Friday, September 17, 2010

Where Do You Find the Time?

Fitting Promotion into Your Writing Life

I’d like to welcome, Janice Hardy, to Over Coffee. She is the creator of a fascinating world of Geveg and a young adult fantasy series called The Healing Wars: Shifters (book one) and Blue Fire (book two being released October 5th).

Promotion is a hot topic these days among writers. How do you use time available and make it count and not waste time with ineffectual techniques? How in the world do you balance your life, your writing time (you still need time to create something to promote), and still find time to promote your work? Janice discusses what she’s learned about promotion, including mistakes she’s made.

Chances are, early on in your writing career you’ll think about promotion and cringe. You won’t know what to do, where to go, or how you’ll fit it into your already busy schedule. Googling “book promotion” doesn’t yield nearly the help you were hoping it would.

When I sold my first novel, The Shifter, I knew promoting my book was going to be important, but I didn’t realize it was practically a full-time job by itself. Trying to do it all was impossible, but with so many options available, how did I know which ones would work for me?

I made mistakes. Like not realizing it was considered polite (and encouraged) to comment on the blog of anyone nice enough to mention your book. And spending too much time promoting and not enough time writing. And not realizing that you need to coordinate events with your publisher’s marketing person so you don’t book an event that will cannibalize another.

I was more prepared for my second book, Blue Fire, but it was still a challenge to balance the writing with the promoting. The trick was finding things I could do on a daily (or mostly daily) basis, and making them part of my regular routine. That way, I was always promoting my books and keeping my name out there. I was also making the connections I’d need when I had to do a major promotional push, like a book launch.

When I started thinking about promoting myself, I knew I didn’t want to be one of those folks who’s always shouting “hey, I’ve got a book!” from the rooftops. That didn’t make me want to buy books, and constantly focusing on sales sounded exhausting. I sat down and thought about things that I had seen that did make me look up a book or an author. One thing I noticed, was that I often checked out books that I’d heard about online.

I’m one of those odd people who’s not the least bit shy when it comes to meeting folks, but painfully shy about speaking to large groups (though I am getting better at it now). Connecting to readers online was a great outlet for me, because I got to be social without that “standing in front of people” terror. It also turned promotion into something fun I would enjoy doing and keep up with. I decided to spend my limited time on two online avenues. Blogs and forums.

The Absolute Write forum allows me to be part of a fantastic writer community, and I can answer questions (and ask them when I need to) and help other writers on a schedule that works for me. I get to display my name and book covers, links to my blog and website, and even links to stores that sell my books. Full-time promotion, and I don’t have to do anything but participate in a group I was part of anyway. Checking the forums is a fun break in my day when I need to de-stress.

I love talking about writing, so a blog was a natural for me. With the scheduling features, I can spend one morning a week writing my posts (I post every weekday) and I just check the comments every day. Like the forums, I get to talk with other writers and even build my own writing community. I can talk about my books in a way that offers readers more than just a sales pitch, and use my experiences in writing, querying, and publishing as examples to help others improve their own writing. The blog is always there, so it’s constantly promoting me as well.

Of course, the day to day stuff is only half the job. You still have to keep your website updated (which I’m woefully behind at the moment), and prepare for any upcoming book releases. I’ve found that setting aside one day a week for the larger tasks lets me stay on target and still maintain my writing and work schedules. I can research festivals and conferences I might want to attend, stay in touch with bookstores and schools I’ve visited in the past (and hope to visit again), and find opportunities to reach out to the book community (like this one).

One of the things I enjoy most about being an author is connecting with other writers and readers. Building those relationships is a lot more fun than placing an ad in a newspaper—and a lot more effective. When it comes to promotion, combine it with things you enjoy, and it won’t feel like work at all.

  • How do YOU fit promotion into your writing life?

Blue Fire Blurb:

Part fugitive, part hero, fifteen-year-old Nya is barely staying ahead of the Duke of Baseer’s trackers. Wanted for a crime she didn’t mean to commit, she risks capture to protect every Taker she can find, determined to prevent the Duke from using them in his fiendish experiments. But resolve isn’t enough to protect any of them, and Nya soon realizes that the only way to keep them all out of the Duke’s clutches is to flee Geveg. Unfortunately, the Duke’s best tracker has other ideas.

Nya finds herself trapped in the last place she ever wanted to be, forced to trust the last people she ever thought she could. More is at stake than just the people of Geveg, and the closer she gets to uncovering the Duke’s plan, the more she discovers how critical she is to his victory. To save Geveg, she just might have to save Baseer—if she doesn’t destroy it first.  Excerpt

~ **~**~

Janice Hardy is the author of THE SHIFTER, BOOK I of THE HEALING WARS. BOOK TWO: BLUE FIRE is due out October 5, 2010. She is currently hard at work on book three, thinking up terrible things to do to imaginary people. She lives in Georgia with her husband, three cats and one very nervous freshwater eel. She blogs about writing at The Other Side of the Story ( You can also visit her online at


~Sia McKye~ said...

Welcome to Over Coffee, Janice. Plenty of hot drinks on the coffee bar and some killer scones (yes, I do really make them).

I like some of the points you make about promotion. Especially blogging, which is part of promotion. Scheduling them in advance. I try to do that when I get my articles from the authors in a timely fashion. My personal blogs, usually on Mondays, I've set up and ready to go, for the most part. I'm struggling like everyone else with promoting my blog and my name and writing. It's been hard to get a viable schedule down this school year, but it's coming together.

Anyway, pull up a chair and be comfortable.

Tonya Kappes said...

Hi Janice. I'm a huge promo author. I'm probably spending too much time and $ on it. I guess I'll find out when my books hit the shelves next year. I put different places in my books that are familiar with my area. I contact some of those places and get book signings there, plus put it in the local papers, local news stations, etc...I also make sure my protagonist has a quirk that ties into marketing. My cozy mystery heroine is big on the flashlight key chains...of course I have those with my website printed on them...

Janice Hardy said...

Thanks for having me Sia! Pass me one of those scones. I tried to do a personal blog (the one for The Healing Wars) but I could never figure out what to write about. I admire anyone who can blog about their life and still be entertaining. I don't seem to have that skill (grin)

Tonya, promoting your book to the local places in your book sounds genius to me. I love that idea! Makes me wish I wrote in the "real world" so I could borrow that. Same with the key chain idea. I found color shifting pencils that I use, which go over well at school visits. Your ideas are fantastic. You'll have to come visit my blog and talk about those when your book launches.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Thanks for the tips! I'm learning this balancing act and realize promoting does cut into writing time.

Lydia Sharp said...

This is one of the best articles on book promo that I've read. Bookmarking it and tweeting. Thank you so much! And (argh!) I'm getting impatient for the release of BLUE FIRE. Just saying. ;)

Jaleh D said...

Blue Fire is on the top of my October reading list. My fingers are itching to hold my copy and crack it open. A great article about book promotion. And I like the idea of the pencils and keychains.

Janice Hardy said...

Thanks guys! I just proofed my Blue Fire pencils right before I came here. The Shifter ones went from dark blue to light blue. The Blue Fire ones are red to orange.

The one thing you do need to watch out for in promo stuff is that you balance the cost vs the return. If you're spending more per item than you'd make by doing them, you might be better off trying something else. But sometimes it's just fun to have and you never know what will work and what won't.

Kat Sheridan said...

Hi, Janice! The book sounds wonderful, and I love the cover! I'm unpubbed, and so don't have to wrorry about promo yet, but when I do, I'll keep your ideas in mind! Frankly, the whole idea of promotion freaks me out! And Sia, one of those scones wouldn't happen to be lemon-poppyseed, would it?

Angie said...

Tonya's idea is a great one and I've thought about doing that when I finally get to that day. I like the key-chain idea - very unique, and Janice's Shifter pencils sound fun. Great post!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Kat, I always have lemon poppyseed muffins, but I haven't tried to do one as a scone yet.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Morning everyone.

Tonya, finding elements in your books to use for promotion is always a good idea. You'd be surprised at what you can use as a focus with promotion. The keychain is a fine idea.

Elements in your books, like location or a restuarant/hotel/spa/beauty salon used in the book, if it's romance for instance, you can also approach those *real* places and tell them about how you used their place of business. Sometimes they'll carry your books or cards, bookmarks. Don't forget, many have websites now so getting mentioned there is tres cool and you can also mention them on your website with a picture.

One author I know used 2 resorts and worked out a contest for a weekend away to someone who registered on her website. She worked with the management of the resorts to do that. And for free advertizing, you'd be surprised at what deals businesses are willing to offer.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Janice made a great point tho. You have to carefully weigh costs and time. You don't want to spend your advance on one big bang when you can be creative (we're writers, we're already creative, no?) and figure out a book element to create a theme around and play that. Like Janice's pens or Tonya's keychain.

Judi Fennell used mermaid cell phone charm and several other things for her Mer series In Over Her Head, Wild Blue Under and I can't wait to see what she comes up for her Jin series. Olivia Cunning is using her series about a rock band, Sinners On Tour, with her fictitious band having a mock website, tee with the band's logo. Much of their promo is right there on their websites.

Natalie Aguirre said...

Great post. And great ideas for promoting. Janice, your idea of color shifting pencils sound awesome. Can't wait to read Blue Fire.

Janice Hardy said...

Thanks all! Kat, I was freaked out about promotions when I started, too. It's really not as scary as it seems, more overwhelming than anything else. And of course, the adage is, the best promotion is writing a dynamite second book!

Leanne Dyck said...

I'm so behind on my blog that it will be like starting over. I really do need lessons on how to balance.
I'm working on a thriller right now that I hope will be published in the near future. The protag is a knitwear designer. There are patterns mentioned in the book. I really like your idea of combining promotion with elements in the book. So maybe I'll do that with the patterns. I'm also planning on giving knitting lessons on my blog (among other things).
Glad I followed you Janice. : )

Olivia Cunning said...

I'm not sure if my promotional efforts will work or not, but I like to step outside the box and try things that aren't the norm. And if it's free, I like it even better. I just wish I had more hours in the day. I'm not so good at finding a balance yet. I'm either writing OR revising OR promoting. I haven't figured out how to do everything at once.
Great post.

~Sia McKye~ said...

I don't think there is a set way to do anything with promotion. A lot of trial and error. But I think stepping outside the box is a great idea.

Janice Hardy said...

Outside the box is definitely a good idea. I think that's where the most effective tings come from, because they're new and readers haven't seen them a bunch of times.