Sunday, August 30, 2009

Fugal Promotion Tips

My guest this week is Carolyn Howard-Johnson, award winning novelist and author of the The HowToDoItFrugally Series for authors. Today I'm asking her questions about her book The Frugal Book Promoter.

Welcome Carolyn, first I have to tell you how much I love your subtitle HOW TO DO WHAT YOUR PUBLISHER WON’T and using the word “Frugal” for your series was brilliant. (I also love your unforgettable last name.)

Ahhh, subtitles. That alone is a subject I love. Many have noticed that they are getting longer. That's because readers find books these days by using keywords. So savvy authors will try to work more keywords into their titles and subtitles so that they are found more often on, say, Amazon's search engine. Also, a good subtitle that shows benefits and maybe even tells people (scares them a little bit?) what they will miss if they don't read the book.

Thus, if I were writing The Frugal Book Promoter today, I might lengthen that subtitle a tad--and spice it up a bit. The next in that series is The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success.  When I'm speaking, writers tend to laugh at the "humiliation" part.  But they laugh because they know its true.

Maybe that is a place to start. How does the author know what a publisher will do for them?

Well, first they read the publisher's Web site. If they have an agent, they ask them. That's the agent's job. An agent should negotiate for more. And they ask the publisher questions before they sign the contract.  But after all that, an author shouldn't expect much until their name has an Ann LaMott or John Grisham ring to it.

Is it in the contract?

Sometimes and sometimes not. Things can change quickly at publishing companies and contracts can be misleading. It's best to have an attorney specializing in publishing look the contract over. But better insurance is to learn how to do publicity yourself. Because it's an almost 100% chance that you will have to do it--at least in part. You can be a better partner for a house publicist should you be so lucky to be assigned one.

How does an author avoid duplications and misunderstandings?

After years of consulting with authors, I think this is almost an impossible expectation. New authors tend to have stars in their eyes and therefore miss or misinterpret the details. That's why I tell authors to learn as much as they can by reading and taking classes and getting outside help when possible. And, by the way, choose those sources carefully, too. There’s lots of misinformation going around the Web.

The best antidote for avoiding trouble going into a new venture is trying to see the publisher's side of any situation. Money is tight. The publishing industry changes daily. If you have a traditional publisher, they are the ones taking all the monetary risks and deserve to make a profit. Yes, they do. (-: 

One more question. You tell fiction authors to think like a non-fiction author to find ways to promote. Can you give me an example?

Look at the different themes in your book.  There are angles there you can exploit when you’re talking to editors. My first book, THIS IS THE PLACE is sort of romantic (a romance Web site will like it) but it is also set in Salt Lake City, the site where the winter games were played in 2002 and, though that’s a reach, I found sports desks and feature editors open to it as Olympics © fervor grew and even as it waned because they were desperate for material as the zeal for the games wound down.

And One more question. I’ve seen lists telling new authors what to do. You know, get a website, join loops, blog, twitter, print bookmarks, etc. etc. How does a fiction author with a small online publisher know what is working?

I use Google's Analytics feature and But here's the danger. Marketing campaigns are about a whole lot more than statistics. Success can't even be measured in sales because you are building a writing career, not selling books. And because marketing is an entity, not one small part. And with the Web working so interactively, it's important not to give up on something because you don't think you see any results. Everything is not cut and dried. Perserverance and motivation (meaning choosing the promotion you enjoy) are key. Repetition, too.

That's a great way to look at promotion. Thanks for sharing so much with my readers. 

I hope your readers will subscribe to my newsletter. It's interactive so there are opportunities to get exposure and to help others. And it's full of tips and articles to help write and promote better. Send me an e-mail with SUBSCRIBE in the subject line to  
Or go to and look for a subscription box near the top of the home page.

Another help for your readers is the Resources for Writers pages at Find great lists of contests, media release disseminators, article banks, helpful books to read and on and on.


  1. You do such a nice job with your blog, Amber. And I love appearing with the likes of Dana Lynn Smith and your other guests.

    I hope your readers will sign up for my Sharing with Writers newsletters. There are lots of tips in it--every single issue--and two alltips editions each year. Just let me know and I'll subscribe for you. hojonews @ aol. com.

    Carolyn Howard-Johnson
    Author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally series of book for writers

  2. Amber, can't believe your blog isn't on my blog roll at I'm running to add it right now.

    Tweeting at

  3. Great insights Carolyn! I love your quote: "You are building a writing career, not selling books." Looking at the big picture is so important. As Dale Beaumont at GetPublishedTV says, "Don't think book, think book series."

    Thank you Amber for all of the terrific info you're sharing -- I'm honored to be one of your contributors.

    Dana Lynn Smith

  4. Dana, thanks for coming by. Maybe I'll go tweet my own quote. LOL.

  5. Great blog! I especially love the comment about thinking like a non-fiction writer. I'll remember that. Thanks, Carolyn! And thanks Amber for hosting.

  6. Thanks for this interesting and informative interview, Carolyn and Amber. I'll check out the newsletter and website, Dorothy Massey

  7. Just sent an email subscribing to the newsletter! Great information here! Thanks!

  8. Carolyn, Thanks for the tips. Looking at things from all perspectives is so helpful. Just about anything can be a promotional opportunity. We just need to find the connections.

  9. I get Carolyn's newsletter and it is great. I love the interview. You are always encouraging but truthful about what we writers need to do to build our careers and best of all on a tight budget.

  10. Good information! Thanks for these valuable tips.

  11. Great advice, Carolyn. Thank you for sharing!
    Nice interview, Amber.


  12. I appreciate all the advice. I'm going to sign up for your newsletter and check out your site, too, after I read some more of Amber's posts. :)

  13. Wow, your book sounds great! I'm going to buy it when payday rolls around again. I also saved the links.


  14. It is a very nice and good post. Keep up the good work.