Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

Marketing Dos and Don’ts: A Reader’s Point of View

Alison Kent asked last week what Wendy, Superlibrarian thought was good promotion. Promotion is largely in the hands of authors, particularly new authors. I won’t begin to speculate on why publishers don’t spend more money on promotion. I have to guess that there simply is not a high enough return on investment to warrant it. This leaves authors in a quandry. With a limited budget, what works?

Maybe its an unsolvable problem. I’ve been thinking alot about marketing lately and debating what works and what doesn’t. Angie W examined her own bookstore habits a couple of weeks ago. There are things that the author can’t control: cover, position in a bookstore, placement at Wal-Mart, back blurbs. But there are some things that the author can control: distribution of advanced copies, website, connecting with readers and booksellers, blogs, giveaways and so forth.

Here are some of my opinions regarding good and bad marketing. And by bad marketing, I mean two kinds – the kind that doesn’t work and the kind that is false, deceptive and probably does work, but if I find out about it then I am peeved. Kind of like when a famous person lies on their resume – it just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Cover Quotes
Good Marketing: Word of mouth, obviously. I suggested yesterday that giving away an ebook version of your story free can generate publicity and word of mouth. If you don’t get ARCS, why not print off your galley and send it around. I received a lovely printed and bound galley of No Rest for the Wicked by Kresley Cole. It had a vinyl back and a clear vinyl cover and big color print out of the cover which was signed.

Bad Marketing: Cover blurbs by authors who are cover quote whores. I mean some authors don’t even read the book for which they are giving the quote. Could that be more deceptive? Bestselling Author A says “read this awesome book my fans. I’ve read it and it is just as great as my books.” In reality, Bestelling Author A hasn’t even read said book.

Janine likes author interviews and pays close attention to the books that her favorite author’s read.

If author X says she loves author Y’s books, and author Y is one of my favorite authors, I will be more interested in author X’s books because they may have some similarities to author Y’s. For this reason, I think that authors who won’t say who their favorite authors are in interviews are doing themselves and their readers no favors.

The problem is that alot of people treat cover quotes like Janine treats endorsements by Author X in her interview.

Bookstore Placement
Good Marketing: Face out in the bookstore.

Bad Marketing: Going to the bookstore and changing your books to face out. For some reason, when I hear this it bothers me. Are you turning someone else’s books face in? Are you pushing some other aside for your books. My understanding is that sometimes a publisher actually pays for the face out placement. I always cringe when I see authors and readers talking about rearranging bookstore shelves.

Reviews
Good Marketing: Good reviews and even bad reviews so long as the review states the concept of the book. Janine stated that she is often swayed by the commenters more than the reviewers. Shana Abe’s, Smoke Thief, received a D review from AAR, but reader comments which differed from the reviewer sold many a reader, including me. Without the negative review, however, there was no platform for discussion.

Bad Marketing: Quoting reviews to make it seem like they are endorsing you but they really aren’t. I think this is done for movies all the time, but I can’t say I like it. At her blog and her Amazon plog, Diana Peterfruend quotes from the Washington Post:

The action is undeniably juicy –" from steamy make-out sessions with campus hotties to cloak-and-dagger initiations –" and the book is a quick read.

The reviewer didn’t actually like the book and went on to state why.

It’s hard to tell what audience the book could possibly be intended for: It’s too sexed up for young adults, too juvenile for actual adults and too Encyclopedia Brown for anyone in between.

Peterfreund had good reviews from so many other notables, I couldn’t help but wonder at the posting of this particular review. Interestingly enough, this is not a review that is available online but my office gets a copy of the Post and I noted the discrepancy after reviewing the Peterfreund blog.

Websites
Good Marketing: Websites. Janine and Jayne agree that the number one thing that will sell them is the excerpt. Excerpts are like the novelists’ version of a writing sample. Paperback Writer’s ebook challenge recognized the importance of writing samples as a marketing tool. Excerpts need to be formatted for easy reading on a computer monitor. Spaces between paragraphs are helpful. Perhaps even a larger font.

Bad Marketing: No website or a poorly designed website.

Contests
Good Marketing: Contest giveways for amazon certificates and free books.

Bad Marketing: Gimmicky contests.

Janine: Some of the marketing gimmicks out there, like drawings for chocolates or cover flats, just don’t interest me and I don’t enter them. A drawing for a book only gets me to enter if I’m already interested in the author. Most of the time I skip these too. The ones that tempt me most are drawings for a gift certificate for an online bookstore, since I am always buying books. I may not buy your book with it, but you will probably get my email address out of me that way.

Jayne: Gimmicks like item giveaways usually won’t entice me into trying anything. I do like excerpts. If someone mentions their book on a chat group list, I might look into it and that’s where I want info at an author’s website or something like that which will give me more info.

Blogging
Good Marketing: Blogging that includes information about your books. When the next book is out. What you are currently working on. What motivates you. Where you write. Look at the questions asked of an author in an interview or the questions readers ask authors at the Romantic Times Ask an Author, if you are looking for blog content inspiration.

Bad Marketing: Blogging. The Lipstick Chronicles is a very strange blog. It reads more like a bunch of personal journals than a blog about an author’s work or maybe that is the focus of the blog – personal journal entries. I think it is a strange way of marketing. Sarah Strohmeyer of the Bubbles fame wrote an entry where she describes giving her husband a blowjob. Ugh. That is just not a vision I want to have while reading a Strohmeyer book. I kind of think of authors like my parents. They are completely asexual beings else I would not be able to read a sex scene that they wrote.

Reader interaction
Good Marketing: Newsletters which inform the reader what is going on with you, where you are signing books, what your new releases are, and generating excitement for your books.

Bad Marketing: Spam. In recent months, I have been getting a number of spam emails from authors. I understand that there is someone that goes to romance internet sites and scrapes off the email addresses of the posters (the emails are not available to a scraper here at DearAuthor) and then sells this list of email addresses to authors. I make a note of authors who spam me and block their emails.

Interacting Online
Good Marketing: Being part of the internet community. I have bought book of Karen Templeton, Mary Reed McCall, Carla Kelly because of their great contributions over at AAR. And I would probably buy Shiloh Walker’s next book because even though I tore apart her first book, she was totally gracious about it and actually still comes and comments here. Talk about grace under fire.

Bad Marketing: Trying to be part of the internet community just to market. I.e., blog hopping near your release date when you’ve never blog hopped before.

What say you, readers? Good marketing/bad marketing? What works and doesn’t work for you as a reader that may be in the control of an author? Is it just so damn hard to make it in this industry that anything goes?

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

45 Comments

  1. Kristie(J)
    Dec 11, 2006 @ 07:33:32

    Methinks that a case of bad marketing would be your previous post. Note to authors – don’t get into net fights with popular reader bloggers. You may think you are right (I don’t really know – I read all the posts on said authors blog and the previous post on your blog and to be honest don’t see what the big deal is – I would have to sit and really concentrate on everything and compare and I can’t be bothered to do that) but you don’t come off looking good to fans of said popular reader blog. Take the high road and disagree if you must – but with a sense of humour and tongue in cheek. It will get you much further.
    I’ve seen some authors do this and they come across a classy and funny and I’d be more than willing to try their books even if I hadn’t planned on it before.

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  2. Nancy Martin
    Dec 11, 2006 @ 08:34:05

    Sorry you found Sarah Strohmeyer’s post an example of “bad marketing.” But The Lipstick Chronicles was never intended to be just another boring site that informs readers about upcoming releases. There are so many, how can readers distinguish one from another? But we set out to entertain a readership that will–we hope–take the time to find our books when they’re out doing their shopping. We’re building a community. And nothing makes us happier than finding out that someone is reading us in spite of themselves. So keep coming back. We think you’ll continue to be entertained.
    http://www.thelipstickchronicles.typepad.com

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  3. Tilly Greene
    Dec 11, 2006 @ 09:42:42

    Marketing is tricky and what works to encourage me to buy a book may not work for someone else.

    So for me: Quotes from other authors don’t sway me one way or the other, nor does it being face out [a great title on a spine will draw my attention enough to pull it out and check the cover, blurb, etc. - although, if the font is too difficult for me to read, forget it], reviews, contests, blogging or interaction don’t mean much either. A website might, if you can’t be bothered to keep it current why should I think you’re writing anything new?

    However, one sure way to turn me off your books is to be rude.

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  4. May
    Dec 11, 2006 @ 10:23:19

    I suggest that you don’t read Alison Tyler’s blog now, because she’s detailing her sex life on her blog. Just go buy one of her many books. :D

    I do typically enter contests for books. I don’t like contests for gift vouchers.

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  5. LinM
    Dec 11, 2006 @ 10:57:15

    Marketing, publishing – I’m glad I’m not an author.

    At the moment I’m deliriously happy because the mail delivered P.C. Hodgell’s latest book (after a 12 year hiatus in part because of some publishing snafu).

    I only get to the bookstore with my darling decisive daughter who appears with an armload of books ready to go before I’ve even started. So most of my decisions are made long before I ever get into a store.

    I’m generally repelled by author Bb’s – too one-sided. I find some author blogs entertaining – even visit a few of them regularly but so far haven’t bought any of the current books by these authors.

    So the 2 things that influence me:

    1. Despite Mr. “ReaderBlogsAreGoingToRuinTheWorld” , I pay attention to reviews good or bad at sites that encourage/attract diverse reader responses.

    2. I go to author sites to read excerpts. If the site design is “clean” and the excerpts are easy to find, I’m happy.

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  6. Keishon
    Dec 11, 2006 @ 11:41:16

    Those generic cover quotes by JAK for all her friends like Stella Cameron, Elizabeth Lowell and the like—doesn’t help sell books. I’ve seen the same quotes that remark on nothing about story but more on the author and their skill at “storytelling.” Completely useless. It seems to have the opposite effect, like not picking it up.

    Promotion seems like a tricky thing. I have my opinions on that as well but I shall keep them to myself. Good post.

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  7. Christine Rimmer
    Dec 11, 2006 @ 11:46:51

    Re spam emails. I had my webmistress install a mailing list program on my website. Readers actually have to sign up and then reply to an email confirming they want to be on my list. It was pretty inexpensive, in the range of a hundred bucks to have my webmistress do it, so for a do-it-yourselfer it should be even cheaper. I used to “harvest” the email addys of everyone who signed my guestbook and entered my quarterly contest to receive free copies of various of my backlist books. Now I’ve just trashed that huge list. And only send stuff to the people who really want it. My list is, er, not what it once was…but I know it’s all people who really want to hear from me.

    Re quote whores, well, authors do get a lot of pressure from eds and agents and other others to just deliver a quote, pretty please! Authors who ask for quotes always would prefer a general one that can be re-used on other books. What am I saying here? I don’t know, I guess just that I totally sympathize with authors under pressure to give a quote–or ten.

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  8. Diana
    Dec 11, 2006 @ 14:23:45

    Quoting the “what you’ll love” part of a review (and I quote) is misleading? I disagree. Creative editing of a quote which results in a statement like “This is a book that only the writer’s mother would be able to love,” being presented as “this is a book… to… love” is misleading, most definitely. Quoting a complete sentence in praise of your book in a review, good, mixed, whatever? Not misleading. The reviewer may not have liked everything about my book, but she did like those parts. Do you think that only uniformly rave reviews should be quotable?

    I’d also like to clarify a few other points: The review is available online, but isn’t searchable, because it is not considered an article, but rather, a graphic (it was part of a grid). I originally saw it online. Also, authors have very little control of which reviews/blurbs/quotes are chosen to be publicized by their publisher (I’m sure a lot of author readers here can share this lament!). Finally, I would like to clarify that, contrary to what it may have sounded like here this quote was NOT chosen in lieu of others (visit my blog; you’ll see quotes from over a dozen reviewers).

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  9. Keishon
    Dec 11, 2006 @ 14:29:54

    Do you think that only uniformly rave reviews should be quotable?

    Well, I find it misleading to take out certain pieces of a review that in the end that wasn’t very favorable. It can be misconstrued as a favorable review when it wasn’t. It’s not a new practice and as such, I’ve learned to just ignore most of them in favor of reader’s word of mouth.

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  10. La Karibane
    Dec 11, 2006 @ 15:02:27

    Well, I don’t care for author quotes except to see in which subgenre/group the author of the book is lumped. And since I noticed the exact same quote from the same writer on several diff books by diff authors, I figured out for myself that most author quotes were probably recycled and/or edited over and over again.

    When I buy, it’s online, so placement, don’t know what it is. The rare times I walk into a US or CA bookstore, I don’t even notice. I have a list and that’s all I care about.

    Reviews are on the spot. For example, when I started going online for info on romance novels, I used AAR’s DIK and B+ list to get books. But the Shana Abé example is sooo true! I was swayed by reader comments and I still don’t get why this book got a D, compared to say a C+ or a B.

    Again, I’m strictly online for my romance info so websites are a MUST. That’s why I commented back when you did that post on what websites should have. I’m very annoyed when authors, old and new, have zero net presence (and yes, that includes my autobuy Linda Howard. Somebody, do something!!!!). I crave excerpts, preferably, the entire first chapter, please. But if chap 1 is spoilerish, I appreciate it when they tell me WHERE the excerpt starts. Once or twice, I’ve had the shock of my life opening a book and realizing that the excerpt was chapter 3 or something.

    But what I really want to comment on is contests. I love getting free books and when it’s an author I don’t know at all, I don’t really want to spend the money. I’m on a strict budget (hahaha) and I have to deal with a very high exchange rate so I want my money’s worth. So free books are great, coverflats and chocolates are NOT. I live in the Caribbean, that chocolate is going to turn into a greasy glob, probably filled with ants or other creatures by the time I get it. That is, IF the contest is open to Int’l reader. Being left out is my biggest frustration (SEP, why, why, why????) after the boring prizes. Oh, and I’m lazy so I don’t like to work too much, like scavenger hunts and whatnot. Keep it simple, that’s my motto. But amazon or bn gift certificates are waaaay cool, IMO.

    And, finally, wanted to comment on blogging. I’m not really into author blogs, with a few exceptions (J. Crusie, A. Kent, S. Grant). But that could change since A) a lot more authors are blogging and B) I’m addicted to Google Reader so I keep adding stuff on there. I think Jo Beverly, IIRC, had the coolest idea: posting some of her research, very fun. So my message to the authors reading this : enable the RSS feed today and you have me hooked for life.

    Ouf! Sorry to be so verbose. I didn’t realize this topic was going to be so interesting.

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  11. Heather Harper
    Dec 11, 2006 @ 15:08:24

    Quotes are also for the benefit of the first buyer, the bookseller. Ultimately, you like a book or you don’t. Strong opinions about cover quotes seem irrelevant, IMO.

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  12. Nonny
    Dec 11, 2006 @ 15:10:40

    *cough*

    Guilty of facing out books in stores. To be honest, though, I don’t tend to face other books in (unless the bookstore has a specific author faced out, like, three times on the same shelf, which IMO is overkill). Very often, there’s space on the shelf to face an author out if I move other faced-in books up and down a shelf. (Yes, in proper order.)

    I don’t really see the issue. Speaking as a reader, I want authors I like to get attention. *shrugs*

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  13. Dance Chica
    Dec 11, 2006 @ 15:16:52

    Since finding the online community, I rely heavily on reader blogs to help me decide whether or not to try a new book. I pretty much know which bloggers have similar tastes as me and which provide honest reviews, bad or good. I read them and go forth from there. Cover quotes might make me take a second look at a book, but ultimately it’s the blurbs and reviews that’ll sell me. And excerpts. If I read a blurb and I’m interested, then often I’ll go to the author’s website looking for an excerpt to see if the writing is to my taste. So definitely a good website and excerpts. I like giveaways/contests too but will only enter if they interest me. I think participating in the online community can be a big help as well, because I’ve found new authors that way; authors whose work I plan to buy.

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  14. Meljean
    Dec 11, 2006 @ 16:27:17

    La Karibane said:

    I crave excerpts, preferably, the entire first chapter, please. But if chap 1 is spoilerish, I appreciate it when they tell me WHERE the excerpt starts.

    I also love excerpts, but I’m guilty of forgetting to say where the excerpt is. And I did deliberately choose something other than the first chapter (LONG after the first chapter, actually) so that readers wouldn’t go away with the impression that my book was a medieval.

    But one of the things that I have been urged by my editor is not to put the first chapter up — and also why they don’t put the first chapter as a teaser in the back of a book — is because some readers will pick up a book in a store, go to the first chapter, and think: I’ve read this before! and put it back down.

    I think that many readers would realize that they read it in a short form … but the mistake is understandable. In the romance genre particularly, readers are going through SO many books that they might not remember details of titles or covers–and blurbs are often too generic–but they will remember passages of text.

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  15. Christine Rimmer
    Dec 11, 2006 @ 16:47:30

    EEEk! Not put the up the first chapter? Sheesh. Now, instinct would tell me that first chapters are about the only thing worth putting up–first chapters meaning openings. I don’t want a “writing sample” as a reader, I want to know if I want to read the dang book. But hey. I’m always learning. I *can* see how a reader might think she’s already read a book when she recognizes the first chapter as familiar. I guess…

    I’ve also heard not to give away new books in a contest as readers will wait to see if they win and not go out and buy the book. But it seems to me if the contest ended before the book hit the stands…ya think?

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  16. Samantha
    Dec 11, 2006 @ 19:32:01

    A comment on contests…Authors and others, DON’T stiff the winners. If you run a contest, then bloody well follow through.

    I have been left high and dry more than once on contests, most recently by a popular Brava author. I won in October, and have yet to see a book. Hell, the author in question has already run more contests…So what could have turned said author into an auto-buy has now turned her into a never-buy.

    I wish I could say that was the only time that’s happened…

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  17. Alison Kent
    Dec 11, 2006 @ 21:18:01

    [quote comment="13055"]I have been left high and dry more than once on contests, most recently by a popular Brava author. I won in October, and have yet to see a book. Hell, the author in question has already run more contests…[/quote]

    Have you contacted the author to see if what you’ve won has been mailed? I send out a ton of prizes, and have had the occasional one go astray, so it’s not unheard of for the USPS to mess up!

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  18. Samantha
    Dec 11, 2006 @ 22:48:03

    Alison, I thought that at first too, so I e-mailed the author back in mid-November about a month after I’d won. I didn’t want to come across as pushy or invasive, so I stated that I’d had some problems with my e-mail, and maybe she never got my home address? I was trying to be polite. She replied that she didn’t think she had, and that may very well be true, it’s easy to delete an e-mail by accident…but that was last month and still no book, so I have serious doubts that it’ll turn up.

    I also won a book once, and when it never came, inquired about it and was basically told “oops, I’ll get it out as soon as I get back from vacation”, lol. That one never showed either. Or maybe I’m a pessimist, and both those books are in a postal black hole, but I really don’t think so.

    I understand that going to the post office can be a real pain in the ass. I know life gets busy, and I know that sometimes things get lost in the shuffle, it’s just that I think that if you don’t have the time to follow through, then you don’t need to run the contest.

    I don’t enter what I consider to be a huge amount of contests (maybe 10 a month), so I don’t consider myself a “free book troll” but when I am interested in an author and I stumble across a contest of theirs, I enter. I am already half in the bag on my way to being a buyer, why screw it up?

    And by the way, I won one of yours once at your husbands site, and I got it about a week and a half later. Thanks and I’ll be buying the next one!

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  19. Jane
    Dec 11, 2006 @ 22:53:14

    Samantha – that sucks. Here’s hoping the author ponies up the book for you.

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  20. Jay
    Dec 12, 2006 @ 00:06:30

    I love a good blowjob as much as the next girl but the post about it, from an author, and not just a random Jan(e), strikes me as somewhat inappropriate. Not sure why, but it just does. That said though I’d prefer an author blog that was more personal with upcoming book info and process posts interspersed over an author blog that was just about her books.

    Cover quotes don’t do anything and anything short of a squee in terms of reviews don’t impress me.

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  21. Alison Kent
    Dec 12, 2006 @ 06:32:29

    I understand that going to the post office can be a real pain in the ass. I know life gets busy, and I know that sometimes things get lost in the shuffle, it’s just that I think that if you don’t have the time to follow through, then you don’t need to run the contest

    I wouldn’t get half the mailings done that I do if not for the husband. I do save him the pain of standing in line by printing all my postage at home, though. The only thing he has to wait in line for is international mailings. And when he does giveaways, he hovers over my shoulder until I print the postage for his!

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  22. Nora Roberts
    Dec 12, 2006 @ 08:28:53

    I rarely, rarely do book quotes now. There was a time when I did quite a few, for various reasons. There IS a lot of pressure to do them–from other writers, publishers, editors, agents, publicists. I would get many, many mss and arcs–unsolicited–in the mail with a cover letter telling me why they KNEW I’d love this book and when I read it and did, they’d really appreciate a quote. Finally, one day, the second week of Jan, when I realized I’d already received FIVE of these packages in those first two weeks of the year, I said enough.

    It took time to get the word out that I wasn’t going to give quotes–and I still, years later get the occasional package, and a variety of calls and e-mail requests. At this point I only do a quote if I seriously want to (Pat Gaffney’s MAD DASH coming out next year, for example). I might do one or two a year, or none at all.

    But it is very, very hard to say no, and continue to say no, particularly if the author is a friend or acquaintance, or the editor, agent, publicist is.

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  23. Angie
    Dec 12, 2006 @ 09:55:41

    Interesting blog, Jane, but I disagree with much of what you said. Of course, this is only your opinion ;) but I don’t think that you can call all marketing that you don’t care for bad marketing. Things like turning books face out, cover quotes, different types of contests and content of blogging are all subjective and personal preferance.

    One of the things we talk about on the author loop at Samhain is the idea of getting your name out there. So even if you don’t like someone’s promo for your own reasons (such as a contest giving away gimmicky items), they’re still putting their name in front of the reader and eventually readers at least remember that they’ve seen an author’s name. In the bookstore, that can make the difference between a purchase and no purchase–if the reader can think “hmmm, I’ve heard of this author somewhere before” I believe they’re more likely to buy.

    Of course, this is only *my* opinion but I don’t believe many of those things listed count as “Bad” marketing. Only marketing Jane doesn’t care for ;) In the end, I think it’s important that the author is actually doing promo and working to get their name out there. Would you rather see an author doing promo you don’t care for (like more personal content blogging) or no promo at all? Which would be more “damaging” (for lack of a better word)?

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  24. Jane
    Dec 12, 2006 @ 10:01:40

    I clearly pointed out that by bad marketing, I was referring to marketing that doesn’t work and

    the kind that is false, deceptive and probably does work, but if I find out about it then I am peeved. Kind of like when a famous person lies on their resume – it just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

    Which inevitably leads to not working in the future. I.e., the cover quotes or quoted reviews.

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  25. Jane
    Dec 12, 2006 @ 10:20:43

    Oh, and the personal journal blogging – yeah, that’s not selling me on buying the books. I bought the first Bubbles book based on the proclamation that it was the next Janet E (this was when I was still in love with Janet E’s books) and that Janet E had mentored Strohmeyer. I stopped buying after the first book because it wasn’t really what I thought it was going to be.

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  26. May
    Dec 12, 2006 @ 10:27:30

    [quote comment="13133"]Oh, and the personal journal blogging – yeah, that’s not selling me on buying the books. I bought the first Bubbles book based on the proclamation that it was the next Janet E (this was when I was still in love with Janet E’s books) and that Janet E had mentored Strohmeyer. I stopped buying after the first book because it wasn’t really what I thought it was going to be.[/quote]

    See Jane, that’s totally not how it works for me.

    If a blogger reads interesting, I think, “The book must be interesting too!”

    If a blogger’s always saying “My latest book’s out!” forget it. I can just sign up for the mailing list, if I ever bother to get the author’s book in the first place.

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  27. Tara Marie
    Dec 12, 2006 @ 10:35:06

    Cover quotes are a minor issue for me. I remember seeing a cover quote on a book by an author I don’t like… “If you like my books…you’ll love…” Yikes, that had me putting the book right back on the shelf, never to be read by me.

    Being on-line you find you know about author cliques and when I see a quote from within one of these cliques it annoys me. “Oh, gee– your best friend loved your book, well there’s a shock.” How can you take them seriously?

    I actually agree with Angie:

    I don’t think that you can call all marketing that you don’t care for bad marketing. Things like turning books face out, cover quotes, different types of contests and content of blogging are all subjective and personal preferance.

    Some of the giveaways are gimmicky, but it gets attention and some people love them. My friend, the indie bookseller, puts all this stuff in a basket on her counter, and people pick through it.

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  28. Laura Florand
    Dec 12, 2006 @ 10:47:18

    Lured here by a nice review of myself, I found myself perusing the site to see what other things people with such excellent taste :) might be saying, and now I’m lured into this dicussion. Just to jump back to what Christine Rimmer was saying about quotes and the pressure on authors to provide them…the whole quote thing is a very strange machine. Before I entered the publishing process, I rather naively thought that any author who could get a good NYT bestseller quote had done her duty in obtaining quotes. But even after I had two good quotes, my publisher wanted more, and said I needed “5-6.” But once I had 6, the publisher still wanted more, until I finally asked my editor why, because this was so crazy. They weren’t going to use more than two quotes for the book cover and back, what good did it do for me to impose on more authors asking them if they would mind reading my book? And my editor said, “Well, all these quotes are really for the sales reps. You need as many as possible so that they’ll be excited about your book and push it harder when they meet with booksellers.”

    So it seems as if authors are in a quote-quantity competition with each other even within their own publishing house. And from there, you can see why the pressure on established authors to provide quotes gets so crazy. All that said, allthough it is NO FUN cold contacting authors whose work I admire asking if they would mind reading my work to see if they might admire it, too–I have gotten to know a lot of great authors because of this.

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  29. Chez Moi
    Dec 12, 2006 @ 11:36:14

    Thanks Ms. Florand for your comment on cover quotes. Now I know why I never give attention to them – AND have a reasonable explenation *snort* for my behaviour. I read honest reviews from AAR or different reader blogs and listen to recommendations from email friends who have similar tastes. As to giveaways: perhaps it’s because I am living overseas but I have to say I really don’t care for bookmarks, business cards, etc… I have collected my fair share of them – despite geographic issues – but I always throw them away and certainly don’t buy a new author because of a well-designed piece of paper. I don’t even participate much in constests for “touchable” books, because so many authors exclude everything outside of the States.

    What I am a sucker for are well-desgined websites. Not just useful ones, with all the information but gorgeous designed platforms that represent the author. Excerpts, ISBN number, order of series, additional information on books, how they developed, AND especially KEEP your site updated. Nothing makes me more angry than already published books on a coming soon site, published books that don’t appear on the website, …

    As to blogs. I don’t read many blogs and those I do frequent are nearly all reader blogs. On RTB I recently saw a great post about if an author should or should not blog. Information on books -> great, information on blowjobs -> yuck, -> information on shopping lists -> blah!

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  30. Laura Florand
    Dec 12, 2006 @ 15:22:09

    Lest some wonderfully generous authors be dismissed as “cover quote w—-”, I should clarify that the writers who gave me quotes actually did read my book, and send me emails asking questions about it, and some of them (Joshilyn Jackson, Haywood Smith, Alesia Holliday) even went on to mention it on forums and in interviews, that kind of thing. This is INCREDIBLY generous of established, busy authors toward a new author they’ve never even met. It’s something I’ll always appreciate.

    Most authors that I personally contacted would say right away that they’ll only recommend a book if they really like it (or usually they put it more diplomatically–if they think their readers will really like it). So I think you can pay attention to many quotes (and I don’t say this just because I want you to pay attention to mine!). But you have to know the authors doing the quoting, of course, and how easily they give quotes. Still, I wouldn’t blame the authors who do give quotes so easily, because I’m quite sure that most authors who do are remembering their own early days and just wanting to help out new authors. Because the whole get-quotes pressure is truly nuts.

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  31. HelenKay Dimon
    Dec 12, 2006 @ 16:14:39

    [quote comment="13055"]I won in October, and have yet to see a book. Hell, the author in question has already run more contests…So what could have turned said author into an auto-buy has now turned her into a never-buy.[/quote]

    Samantha – I now run the Brava contests on the Brava Author website. That wasn’t true at the beginning, but we decided it would be easier to have one author take care of the prizes rather than have books coming and going from everywhere. I’ve had a few folks email me saying they didn’t get books from authors from the daily Housewarming Contest when the website first launched. I thought we fixed all of those – but apparently not. Email me ([email protected]) and we’ll get your contest win fixed too. I promise. So sorry.

    Also sorry to use Dear Author as our communication intermediary.

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  32. Jane
    Dec 12, 2006 @ 16:43:30

    No problem. I am glad that we can bring readers and authors together once in a while.

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  33. Karen Scott
    Dec 12, 2006 @ 19:31:20

    Bad marketing? Hmmm, let’s see…

    A: Author A, promoting her new book on Author B’s blog/listserve without seeking permission first.

    B: Author A promoting her book on a reader list that specifically asks that authors not post promo material.

    C: Cover art that sucks great big hairy donkey balls (the kind generally found at Changeling Press) (g)

    And on that bombshell, I’m off to bed.

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  34. FerfeLaBat
    Dec 12, 2006 @ 20:58:19

    [quote comment="13080"]Alison, I thought that at first too, so I e-mailed the author back in mid-November about a month after I’d won. I didn’t want to come across as pushy or invasive, so I stated that I’d had some problems with my e-mail, and maybe she never got my home address? I was trying to be polite. She replied that she didn’t think she had, and that may very well be true, it’s easy to delete an e-mail by accident…but that was last month and still no book, so I have serious doubts that it’ll turn up.

    I also won a book once, and when it never came, inquired about it and was basically told “oops, I’ll get it out as soon as I get back from vacation”, lol. That one never showed either. Or maybe I’m a pessimist, and both those books are in a postal black hole, but I really don’t think so.[/quote]

    That sucks on every possible level.

    Email me Smantha and I will send you a copy of Mine and Renee Bernards’. Between us you should like one or the other. If nothing else you can give mine as a Christmas gift and have the recipient wonder if you are trying to tell them something. Renee’s is totally x-rated so … use caution. [email protected]

    On a different note: Without saying which blogs and authors, I can say for a fact that writing a novel is NOT the same as entertaining a reader in a 750 word blog post. If an author’s blog bores the hell out of you don’t assume his or her books will be unreadable. I think their blogs probably hurt more than help.

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  35. Angie
    Dec 13, 2006 @ 09:16:55

    I thought you’d find this post interesting in light of the discussion of what an author’s blog should/shouldn’t be

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  36. FerfeLaBat
    Dec 13, 2006 @ 10:59:59

    [quote comment="13299"]I thought you’d find this post interesting in light of the discussion of what an author’s blog should/shouldn’t be[/quote]

    That is kind of a “Do as I say” ideal that is nearly impossible to maintain. In the Path to Publishing Journals I wrote about almost everything in my life that had an impact on my writing and with a few edits by RT it was fit to print and somewhat entertaining to read. So. Kids and dirty laundry (if handled properly) are not off limit topics for an Author’s blog IMHO. Even rants get a green light in my book as long as they serve a useful purpose and “harm none”. I have two solid rules on my blog.

    1. Don’t say anything on it that I would not say in person and in public. (So. We will be discussing serial killer editors over drinks in Houston this Spring at RT without a doubt).

    2. Don’t deliberately set out to be as boring as humanly possible when whipping out a blog post for the day.

    I know very little about the publishing world in NY, but if an editor can wear shocking pink Crocs on stage in a MaryJane skirt then I seriously doubt it’s as uptight as that article makes it seem. We are not business majors working on Wall Street. I could no more constrict my writing to a tailored suit than wear one.

    The truly subversive thing about that article is that it suggests an author “conform” in an industry where conformity is death. If you don’t stand out in someway (preferably a positive way) then you will probably fade into the woodwork. On the plus side, if writers all start to heed that advice … less competition for the rest of us.

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  37. Angie
    Dec 13, 2006 @ 11:06:11

    Cindy, I personally find blogs that are all about craft or writing or are very professional, boring. But I thought the blog post itself seemed to coincide with what Jane was suggesting (is that right, Jane?)

    Truthfully, if I felt that way about authors’ blogs, it would be a bit hypocritical of me since I keep a blog about…everything. I wouldn’t know what the heck to blog about if I didn’t let my personal life slip in there. Maybe most people don’t care to read about an editor’s two year old but, well, I figure it’s my blog and as long as I’m not detailing how abusive I am to her *snort* it’s not hurting anyone if I blog about what I want.

    And I’ll look forward to a drink with you at RT to discuss serial killer editors. But just to put you at ease, I won’t drink chianti ;)

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  38. Christine Rimmer
    Dec 13, 2006 @ 11:21:32

    Re what blogs should and shouldn’t be–I’m with FerFeLaBat. The best blogs break all the rules–just like many of the best books.

    And a “well behaved” blog, as a rule, will put most readers right to sleep. Then again, as always, one should know the rules in order to find ways to effectively break them.

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  39. Jane
    Dec 13, 2006 @ 11:31:33

    The dos/donts of author blogs could take up a whole post. I don’t think that blogging is for every author because sometimes authors treat the blog as a personal journal and personally, I think that is more damaging than helpful.

    It’s very different for me to read AngieW’s blog. Even if she blogged about something intensely sexual about her and Josh, I don’t think I would mind because I am not reading her words in a fictional story. When an author blogs about personal things, those items start to creep into her work, if I have read enough of the blog to the extent that I can no longer suspend disbelief. It’s her voice I begin to hear in the story and not the characters, ruining the escapism for me.

    If an author truly means to use the blog as a promotional tool, the author must blog with the broadest appeal in mind. Do you want to gain readers or lose readers? Is the loss of the reader by offending them less important than the potential gain? Those are the questions that an author has to ask for EACH post which is why the blog can be dangerous. What is the real purpose of the blog? It can’t be just because you want to blog because an author is a public figure and therefore what they say can affect sales. Reader blogs or general blogs by private (legal connotation) individuals are not affected in that manner.

    Also, I don’t think blogs are very representative of how good of a writer that you are. How many edits/revisions/etc. go into a book v. a blog post? Are readers really getting a sampling of what your books will be like with your blog posts? How can they, if you are not putting the same time and effort into the blog post? And an author can’t put in the time and effort into a blog post as they do with a book else there would be no book.

    Author blogs I read with regularity

    Jorrie Spencer
    HelenKay Dimon
    Meljean Brook (it was MB’s blog which made me interested in her books in the first place because she was so funny but having read her book, I don’t see the voice of the blog in the book because the book is dark and edgy and MB doesn’t really come off as dark and edgy on the blog)
    Paperbackwriter (I tend to skim this blog because its very writing related but some of the posts are pretty interesting)
    Sherry Thomas (I can’t remember why I added her to my RSS feed, but I think her posts are pretty interesting. oh wait, now I remember, Kristin Nelson used her as an example of a great query letter).
    Kate Rothwell
    Argh Ink
    Alison Kent

    I’ve got a few others (including Lipstick Chronicles) that I have on the Feeder but I don’t read. I guess I keep them on in hopes of reading something interesting someday. Even though some blogs “break the rules”, I don’t find it particularly interesting as a reader. Of all the books I have bought because of blogs: 1 – Jorrie Spencer’s Haven.

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  40. Nora Roberts
    Dec 13, 2006 @ 11:46:02

    I tend to agree with the post on blogging, and with Jane’s take on author blogs. I don’t blog, but if I did I certainly wouldn’t blog about my sex life, or anything else I wouldn’t feel absolutely comfortable discussing with complete strangers. Because anything I blogged would be read, by and large, by complete strangers.

    Sure, some personal stuff, in a general and hopefully entertaining way, to give potential readers a little touch of who I am off page. Unless I targeted the blog to other writers, I’d be unlikely to blog about writing in any technical sense.

    I’ve read almost all the author blogs Jane cited, and never found them boring or uncomfortably intimate. Rather, I’ve found them interesting and entertaining enough to revisit them when I have the time. And I would also say that each one of these I’ve read strikes me as unique to the blogger.

    But yes, certainly, posts about dirty laundry–entertainly written–wouldn’t be off the mark for me. But neither would I take the time to read a laundry list of the blogger’s personal day, again and again. And I just don’t want the intimate details of Susie Author’s life.

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  41. Robin
    Dec 13, 2006 @ 12:43:17

    re author blogging, I’m not a loyal reader of any author blogs, but there are some I visit pretty regularly and skim for interesting posts. I view the blogging thing as different from the book-writing thing, which for me is a blessing, as, truthfully, I have found few truly compelling and riveting author blog voices. Not that I don’t find some of them interesting — just not OMG I gotta read this person every day addictive. Which is okay for me, because I’d rather have the addictive book reading experience than the addictive blog reading experience any day. Then there’s the odd case — like Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer — where I thought the collaborative blog voice was better than the collaborative first book voice. I will also admit to visiting blogs periodically of authors whose books I disliked out of some weird curiosity. Sometimes I even voluntarily make myself mad by reading a blog post by an author that I know is going to piss me off — it’s that trainwreck psychology, I guess. Personal information doesn’t necessarily turn me off, although if I feel an author is writing to a certain group of fans or blog readers, I may find myself uninterested PDQ. Generally, though, voice influences my level of interest more than content.

    As for marketing, I am mostly suspicious of all marketing techniques, and am especially wary when big name authors are being heavily marketed. I know it’s opposite to how I think things should happen, but I’d prefer more marketing energy and resources directed at relatively new or lesser-known authors — you know, those authors who might actually come to my attention if they were more aggressively marketed. I already know who the big name author is, and when I see more resources poured into those authors, my cynical side emerges more strongly and I’m more likely to ignore the marketing and the books. Cover quotes mean nothing to me, as I rarely pay attention to them, and I’m probably most superficially swayed by an especially bad or good cover. In fact, one of the benefits of shopping at Amazon or BN.com for me is the fact that the covers are so small I don’t pay attention to them, which is often a really good thing.

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  42. Vivi Anna
    Dec 13, 2006 @ 17:12:03

    I have to admit I’ve been guilty of slow posting of contest prizes. Sometimes I just want to punch myself in the head for forgetting or letting it go so long…

    I would hope if I forgot to send something out, that that contest winner email me and ask. We’re all human, and beleive I’m forgetful more than most.

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  43. Lynne Connolly
    Dec 16, 2006 @ 18:08:18

    Re websites:
    I do my own, because I see it as the hub of everything I do online, and living half a world away from many of my readers, it’s my way of keeping in touch. My last website revision was to strip away all the fancy graphics etc and keep it simple. After a visit to my mother’s, and a week on dialup, I learned how important that is!
    Plus, I suck at drawing so any fancy graphics have to be bought.
    One of the reasons I’ve stayed with my current publisher is the help I’ve received with promotion. They couldn’t always afford to pay for my promotion, especially in the early days, but they studied my work and my audience, and gave me the best advice they could.
    I am not a natural, good promoter.
    I am a writer. That is, I fall into my stories and try to make them as good as I possibly can. In an ideal world that would be my job done, but there you go, it’s not an ideal world. I am naturally shy, I feel sick when I meet new people, but I’m flying across the Atlantic all on my own next year to go to the Romantic Times convention. Because I know I have to and because, despite my terror, I’ve ‘met’ some really nice people since I’ve been writing, and I know I’ll enjoy meeting them. And I need to give my books the best possible chance I can. A lot went into writing them, so they deserve all the help I can give them!
    Oh yes, and someone (you know who you are!) promised, absolutely promised, to introduce me to a real live cowboy. I’ve got Scotsmen, kilted or otherwise, coming out of my ears, but I have never met a cowboy.

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  44. Laura
    Feb 08, 2007 @ 02:22:40

    I’m way behind in my blog reading – but I’m going to come out of lurk and respond to this one anyway. The entire entry was interesting, but the one thing that was most interesting to me was the part about author blogs, and it perhaps not being a good idea for authors to go places readers may not be ready to go with them:)

    When I first started reading blogs, it struck me as strange that people would put their entire lives out there on a totally public web page, for the entire world to see, because the way the world works, if there’s someone you don’t want to read what you write in your blog, that will be the person reading it.

    One of the funniest cases of careless blogging I’ve come across was when I got a particularly bad review of my book. To be honest, I expected a bad review from this review site – and I *wanted* it (figured I could make it work from a promotional standpoint). Unfortunately, the reviewer screwed up my plan because she was a careless blogger.

    Rather than the reviewer saying “I just didn’t like this book” or the writing, or my voice, or the characters (things she could say and no one could refute – something I could have stood behind because I know not every reader will like what I write), she picked apart my research and some really bizarre things about my characters. For example, in the original review, she implied I knew nothing about the Irish, because my hero (half Irish) had dark hair and tanned skin, and she knew for a fact that ALL Irish are fair and have freckles (I’m Irish, and I tan like a surfer chick – Catherine Zeta Jones is half Irish – Pierce Brosnan(?) is Irish, and so on). The owner of the site edited that bit out of the review when I pointed out that there are “dark Irish” and a couple of other very glaring mistakes in the reviewer’s comments about the research – though I only suspect she did so because they were things most readers would have caught as mistakes.

    The reviewer claimed to know everything about Ireland because she was born and raised there. Even though in the review she admitted this was the first book set in Ireland she’d ever read (because with all the literary giants hailing from Eire, an “avid reader” like herself had never read a single book by an Irish author?)

    Anyway, the owner of this review site, which prides itself on being “real” and “honest” in its reviews, published said review.

    I was NOT unhappy with my terrible grade, but with the sheer amount of garbage this reviewer spouted about the research because it was beyond misleading to the reader.

    I noticed a few readers commenting on the review, and how lucky they were that the book had been reviewed by someone who knew so much about Ireland so they wouldn’t have to suffer through a poorly researched historical.

    In the worst way I wanted to respond – but I knew that would only make me look like a whining author who couldn’t take criticism.

    Long story short, I reviewed the review, countering every false statement by the reviewer about the research with fact (and links to said facts) and just as I was ready to link to it from my home page, something made me do a search for the reviewer’s email address on the web.

    Guess what? Said reviewer had a blog (along with several other reviewers from the review site in question). On the review site she claimed to be born and raised in Ireland and now living somewhere else in Europe with her baby and her husband, with a wonderful job and life. In reality, this chick lived in Vermont, worked at a campground (and hated her job), just broke up with her live-in boyfriend (no mention of a child), and was in therapy and on depression medication.

    I made a copy of the most damning of her blog posts, and contemplated my next move for a few days, and decided against a confrontation.

    I guess I could have used her own blog to call her onto the carpet in a very public way, and published my review of her review to prove she didn’t know jack about historical Ireland, and show the review for the hatchet job it was, and maybe even blow the concept of the “honest” reviews the site does out of the water.

    But I decided against it – the woman obviously had problems, and what would I really gain by humiliating her? The guilt of maybe pushing her over the proverbial edge?

    I chalked it up to experience, and never said a word about the review on the boards, and took the review site’s name and reviewer’s name off the review of the review and unlinked the web page it was on from my website.

    Bottom line, the book sold out of its first printing within the first month and went back for a second printing. That was my best revenge:)

    But I learned a couple of lessons – yes, there are hatchet job reviewers out there (fortunately, not many of them), and never put anything in your blog (whether you’re an author, reader or reviewer) that you wouldn’t be willing to tell a perfect stranger you meet on the street, or that you don’t want the entire world to know!

    Oh, and though I’ve never faced a book out, I admit I do occasionally give away gimmicky prizes in contests – like chocolate . But I also usually accompany the gimmick with online bookstore gift certificates:)

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  45. Dear Author.Com | Warrior Angel by Margaret and Lizz Weis
    Mar 21, 2007 @ 16:06:47

    [...] is PG 13 until the lackluster but multi page sex scene in the end of the book. It brings to mind the criticism of by the Washington Post of a well publicized novel: It’s hard to tell what audience the book [...]

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