Friday, January 11, 2008

PR Isn't A 4-Letter Word by Marcia James

Self-promotion isn’t for sissies. It can be expensive and time-consuming. There are many factors that play into an author’s decision concerning which PR options to try, including technical savvy (e.g., creating your own Web site), shyness (e.g., public speaking and power-schmoozing), budget and whether the publisher is also providing promotional support. You need to decide if you’re going to target existing romance readers and/or try to “convert” new ones. Here are several options to consider, starting with the most traditional types of author promotion.

Readers can be found on message boards and email lists. And there are many Web sites that offer access to romance readers for a price. You can also purchase a list of readers groups from Pat Rouse and mail them your promotional items. Or you can buy an ad in RT BOOKreviews. But don’t overlook budget-saving options. For example, there are sites (e.g., Coffee Time Romance) that offer some free services, such as an online calendar for authors to post their booksignings. And many publishers have an email loop for their authors to chat up readers, as well as post book blurbs and excerpts.

You can reach readers by cross-promoting with other authors. The simplest way is reciprocal links—authors posting each other’s URL links on their own sites. Another is guest-blogging, which is an easy, free way to introduce yourself to another author’s readers. An additional positive to guest-blogging is that it requires a short commitment of time.

There are also authors who interview other writers for articles and blogs, such as this one. And there are free e-zine opportunities for author interviews. One great example is Su Kopil’s The Motivated Writer e-zine (, which features fiction authors at all stages of their careers.

Creativity is part of a writer’s “toolbox”, and many are putting it to good use by inventing interesting ways to cross-promote. One such author is Paige Cuccaro, who has a popular Writer’s Cave page on her Web site ( She posts photos of other authors’ offices along with their URLs. Readers visit Paige’s site to see their favorite authors’ offices, then stay to explore the other authors’ photos and sites.

In addition to meeting readers and other writers, an author can forge relationships with booksellers and librarians through readings and booksignings. Consider joining with several other authors to booksign at a store or do a panel discussion at a library. If you’re too shy to speak in front of groups, you might consider presenting an online workshop. And there are print and electronic publications that are always looking for articles from authors.

Targeting niche markets is a great way to reach interested romance readers and tempt those who normally avoid romance novels. Look at the different elements in your book to see which groups might be interested in it. For example, if your hero drives a vintage car, there are groups of vintage car enthusiasts who might buy your book. If your heroine is a veterinarian, you can send a press release to the veterinarians’ professional association. Library reference books, such as The Encyclopedia of Associations, offer the contact information on thousands of groups.

You can also reach readers through your local media. Some of the questions to consider when developing a press release include: Who is your audience? What is your angle? Also, it’s important to use a cover letter to put the press release in context and suggest the next step to your media contact (e.g., an interview, coverage of an event or simply your availability as a subject matter expert).

The contents of a folder-style press kit can include: the cover letter, a business card, an author bio, a press release, the book’s cover flat, a book excerpt, book reviews and copies of any previous media coverage. The press kit and its components should reflect your author brand (e.g., darker colors for a suspense author vs. brighter colors for a comedic author). You should share your press kit with your editor and agent, so they’ll know how you’re promoting yourself. And you can put a version of your press kit on your Web site.

Whichever PR options you choose, promote your author brand as well as your books. There are a number of good resources on branding, including articles on author Jenn Stark’s Web site ( And it’s never too early to create your brand or to develop your Web site, on paper at least. If you go to the national RWA’s Web site page on member sites (, you can check out what others have done and note what you like and don’t like about their sites. When it’s time for you to create (or pay a Web designer to create) a Web site, you’ll have noted your preferences on color, graphics, visuals, etc. Also, lock in your pen name’s domain name before you get The Call.

Self-promotion is a vital part of the business of fiction writing, and the time to study it is BEFORE you’re published. Don’t get caught playing PR catch-up after you sell. Learn about the many PR possibilities and which might work best with your schedule, budget and personality. But most of all, have fun with it. Your options are only limited by your imagination.

Thanks for sharing all that wonderful information with us!

Bio: Marcia James tapped her own PR background to develop her brand—an author of “hot, humorous romances”. Her logo is a Chinese Crested hairless dog, an animal found in all of her manuscripts. And her PR giveaway, a thumbcuff keychain, hints at both her law enforcement protagonists and the level of sensuality in her writing. In addition to writing articles and presenting workshops on author promotion, she has a 100+ page PR information WORD file she shares with any RWA member who would like it. Just go to her Web site ( and request the file through her “Contact Me” page. This file includes details on the PR options mentioned in this article.

James’ debut comic romantic suspense, AT HER COMMAND, is out in trade paperback from Cerridwen Press. Buy at:


mcrowley41 said...

Marcia: Wow, lots of great information here, You are right; self promotion is not for sissies. Thanks for all the tips.


Michelle M Pillow said...

Hi Marcia! How've you been?

Great article on promotion. I love your giant PR file. As an author, I find it one of the hardest parts of the job. My favorite is cross-promotions. Mandy Roth and I offer it all the time with our project, The Raven, and have been offered great ops in return. Trading free ops is a MUST for writers on a budget.

Thanks for the ideas!!

DianneCastell said...

Great info, oh guru of promotion!
When I interview editors for the RWR they always say how important it is for authors to self-promote their books. Now we know how to do it. Thanks!

Marcia James said...

Hi, Margaret and Michelle! Thanks for visiting on my guest blogging day! May all your PR efforts be wonderfully successful!
-- Marcia James

Marcia James said...

Hi, Dianne! {{waving from Columbus to Cincinnati}} You are great at PR! Your June Reader & Author Get-together with Lori Foster is a God-send to small-press-pubbed authors. ;-) And your Vamps & Scamps blog is great!
-- Marcia ;-)

Anonymous said...

Great article, Marcia! Very informative. Thanks so much for posting.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for all the info, Marcia! Great article.


Anonymous said...

Hey Marcia,
Great stuff. Thanks again for all the great tips and for sharing them with us. I was going to e-mail you and let you know the article is up, but you beat me to it. Have a great day.

Terry Odell said...

Promotion does get overwhelming, doesn't it? And sometimes you just get lucky. Orlando Magazine did a short article on four Orlando area romance writers in their January issue. (And, in the vein of this post topic, you can find a link on my blog.)

Marcia James said...

Hi, Kay and Becky! Thanks for stopping by. And congratulations to Terry on your magazine article! It's so wonderful when a publication does a positive article on the industry and our authors. That is very cool and wonderful PR!
-- Marcia ;-)

Marcia James said...

Hi, Kim! Thanks again for inviting me to guest blog! Have I mentioned that I LOVE the title of your blog? I have friends who journal, and they say it's a great alternative to therapy. ;-D

By the way, my latest manuscript (currently at Avon, Berkley and Dorchester) is the first in a comic romantic mystery series featuring a sex therapist/amateur sleuth who solves sex crimes in Vegas. To help promote the series, which hasn't even sold yet, I have a tongue-in-cheek (no pun intended) sex advice column on my Web site "written" by my sex therapist heroine. So it's never too early to do promotion on an author or a book.
-- Marcia ;-)

Irene said...

Wow. Much appreciated. I've been puzzling over a press kit for ages.
Thank you. I'm making this a favorite.
Irene Peterson

Marcia James said...

Thanks, Irene! I have an example of an online press kit at my site, but there's a lot of flexibility to what goes in a print and an online kit. It should reflect your brand as well as present information about you and your books.

My critique partner, Kensington author Patricia Sargeant, co-presented a PR workshop with me. She makes the point that even something as simple as the color of your press kit folder can adhere to the overall tone of your brand. For example, since I write humor, I use folders in bright colors. She writes romantic suspense, so she uses dark folders -- more somber colors like black, navy or dark gray.

If possible, aspiring authors should start developing their brands before they get The Call. This way, it won't be an added pressure once they sell. Plus it's more fun to brainstorm things without the pressure of a deadline.
-- Marcia ;-)

Liz Jasper said...

Marcia, this is great. I pop over to your site every few months for ideas and am never disappointed. I've gotten some good use out of your PR file. As ever, thanks!

: )


Marcia James said...

Hi, Liz! The author interviews you do inspired me to launch my latest Web site page: The James Gang. Each month I will be interviewing an author who has the pen name "James". You won't believe how many of us there are, especially if you count variations, such as "St. James" and "Jameson". ;-D

Thanks for stopping by!
-- Marcia ;-)

Anonymous said...

Hey Marcia! Sorry to chime in late. (what a day...sheesh!)
As always you are a goddess at PR. I never stop getting great ideas from you. Glad you like The Writers Cave. Not only is it good PR but it's a blast to do too!!
~Paige :)

Bronwyn's Blog said...

Wow - I've been trying to come up with PR ideas, so the syncronicity of this article couldn't be more perfect. Thanks so much for the wonderful ideas!

Bronwyn Green

Marcia James said...

Hi, Paige! Your Writer's Cave idea is brilliant PR and a lot of fun to participate in! ;-)

Hi, Bronwyn! Thanks for dropping by! I've learned so much about author PR from my RWA chapters and other authors. That's what's so nice about Romance Writers of America. The members are so open to sharing their knowledge.

Happy promoting!
-- Marcia ;-)

ShawnaMoore said...

Hi, Marcia!

Fantastic post on promotion! Thanks for sharing those tips with us :) Very informative :)

Best wishes always,

Shawna Moore

Marcia James said...

Thanks, Shawna! Happy promoting!
-- Marcia ;-)

Ashley Ladd said...

Thanks for the great article. I'm always trying to find new and better promotion. Or to figure out which previous promos worked best.

And being on a budget like Michelle said, it helps to work together.

I'll be back to see what sage advice you have and to see what books you have out for our reading pleasure.

Marcia James said...

Thanks, Ashley! I have several PR articles on my Web site and will be doing a PR article for each of the 6 RWA Kiss of Death chapter newsletters this year.

Best wishes on your promoting!
-- Marcia ;-)

Nancy said...

Awesome article, Marcia! I've printed this one for future reference!

Light, Nancy

Marcia James said...

Thanks, Nancy! Have a wonderful day!
-- Marcia ;-)

patricia sargeant said...

Hi, Marcia. Great article with tons of good information. It makes it easier to promote when you know what's available.

Marcia James said...

Hi, Patricia! {{waving}} I sure wish I knew how to put a photo with my blog comments. ;-( I love your book cover!

Thanks for dropping by!
-- Marcia ;-)