tote bags, decks of playing cards, nail files, pens, match boxes, candy bar wrappers, and a jillion other items! But their primary purpose should be to sell your book. The most efficient way to accomplish this is to incorporate your book's QR code (that little square box with the odd design that smart phones with a QR code reader app can interpret) into whatever you design.

If you don't mind someone else making a few pennies off the sale of your books, you can use to generate QR codes that represent the worldwide Amazon links. Or you can create your own worldwide links via, and then feed the resultant links into a free QR code generator such as

Free book promotion sites are a must in your promotion plan, though you do need to follow each site's specific rules for your book's content, number of reviews, and star rating. Last year, I posted information about several sites in this blog post.

Betty Book Freak no longer offers free book promotions, but some sites I've come across since then include:
Romance Readers Club for romance novels (reports a 6-month lead time for free promotion)
Romance Lives Forever (RLF) Blog for romance novels (plan on a 3- or 4-month lead time if you need to time a promotion with a specific event)

You do need to read the fine print at each site prior to submitting your titles for consideration. Some sites allow for resubmission of books, or the submission of an additional book in your backlist after a set number of days or months. Since I have my Blogger dashboard active every day, I have developed the habit of creating posts that I never intend to publish as a way to track submissions and results. I just look for the post titles that begin with *** NOT A BLOG POST... and if you ever see one like that on The Maze, you know I've forgotten to reschedule it in time! :D

Contests for published novels are a form of paid advertising that can boost sales because of the bragging rights if your book wins. Plan ahead to pick the contests you wish to enter so that you have enough printed copies on hand if that's one of the entry requirements.

Speaking of contests, I am pleased to announce that my ancient Rome historical romance novel Liberty recently won the Books Go Social 2015 Best Self-Published Work award! To read more about Liberty and what I endured to write it, I invite you to read this interview.

Paid book promotion sites may suit your needs, depending on your budget, though given a choice I will always opt for free promotion and save my money for editing and cover design. Paid book promotion venues include:

I have not yet tried advertising on Goodreads. My browser setup (Firefox, with Adguard plugin; both are free downloads, BTW) blocks nearly 100% of all advertising, so I always forget to check into it there! Otherwise, BookBub is my go-to promo site for most of my books that fit their guidelines for length and pricing. To date I've advertised three different novels via BookBub and have more than recouped my investment each time.

Of course you can also pay to boost your posts on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. I tried doing that on Facebook a couple of times, with middling results, so I do not recommend spending your hard-earned advertising money on those venues since they are viewed by the general population, not all of whom are book readers.

If you have any other book-related promo ideas, links, or success stories to share, I would love to hear about them!

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Thank you so very much and have a blessed day.


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