Tag Archives: self-promotion

Encouragement for aspiring authors: foolishness will eliminate most of your competition

Aspiring authors eager for encouragement can be glad of one thing, which I can promise will never change: human nature. Most of their competitors—other writers vying to win readers—will fail to capitalize on the opportunities they’re given. They will consider themselves too talented to be overlooked, too intelligent to take advice, and too exceptional to fail.

Day after day, I receive queries from authors whose books were published, either traditionally or nontraditionally, but then languished without appreciable sales. These writers took or were given their chances and did not make the most of them. Usually, they haven’t recognized or tried to rectify the problems that kept their books from reaching or appealing to readers. When it’s too late, they want someone else to repair the damage.

I don’t often hear from unsuccessful authors who know exactly where they stand. I’m contacted by those who are mystified by book buyers’ disappointing reactions to their work. Oblivious to the reasons, these particular writers remain confident that fairytale success will find them if only they believe in themselves.

No amount of testimony by successful authors whose years of struggle and relentless practice enabled their careers will convince a writer who doesn’t want to face the unpleasant aspects of the business of creative writing. The obstacles include endless revisions and rejections, critical scrutiny, meager pay, and a market robust enough to cater to readers’ every whim rather than every writer’s wallet. Unwavering perfectionism, sincere humility and willingness to learn, and the ability to connect with audiences are rare qualities even in the most talented writers. That’s why there are so few success stories, compared to failed attempts, in book publishing. The coincidence of necessary personal and professional qualities is truly unusual.

Occasionally, good writers do recognize how much effort and time it will cost them to achieve the careers they envision, and the realization paralyzes them. They may believe they can’t handle the pressure or the demands on their time, that the market isn’t fair, or that their aspirations are self-indulgent. I have more sympathy for them than for the failed author who is hobbled by a big ego. The fact remains that authors today have more choices and resources than ever before to enable their success. Along with those choices and opportunities goes the personal responsibility to make the best use of them.

Sounds true, you say, but where should a writer who honestly wants to improve seek reliable, free advice? Here are a few good sources.

Start Here: How to Get Your Book Published by Jane Friedman

Online Critique Groups for Writers

A Flowchart For Diagnosing Self Publishing Problems by Morris Rosenthal

Author Marketing Experts, Inc.

Lion of St. Mark

  Lion of St. Mark

Still can’t stop talking about it: Get Known Before the Book Deal

Day 19: I sincerely wish I could stop talking about it. I wish writers who send me queries had read Christina Katz’s Get Known Before the Book Deal and implemented the strategies she outlines in the book. I wish I didn’t need to tell so many prospective clients to back up and learn exactly what publishers and readers expect of them in 2014. I wish I were a fairy godmother with the power to transmit knowledge, skills, and business sense with the flick of a glitter-spangled wand. I’m weary of repeating myself. I’m whining today.

GET KNOWN BEFORE THE BOOK DEAL by Christina KatzHowever, there is good news! There’s an upside of my frustration, which I assure you is shared by at least a few other agents, as well as book editors and publishers, not to mention successful authors who frequently are asked how they got so lucky. The bright side is that the unbelievably small percentage of writers who apply—that is, put into practice rather than just reading—Christina Katz’s advice can achieve an enormous advantage over the larger number of writers who don’t.

Think about that. Did you just feel the power shifting?

Christina doesn’t promise instant results, and she doesn’t say it’s easy when it’s not. No one ever truly masters self-promotion in a turbulent market, and the mere attempt takes a lot of time. More hard work is exactly what average writers or wannabes will not confront. They believe they should be finished with the work part when they put the last words on the last pages of their manuscripts. They’re ready for the cake, punch, and applause precisely when the going really gets tough. C’mon. Take advantage of their mistakes.

Writers need to exploit every possible asset in order to stand out among thousands of contenders and to get their books noticed among the incredible quantity of titles now frictionlessly available to readers. Those readers easily can choose similar content in other media, often at less expense. Writers who are aware of their competition, respect readers, perfect their manuscripts, consider their art a career, and demonstrate their ability to engage their intended audience, well…

We know who they are.

Full disclosure

Christina Katz is my friend, but I recommend her book because the advice in it is so good. Chuck Sambuchino wrote a similar manual called Create Your Writer Platform, but then I must admit that Chuck’s a friend, too. There’s also Amanda Luedeke’s ebook, The Extroverted Writer: An Author’s Guide to Marketing and Building a Platform. I’ve met Amanda. I like and respect her. She’s a dynamo. Several other books cover this very topic, and some of these resources are likely to be available at the nearest library. By the way, my old neighbor Bob Robertson-Boyd developed the WorldCat interface that shows the closest library where a copy of a particular book can be borrowed.

Musical accompaniment

Believe it or not, I do have a heart. It gets crumpled a lot, to the tune of “The Laugh of Recognition.” Over the Rhine are some of my favorite musicians.

BookADay-The Borough Press

Book publicity and marketing know-how, courtesy of Brian Feinblum

Brian Feinblum-MediaConnect.com

Brian Feinblum
Chief Marketing Officer, Media Connect

I invite you to enjoy these recent book marketing blog posts that may be of use to you:

25 Ways for Authors to Break Through & Establish a Legacy

Can You Market & Promote Books Like TV’s Dexter?

Evolving as a Book Marketer & Publicist

Winning the Battle Over Internet Book Piracy

26 Ways to Save Barnes & Noble

Do You Market Your Books Doggy Style?

Does Your Book Blog Do These 16 Things?

Writers, Read This: You Are Marketers

Why Authors—and Publicists & Publishers—Need A Therapist

If you need assistance in promoting your book, please keep Media Connect in mind. Brian Feinblum invites you to consult MediaConnect.com and a Publishers Weekly article about his firm. He can be contacted at Brian.Feinblum@finnpartners.com or 212-583-2718, and you can find more of his advice for book authors @ThePRExpert and his BookMarketingBuzzBlog.

Reprinted with permission

Writing for literary arts and pop culture websites

One way for authors to attract a little extra attention is by writing articles, reviews, or blogposts for any of the established or up-and-coming online magazines devoted to literature and pop culture. Some of the sites have much larger readerships than an individual’s blog typically can attract.

Of course, money is always nice, but if a writer needs exposure as much as or more than payment, then the opportunity for publicity alone might be worth the effort involved in writing a short piece. Most readers won’t know whether the author was compensated for an article, so the quality of the contribution should always match the writer’s reputation or aspirations. At the same time, the author probably should think of the endeavor as volunteer work for a worthy cause, not an avenue to a paying gig.

To capitalize on the exposure each time their work is published, writers learn to compose effective contributor bios including their web addresses. Readers won’t take the time to search for information about an unfamiliar author unless prompted with a URL.

Quite a few literary websites are calling for contributors these days. A few are listed here:


The Nervous Breakdown

The Good Men Project

The Millions

The Rumpus

Fairy Tale Magazine

All Those Wasted Hours

Largehearted Boy


> Language > Place blog carnival

Write Hacked (formerly LiveHacked.com)


The Flaneur

Smith Journal

The American Mercury


Passages North


The State


Paper Darts


Parenting Express



Brittle Paper

Paper Droids


If you know of any others like these, feel free to leave their URLs in the comments section.

How to assemble an author press kit (and why)

Authors sabotage their books in two very common ways, both of which are symptoms of the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

Monkey wrench #1

Not knowing how much work goes into producing a good book (therefore, failing to do the work)

Monkey wrench #2

Trying to generate publicity for a book without a press kit/media kit, even if it’s only one page


It’s easy to be irritated by or make fun of the authors who simply don’t know what they don’t know. Our annoyance comes from assuming they could know if they tried. In reality, some writers aren’t capable of recognizing that what they’re doing differs somehow from the efforts of successful authors. We can’t rescue the blissfully ignorant from failure. The best we can do is politely ignore them.

The upside, if you’re an author, is that you can remove monkey wrench #2 in one weekend with a reasonable amount of effort. If you’re super busy, you can hire someone to do it for you.

You can become much more attractive as an interviewee or event participant when your press kit can be downloaded by anyone who takes an interest. If it’s not available online, then at the very least, your press kit should be assembled and ready to send by courier whenever it’s requested by a reporter, producer, blogger, or book reviewer.

Make it easy for people who need to know more about you and your book. Show them you’re professional, and you’ll avoid being politely ignored.

Exhibit the Dunning-Kruger Effect by reading no further

If you recognize that being discoverable, approachable, and professional will help you draw more attention to your book and yourself, then continue reading.

Press kit primer

Be sure to have your press kit compiled before you need it.

Your press kit must be downloadable, or forwarded immediately upon request, so the person inquiring can read your book, learn something about you, and prepare interview questions or schedule an event.

Step 1: Assemble a press sheet

If you really like your publisher’s information sheet (sell-sheet) for your book, then ask permission to include it in your press kit. If you prefer, you can create your own press sheet using these guidelines:

Social Media News Release Template, Version 1.5
Todd Defren, Shift Communications

Advance Information Sheets (AIs)
Welsh Book Trade Info

A one-page press sheet includes brief biographical information about you, the author. You might be lucky enough to enjoy the assistance of a publicist when writing your bio, or you can refer to these tips:

How to Create an Engaging and Effective Bio Page
Georgiana Cohen, Work Awesome

Don’t forget to include on your one-page press sheet:

  • Book cover image
  • Book title
  • Your name and city
  • Page count
  • Genre
  • Synopsis
  • URL for your book’s page on your publisher’s site
  • URLs for your book’s page on your favorite bookseller sites
  • ISBN
  • Name of publisher, publication date, and territory
  • Prizes/awards for this title (only if it was the grand-prize winner)
  • Stupendous blurbs and/or awesome review excerpts
  • Your bio and maybe your headshot
  • Your blog or website URL
  • When and how far you’ll travel for interviews, book club meetings, events
  • Contact information (your publicist’s or yours)

Step 2: Assemble a press kit

Follow the links below to find out what else you’ll need or want to add to your press kit. There’s more, but you’ll need to leave this page to discover it.

What on Earth Do I Put in My Media Kit?
L. Diane Wolfe, Spunk on a Stick

Book Marketing: Your Online Press Kit
Joel Friedlander, The Book Designer

Is Your Author Website Ready to Meet the Press?
Chris Robley, BookBaby Blog

I like the idea of including a sheet of sample questions and answers. Writing them is an effective way to prepare yourself for an interview, regardless of whether the questions are ever used.

Step 3: Use your press kit

The individual to whom your press kit is being sent will choose the format: digital or hard copy. Ask which format the person prefers. Be prepared to send either version. Don’t just provide the URL, but do make a version of your press kit/media kit available to download from your website or blog.

A version of your press kit should be on your website, because not everyone will go to the trouble of contacting you for information. It’s simpler and faster to pay attention to authors whose websites are comprehensive. Reporters and producers with deadlines have no time to waste, and there’s never a shortage of authors seeking media attention.

After you’ve finished putting together an attractive press kit and you’ve posted a version on your website, then sit back and smile, knowing you’ve removed one of the biggest obstacles that might have prevented other people from helping you to promote your book.


If you’d like to share your press sheet or press kit as an example, feel free to post a link to it in the comments section of this post. You might have noticed people talking about this one a while ago.

Authors, are you using Goodreads?

Goodreads isn’t the only social network devoted to library cataloging and discussions about books, but it’s the one I use and appreciate. I’d like to know why Goodreads and sites like it, including Shelfari, LibraryThing, Revish, and aNobii, aren’t very well utilized by authors and publishers. After all, the members of these communities are book buyers or borrowers. Not only that, they’re gathered in one place and identified by the books they’ve tagged as owned, already read, to read, in the process of being read, and favorites. On other types of social networks, not all of the users are book lovers.

GoodreadsAuthors seem to discover and congregate in author communities online, which is fine, but relatively few authors seem to know much about Goodreads. For the moment, it’s an uncrowded platform. As an author seeking readers, you’d be wise to jump on the Goodreads stage in 2012, before your competitors discover it in 2013. And if you’re not thinking of other authors as friendly rivals, then you’re not reading this post anyway—and, heck, you might not even own a computer.

To assess the potential of Goodreads, explore the site until you’re comfortable with its features and navigation.

You can install apps that link Goodreads with your social networks. You can join a few Goodreads groups to see how they function and whether they’re active. You can add books to your Goodreads bookshelves, and then the site will recommend other books you might like based on what you’ve shelved. But that’s not all.

After you’re familiar with the Goodreads site, and you’ve seen how others are taking advantage of it, you’ll be better able to imagine how the Goodreads Author Program can be used to promote your own books. Best of all, it’s free.

Goodreads: How to Use the Goodreads Author Program

Jane Friedman: 2 Ways to Make the Most of Goodreads

Patrick Brown: Goodreads Stats Show Which Media Outlets Really Sell Books

Goodreads: Goodreads Author Feedback Group

Jason Boog: How to Add Goodreads to Your Facebook Timeline

Sarah Pinneo: An Author’s Guide to Surviving Goodreads

Madeleine L'Engle quotePerhaps Sarah Pinneo’s survival guide answers my question. Authors don’t use Goodreads if they fear they’ll make targets of themselves, or worse than being targeted, they’ll go unnoticed. Meanwhile, the authors who take risks get all the attention.

Writing a book is risky. Why stop there?

Generosity is a form of self-promotion

To say that generosity is motivated by self-interest seems wrong, until you consider that a feeling of righteousness or the enhancement of your self-esteem or your public image are important rewards.

Now that we easily can act as our own spokespeople online, many of us have assumed almost full responsibility for marketing our products or services—that is, promoting, advertising, and selling our work, as well as analyzing the results of our efforts. Not everyone is comfortable with the task, and perhaps even fewer are effective at self-promotion. Poor results can be due to factors like ridiculous expectations of instant success, open displays of resentment, and dogged determination to ignore the outcome. The hard sell, like a bad pick-up line, can be the reason for failed connections or, even worse, alienation.

We forget that the most natural kind of self-promotion is achieved through generosity. And what could be easier?

Think about the possibilities. Generosity can be as simple as:

  • Giving advice or assistance to a novice
  • Sharing knowledge in the form of how-to guides
  • Congratulating someone on a recent achievement, and maybe sharing the person’s news on your own blog or social network
  • Contributing thoughtfully to a discussion on someone else’s blog or status update
  • Inviting someone to guest blog or participate in a Q&A
  • Offering to coordinate, sponsor, or host a public event
  • Making a product or service available for free, even for a limited time
  • Being attentive to blog comments, questions, email, and phone calls that deserve responses*
*Even a form, or formulaic, response is better than nothing. Particularly online, failing to reply or acknowledge a reply is the equivalent of dead silence and a blank stare, captured for all to see.

There are so many creative, enjoyable forms of generosity to add to the list. Who says self-promotion needs to be all about ourselves? We get attention by paying attention.

Deep down, you knew that all along.

The fundamental you (online)

You can’t escape the fact that you don’t know what you don’t know. And one of the things you don’t really know is what you look like to other people, even though your self-esteem is affected by what others tell you they think of you. Much of the time, they’re not being completely honest. You know that, right?

You might be focused on your physical appearance, because you know that people typically base their first impressions on how you dress and groom yourself. But suppose you’re a writer. Online and in print, predominantly with words, what first impressions do you make on readers?

To imagine how you as a writer appear to readers who’ve never met you in person, you need to figure out how they discovered you and your writing. Did they find your book in a bookstore? Did they read your story in a literary magazine? Did they check out your essay when it was recommended by someone on Facebook? Did they find a link to your blog in someone else’s blogroll? Did they notice when LinkedIn displayed your name and photo under the heading “People You May Know”? Did they receive email from you?

Think about the many different ways people can connect with you and your writing online. Are you making a good first impression every time? All the control you possess, the ability to self-publish, the means of branding yourself—are you using it well?

Some aspects of your online presence might require a little spit shine, fashion consultation, copyediting, or—let’s face it—charm school. If you’re guilty of any of the following, you might be repelling instead of attracting readers:

  1. Your “About” page or “Bio” section is a big blank.
  2. Your headshot makes you look gloomy, topless, or fifteen years younger.
  3. You just copied and pasted onto your blog an entire article from the online publication you most want to write for, because you’re shaky on the concept of copyrights.
  4. Your articles, promotional materials, and blogposts are overrun with typos and grammatical errors.
  5. You’re confident that red text on a blue background will make readers take notice.
  6. You’ve been blogging consistently for three years with an intense focus on a single topic: yourself.
  7. You’ve been blogging consistently for three years but haven’t revealed anything about yourself.
  8. Self-publishing and vengeance are intertwined in your experience.
  9. You’re relying on anonymity or pseudonymity or any sort of artifice.
  10. You’re convinced you can live a better life without ever taking a stand for something you believe in.

It’s not good to obsess over site statistics or a shortage of comments or the slick image you’re trying to achieve. I hope I’m not implying any of that. Rather, there are fundamental, even technical, considerations about your online presence that shouldn’t be overlooked.

To learn how others will perceive you through your writing and your online presence, read what these thoughtful writers have to say about first impressions:

Jane Friedman: Being Human at Electric Speed

James W. Pennebaker: The Secret Life of Pronouns

Seth Godin

Chris Brogan


Great. I didn’t know that fundament had a comical alternate meaning. Too late now; the post is already written. How’s that for coming full circle?

Go here for more laughs.