Promotion: What really works?

Thursday night my presentation for the class I’m “teaching” on Publication will include promotion ideas. I’m listing the usual: a website, business cards, joining social groups, press releases, etc., but as I looked over the list, I started wondering how many are worth the time and effort.

The website, yes. I believe every writer needs a website. They’re not only used to advertise your book(s), but also to present information about you and where you’ll be doing book signings or events. Websites are looked at by agents, editors, friends, family, fans, and potential book buyers. Reporters use the information presented on a website for articles. Booksellers and librarians check them out.

How gimmicky does a website have to be? My guess is the fewer gimmicks the better. Think of this as a business tool. Yes, make it personal, but don’t add so many bells and whistles that it becomes difficult to upload or navigate. Not everyone has fast connection options, and the music you love might be a real turnoff for someone else. Follow the KISS principal (Keep It Simple Sister).

I also think business cards are a necessity for every writer. They offer contact information, can direct people to your website, and can also include a bit about your book. I don’t recommend putting your home address on the cards you give out at conferences, book signings, or to people you’ve just met, but an email address is good (could be different from your personal email addy) and, of course, your web address.

As for joining social groups such as FaceBook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc., I know how I react if someone only uses the sites to advertise his books. On the other hand, I love hearing about trips authors have taken or insights into their worlds. I’m fine with being asked which cover I prefer or for suggestions on titles; however, I don’t like being “begged” to LIKE an author’s page. But that’s just me. If it benefits the author in some way, I guess that’s part of the game. (If I personally know the writer, sure I’ll like the page.)

Bookmarks used to be an item every author (and publisher) created, but I have my doubts about their effectiveness nowadays. I certainly see a lot of bookmarks dumped by conference attendees, and with the rise of ebooks, aren’t those bookmarks becoming obsolete? And maybe some writers and fans like the book “trading” cards, but after a while, what do you do with them?

I still see writers creating “trailers” for their books. That’s one promotional item I simply don’t see the value in creating. Give me a teaser first chapter and you can hook me, but a few frames of pictures and music? Even if those pictures include words that create a teaser blurb, I would really rather read it as a blurb. And where do I find these trailers? On YouTube, yes, but you have to tell me to go there, then I have to go there and watch it. Maybe imbedded in a website, but again, I’d rather find the first chapter. Once your book becomes a movie, yes, then I’d like to see the movie trailer.

These are my preferences. The question is: What works for most people and what doesn’t?

I sure wish I knew.

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9 Responses to Promotion: What really works?

  1. Vicki Batman says:

    Oh how I wish I knew too. Good words of wisdom.

  2. Beth Barany says:

    Maris, Thanks for sharing your tips with us. One of the things that works is called third-party endorsements, and then using social media to share the good news. What I mean by this is share a good review via Facebook and Twitter, and even a blog post, and have the tone be one of enthusiasm and gratefulness. Not once do you say “Buy my book.” You’re only saying, “Look at what so-on-so said about how much they liked my book!” It’s that happy dance feeling you’re sharing. People buy books because their friends/family recommended it. I’ve researched this all over the place, asking writers at conferences, asking friends and family, and also in observing my own behavior. Hope this helps! More times in my book Twitter For Authors ( “Very encouraging” and “a great little book” and “gems of experience-born knowledge”. You can read more about what Michael said here:

    • Maris says:

      Thanks, Beth. That’s a great idea. I’ve seen those third-party endorsements, and I do usually read them, so you’re right. They work.

  3. Diane Burton says:

    I think it’s a crapshoot. Name recognition is important so I guess hitting all the social networks gets your name out there. I agree about those whose only messages on Twitter or FB are “buy my book”. Some authors combine website and blogsite so they don’t have to maintain 2 sites. I have both–not sure if I need to since the same info is on both.

  4. Sandy says:

    Thanks for the words of wisdom. I wholeheartedly agree a website is necessary as many new acquaintances (on and offline) have said they checked me out there. It’s hard to know where the line lies in self-promoting. Many have pointed out that if you don’t read the self-promoting tweets/FB posts of others, then they probably won’t read yours either. You’re right that a friendly FB and Twitter image probably works best.

    • Maris says:

      Sandy, thanks for your comments. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m terrible at self-promotion. I envy those who do it so well.

  5. Wise words, Maris. I have to say I agree. Many of the on line bells and whistles may be nice if you like that kind of thing. But, it’s the substance of the message, not so much the delivery method, that makes all the difference. IE to write a good book.

  6. Promotion is hard! A must, but hard to do! What to try, how much to do? Thanks for the advice, Maris!