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Wednesday Midday Links: What kind of author promotion works for you?

Fools Gold MagazineSusan Mallery is an author whose promotional work intrigues me. My responses to her novels have been all over the place from loathe to love but, for the most part, I find her promotional voice works, in part because I never get the sense that she is selling me anything even though that is probably untrue. I follow Mallery on Twitter because she is an avid Project Runway fan. She tweets about who she likes and doesn’t like on PR. She allows herself to express an opinion and it makes her more relatable (at least to me).

I also follow Teresa Medeiros on Twitter and she ended up writing a book about two people who fall in love on Twitter and I found the whole book unbearably twee. I will be posting a review on it at the end of the month when the book releases, but suffice to say that this is one book that was probably far better in concept.

Instead of doing the book trailer, Mallery has created these online magazines that feature articles about her characters. The first one was a wedding magazine that had a pictoral layout of the wedding of former champion cyclist and Fool’s Gold city planner. The most recent one is about Fool’s Gold, the city. It’s a Holiday magazine and part of the advertisements feature bloggers and other websites (we did not pay to advertise, it’s kind of an Easter egg of sorts).

The view stats for the magazine indicate that other people are enjoying the magazine as well. The Holiday magazine has been viewed 82,069 times.

Stats for magazines Susan Mallery

Compare those stats with the book trailer done by Circle of Seven for Christina Dodd, a bestselling author like Mallery. The book trailer has 6,339 views and was uploaded over a year ago.

christina dodd book trailer

One thing I don’t like about the Mallery promotion is that there is no good way to embed the magazine. It’s really best viewed at the hosting site.

Another example of an author promotion that I really liked was the audiobook widget for the upcoming Susan Elizabeth Phillips. I generally disfavor widgets because they don’t really offer anything useful and seem more advertisement and less a benefit for me as a reader or blogger, but I liked this audio widget because you can play the audio sample right from the widget itself. no click throughs or anything. (As an aside, I enjoyed this book quite a bit and we have a couple of reviews, both positive, but with very different thoughts from Jennie and Robin to be published next month).

Twitter sells books according to some publishers. The publicity director for Algonquin shares his ideas as to why Twitter is becoming an effective medium for them:

The trick to their success may lie in the community building which is so crucial to Twitter. Taeckens explains his three point plan for engagement: “First, be pro-active about interacting with other people; you have to engage in conversations, not merely post as if you’re reporting to a captive public. Second, display your sense of personality; use wit, humor, creativity, and have fun. Third, post and comment on topics you know and care about–not just literature and publishing, but all topics in the cultural dialogue.”

I’m a big tweeter and one thing that I really dislike and that I am seeing more of is what I like to call “the circle jerk of promotion”. This happens when a group of author friends retweet or repost one of the group’s new release so all you have in your entire feed is a bunch of authors retweeting the same thing about Author A’s book being out. It becomes total white noise. If you want to tweet about the release, can’t you come up with something new and innovate to say about your friend’s book?

I could write all day about the horrible websites out there and it seems like Karen Marie Moning’s relaunched website breaks all the rules. First, it is run on flash. Flash, as you may have read, cannot be viewed on any iThing. So that is like 80 million devices that can’t view whatever it is the author spent so much money to have on her site. Plus, it takes time to load and people with slower internet connections are likely clicking away. Further, many people visit during work hours and can’t even see or enjoy the fancy shmancy thing. Beyond the flash is the audio that starts up when the site loads, with a voice over by some guy (who I have since found out is her husband?) I think he is supposed to sound seductive, but the extra breathing at the end of his words and the indecision as to whether he should be singing or simply narrating the text made it sound funny. The background track was annoying. I eventually turned it off so I don’t know the whole soliloquy given by the narrator (and isn’t this whole series about a chick and not a guy anyway?). Then I thought, maybe this site is just for her fans because after all she is celebrating the release of the fifth and final book in her series. Maybe it’s not to bring in new fans at all.

Another thing that I am ambivalent about is a members only section of an Author website. I’ve heard that some readers (generally the fans) enjoy it but new readers don’t. Susan Mallery, who I referenced above, has a members only section and while I like her magazine and her twitter feed, I am not signing up for a members only section.

Thoughts? Likes/dislikes?

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Borders has a really ugly, high priced something on its site that is designed just to display recipes.

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Nate over at the digital reader points to the results of a new survey regarding publishers and ebooks. Over 62% of publishers don’t know what the ROI on ebooks are yet. I think the downfall of pricing right now is that as the ebook industry grows rapidly so does ebook revenue because new entrants are buying books. The question is how much greater could growth be. Ebooks are currently viewed as additive sales versus replacement sales even though sales of books like mass markets are declining by double digits.

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All About Romance has published its top 100 list which is voted on by the readers of AAR. Number one is Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase. Big names and historicals seem to dominate the list.

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The Roses of Prose are looking for another blogger to join our group of four authors. If you’re a published author – traditional, e-published, or self-published, and would like to blog with them, check out the guidelines on their site http://www.rosesofprose.blogspot.com/.

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Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

70 Comments

  1. Keishon
    Dec 08, 2010 @ 11:11:31

    First, what a big laugh, to sell an ereader just for recipes. FAIL on every level with that idea.

    As for AAR Top 100 romances. I am completely disconnected. I disagree with the first choice on down. It does have a lot of historicals on it but I love historicals so no complaints from me on that end.

    Author websites, I quit visiting a lot of them because the information you want is simply not found there like a damn book list. Colin Cotterill’s website doesn’t as far as I can see, have a booklist of his mysteries there which is just inexcusable.

  2. Chicklet
    Dec 08, 2010 @ 11:39:10

    Re: Author websites: Flash intro? FAIL. Automatic audio file? FAIL. Lack of backlist page in order of publication? FAIL. Members-only section? FAIL. When I go to an author’s website, I want useful information (like their entire backlist), not a kaffeeklatsch. Don’t make me sign up in order to read your blog posts, because that’s something I associate with greedy businesses. I want a page that loads quickly, so I can find what I’m looking for.

  3. Kristi
    Dec 08, 2010 @ 11:43:38

    On the author promotion, I think I’ve watched 2 book trailers ever. One was by a NYT author, and I didn’t care for it at all. The other was made by a friend/critique partner. I actually enjoyed hers, but would never have gone looking for it had there not been the personal connection.

    I prefer to read the book before I see the movie, so book trailers that have photos of people or spoken dialogue are just not for me. The one booktrailer that I liked had written text and landscape photos of places where the book was set. That was OK and kind of helpful.

    But really, while there is some overlap between the YouTube-obsessed portion of the population and the book-obsessed, I’d think an author would do better to focus on readers rather than the subset who do lots of both.

    As for the e-reader for recipes, its like having a toothbrush just for molars. What exactly is wrong with using your normal e-reader for recipes? I’d think that a sufficiently sturdy color tablet/reader/pc with a stand would do the job nicely. Actually, I can use my HTC Evo with its built-in stand as a nice recipe “reader” that can show online recipes or e-cookbooks or word docs or pdfs or a cooking app….

  4. Noelle Pierce
    Dec 08, 2010 @ 11:45:36

    I haven’t seen Mallery’s promotions yet, but that seems like an interesting idea.

    I actually really like the idea of a digital recipe book because, well, if you saw my recipe book, you’d understand. I’ve got recipes from the internet folded and shoved into it at every conceivable angle. Mostly because I’m too lazy to write them all in the spiral notebook or on note cards. I don’t know that I’d spend $200 on an eReader, though.

    Most of the author sites I visit have the book lists, so I’ll go there for those. Especially if they write books that are connected in some way because I hate reading out of order no matter how stand-alone they are.

  5. Dana S
    Dec 08, 2010 @ 11:51:01

    The best author promo for me, is for the author to have an easy to access printable booklist, with series order (including short stories). People keep recommending Sherry Thomas to me, but I can’t figure out which stories are linked so I haven’t read any of them yet.

    Newsletters work too. Especially if they’re sporadic and only contain info about their books.

    I’m weird, and I don’t like visual images of characters, so I ignore book trailers. And if I read Susan Mallery, I’d probably ignore the magazine too.

  6. Jody W.
    Dec 08, 2010 @ 11:52:02

    Are you asking readers what they think of author promotion efforts or asking authors if they have had success with anything? As a reader, the thing that sells me most on books these days, when I’m not auto-buying, is a LONG excerpt from the beginning of the book. I’ve got a Kindle now and based on my credit card bills, I surely know how to use it. As an author, I cannot say anything I’ve done “works”. There may be a publishing voodoo doll with my name in it out there somewhere that’s to blame. Surely it’s not me :)

  7. Mary
    Dec 08, 2010 @ 12:05:35

    The kind of author promo that works for me is when I find a book reccomended by someone whose views I trust (not always at his site!) and then I read it and think: Wow! WHat else did this author write?! The best promo for any author is to write another book as good as the first….

    All this other stuff, I just don’t pay attention to.

  8. KarLynP
    Dec 08, 2010 @ 12:32:08

    $199 for a digital recipe book?? I would be so mad if I got that for Christmas!

    I think Pamela Clare does online promotions very well. She connects with her readers regularly through her blog and other social media, including many open conversations with her readers at Goodreads. Her fans love to read about personal issues she’s involved in (i.e., she also writes legislation bills) and even her POV about the changing publishing industry. Recently she discussed her writing progress as she finished her next book, which doesn’t come out until May. By regularly engaging with her fans, she has already created some good buzz for her next book.

  9. Brian
    Dec 08, 2010 @ 12:32:21

    Book Trailers? – Pretty much useless to me, but I know some folks do love ‘em.

    Flash anything? – Hate it.

    Author forums – Can be OK, but some of them are overrun with obsessed fans or are so heavily moderated that if you mention anything critical of the authors work you get flamed and run off or banned. They can be a good way to find info if you can’t find it posted somewhere else. I’ve had good experiences on forums for Lynsay Sands, Kelley Armstrong, Patty Briggs and Charlaine Harris. The forum for Laurell K Hamilton not so much. For me these only work if the author has some level of participation.

    I like it when I can visit an authors site and find info about what’s coming and find things like series order (hate the bibliography pages where they just dump all their books in a list without breaking it out by series) or how various series might connect. It’s nice when an author blogs or posts news regularly about what’s coming, etc.

    One of the things I hate most are author websites/blogs that they put up and then never post/update. They don’t need to obsess about it, but it’d be nice if the authors site was as much/more up to date than other sources on the net. Some authors I’ve checked have their ‘current’ news items as things they posted a few years ago. If it’s not going to be updated then don’t post a news/blog section at all.

    Excerpts/samples are awesome for promo when I’m looking for a new author to read although I find lots of the ones from big publishers to be too short.

    Author mailing lists can be good, but some authors spam the hell out of you. A quarterly (monthly at most) update is enough.

    The magazine deals are kinda neat. Probably more something for folks who are fans already.

  10. Brian
    Dec 08, 2010 @ 12:34:29

    Snippets (of work in progress) can be a fun method of promo too.

  11. Pat
    Dec 08, 2010 @ 12:36:27

    Sigh. I know everyone says that author promo is important, but as a reader I have to say I’ve never bought, or even read, anything based on it. I avoid Twitter and Facebook like the plague, but I will go to authors’ pages to look for backlist information.

    I base my book choices on reviews and recommendations from people I trust. Now and then I have time to browse in a book store, in which case I will try a few opening pages.

    An ereader for recipes? Someone has to be kidding. At least when I knock the cookbook on the floor it just gets creased, and I can’t believe I’m the only klutz in the world.

  12. Jane
    Dec 08, 2010 @ 12:41:44

    It sounds like for most readers, a good website, some longish excerpts, and good writing is the best promotional material. All the rest of the promo is for the existing fan base? I wonder if that is worth it then.

  13. Lisa
    Dec 08, 2010 @ 12:46:31

    I’d read like 40 of the books on the AAR list and many are on my keeper shelf. Love the Susan Elizabeth Phillips books. There is much about them that is cliche if you just look at the storyline and yet they are so amazing. I think that is a testament to just how great she executed. I just re-read almost all of her books about a month ago and even with the yellowed pages of time, they were just as good as the first time. Also MR. PERFECT from Linda Howard. I will choose that book to gift over and over.LOVE!

  14. Eva_baby
    Dec 08, 2010 @ 12:48:04

    Unfortunately author promos are wasted on me. The first time I saw a book trailer, my reaction was ‘well, why?’ A moving image doesn’t sell a book to me.

    The best way to get me to buy a book, especially of an unknown to me author is a good synopsis, a thoughtful review and then a sample chapter or two.

    As for getting information, I like the no frills, bare bones, of Wikipedia or any other Wiki. I usually go there first when looking for author’s backlists, publication order or stuff like that.

    Regards the AAR top 100: I am not surprised at the look of the list. I lurk AAR and the temperature of the group is very much in keeping with a what is on that list. It is a group that tends to trend heavily toward historicals and heavily toward a distinct group of authors. There are many of the books on the list that I adore and a few that I would also list on my personal top 100, but I my tastes range a lot wider so to my eyes that list is incredibly limited.

  15. Melissa
    Dec 08, 2010 @ 12:59:57

    I don’t agree with most of the AAR list, it’s too limited and has too many regency historicals.

    As for an author page, I want basic information on what books the author has written, series order and upcoming books. Flash is a big no for me since I use an i-thing most of the time. I think Pamela Clare and Nalini Singh have great websites and blogs.

    While I normally don’t get the book trailer thing, I really enjoyed the ones for Perfect Chrmistry and Rules of Engagement by Simone Elkeles. The Perfect Chemistry one had bad casting for the leads but the song in it was funny.

  16. Lynne Connolly
    Dec 08, 2010 @ 13:00:50

    Author promotion – I have no idea what works and what doesn’t. Authors tend to look for direct results from promotion, some kind of magic formula, but it just doesn’t work like that. The other error they make is expecting instant results.

    Best promotion – word of mouth, which the author has no or very little control over.

    Worst – “Buy My Book” times twenty, repeated every single week.

    That’s IMO, of course. I do a bit of everything, and just hope. I used to work in advertising and the one thing I do know is that I don’t have the money to launch a really effective promotion campaign. If ever I’m so lucky, I’m going to pay someone who really knows what they’re doing to do it for me.

  17. becca
    Dec 08, 2010 @ 13:09:42

    for authors’ backlists, I go to fantasticfiction.co.uk – they hardly ever fail me (only once that I can recall, and that was for some really obscure author who I forget now)

    I follow certain authors that I know I’ll like, and depend on review sites like this one for recommendations. I don’t always like the same thing that people here do, but I can always tell from the review whether I’ll like the book or not.

  18. Ros
    Dec 08, 2010 @ 13:11:26

    I have got to know a number of authors on Twitter. That is to say, they follow me as well as me following them, and we interact about all sorts of stuff – frozen pipes, what’s on TV, kids home from school and so on. So when they tweet that they have a book coming out, it feels like a friend telling me that, rather than a publicity campaign. In fact, one or two of the authors have become actual friends and we have met in real life, or email and so on. I think that if an author is prepared to interact in that sort of way with their readers, they can build a support base. But it takes time and motivation – I can quite see why it wouldn’t suit all authors.

    I think the retweeting ‘noise’ has got worse since the new style retweet. In the past it was much easier to edit the message, but now the one-click retweet is much easier.

    I’m afraid I can’t take seriously any list which includes Julia Quinn alongside Jane Austen. Sacrilege.

  19. Dana S
    Dec 08, 2010 @ 13:34:55

    @Jane: I think a lot of author promo is an excellent way to keep a fanbase. I like how Ilona Andrews posts snippets from upcoming books. Several authors offer free short stories/epilogues between books (Karen Chance, Kelley Armstrong, Elizabeth Hoyt), and it makes me keep coming back to the authors and reminds me to buy their next book.

    But, it’s rare that promo only will get me to try a new author. It’s usually reviews or word of mouth that will convince me to buy a new author. I did like Tessa Dare’s Stud Club Trilogy and the author talk interviews that Gena Showalter and Jill Monroe did.

    Of course what works best are cheap/free books.

  20. Dana S
    Dec 08, 2010 @ 13:36:51

    Oops, it should be “Tessa Dare's Stud Club Trilogy trailer”.

  21. Kate Pearce
    Dec 08, 2010 @ 13:48:57

    I like Twitter, I get to chat to people between editing and writing and staring at a blank wall. I also like Facebook because it is so immediate. I don’t consciously try and get new fans or promote, I just like the ‘crack’ as the Irish would say.

    My personal opinion on promo is do the stuff you enjoy and don’t worry about the rest. Hopefully the books I write are the best promo I can do. :)

  22. Vi
    Dec 08, 2010 @ 13:51:32

    I’m not a fan of joint facebook promotions: “like” me and this author and this author to be eligible to win a prize. I don’t care what the prize is, I don’t want to “like” all of you in order to be eligible.

  23. joanne
    Dec 08, 2010 @ 13:57:57

    There’s lots of good author self-promo on Facebook. The most successful seem to be the ones that don’t push their books but rather the reading of romance/UF books.

    Nalini Singh has a Friday ‘what are you reading’ thread there and I often look to see what her fans are reading since they might be seeking the same kind of voice that Singh has. Works for me.

    I can’t bitch about the AAR Top 100 romances since I’m always putting off voting until it’s too late. STILL: Lord Perfect over the wonderful Lord Of Scoundrels.

    If I were going to write a book (GOD FORBID) I would want Angela James in my promo corner. I don’t know her or what she does for a living but she is every freakin’ where promoting authors.

  24. Katrina
    Dec 08, 2010 @ 13:58:39

    Maybe it’s because I work in comms for a charity, so I’m always trying to find ways of promoting us online, but I think the different ways authors promote their stuff is really interesting.

    Things I don’t give a rat’s ass about and therefore ignore:

    -video trailers (never watch ‘em. ever. don’t see the point in ‘em.)

    -authors’ Facebook pages (I use FB only for keeping in touch with friends and family overseas.)

    -publishers telling me how wonderful their authors’ books are (duh)

    -members only sections (I have enough passwords to remember, and I’m not a stalker.)

    -extraneous stuff that’s cutesy (this is where I put Susan Mallery’s Fool’s Gold stuff)

    -most e-newsletters unless they’re funny and show personality

    Things that turn me off completely:

    -“Like my FB page!! Please! Like me! I’ll give you something if it’ll make you like me!”

    -“I need 30 more people to have 9,000 followers! Please! Like me! I’ll give you something if it’ll make you like me!”

    Things I love that have actually made me go out and buy a book I hadn’t intended to:

    -authors who are personable on Twitter (you don’t have to follow me back, but chatting with me, being funny and real, being a likable person will convince me to take a chance on your book)

    -reviews from trusted places

    -agents’ recommendations (because I’m an unagented writer, I want to know what books agents rep that they think are awesome, esp those books in the same genre/style as mine)

    -authors blogging about things they learned when researching their book (especially historical facts) and generally showing they’re intelligent, thoughtful people

    -giving away a novel so I can try them out before buying future novels (I’ve found some of my favorite authors after winning a book)

    All that said, I’ll only buy a second novel if the first one rocks my world. And I’ve found the people I follow on Twitter who’re funny, lovely people are also awesome novelists.

    Sheesh, I should’ve turned this into a blog post instead of a comment. Sorry for the length!

    @KatrinaLatham

  25. Joy
    Dec 08, 2010 @ 14:11:20

    Author website: I want to see your up-to-date book list including new releases, upcoming books, and backlist (even the out of print stuff). In the listing, I want to see your book cover, a synopsis, and an excerpt. If your book is in a series, I want to know which series and which order to read them in, and any meta-information about the series. Links to reviews and ordering sites is a plus. Interesting research/background links/comments/etc are a plus. That’s it. I don’t really care about anything that moves or makes noise (although some video book trailers can be funny, they don’t sell the books for me). I *read*–if I wanted to watch a movie I’d go to netflix. I’m probably not interested in a personal blog about your pets and family (though some fans might be, and there are certainly exceptions probably related to how well you write about anything), but might be interested in what you are reading and what you think about it. Online free novellas/short stories and related tidbits are always appreciated.

    Members only area–sounds cool but sadly I don’t really want any more username/pws to remember. I may want to sign up for your mailing list, though, so I am reminded when your new book is out.

    The best promo outside these is a free book or free ebook. Make it the first in a series, somewhere in your backlist. It’ll give me a good idea if I like your work or not, and if I like it I’ll totally buy the rest of the series and your backlist and new releases.

  26. readinrobin
    Dec 08, 2010 @ 14:17:31

    I very rarely visit author websites anymore, and when I do it’s usually because I want to look at their book list, and since discovering fantasticfiction.com I use it more often than not. And I don’t really care about book trailers most of the time. I agree about the “white noise” on Twitter, but do think Twitter is a great opportunity for authors to connect with fans and find new fans. I don’t really remember how I found Teresa Medeiros and Christina Dodd on Twitter, but their tweets are so entertaining that I began looking for their books – I’d never read either of them before Twitter. And through them I’ve “met” some other authors on Twitter who’s books I’ve looked for or plan to look for.

    Though I have to admit also, this very website itself has caused me to seek out more than one new to me author!

  27. Tweets that mention Wednesday Midday Links: What kind of author promotion works for you? | Dear Author -- Topsy.com
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  28. Joy
    Dec 08, 2010 @ 14:20:13

    An example of what looks TO ME like a good author website, by the way, is Courtney Milan’s. No media craziness, just easy-to-access info, a few short freebies, and an interesting blog. On the other hand, what actually sold me on her books was buying an anthology because it had another author’s novella in it–and I liked Milan’s novella BETTER than the story I bought the anthology for. Which goes to show there is nothing better than a sample, and, of course, being in good company.

  29. Rachel
    Dec 08, 2010 @ 14:38:41

    A boring author blog is worse than no blog at all. Daily accounts of your lunch menu/local weather/dog’s hemorrhoids are the fastest way to convince me your books will be boring, too.

  30. Angela James
    Dec 08, 2010 @ 14:52:12

    @joanne: lol, I think I should say thank you, Joanne! Jane pointed me to your comment. I’m actually the executive editor for Carina Press, Harlequin’s digital-first imprint, but I really (really) love books and I read a lot, so I’m always talking about books and authors, not just the ones I publish, but all of them.

    Hopefully “being every freakin’ where promoting authors” is done positively and not in that “I can’t get away from you, lady” kind of way!

  31. SylviaSybil
    Dec 08, 2010 @ 14:58:10

    Promotions that work for me are being approachable on Twitter/blog/email and holding giveaways. I am too broke to spend my money on a new author, but if I like the first one I’ll buy all the rest.

    I don’t consider an author’s website to be extra promotion. Rather, that’s essential. You need at least your backlist with cover pic, synopsis, and series order. A “coming soon” section with info on upcoming books is even better. If I can’t figure out which one to buy first, I’m skipping you and moving on to the next author. The author’s website should have the most up-to-date information available. I shouldn’t have to look anywhere else for information on your books. I agree with the person upthread who pointed out Courtney Milan’s website as a stellar example.

  32. Sarah Frantz
    Dec 08, 2010 @ 15:28:58

    I think there should be a Top 100 List of Erotic/Alternate Sexuality Romances. Erotic romance, m/m romance, f/f romance, BDSM romance, and menage/multiple partner romance. That would be a very different list than the AAR list. Like, don’t Joey Hill and Robin Schone and Alex Beecroft and K.A. Mitchell deserve to be on a list of Top 100 Romances? I sure as hell think so. And if they’re never going to get on AAR’s list, they deserve a list of their own. In my opinion. :)

  33. Patricia Rice
    Dec 08, 2010 @ 15:42:29

    Timely discussion. I’m experimenting with releasing an original e-book in April, one that doesn’t fit into any print niche. I’ve been racking my brain how to get the word out there. I’ve had a basic website forever. Don’t do html so have to pay someone to update it. She’s connected it to my blog and my facebook so I can interact that way. But as a reader, what I use to buy books is reviews. I’m guilty of loading my Nook with books recommended here and other places. I guess now I have to figure out how to give away free copies and sound witty on Twitter. Really, wouldn’t it be easier to put a bag over my head and be mysterious?

  34. MaryK
    Dec 08, 2010 @ 15:42:56

    I visited Moning’s site because I was curious about who the other possible hero is (I’ve only heard about Barron) and left none the wiser. No list of major characters or anything. Though I can apparently follow them on twitter, I couldn’t find out who they were on the website.

    Traditional promotion doesn’t do much for me. It’s too glossy and generic for me I think. The only book trailers I’ve ever liked have been homemade – the Maggie Stiefvater and Tessa Dare ones come to mind.

    What does work for me is a natural online presence – an author connecting with readers like a normal person not like a promoter. I’ve become interested in several authors because of their twitter feed. I like Carina’s tweets about their authors and the author guest posts on their blog. And, as others have said, short stories and excerpts are the things most likely to get me to buy a book.

    I didn’t pay much attention to Courtney Milan until I read her short story The Goddess of Small Things. Now I know I like her writing. I heard about Joely Sue Burkhart somewhere, read some short stories on her website, and now she’s on my radar. Lynn Viehl has tons of free stuff on her website so when she started writing paranormal romance I didn’t wonder if the books were good I just bought them.

  35. SarahT
    Dec 08, 2010 @ 15:56:14

    An easy-to-navigate website which is kept current and contains blurbs and excerpts of all the author’s books.

    I don’t watch book trailers. The SEP widget is a cute idea, but it was the excerpt on her site that persuaded me to pre-order the book.

  36. MaryK
    Dec 08, 2010 @ 15:58:29

    @becca:

    for authors' backlists, I go to fantasticfiction.co.uk – they hardly ever fail me (only once that I can recall, and that was for some really obscure author who I forget now)

    Yes! Or fictiondb.com, especially for category Romance.

  37. cead
    Dec 08, 2010 @ 16:02:20

    Pretty much what everyone else has said: a complete booklist with synopses and excerpts for each book, information about any connected books and the order they should be read, and no distracting noises or videos or flashes. I hate it when authors just put up a list of their books (especially an incomplete list) without even a synopsis, or when they just link to the Amazon page.

    @SylviaSybil:

    I agree with the person upthread who pointed out Courtney Milan's website as a stellar example.

    Seconded. She has just the right amount of information up, everything is easy to find, she has small personal touches that make her likeable without being overwhelming, and the site looks clean and uncluttered.

    Sarah Mayberry’s website is also a good example of a successful author blog, for similar reasons. I can personally attest to the success of her website, because after I checked it out (after reading a review that intrigued me; here, I think), I immediately bought most of her books. One of the other neat things about Mayberry’s website is that she posts behind-the-scenes information for each of her books; doing this isn’t essential, but it always makes me happy.

  38. cead
    Dec 08, 2010 @ 16:06:49

    @MaryK:

    Or fictiondb.com, especially for category Romance.

    Yes! fictiondb.com is better in some ways, because they have synopses for everything and fantasticfiction often doesn’t.

  39. Angela
    Dec 08, 2010 @ 16:22:41

    @MaryK: There’s another possible hero in the Fever series? LOL I’m not sure I’d be able to accept someone other than Barrons.

    Regarding author promo – I have to agree with almost everyone here. Someone else mentioned not liking visual images of characters and that I totally agree with. In fact I used to never buy a book that had a person (clearly) pictured on the cover. I’m mostly over that now. But for that reason (and voice reasons) trailers don’t work for me.

    I remember when you posted the last ‘magazine’ by Susan Mallery and, same as now, I thought it was cute. But it hasn’t made me go buy her books, so I’m not sure what that says about how her promotion is working on me.

    I like a clean, simple website. I don’t mind graphics, but would prefer there wasn’t any flash or music etc. I want it to list your books (don’t make it difficult for me to figure out what to buy!!), and direct me to some excerpts. If you’ve got a nice blog that’s updated on a regular basis then I’ll probably end up following you there too.

    Besides recommendations/reviews from people I trust – which is, by far, what I use most – the promo that works the best for me is…thoughtful interaction, I guess. There have been quite a few authors that I’ve gotten into discussions with on blogs, or I was simply impressed/intrigued/etc with their response to something that I started following their blog (Courtney Milan comes to mind immediately). Which in turn led me to buy their books.

  40. Vi
    Dec 08, 2010 @ 16:29:38

    I love Meljean Brook’s website. With her Guardians series, she does something that I think is very unique. Whatever book you happen to be reading in that series, she has a synopsis to catch you up on everything leading up to that book. Plus, she encourages you to start at book #2 and admits there were faults with the first. I appreciate and admire that honesty. I hope Santa brings me Kindle books from that series.
    Also, Brook is quite funny and irreverent. I love reading her blog and her posts on Oddshots.

  41. Brian
    Dec 08, 2010 @ 16:37:03

    What does work for me is a natural online presence – an author connecting with readers like a normal person not like a promoter.

    Yes, this.

    An example I can give is Lynne Connolly. I don’t remember what the post was, but she posted a comment here (not a buy my book post) and I ended up on her website. Anyway I now own all of her historical titles and she’s a favorite author. The same thing has happened to me a few times with authors who’ve posted at MobileRead (not the ones who join to plug their books and don’t actually participate in discussions).

  42. MaryK
    Dec 08, 2010 @ 16:39:27

    @Angela:

    There's another possible hero in the Fever series? LOL I'm not sure I'd be able to accept someone other than Barrons.

    Apparently there’s a character known as “R” who some fans are rooting for? I’m personally waiting until it’s over to decide whether or not to read the series. :)

  43. Andrea K Host
    Dec 08, 2010 @ 16:42:01

    Really interesting to see effect of different approaches to self-promotion. I know my own very tentative baby-steps in that direction have been driven by my personal dislike for aggressive promotion of any sort.

    (Non-virulent) forum signatures with covers and book links are one of my preferred ways to find out about another author’s work, and within reason I don’t mind an author who mentions their books within the discussion itself, if the discussion is calling for recommendations of a particular type of book.

    More aggressive self-promotion tends to turn me off – whether blog posts which all revolve around “buy the book!” or repetitive tweets – let alone hijacking threads. I liken it to the difference between a charity collector standing there with a bucket, where you can choose to toss in a coin as you head past, or those obnoxious, aggressive charity “door-stoppers” who wave at you as you come near, as if they recognise you, and who step forward and try and engage you in conversation. The difference between creating an opportunity and being incredibly pushy.

  44. MaryK
    Dec 08, 2010 @ 16:56:19

    @Vi: Ilona Andrews does the “please start with book 2″ as well. :) She’s another who has (or did have, don’t know if they’re still there) some awesome website stories. And she did a blog serial which will hopefully someday be a book series. I have been known to bug Anne Sowards about it!

    Another thing I remembered which is kind of funny and maybe not that useful to most authors is that if an author shows a liking for HPs or has actually written a category Romance, I am definitely checking out their work. :D I’m not sure it’s possible to like or write HPs and not have a pretty consistent romantic thread in your own work. This especially applies to UF where romance is strictly a bonus element.

    Like I said, probably not useful to a lot of authors, but maybe it’s an example of a quirky thing that will attract attention.

  45. Lisa
    Dec 08, 2010 @ 17:33:13

    MaryK Barron is mystery we all who love the series want to unravel! PLEASEEEE let release day get here. I can’t wait to find out the real scoop on who and WHAT Barron is:)

    He is the ultimate mystery to unwrap for Christmas but we don’t get him until January

  46. Carin
    Dec 08, 2010 @ 17:53:34

    I thought of Sarah Mayberry’s website, too! I think it’s got personality along with all the basic info and excerpts.

    I also like Christine Feehan’s website. She’s got some of the do-not-likes people have listed, but she’s got the basics down well. Lots of excerpts and it’s easy to see which books go in which order in which series. Also, she does a great job of posting teasers about what is coming up, which books are coming next. There’s even a handy schedule that clearly states what is being released when, and which things are re-released or re-packaged.

    Another author site I’ve enjoyed is Eloisa James’. What I really enjoy there is the behind the scenes extra info – so it’s not stuff that got me started, but it’s just an enjoyable bonus.

    As far as promotion goes, I’m still not on twitter. I don’t use facebook for authors (or STORES. Ugh. WHY would I “like” a store.) One promotion that is working for me is the Holiday “win a Kindle” contests this December.

    Harlequin has an advent calendar type thing with a different historical author featured each day. So, each day you visit a differnt author’s site and complete some small task in order to enter a contest for a daily prize, which then enters you for the grand prize, the Kindle. What works for me about it is that many of the authors have you read an excerpt and answer a question. A couple of the excerpts were good enough to have me making note of the title and author on my TBR list.

    Shannon Stacey, Megan Hart, Jaci Burton, and Lauren Dane did a week long similar contest to promote their new Carina anthology. It was awesome. I was already interested in the anthology, but the daily exposure to excerpts (and covers! Wow but does Jaci Burton have some nice covers coming up) – I ended up buying the anthology and separate short story, and I’m super stingy about buying books. So, that campaign really worked for me.

  47. joanne
    Dec 08, 2010 @ 18:42:01

    @Angela James: Absolutely meant as a compliment. I ‘get’ that you (mostly) like the books you’re posting about and that often leads me to look at authors I don’t know.

    Re authors web sites, I love me some Julia Quinn and I buy whatever she publishes but OMG there’s this thing that follows you down the page on her site and it’s just a weird pia.

  48. Nadia Lee
    Dec 08, 2010 @ 20:06:24

    @Jane: I think it lets the current fans know you have a new stuff out, etc.

  49. Ridley
    Dec 08, 2010 @ 21:02:30

    Since my husband is a web developer, I’m especially put off by poor website design. I’ve seen him throw websites together in an afternoon that look and work much better than these sites some authors have that you can tell were rather expensive.

    The biggest no-nos, dear authors, are Flash based sites, mystery meat navigation (Google it. Your designer thinks it’s clever. It’s not.), embedded sound that start automagically and poor contrast between the text and background. If you insist on having a black website like every other PNR author out there, please, for the love of god, do not have red or blue text. Make it white or light gray, or GTFO.

    Keep it simple. Post what readers are looking for – books, excerpts, coming soon, family trees for long series, lists of connected books/series, short author bio w/pictures – and don’t make them have to click more than once to get there. If your site takes more than 5 sec to load, people assume the site is broken and click away. 1 or 2 sec is normal, 3+ is slow, and 5 is f this noise.

    Authors, my husband strongly suggests you read Don’t Make Me Think before you design or pay someone to design a new site for you.

    Also, accessibility shouldn’t be an afterthought. 20% of Americans are living with some sort of disability, and many of that number have poor eyesight. Making your site accessible to site readers not only widens your audience, it helps your search engine optimization as well. Search engine bots operate pretty much the same way site readers do.

  50. Shiloh Walker
    Dec 08, 2010 @ 21:11:49

    The Demy thing… I actually know several people who own those… O.O and I know at least one loves his.

    Maybe more an appeal for those who are big into cooking but not so much into ereaders or ipads?

  51. Kaetrin
    Dec 08, 2010 @ 21:16:14

    @ Sarah F – I’d like to see a list of top GBLT romances too. I’m often looking for recommendations in that area.

    I didn’t vote in the AAR top 100 though. I thought about it, but I found the idea of voting for 100 books too intimidating. I know one can vote for as few or many (up to 100) as one likes but I also found it too hard to come up with my top 5 or 10 or 20, so I procrastinated until it was too late. In the GBLT area, I don’t think my entire (current) collection tops 100 so I could probably come up with something though! :)

  52. Angela
    Dec 08, 2010 @ 21:23:42

    @MaryK: R? Really? I would never even think that. Huh. I’ve not seen any evidence for it. But its only aonth until we know I guess ;)

  53. DeeCee
    Dec 08, 2010 @ 21:34:55

    Book trailers are wasted on me. The only 2 I’ve ever watched (and liked for that matter) are by Maggie Stiefvater. And they are the s*** for originality and music skills. Wow.

    I hate KMM’s new site. The flash loads fine on my comp but I just hate the style. And the voiceover. OMG how annoying (and unsafe for work).

    I like author sites to be straightforward. Books. News (that has been updated since the millenium). Links. About Me. Contact. No quirky symbols or Ye-Olde-Speak for important info (Dara Joy I am glaring pointedly at YOU).

    I think the worst experience I’ve ever had with author promo happened a few years ago. I’d emailed a newbie author and asked when her latest book would be out. I got back an email from the now NYT bestselling author asking me to please post fangirl reviews on Amazon and tell everyone that I should buy her books, and not just buy them, but buy them NEW so her books would make it onto said list. I disliked her neediness so much I haven’t been able to read her books. Ugh. Epic fail.

    I was very impressed with Patricia Brigg’s site. Quiet, understated and NOT intrusive.

  54. sao
    Dec 08, 2010 @ 23:59:29

    When something loads slowly (video, flash) I tend to go to a less tedious site. I have to be told in advance there is something unmissable for me to wait around for stuff to load.

    Nothing is worse that being startled by music that is too loud. It’s an immediate, unpleasant physical reaction. I use almost no applications that have sound, but I also use my computer as a music player.

    So, the volume is often set to loud, rockin’ out party which is way, way, way too loud for me to tolerate when peacefully drinking my tea and browsing in the morning.

  55. Ros
    Dec 09, 2010 @ 04:01:15

    One feature that I absolutely LOVE on an author’s website is Abby Gaines’s ‘After the End’ section. She has brief little scenes which follow on from each of her books. They’re funny and sweet and it’s a great idea for those of us who finish a book longing for more. I don’t think it works as a promo for new readers, but it’s a brilliant way of keeping old readers coming back to your website.

  56. Edie
    Dec 09, 2010 @ 04:08:26

    A good website is a must. (booger off flash and sound!)
    I am on a few newsletter mailing lists, where you get one email a month, which is a good refresher.
    And twitter is also a big seller of books to me, though that could be cos @moirarogersbree is a big ol book pimp. LOL
    On there it is a combination of reader network recs and authors reminding me that they have releases out, or reccing books.

  57. Edie
    Dec 09, 2010 @ 04:11:05

    Oh and I have to echo the cries for proper book/series list on authors websites. I would have thought that would be the first thing to go up.
    There was a rom com/action series with a Bobby female character who sounded awesome, but I went to the website and there was no full book list, much less series list. So a year later I still haven’t bothered to pick up the books.

  58. RachelT
    Dec 09, 2010 @ 05:58:43

    @Sarah Frantz: OK, I’ll try this post a second time as it got eaten just when I had completed it!
    Hear, Hear, Sarah. I do enjoy Jessewave’s Reader’s Favourite Gay Novels http://www.reviewsbyjessewave.com/?p=7813 but that is restricted to m/m novel only and not ranked; and Elisa Rolle's 100 Top Novels http://elisa-rolle.livejournal.com/#asset-elisa_rolle-1179143 which does include f/f as well. But neither are as comprehensive as you are suggesting. Go for it!

  59. Isabelle
    Dec 09, 2010 @ 08:39:37

    Great post!

    After reading an interview with Amy Sedaris where she mentioned that she never left home without pencils engraved with her most recent title, I decided to try this out and had pencils made before a signing at a major Book Fair. The reception was amazing! People loved them!! I think it’s important to try creative approaches that make you stand out. Also, I’ve found that blogging is particularly helpful.

  60. Anonymousss
    Dec 09, 2010 @ 09:26:39

    What doesn’t work: I’ve watched two book trailers in my life, and both left a NEGATIVE impression with me. I don’t read individual author blogs. I don’t particularly care about an author’s kids, family, pets, recipes, personal life. I just want to read a great book! Jane’s comment about the Twitter/Facebook promo circle jerk is right on, and ultimately leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I 100% agree with Chicklet (second comment) on website fails. Concerning websites, we need to remember KISS: “Keep it simple, shorty.” To me, members-only stuff is a huge turn off. I left cliques behind in high school.

    What works for me: recommendations from people whose opinions I trust. Reviews written by people who can clearly explain the reasons WHY they like or dislike a book. 5-star reviews that simply parrot plot points are absolutely worthless to me. (Talk about circle jerks.) I’ll pick up author tchotchkes that have a practical use – I’ll always pick up lip balm or a nice pen, but rarely a bookmark or postcard. Also helpful: intriguing cover art and interesting, accurate back cover copy.

    And the writing, of course – whether I quickly flip to Page 1 while in the bookstore, or read an excerpt at an author’s website.

    Bottom line, I guess I’m…tired. I’m tired of being so relentlessly marketed to. I see so much author promo that frankly most of it gets lost in the static.

  61. Joy
    Dec 09, 2010 @ 09:49:33

    @Ridley:
    Thanks for the term “mystery meat navigation.” Now I know there is a word for this thing that I loathe.

    Frames, flash, and mystery meat navigation: FAIL.

    One thing that has worked for me in terms of finding new books (and I’m always looking for a new, good book) is following an author on Goodreads. I can see if they have a new release, what they’re reading, etc. and even a blog feed without it being at all intrusive.

  62. nasanta
    Dec 09, 2010 @ 20:38:56

    Promotions that work for me:

    – reviews, particularly from here :) (discovered Joey Hill, Josh Lanyon, Jo Beverley, etc.)
    – hand-selling by bookseller (discovered Sherrilyn Kenyon, Nalini Singh, Lynsay Sans, Katie MacAlister, etc. that way; she started my sister and me on the paranormal romance track)
    – freebies (e.g. Mistborn was sent out as free e-book by Tor some years ago. Brandon Sanderson is now on my TBR pile. Read The Mountains of Mourning by Bujold on Baen Free. Purchased a Vorkosigan book. The freebies from Mills & Boon UK encourages me to try out more of their medical romance books. Libraries also allow me to try new-to-me authors risk free: Eloisa James, Mary Balogh, Lisa Kleypas)
    – friends’ recommendations (introduced to Judith McNaught, Jude Deveraux, Diana Gabaldon)
    – updated, elegant, navigable, and not busy websites

    I ignore promotional extras such as book trailers. I’ve only watched 2: the one for The Towers of Midnight by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson, and the one that inspired the creator of the first book trailer. I liked those two but I am completely uninterested in watching others, particularly for romance books.

    I don’t really care for Members-Only sections.

    Websites that are not updated, has sound, is busy, hard to navigate, unorganized, or unprofessional looking are also a no for me. That is why I try to go to Kenyon’s or Feehan’s websites as little as possible (although Feehan’s website is a whole lot better than Kenyon’s).

    I don’t mind flash much because I don’t use the internet on my iPod Touch much, and because I usually go to an author’s website for information on books, excerpts/sample chapters, where I can purchase them, and what the author has upcoming. Free stories and interesting stories about the books are a bonus for authors only if I’m a fan. I do like that about Julia Quinn’s and Nalini Singh’s websites.

  63. Fiona McGier
    Dec 09, 2010 @ 22:02:15

    I’m so relieved to read all of these comments! I don’t twitter, rarely visit my author Facebook page, and think trailers are for movies, not books. I have the 6th book in my contemporary romance series as a free download on Smashwords.com, and my website is easy to use. So if I’m doing all of that right, plus I’ve had good reviews, where are the readers?

  64. Sherry Thomas
    Dec 10, 2010 @ 11:38:39

    @Dana S: All my books so far have been stand-alones. Feel free to start anywhere.

  65. Dana S
    Dec 10, 2010 @ 12:25:33

    @Sherry Thomas: Wow, I totally wasn’t expecting a response from the author. Oops. I didn’t mean to single you out, it’s just that your books were the most recent ones that I was looking over.

    I guess I was a little confused because when I went to read His at Night, I skimmed the pages with Google books, and noticed the name Tremaine, and I knew that was the name of the hero/heroine in Private Arrangements, cause I just read the blurb, so I assumed that the books were linked. And then I wasn’t sure about the other books. This probably wouldn’t have bothered anyone else, but I’m weird when it comes to series stuff. I hate reading out of order. I’m just really, really weird about it.

  66. Linnae
    Dec 10, 2010 @ 19:10:52

    I have to divide my answer into two sections. Before and after I became involved with the Cover Cafe website.

    Before 2002, I would choose books based on reviews from the RT magazine and my autobuy authors. After 2002, I discovered new authors via covers that attracted me on sight. I could go broke because of the multitude of covers I view each year. I have to make a list, read reviews, then purchase a few of my favorites.

    I’ve never been attracted to trailers but the magazine is an interesting, new take on marketing. I think I like it.

    As far as websites, If they are too cluttered with hundreds of choices on their home page….I usually pass. Flash doesn’t bother me but then I don’t try to access anything via my phone.

    I love author’s printable book lists!

  67. All About the Excerpt | Dear Author
    Dec 12, 2010 @ 00:11:00

    […] you look at this thread on what readers want from authors in terms of promotion, most of them point to the work itself.  […]

  68. Anne Ardeur
    Dec 13, 2010 @ 09:37:39

    I don’t care for book trailers at all, it seems like a silly idea. I’d much rather have an excerpt from the book. And a picture of the cover – I love a pretty cover, even on ebooks, and a nice cover always catches my eye.

    Speaking of terrible websites, I was at Cheryl St. John’s for the Harlequin Historical Giveway, and it takes forever to load more than the background tile and a blank white middle section. That completely put me off looking around her site and at her book list. And then the link to sign up for her newsletter was a direct mailto link, which only works if you have a desktop mail client set up…

    I like clean, easily navigable websites that look smart and modern. And that don’t open every page in a new window/tab! If the author has a blog, that’s a plus. And book/series list! If an author has a website, they need to have a book list and series list. I should not be having to look elsewhere for that info.

  69. Eeleen Lee
    Dec 14, 2010 @ 10:38:47

    Book trailers always seem a bit oxymoronic, like audio trailers on radio for the latest movies.

    An author’s blog should be straightforward, in the way that DVDs offer extras but no-no to making the reader paying extra for them.

  70. Heather
    Dec 18, 2010 @ 19:04:21

    I do follow twitter and like reviewers like smexybooks, smartbitches, Leontine, and The Romance Reviews. I found Olivia Cunning’s book because of all the stellar reviews, and I wasn’t disappointed. Loved Backstage Pass and can’t wait for the next book. I also follow authors on twitter. Michelle Rowen and Olivia Cunning both responded back to my comment. I found Joey W. Hill by a word of mouth recommendation. She is now my favorite author. She is very responsive to emails and very gracious. As for author websites…I visit them on occasion. I like Joey Hills website even though you have to be a member. Her website reflects the erotic nature of her books which I appreciate instead of some dumbed down PG-13 version.
    I don’t like book trailers. They just make me uncomfortable because all I want to do is laugh.
    I love newsletters because they usually coincide with an upcoming release.

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