Book Promotion Tip of the Week #11: Don’t Give Up

Mary W. Walters Militant Writer(With a special P.S. for fiction writers)

This can be a very discouraging undertaking, this book promotion business.

Most of us didn’t set out to be book publishers, business managers, and self promoters – we set out to be writers. We wanted to communicate with readers, to tell a story, to express our dreams, hopes and nightmares. But however well or poorly we have done in the writing of our books, these days it is only the beginning. Even getting what we’ve written published is only the beginning. It’s the promotion that is the long, long haul and it can wear down the most determined and self-reliant among us, and devastate those of us who are lacking in confidence already.

For some of us, the writing is what sustains us: it is what we are meant to do. It is what gives the rest of our lives meaning. (I am one of those.) But a work of art (or wanna-be art) is only complete when it reaches its audience, as far as I’m concerned. And nowadays whether we are self- or traditionally published, the need to promote ourselves and our work eats up way too much of our writing time (such as it is in the first place, for most of us). And when it doesn’t eat up the time, it eats up our morale.

The Courage to Write

It has long been my conviction (like for 20 years or so) that it is necessary to have a whole lot of self-confidence in order to write a book. It takes gumption to complete any book, and as much courage as vision to complete it with any élan. When our self-confidence is eroded, we run into writer’s blocks, procrastination and all the other impediments that (in addition to our jobs and families and friends) can prevent us from writing well – or indeed from writing at all.

The problem, we are discovering as we put on all these new hats (publisher, publicity person, agent, bookseller), is that it also requires courage to promote a book or to promote oneself, and that our courage is threatened at every turn. Every time we check the sales stats on our books, or peek at the visitor-counters on our websites, our morale is likely to take a hit. Those hits affect not only our desire to keep promoting our books, but also whatever confidence we might have had stored up for writing the next book.

Some people probably decide to give up on promotion, but they are shooting themselves in their heads to spite their faces (or however the expression goes).  (Those who publicly announce that they are “giving up” or that they have been defeated are really only taking a new promotional tack. Check out this bit of self-promotion written under the guise of “being a failure” that recently appeared on the Salon website. Clever marketing.) To stop promoting means to disappear completely off the promo circuit, and the only result of that is  . . .  nothing. You sell even fewer books. And no one really cares but you. (The result is similar – or even worse, if that is possible – when you allow yourself to whine in public.)

Keep on Truckin’

In short, the only options are to a) move forward, and b) to sink without a trace. Which leaves only option a. And the only way to move forward is to “keep on keepin’ on.”

It helps to stay in touch with other writers who are doing the same thing we are, in places like this and other sites where people go to commiserate and encourage and share tips, rather than to promote themselves. (One might argue that I established this blog to promote myself, but I assure you that the strategy is not working. I have noticed no sales resulting from the blog, not even any clicks through to my books despite the 50,000 hits The Militant Writer has received, and therefore I claim innocence – albeit inadvertent – in the blog-as-marketing department.)

Ironically perhaps, I think it helps to be a writer in this strange new digital world of book sales – by disposition, writers are better equipped than most to take on solitary uphill battles where we slip backwards more often than we move forwards, where no one cares but us if we get anywhere, where giving up is really not an option: we do what we must do. It could therefore be argued that those who give up on book promotion are not real writers. :) (I am prepared to hear arguments that contradict this point of view. In fact, one of this blog’s regular readers, Kim Velk aka Woolfoot, is going to write a guest post on that very subject one of these days.)

It also helps to get enough sleep. Sleep knits up the raveled sleeve of evaporating self-confidence as well as care, and everything looks more do-able in the morning.

A Special Note to Fiction Writers

I have followed down link after link of tips on book promotion, as I am sure you have as well, only to find myself reading lists of strategies that relate primarily to non-fiction. Certainly some of the suggestions can be applied to fiction as well, but most non-fiction (with the exception of some creative non-fiction) is easier to promote than is most fiction: there is no doubt of it. Whether it is how-to, biography, history, memoir, even philosophy or psychology or economics, non-fiction always has an obvious hook that is more likely to interest the media – both social and traditional – than is a “made-up story.”

Because of this, perhaps, I was particularly disappointed to have wasted an hour of my life on a webinar entitled  “Create a Marketing Plan to Sell More Books” put on by CreateSpace, of all companies. (For the uninitiated, CreateSpace is the publisher of choice of most of us self-published authors who choose to create a paperback version of our books. You’d think they’d know that most of their customers are small-time authors, primarily of fiction.)

I was going to save you an hour of your life by telling you all the reasons why there is no point in listening to the replay of the webinar if you are a) a fiction writer and/or b) on a small or nonexistent promotional budget. However, another blogger saved ME another hour of MY time by writing a most eloquent explanation of why Brian Jud’s message is irrelevant to most of us. (Hint: Jud has been selling non-fiction, how-to books for decades and has built up a critical mass and a bank account to support the promotional tactics he suggests: most of them are far beyond the resources of most of us and irrelevant to any book with a literary bent. Take this suggestion of his for example: you should hire an accountant and a lawyer before you go to the bank to apply for a loan for the funding of your next book. All I can say to that is Hah!) Thank you, Ellen Larson, aka The Constant Pen and author of the sci-fi mystery In Retrospect, for an excellent summary and critique.

As Ellen does on hers, I have been making an effort, based on my own self-interests, to make the tips I present here on this blog specifically relevant to fiction writers—even if the majority are also relevant to writers of non-fiction – and I will continue to do that. If anyone finds other sites that are specifically directed at promoting novels and short stories, please let us know. Thank you.

Book Promotion Tip of the Week #7: February 11, 2013

Book Promotion TipsCreate A Media Kit

(then USE it)

A media package is a collection of germane and interesting background material relating to you and your book that writers of articles for publications (on- or off-line) and individual bloggers can use to enhance the reviews or profiles they are doing about you. When the kit or package is complete, you can send it out by email – or by mail, including a hard copy of the book if one is available – to individuals or publications that you think might want to review your book.

A complete media kit includes between seven and nine components. It should include 1) information on the author – including a biography and an annotated bibliography, lists of awards, prizes, and other writing achievements, etc. – and 2) information on the book, such as an intriguing bit of promo copy and at least a taste of what the book is about, plus perhaps interesting details about the writing process, how the cover was created, other books that readers of your book might like, etc.

The kit should also include 3) photos of the author and the book cover, suitable for reproduction, and information on 4) where the book is available for sale. Make sure to include your 5) email address so that the media person or blogger can contact you if he or she wants additional information.

A press kit can also include 6) an excerpt from the book itself, and 7) copies of reviews. You might want to include some 8) sample questions that an interviewer could ask you about yourself or the book (you can either answer them in the kit or not… depending on your inclination).

Last but not least, you might want to create 9) an actual media release, a well written story that a newspaper or magazine might run about your book if it is looking for a space filler (or the writer is behind schedule and desperate to find some copy for a deadline). You can get lots of information on how to write an effective media release if you simply Google the words “how to write a media release.” This article, from The Toronto Star, is good.

Turn the Media Package into a Website

Once you have all the materials together that I have listed above, and anything else you might want to include in your press kit or media package, you also have the basic components you need to create a website for your book. John A. Aragon and I have just put together the media package for The Adventures of Don Valiente and the Apache Canyon Kid, and we have posted all the pieces on the book’s brand-new website here:

Check, Check & Check

Demonstrate excellence: Before you do anything with your press kit or publish your book’s website, make sure that you have created excellent text copy and that all your links work. Your media package is your ambassador: it is the first contact many influential people will have with your book. If your media package is hastily assembled and badly edited, you are shooting yourself in the foot.

Be interesting: This is almost as important, if not more important, than demonstrating excellence. If your website/media package isn’t interesting, no one is going to bother to investigate any further. (I can’t tell you how to be interesting. Either you got it, or you don’t. But keep in mind that the “interesting” part needs to relate in a genuine way to you or your book: putting  photos of your kid’s Popsicle-stick trick in a media package is not likely to do your book any good.)

Update: Don’t forget to add new book reviews and awards as they come in to both your media package and your website.


There is absolutely no point in having a great media package and book website if you don’t tell anyone about it. (I am not talking about telling your buddies on Twitter and Facebook – I am discovering that despite what everyone “in the know” is telling us, social media are almost a total waste of time when it comes to book promotion.) Find the names and addresses/emails of the people and outlets where you want reviews/profiles about you or your book to appear, and send the appropriate individuals a package by mail or via an (interesting) email. Don’t send too many of the latter as blind copies to a single email, either: it is my theory that a lot of genuinely worthwhile emails go to spam because the senders have added too many people to the bcc line. In fact, I tend to prefer to send the same email, one at a time, to each recipient. This takes more time, but I think it’s worth it. Same goes for individually addressing form letters that go out through the traditional mail system.

Second-hand recommendations are always better than first-hand ones. If you tell someone to read your book, it will have an effect that ranges between negative and negligible (unless maybe you have the goods on that other person, or it’s your grandma). Self-promotion cannot compare to the impact of having someone else tell other people to read your book (or even tell them to NEVER read your book. That attracts readers, too: fewer, perhaps, and for entirely the wrong reasons.)

Taking advantage of these truths is the whole purpose of a press kit, of course.

In a future article, I will tell you how John and I went about finding and attempting to contact media we wanted to review Don Valiente, and how I am doing that for The Whole Clove Diet and for my grant-writing podcasts, and I’ll report on how it all worked out.


Please note: I am about to start compiling a pdf of all of my BOOK PROMOTION TIPS OF THE WEEK. If you would like a copy of the most recent complete edition, email me at mary at marywwalters dot com – preferably with BPTW in the subject line – and I will send it to you. No charge. If you want regular updates, let me know that too – but you can save yourself emails if you just subscribe to The Militant Writer after you have downloaded the back posts that you’ve missed.


Sell That Book: Building A Promotional Campaign From The Ground Up (I)

Sell That Book: Building A Promotional Campaign From The Ground Up (I)

I Have Been Spurred To Action

A good friend (thanks, Larry Anderson!) recently introduced me to another good friend of his who is also a writer who is in a similar position to the one I am in re: book promotion. Both of us have recently published books, but due to the other demands on our time we have found no time to market them — much less figure out the most effective ways of doing so in this brave new world of publishing, where there are too many options for everything.

Her name is Kathryn Burke and she lives in Edmonton. Her first book, An Accidental Advocate – A Mother’s Journey with Her Exceptional Son, has already been on several non-fiction best seller lists. She is working on her second book now; entitled Preventing Conflict In Special Educationit is likely to enjoy similar attention as it addresses the concerns of innumerable parents, teachers and students. Kathryn, who works part-time as executive director of the Learning Disabilities Association of Alberta, is also the brains behind, a site that was designed “to help people affected by learning disabilities share their experiences.”

For my part, I have three recent projects that are available for sale:

  1. my third novel, The Whole Clove Diet;
  2. the Really Effective Writing suite of MP3 audiocasts – based on the grant-writing book Write An Effective Funding Application: A Guide for Researchers and Scholars – with one series customized for each of three groups: a) researchers and scholars; b) community groups and non-profit organizations; and c) writers and other artists; and
  3. ta-dah!! A new novel, co-authored with my good buddy, the endlessly fascinating lawyer cum writer John A. Aragon of Santa Fe, New Mexico (who is also too busy at the moment to do book promotion). It is entitled The Adventures of Don Valiente And The Apache Canyon Kid and it has been described by the noted Canadian writer of westerns and other fine novels, Fred Stenson, as a “bold and sexy chase from end to end.”

Promotional Challenges (Ones I Suspect Other Authors May Be Facing, Too)

For the most part, aside from subscribers to my blogs (not an insignificant number, but not millions of people either) and my friends and family, and a few others, hardly anyone knows that these products of mine exist. For the past few months–in fact for the majority of the time since The Whole Clove Diet was published and I completed the audiocasts–I have not only become very busy with freelance work, I have also been utterly overwhelmed by the range of possibilities that exist at this time in history the for promotion of books–and other communications products.

What do I do”? Do I attempt a traditional book-promotion strategy involving media releases, bookstore communications, the distribution of review copies with an author promo package? Or do I embrace the new media and devote my attention to Twitter, FaceBook, LinkedIn and other social-media platforms? Do I create a video or two for YouTube?

Maybe I need to consider entirely different tacks – invent a video game based on my grantwriting book for example (just a little joke) or turn The Whole Clove Diet into a reality television series (also a joke). Perhaps I should take a leaf from the late, great book-promotion schemer Jack McClelland and do something outrageous that will bring the media to me: indulge in guerilla marketing, in other words (I am not excluding this idea at all. It appeals to me enormously). Maybe I should just hire a damned publicist (although I’ve heard of too many who have produced disappointing results and I can’t afford it anyway. Besides, I really do enjoy the promotional part of my work.)

In this digital era, the promotional opportunities are endless, but so are the number of new writers out there vying for readers’ attention (and recent stats say that book-readership is going down as fast as the average quality of the writing that is being published. Pretty soon there will be more “writers” than readers).

The only thing that is limited – and it is severely limited – is time. How do I maximize the hours that I do invest in book and audiocast promotion so that I still have time to serve my freelance editing clients and maybe even write another novel? Not to mention hanging out from time to time with my kids, my grandkids, and my fellow.

Despite the fact that the prospects have been so overwhelming that I have done nothing much at all in a focussed way to promote the books and the grant-writing audiocasts I have mentioned, I really do believe in them. And what reviews there have been so far have been excellent. It is time to get serious about this.

Campaign Kickoff

Life has a funny way of helping out when you need something (not, I believe, because of anything magical, but because needing something makes — or should make — you open to recognizing and welcoming opportunities that are really always there). Thanks to this introduction to Kathryn, and our first Skype meeting to compare notes, I am now really eager to get going on this project.

Kathryn and I have  committed to hold Skype meetings one a week and to do something (anything! :) ) in the meantime that we can report on that relates to promoting our books. I am  feeling optimistic. And so is she. Already I’ve attended one webinar entitled “Be Your Own Publicist,” which was hosted by The Writers’ Union of Canada. I’ll provide details on it in my next post. And I have signed up to attend another one next week from the Wildfire Academy entitled How To Become A Bestselling Author, which Kathryn recommended.

Our books have nothing in common, really, but therein lies some of our strength. Kathryn and I are going to be finding out how to approach publicity and promotion in ways that should benefit all writers —- whether thy write fiction, non-fiction or poetry, whether they write literary or commercial books, whether they write for adults or for children. We want to sort the wheat from the chaff — not among books, but among ways of promoting them.

The most important part of this journey is going to be to share it. Not only with one another, but with our fellow writers (including Larry!). Hence this journal of our investigations, our findings, our observations and our conclusions. We welcome readers’ input as well: if a man can crowdsource healing of a brain tumour that the doctors haven’t yet been able to contain, surely Kathryn and I can find some helpful advice from those who have tried promotional ideas I haven’t thought of – or have found widely touted methods to be useless — or have applied traditional promotional methods with new twists. We can all learn together.

How to Sell Your Novel

I recently got challenged on a Linked-In group forum to suggest some ideas for selling novels. I set down some ideas that popped into my head off the top of my head (which is where I keep ideas that I don’t have room to store inside my head) and I thought I would share them here as well. So this is mainly a cut-and-paste, with embellishments. I have lots of other ideas too, and so I’ll keep posting them as I have time to check them out and get them written down.

The first idea was one that a fellow writer named Thomas Knight (The Time Weaver) came up with on a FaceBook writers’ forum the other day: make bookmarks with your book cover on it and a bit of blurb-type info, and leave them here and there in public. On the Linked-In forum, I suggested leaving them in libraries, seniors’ centres, recreation areas, coffee shops – places where real readers are likely to congregate – and just leave one or two here and there: not a stack of them.

Another writer on the Linked-In forum said that the bookmark idea was from the 1990s. “It didn’t work then and it won’t work now.” I beg to differ (especially since Thomas is a newer, younger writer than I, and he is writing fantasy, and he is selling books. And his book cover just won a design award). The difference between then and now with bookmarks (or postcards) is that people who were intrigued by your bookmark ten years ago had to take the bookmark home, keep track of it, and have it on them when they got to a bookstore to buy the book. Now if they are intrigued, they input the title into their mobile phone and if they’re still intrigued, they press “purchase.” The impulse buyer has never been so available to writers. I buy books on impulse all the time. Especially ebooks.

Other ideas I proposed included:

  • offering to do a guest post on someone else’s blog (I don’t mean another book-writer’s blog: break out of that circle) – one that relates to the subject matter of your book.
  • having a blog of your own that actually GIVES something to the reader instead of just promoting yourself (like this article tries to do)
  • getting your library to stock your book just because you are a neighbour and a patron, and then host an author event for you (or a group of you)

There are other suggestions here from Rodney Walther on one of my Militant Writer blog posts:

Also, you can go on Google and type in “How to Sell Your Book.” You’ll get dozens of FREE articles with great ideas in them. Here is a very good one that I am using myself:

In the world of algorithms on amazon, etc., promoting your own book also means writing another one, and then another one, as more books attract more readers, and more readers attract more readers. If you have an out-of-print, traditionally published book, as I did, get it back on the market.

To paraphrase T. Harv Eker, what sells is dreams. You have to think about those to whom you’re selling your book, instead of thinking of yourself. What does your book offer them?

More later… stay tuned.