There are about four and a half months before my book is released. Four months might seem like a long time, but to a writer who is frantically trying to get her name out there for promotional purposes, four and a half months is nothing.

They say promotion is the most important tool an author can use to sell her book. Some publishers do take the time and money to promote their authors, but those publishers are few and far between. For most of us, it’s pretty much up to the author to get their name out there. And so we do the little things we can, like building a website and blogging. But a website and blogging will only get you so far. So what does an author do? It pretty much comes down to three things: guest blog elsewhere, get our books reviewed and advertise. Seems simple.

As if.

1) Guest blogging

Shockingly, not everyone cares if you have a debut book coming out. Some people don’t bother to respond to your request to be a guest on their blog, others say thanks but no thanks. Add the cost of giveaway gifts to the fact that you have to come up with a unique blog for each place you visit and it’s a bit exhausting. Still, guest blogging is the easiest way to promote. After all, no one charges you to be a guest on their blog and for the most part, people are more than happy to have you visit.

2) Book reviews

Another popular method of getting your name into the world is by sending your book to reviewers. Nothing beats a good review. But in an age where snarkiness rules supreme, you have to wonder if its worth your heartache. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in honesty. But, for instance, the other day I was on a popular review site and the reviewer gave a book, that I thought was rather decent, a low score. Why did she give it a low score? Well, from what I read, it was mostly because the author spelled the hero’s name in a way that the reviewer didn’t like. The reviewer had other minor problems too, but mostly harped on the spelling. The spelling for God’s sake!!!!! Snarky, as I said. Still, I suppose even bad press is good press, right?
But the possibility of getting a bad review is nothing compared to the time and money it takes to send out a book for review. Again, some larger publishers will send books out to certain reviewers. But what about those places that don’t send? As a Kensington author, I’ll be given twenty-five books to send to reviewers. Great! But the problem is those books don’t come until a month or less before my book comes out. Most reviewers want your book 3-4 months in advance. Still, you can send arcs, which are basically a print out of your book. But think about it- paper, ink, postage for 400 page book….it adds up.

Not to mention the time it takes to set the book up in arc format, print it out and stand in line at the post office. All for what? The possibility of a bad review? Fortunately, some (but not many) reviewers have started taking online earcs, which is a huge help to the author. By far the earc is the best way to go. At no cost to the author, you can just email the book as a file. In fact, I sent out 3 earcs over the weekend. But just sending those three exhausted me mentally and physically. Keep your fingers crossed that at least one comes back positive!
3) Advertising
By far, advertising is the most costly way to promote your book. There are only a few magazines that support the romance author. Again, I’m sure authors who get huge advances/deals may get some free advertising from their publishers, but the normal author with the normal deal gets no help advertising. So what to do? Spend your own money.
There’s pamphlet called Romance Sells that many authors use to advertise. This pamphlet goes out to thousands of booksellers and is by far the best and cheapest way to advertise at $200. Yes, cheapest. You may be able to get a banner or small add on a decent website for a $150-200. If you want a print add in RWA or RT you’re looking at around $500. Add up the cost of building a website and your Kensington advance is pretty much gone. I know people who spent double, triple their advance just in advertising.
So, is it worth it? I’ve heard authors say they advertised one book and not the other and sales were pretty much the same. Still, it seems like if you’re going to advertise, it would be best to do so with your first book and get you name out there.
But let’s face it, the best advertising comes by word of mouth. I’d heard about Sherry Thomas’ hugely successful first book before it was out, before I even saw any advertisement for it because people were talking. First, her agent, then readers.
So what have I done to promote my book? Probably not as much as I could. Obviously the website and blog. Next week I’ll be blogging at Fresh Fiction. In October and November I have quite a few places lined up where I’ll be guest blogging.
Just this weekend I sent an earc to three review sites. Coffee Time Romance, Book Girl, and a new reviewer, Mistress Bella Reviews. I’ll let you know how they turn out. Well, actually, I’ll let you know only if I get a good review 😉 Will I send to more reviewers? Perhaps. Right now I’m too exhausted to think about printing out an arc that’s 400 pages. Oh yeah, and I sort of have that second Kensington book to finish.
As for Advertising, so far the only thing I’ve shelled out the big bucks for is my website and the $200 page in Romance Sells. I’m lined up to do an author debut page in Romantic Times. I get 1/4 of a page. Yep, only a fourth and its about $500. I know. I cringe just typing it. I have to pay by August if I’m going to go through with it. I may do some other smaller adds on popular review websites. But honestly, that’s about all this woman can afford and I can’t help but wonder if it’s really going to make a difference.
And so, my friends, all I have left is you. That’s right. You. The reader, the word of mouth. The most important piece of the puzzle. So help a new author out and tell me, what makes you buy a book? Do reviews influence your decision? How about ads in magazines?
P.S. Coming up I have an interview with artist and photographer Melissa Nucera! She’ll be giving away two of her fabulous prints.