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Author Self Promotion - Guest Kayla Perrin

November 20, 2009 | Deborah Cooke | Comments (1)

Authors often are shy about promoting themselves and their work, although publishers increasingly prefer that authors do so. The romance genre is quite well populated with authors who are enthusiastic self-promoters, but even in our niche, Kayla Perrin stands out as a very energetic self-promoter. I invited her to guest blog today on the topic of self-promo - we're all going to learn something!

Kayla Perrin headshot Kayla Perrin is a multi-published and USA Today and Essence ® bestselling author with over thirty books in print after ten short years, for major publishing houses including St. Martin’s Press, HarperCollins Publishers, Kensington Books, Harlequin, Ballantine and Simon & Schuster.  Kayla is published in a variety of genres, including romance, mystery/suspense and mainstream fiction.  Her works have been translated into Italian, German, Spanish and Portuguese. 

You’re Published: Now What?
Tips on How to Promote Yourself…and Your Work!

By Kayla Perrin

You’ve beaten the odds. You’ve signed a contract with a publisher who is going to publish your first book!  Or maybe you already have a few books in print.  Or perhaps you’re an aspiring writer, hoping to one day have a published novel in the stores. No matter where you are in your writing career, you can benefit from learning the ins and outs of promoting your books.

Some people erroneously believe that once your book is published, that’s it. You’ve done all you have to do. Wrong. Right from the moment I was first published, I knew that writing the book was only a part of my job. As a writer who wanted longevity in this business, I knew I was going to have to market myself.

But shouldn’t the publisher do that? some of you are probably wondering right about now. Well, sure. In a perfect world, they’d have gazillions of dollars to promote every book they publish, and authors could spend their time lounging by the pool in Hawaii with a daiquiri rather than worry that they should be out promoting their new book. I’m not saying to forgo the daiquiri, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that once your book is out there you can rest on your laurels.  Books—especially in this day and age—do not sell themselves.  Yes, publishers do do some promotion, but they tend to market a specific line, not a specific author. I’m not saying they never market an author in a big way, but you can’t count on that.  If you want your name out there, you’re going to have to do the hard work yourself. If you opened a Boston Pizza franchise, for example, you wouldn’t think that all you needed to do was open your doors in order to sell at the level you want to.  You’d know that you had to get the word out about your new establishment as a way to enhance your sales. As an author, you have to get the word out there about your new book.

I always hear from people, “I see you everywhere.  You're all over the Internet.”  Sometimes I'm surprised.  I guess I figure all other authors are “out there” just as much as I am, but not all are.  So what do I do?  How do I market myself so that I stand out?

The first thing I did, shortly after my first sale but before my book was on the shelves, was send out a letter introducing myself to booksellers.  I’d completely forgotten that I’d done that, but a couple of days ago I found the letter in my files.  Right from the beginning, I was thinking about how to get my name out there.  I also made bookmarks—designed them on my own computer and printed them on card stock—which I sent to the booksellers as well.  I also made sure to have plenty of my homemade bookmarks on hand to give them to practically every person I met.  This was an inexpensive way to have something that announced me and my book to the world.

This was back before everyone had a website, and I suppose I ought to tell you that first things first, you need to secure your domain name.  Having a website is the single best thing you can do to give yourself a presence on the web.  Some unpublished people use a website as a platform to promote their manuscripts, so don’t think that having one before you’re published is a wasted effort.  These savvy aspiring authors post short synopses about their work and have contact information where they can be reached by potential agents and publishers.  I’m pretty sure I’ve heard a story of at least one aspiring writer’s work getting in front of the right person this way, and that led to a sale.  But even if it doesn’t, you want to think positively. You will be a published author one day.  And as an author, having a website is an essential tool.  It’s a place where you can post covers of your current and upcoming books, excerpts of your work, a bio, contact information, etc.  Someone may discover your site by chance and be intrigued to buy your book(s).  Or, readers may be interested in seeking you out to learn more about you and your other books after discovering one of your novels.  Having a website is promo stop #1 for you and your work.  Feel free to let your personality shine in your bio and other areas you include on your website. And make sure the tone of your website represents the tone of your work. If you are writing romantic comedies, your website should reflect “fun” and “romantic.” If you’re writing dark, edgy suspense, I’d expect your website to reflect that tone.  There are inexpensive ways to get a website up and running. It doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. And if you’re so inclined, you can create one yourself using various programs which are readily available.

All right.  You’ve established a website. What else can you do to promote yourself?  One of the things I did was let people know, on various RWA writing loops, that I’d just sold a book and that I was willing to answer questions.  I sold myself.  And I learned that people were keen on having me tell about the experience of my first sale—not just because it was a way to fill space in their chapter newsletters, but because we all love hearing stories about how people have made it to the other side. Soon, I found I had people asking if they could interview me. And here comes my next tip: always say yes.

Even if you think you’re too busy to fit these kinds of interviews into your schedule, always say yes. Saying yes is another way to get your name out there. The more interviews you do—even for the smallest of chapters or writing groups—the more your name is out there. You’ll never know who might read about you in a small chapter newsletter, or on an obscure blog. Trust me, it can lead to bigger things. It has for me.

I just mentioned blog, so let me dwell on that for a minute. It isn’t a must that you blog, but again, it’s another way to get your name out there. If you’re like me, your time is limited. You can’t be out there blogging and promoting yourself all over the place and still have time to write. And yes, the writing has to come first.  But here’s a clever way to blog that can be practically painless—join a group of bloggers so that you don’t have to come up with a unique blog of your own every day.  If you’re part of a blog, this will require far less of your time—and still help to get your name out there. In fact, joining a blog that’s already publicized is probably a smarter way to go. I joined the missmakeamovie blog, which has a number of contributors, and I blog once a month. That’s manageable in terms of a time commitment, and the blog gets a lot more traffic because it already exists and has contributors from all over the world…far more traffic than I could get for a blog that I tried to maintain.  Trust me, I’ve already started and abandoned a couple of blogs because of the fact that I simply can’t come up with something new every day that is worth anyone’s while to keep returning. So, if you can, join a blog that already exists—or get together with a group of friends/fellow writers and create a blog. For example, a couple of years ago, a group of women who were all going to have their debut releases in 2008 got together and created a blog to promote the fact that they were all debut authors. They even did t-shirts and other promo to help spread the word at conferences and on various online loops about who they were—the common denominator, they were all about to be first-time authors. They had an interesting hook, got together, and started a blog and other promo to get their names out there before their books even hit the shelves.

What else can you do to get your name out there?  I tried to do as many booksignings as possible. It’s good to get to know your local booksellers.  But sticking to ways to promote yourself online, I’d advise you to definitely get a Facebook page. And a Twitter page. Yes, Twitter.  If you’re like me, you’re probably resisting Twitter, but now that you want to promote yourself, it’s time to “tweet” away.  I swore I would never twitter, but I finally got on the bandwagon earlier this year.  And get this—an author recently announced on one of my writers’ loops that she got a movie option because she was on Twitter!  I asked what she tweeted about, and she said sometimes she tweeted about her work, but oftentimes she announced random stuff. And this led to a movie deal!  That’s the best story I’ve heard so far, and it shows the power of possibilities available to you via social networks.

As for me, I tweet when I have a new release, and definitely if I have a booksigning/event to promote, but like the writer who got the movie deal, much of the things I tweet about have nothing to do with writing whatsoever.  I share interesting articles, what I did for the day. Whatever. The one thing I know for sure is that I’m getting my name out there. Someone from a book club found me on Twitter and asked me to phone in for their book club meeting where they were discussing my book. Of course I said yes.  And recently a reader told me that she really enjoyed the way I interacted with my readers on my Facebook page. So being out there is also about giving your readers a way to connect with you, which can also be an important component in whether or not they buy your next work, or even any of your books. I’ve also had people discover me on Facebook and tell me that they now plan to buy my books because they’ve gotten to learn about me via Facebook.

Lastly, here’s another thing to do that really isn’t all that hard. Join writers’ loops. If you’re a member of Romance Writers of America, join their loop. I’m on the RWA Published Author’s Network loop, as well as a loop called Fiction That Sells, the Novelist Inc loops, and also some publisher loops (such as St. Martin’s Press and Avon Books). Don’t just join these loops and lurk—post comments from time to time.  Engage in dialogue with other writers. Again, the writing has to come first—I’m not telling you to forget the writing and spend all day “gabbing” in cyberspace. But being on various writers’ loops is another way to get your name out there. People will see your name when you sign your posts—and definitely add a signature line that includes your website and perhaps the name of your latest book. Every time you post something, people will see your name and the url for your website. So, just by interacting in the writing community in this way, you’re helping to promote yourself.

I’m sure there are other things you can do to help promote yourself online—maybe even something obvious that I’m forgetting—but I think I’ve pretty much covered the bases.  Remember that people are interested in getting to know you better, so don’t be shy.  You have a product to sell—and the best way to do that is to sell yourself.  Writing is a business, just like anything else.  So get out there and promote yourself!  After all, no one else is going to be as passionate about your product nor as invested in your success as you are.

Good luck!


Toronto Public Library's Romance Writer-In-Residence Deborah Cooke discusses writing and getting published in the romance genre.

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