Today on the Roundtable we would like to welcome back a guest author whom first came to visit us before her first book was released. Now her third will be in bookstores on May 19, and we are excited to be able to help celebrate her success! She is a wonderful writer and we have enjoyed her books, PRIVATE ARRANGEMENTS and DELICIOUS. We are eagerly looking forward to NOT QUITE A HUSBAND. Please help us welcome Sherry Thomas to the table!
In the fall of 2007, a week before I guest-blogged here at Romance Round Table for the first time, this site featured one of the most helpful blog posts I’d ever read anywhere. That piece was Eloisa James’s detailed rundown of her PR campaign for her book AFFAIR BEFORE CHRISTMAS. It was an eye-opener.
Since then I’ve given a great deal of thoughts to promotion and publicity. Mostly along the lines of “That’s so expensive!” and “How do I know it will work?” When I went on the Meijer Levy bus tour with a bunch of very, very successful romance authors, I asked them what they did for promotion. Some said not much, others said they used to put their entire advance into it.
What we all want to happen is word-of-mouth. PR doesn’t really create word-of-mouth, love does. But readers won’t read a book until they know it exists. So then the point of a PR campaign, if a PR campaign has any point at all, is to create awareness and hope that awareness will translate into love, once a critical mass of readers have read and enjoyed your book.
With lots of new authors coming down the pipeline, I thought I’d try to provide the same service Eloisa James rendered me in 2007. Below I’ll lay bare for you my PR campaign for NOT QUITE A HUSBAND, price points and all. It isn’t much. But it is a best-guess selection as to what I think might work. Still, it is a virtual certainty half of what I have done won’t work at all—an optimistic assessment at that—and the other half, if it works, would only work in mysterious ways that might take years to work through a reader’s system before resulting in her interest, let alone her purchase.
And now, without further introduction, my PR laundry list:
Author Gena Showalter recommended RT’s Booksellers That Care bookmark mailing. She also recommended Pat Rouse’s mailing list, which goes out to romance readers’ groups around the country and around the world (mostly Down Under). I did both.
Bookmark design from CrocoDesigns $25.00
Bookmark (10,000) printing & shipping from PrintPlace.com 329.25
One year Pat Rouse mailing list subscription 125.00
RT Booksellers That Care mailing fee 110.00
Mailing 7,000 bookmarks to RT 49.14
Mailing bookmarks to Pat Rouse list—domestic 135.33
Mailing bookmarks to Pat Rouse list—overseas 65.60
Address stamp and 100 6”x9” clasp envelopes 27.80
New color printing cartridge and mailing labels 31.91
The RT mailing was fairly simple. Okay, I say fairly simple because I entrusted the bulk of the work to my mother. She counted out 7000 bookmarks into stacks of 10 and rubber banded them.
Pat Rouse’s winter 2009 list contained 135 contacts. I drafted a letter, addressed it to each individual recipient (I wanted to make a good impression my first time), printed the letters one by one, signed them, made sure—twice—that they went into the correct envelopes, stamped my return address on all the envelopes and then spent an additional hour putting postage stamps on, because I stupidly went to a post office that still did the stamps thing. Took me probably a total of three whole days.
I also signed several hundred bookplates—which are basically labels on which I’ve put a little graphic–mostly for booksellers in Australia.
When Frauke of CrocoDesigns did my bookmarks for the mailing, I loved the color scheme so much I asked her if she could make me a similar new background for my website. She said it wouldn’t match my current links and headers, etc. So I said let’s do a whole new template altogether. Frauke prefers WordPress websites, I was hesitant about it, so we settled on a php site. We also redid my MySpace page while we were at it.
MySpace template $75
New web template 175
New website implementation 300
I was going to do the implementation myself, but I was smart, for once, and handed it also to Frauke. I still do the maintenance and updating myself. And I’m responsible for all the content.
Hearing about Frauke is one of the luckiest coincidences of my life. She does exceptional work at exceptional price. The organization of information I borrowed almost entirely from Eloisa James’s website, which is the gold standard for both design and function. But mine costs only $500!
3) Blog overhaul
I’ve proved a pretty dismal blogger. I’m not that opinionated as a person—well, actually I am, and you pretty much have to break my head to change my mind, but I’m not really interested in telling other people what I think of stuff. And I’m lazy. Which makes me useless on the blogging front.
So I’ve cast about and lured a lovely, innocent lamb—Hello, Meredith Duran—deep into my lair of iniquity. Meredith is fun, erudite, and full of pep. I am hoping she will start some tremendous flame wars and bring me the notoriety I have never achieved on my own. So far she’s been very interesting, but very uncontroversial. But I have hope.
The monetary cost of moving my blog to WordPress is zero, unless you count the pleasure of taking my WordPress expert friend to lunch for helping me. But I’ve spent perhaps ten hours on my own searching for some good templates and then setting up both Meredith’s and my information on the sidebars.
With some luck, Meredith’s and my readers should cross-pollinate, though I fear to take this sentence to its logical conclusion. ?
RT has raised its rates. I’d bought the inside front cover for both PRIVATE ARRANGEMENTS and DELICIOIUS. But when I looked at the new rates this year, I shook. I just couldn’t bring myself to plunk down $3,200.
I am not entirely without ad presence in RT, however. Bantam Books, my publisher, used to have a no-RT advertising policy. But after the Random House restructuring, that policy no longer holds. And I will appear—or perhaps I have already appeared—in a group ad in RT.
I have a half-page ad in the June 2009 issue of the RWR. I didn’t pay for it. I also didn’t pay for my ad in the August 2008 issue of the RWR. Instead, I wrote articles. Last time, on how romance get into public libraries. This time, an interview with Kris Alice Hohls, the publisher of German-language romance magazine LoveLetter. This is one of the few publicity activities I enjoy doing, because I learn something each time.
I will also have an ad presence on All About Romance. I’d always advertised on AAR, but I’d always been slightly reluctant. Because AAR did not air individual ads on review pages. And those, you have to think, would be the most popular pages. But now, under new management, that policy also no longer holds. And I gladly plunked down for a three-month ad campaign.
AAR 3-month ad campaign $243
Note: I paid for this campaign in 2008. Now the prices AAR have gone up. But they are still affordable. I already bought a 3-month campaign for 2010.
5) Impulse buys
I’m generally not an impulse buyer. But publishing is an industry that makes its participants nervous. I had a conference call one day with my agent and the publicist she’d hired for the Nelson Literary Agency’s clients. After the call I was just jittery, wondering if I was doing enough for my book in this tough environment.
So I went over the list of recommendations that the publicist I’d used for “PRIVATE ARRANGEMENTS” had drawn up for me. What hadn’t I done yet from that list? Well, I hadn’t done AuthorBuzz. So let me do AuthorBuzz
And then, this past weekend, FreshFiction sent me an email, inviting me to participate in their Beach & Vacation special promotion. And who did they use as an example participant? None other than Eloisa James herself. Well, if it’s good enough for Eloisa James…
AuthorBuzz partial campaign $500
FreshFiction Beach & Vacation promo 89
6) The mailing list
I have a mailing list that came largely from a 6-month promotional package I did with FreshFiction back in 2007-8, on the advice of my publicist. But for a long time I hated having to put out a newsletter. It was timing consuming to make one, for one thing; I could never manage it in under six hours. Moreover it was the purest form of self-promotion I could think of—and I hated self-promo with a passion.
Until, one day, the light bulb went on upstairs. I could use it to promote others, duh. Since then, I have sent out newsletters featuring interviews with Tracy Wolff and Shana Abe. In July I’ll feature Meredith Duran. And toward the end of the year, Courtney Milan.
But in May it would be just me. I have an idea for it. It would be a mini-mini-National Geographic on the North-West Frontier Province, where 2/3 of NOT QUITE A HUSBAND take place. Should be interesting. But because it’s just me, I’m dragging my foot on it.
Cost of mailing list hosting with Janus Portal $10/month
7) The internets
Kresley Cole, notably, gave away an e-reader to promote her latest release. Her book went to #1 on the NYT. Related? Hard to say. If only we could observe the release simultaneously in two parallel universes in which one had the e-reader giveaway and the other didn’t!
The point of the big giveaway, and others like it, is usually to entice people to post widgets promoting your book on their websites/blogs/MySpaces etc. The hope is that the promotion will go viral. The chance of going viral, as far as I can see for my own book, is miniscule. I ain’t there yet.
But I do know something that works fairly well at building word-of-mouth. And that is giving away books, provided the books are good. I think my books are good. So I decided that instead of offering a big prize, I would give away all my 40 author copies—okay 39, I’m keeping one for myself.
I contacted blogs which had me guest blog before and asked if they would like to give away copies of my new book. And boy, did my ignorance really start to show here. For one, I started too late, only in April. For another, I had no idea that most blogs don’t just do giveaways out of the blue. They usually only do giveaways as part of guest blogging posts.
But folks have been very nice, nicer than I deserved, I’m sure. They have given me guest blogging slots. And they have said they’d give away my books.
To see a full list of my blog tour schedule, check my website. (http://sherrythomas.com)
And that, finally, brings me to the end of this epic post. (When I started, I had no idea it was going to become epic.) Let me know what you think of my PR campaign. Does it scare the living daylight out of you? Or do you think it’s puny? What do you think will work? Won’t work? What should I have done more of, less of, or differently? What great PR opportunities have you come across?
And yes, I’m giving away a copy of NQAH to a commenter. Fire away. That is, right after you watch another one of the few publicity things I enjoy doing, my book trailer. There has never been a romance trailer like it yet. Trust. :)