Click on the image for more information.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Marcia James

I'm always on the lookout for people with great promotional ideas. Well, I hit the motherlode with Marcia James.

I met Marcia on Shelley Munro's blog last year and I was blown away by her promotional savvy. I had to have her come here.

Marcia, sensing a fellow dog-lover when she sees one, graciously agreed.

Marcia is an advertising copywriter and marketing consultant, and she presents author promotion workshops. In her eclectic career, she has shot submarine training videos, organized celebrity-filled nonprofit events and had her wedding covered by People Magazine. After years of dealing with such sexy topics as how to safely install traffic lights, Marcia is enjoying “researching” her novels' steamy love scenes with her husband and hero of many years.

And to any reader of this blog...
She offers her 200+ page file of author promotion options to any author who requests it. Just email her through the “Contact Me” page on her Web site:

When Marcia asked me what she should talk about I immediately asked about my favorite subject; low or no-cost promotional techniques. As you read through this post, you'll discover she doesn't disappoint.

Post your comments and questions below and Marcia will answer each of you.

I give you, Marcia James.

PENNY-PINCHING PROMOTION: How to Make the Most of Your PR Budget

There’s an old saying in advertising/PR circles, “Only half of all advertising works, and nobody knows which half.”

I wish I had a definitive answer to the question, “Where can I get the biggest bang for my PR bucks?” But like so much about promotion, it depends on a number of variables—including an author’s budget, time constraints, and product. What’s an outstanding opportunity for print books might be all wrong for e-books. Category romances with a limited shelf life might require a different PR approach than single title novels. And authors who do 100% of their own promotion face different challenges than those who have support from their publisher’s PR staff.

If you have the time (and in some cases the skills), you can do a lot of promotion that is inexpensive or free. Here are some ways to stretch your PR dollars:

1. Reader and Writer Email Loops – There are many free email loops that allow author promotion, from publisher loops to loops dedicated to specific fiction genres and sub-genres. (You can do a search on for the latter.) Participating on these loops can be time-consuming but very effective. However, most readers gravitate towards authors who post regularly vs. just posting when they have new releases. And don’t forget to reinforce your pen name by adding an automatic signature line to your emails. Some email loops restrict the number of signature lines to three, but you can easily add your Web site URL, possibly several social media site URLs, and the name of your current release or next book. Note: URLs are not case-sensitive. So make sure it’s easy to read your pen name in your URL. For example, instead of, I use

2. Author Co-Promotion – Joining together with other authors for promotion can save both time and money. For example, authors can:

* Split the cost of print ads in magazines such as Romantic Times BOOKreviews

* Design and produce joint print or trinket PR materials (e.g., for authors who are in an
anthology together, share the same publisher, or write in the same sub-genre can co-promote)

* Arrange online chats and in-person booksignings together

* Create a joint Web site or blog (Group blogs are very popular right now.)

* Present online or in-person workshops together

3. Author Cross-Promotion – There are a number of ways for an author to promote another author, which results in both benefiting from exposure to each other’s readers. For example, authors can:

* Share reciprocal links (i.e., putting other authors’ Web site, blog and social media site URLs on your site, and having them return the favor)

* Interview other authors for a Web site or blog (e.g., my monthly James Gang interviews --

* Guest-blog (as Maria has so nicely allowed me to do today!)

* Quote or promote other authors in articles you write, on your blog, and in workshops you present

* Participate in non-profit fundraisers, such as Brenda Novak’s May online auction for juvenile diabetes research

* Create a unique cross-promotion opportunity, such as Paige Cuccaro’s Writer’s Caves ( and Janie Mason’s Happily Ever Afters (

4. Social Media Sites – Online promotion through sites like MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter, can be free but very time-consuming. Even technophobes, like myself, are starting to explore the ways to reach new readers through these sites.

5. Design and Maintain Your Own Web Site – An author’s Web site is her number one promotional tool. If you have the skill to design and maintain it (or the interest in learning to do so), then this can save you quite a bit of money.

6. Create Your Own PR Materials – You can produce lots of print promotional materials on your computer – including book plates, bookmarks, brochures, excerpt booklets and even iron-on designs for t-shirts. And some talented authors create promotional items or trinkets, such as book thong bookmarks. If you have children or a kind husband who can help you with the crafty items, that’s a plus.

7. Podcasts and Vidcasts – If you aren’t too shy to be interviewed for Internet Radio or Video, there are a number of shows that feature authors. One example is author Rachelle Chase’s “Chatting With Chase” show on BlogTalk Radio.

8. Create Your Own Book Video – Technophobes might be intimidated (raising my hand here), but creating your own book video can be fairly simple and inexpensive. You’ll need a program like MovieMaker, then you can buy music from sites like and images from sites like 123 Royalty Free and create a video to post on your Web site, YouTube, etc.

9. Networking – Power-schmoozing is a great way to gain name recognition and make contacts that can be important to you in every area of your career, including promotion. Even introverts can learn to be successful networkers. You need to perceive “scary” networking in a different light and prepare to schmooze:

* Always remember that romance authors (and readers) are 99% incredibly nice and non-threatening. ;-)

* When you approach another author, you’re not asking for something, you’re offering something—friendship, information, conversation, etc. Most will be grateful and/or happy to be approached.

* Mentally and physically pump yourself up with a dose of chocolate, caffeine, or exercise, but avoid alcohol.

* There are two sure-fire opening questions you can ask: Where are you from? (What chapter or state?) and What are you writing? (What genre or sub-genre?)

* Compliments are also a great way to open a dialogue. Compliment the person on her outfit, jewelry, etc.

* Wear or carry your own conversation pieces, e.g., a book pin or an interesting tote bag, that will give others a reason to approach you and start a conversation.

* Network by yourself or with a single friend by your side, but avoid going around in a group of friends.

* Smile and project an approachable demeanor.

* If networking exhausts you and you’re at a conference, go back to your hotel room for mini-breaks, to relax your smile and put your feet up for a few minutes.

10. Niche Marketing -- If you can spot elements in your book that lend themselves to niche promoting, you can win new readers and help grow the romance market. For example, since my books have Chinese Crested hairless dogs in them, I joined an international message board for “crestie” owners to chat with people who not only are great subject matter experts when I need detailed information on cresties, but are also interested in buying books that feature the breed. And once you have determined your niche market(s), you can look for groups within those areas in reference books, such as The Encyclopedia of Associations and Associations Unlimited.

To reach niche markets, you can send press releases (by snail mail or email) to the contact person listed for the group. Sometimes the person will print the press release about your book in the group’s newsletter. You can also contact bloggers who post on the elements in your book. One way to find such bloggers is to set up a Google Alert for the element or topic. For example, you might have a heroine who practices t’ai chi. Set up an Alert for “t’ai chi” (put the topic in quotes so you have less false hits), and Google will send you regular emails whenever the topic is mentioned online. Once you have found groups and bloggers involved in your book’s elements, you can ask them if they’d review your book in their newsletter or on their blog, if you sent them a free copy. It can really kick-off some valuable word-of-mouth.

Here are some "niche promotable" book elements:

* Hero and heroine's vocations – What are your protagonists' professions? If your heroine is special events coordinator, there is a professional association for people in that field. If your hero is a veterinarian, you can look into marketing to the veterinarians’ professional association.

* Hero and heroine's avocations – What are your protagonists' hobbies? You might have a character who collects vintage cars, and there are many groups of vintage car owners. Your hero or heroine might knit or quilt (okay, your Beta hero might do these things!), and there are probably groups in your community of knitters and quilters.

* Hero and heroine's sports/physical activities – Do your protagonists play softball or volleyball, fish, jog, hike, canoe, etc? There are groups devoted to all sorts of sports.

* Hero and heroine's charitable activities – Do your protagonists volunteer for Big Sisters, Special Olympics, homeless shelters, or animal rescue? Is your hero or heroine dealing with a medical challenge, such as cancer, or a physical disability? Charities -- and the people who support them -- love to know when their causes are mentioned in a fiction book.

* Do you have any 4-legged characters (not counting shape-shifters!)? – There are many, many organizations for those who love animals. And there might be marketing opportunities at a pet adoption fair or a Humane Society fundraiser (you could donate a themed basket with a signed copy of your book).

* What is the timeframe and location of your novel? – If you write historical novels, there are groups interested in many historical eras. For example, there are Renaissance Fairs and Civil War reenactments that might offer a chance to promote your work. If you set your books in a certain city, state, or country (and maybe feature events specific to that location), there might be events that offer marketing opportunities, such as a state bicentennial celebration, the Kentucky Derby, a Scottish festival, an art fair, a jazz festival, or a Taste of the Town.

* Do your books have paranormal, science fiction (s/f), or fantasy elements? – Quite a few romance authors in these subgenres promote their books at s/f or fantasy cons. There are also groups who are into vampire lore, shape-shifters, and dragons.

* Does your book contain elements that would appeal to specific fans? – For example, do you have an Elvis impersonator in your book? Is your heroine's younger sister a Jonas Brothers' fan? Does your hero love film noir or NASCAR? There are groups for all of these.

The bottom line is nothing can beat or even match the support of your publisher—such as distribution, store placement, marketing, etc.—but you can supplement their efforts and build your readership. And the first step is continuing to write your “keeper shelf” books. ;-)

Happy promoting!
-- Marcia James

PS: I love talking about promotion. ;-) Just post questions or tips in this blog’s comments, and we can have a lively discussion!

Marcia James writes hot, humorous romances and finaled in eleven RWA chapter contests before selling her first comic romantic suspense, At Her Command, to Cerridwen Press.
In June 2009, her short story, "Rescue Me", will appear in Tails of Love, a Berkley anthology. 100% of the author and agent proceeds from Tails of Love will go to the Animal Adoption Foundation, a no-kill animal shelter in Hamilton County, OH. This benefit anthology is the pet project (pun intended) of New York Times bestselling author Lori Foster, who contributes a story along with those of award-winning and bestselling authors Kate Angell, Stella Cameron, Dianne Castell, Anne Christopher, Marcia James, Donna MacMeans, Sarah McCarty, Patricia Sargeant, and Sue-Ellen Welfonder. Tails of Love is available for pre-order at:


Maria says: You know where I stand on animal rescue. I implore you to buy this book, not just for the fabulous stories, but for the profound difference you will make to animals that really need your help. If you know an animal lover, they will LOVE this gift.


Marcia James said...

Good morning, Maria! Thanks for inviting me to your blog! I love talking about author promotion, and I'll be stopping by all day to answer any questions or comments your readers might post.

-- Marcia James ;-)

Maria Zannini said...

Thanks for coming over, Marcia. A lot of comments tend to filter in the afternoon, but hopefully we'll have a few early risers too.

What say you, early risers? This is your chance to ask your marketing questions to an expert in the field.

Margaret said...

Marcia: As always - great promo ideas. I'm looking forward to Lori's event in Cincy!


Debbie Kaufman said...

Good morning Marcia:
First, all my dogs are pound/rescue dogs. They make the best pets. Mixed mutt is my favorite breed!

Now, that said, what do you think of book videos? My son-in-law recently produced one for Dianna Love and Sherrilyn Kenyon's Whispered Lies (release May 12th). It's gotten a lot of positive, "I've gotta buy that book," feedback, but I think that the real trick is to figure out how to make one that will go "viral."
I know this is a loaded question since I just told you about producing one, but I am interested in your opinion. I write too, and am looking to the published future for my own promotion.
I also solicit promotion materials for GRW's Moonlight and Magnolias and am constantly asked what is the best thing for author's to put their money into for those things. Thoughts?

Marcia James said...

Hi, Margaret! Lori Foster's June event in Cincinnati is a fun and inexpensive way to network with authors and readers. It's a highlight of my year. I look forward to seeing you there!
-- Marcia ;-)

Kate said...

Great Ideas for promotion - thanks! But I happen to be with a smaller, newer publisher. Are there things that a larger publisher would do that I should be doing myself?

Thanks again,


Kimberly Killion said...

Some much to little time! Wow! What a gold mine of information.
Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge.

Lori Foster said...

LOTS of great info, Marcia! Thanks so much for sharing. I'm sure your blog is going to be very helpful to a lot of authors!


Marcia James said...

Hi, Debbie! I wish I had a definitive answer for you about how to make a book video go viral, but there's no one guaranteed trick to make that happen. The Susan Boyle -- Britain's Got Talent video went viral in part because she struck a universal cord in all of us. But for book videos, I believe you would have better luck focusing on a niche market.

What I mean by this is first identify elements within the book being promoted that would be of interest to a certain group of people and then promote the video within that community. For example, there are many paranormal readers’ groups, and a book video promoting a paranormal novel would interest those potential readers more than it would interest readers of mysteries or historical fiction. So once you have a book video produced and posted on YouTube, etc., you would post the link where your niche market would see it. I’m sure there are ways to add descriptive tags to your video that would also attract interested viewers/readers, but I’m not technologically literate enough to explain that. ;-) That’s why I have a Webmistress (Karen McCullough) and other technologically savvy friends to help me.

As for the best PR print or trinket materials, polls of readers have shown that excerpt and first chapter booklets are most likely to persuade them to order your book – because these booklets give readers a way to sample the story and the author’s writing. These booklets, which can be pricey to produce, can be created on one’s own computer or ordered through a company like Kinkos. That doesn’t mean bookmarks, postcards, logoed items like keychains, etc aren’t also good PR materials. It’s just that with the latter items, you are going for two things – name recognition and to persuade potential readers to visit your Web site. Your Web site (considered your most important PR tool) should offer a book blurb and book excerpt, so potential readers can get that taste of the story and your writing.

To save money, I developed a tri-fold brochure instead of an excerpt booklet. The front cover has my dog logo, tag line, and Web site URL. The back has my author bio. The inside flap is the book blurb. And the inside three panels is a book excerpt. The brochure has been popular and can be customized for each new book.

Thanks for stopping buy!
-- Marcia ;-)

Lisa Cooke said...

Hi Marcia,
Great info here (as usual) Thanks for the tips

Marcia James said...

Hi, Kate! There's no substitute for publisher support, especially for print books. Distribution, brick-and-mortar store placement, etc -- these are things an author can't do for herself. But you can definitely do a lot to build your pen name recognition and to build a reader base.

Editors and agents will tell you that the best thing you can do is to write the best books you can. That’s true, and that’s a reason to monitor how much time you spend on promotion vs. writing your next book. In addition, all authors should have a professional and easy-to-navigate Web site. From there, you have to understand the PR options available and determine which are best for you – based on things like your budget and time constraints, your book specifics (Is it an e-book or print book? A category romance or a single title?), your skills and experience (Can you do graphic layout? Public-speaking? Web site maintenance?), and your personality. If you don’t narrow down the PR options best for you, you’ll be less focused in your PR push and will probably have a level of unnecessary guilt that you’re not doing enough promotion.

One way to find out about the PR options available is to get my free PR file. Go to my Web site ( and click on my “Contact Me” page. Then click on my email address there and send me an email requesting the file. I’ll attach the file to my return email.

As for narrowing down your PR options, you can visit my Web site’s “Articles” page for a series of PR articles that offer suggestions from authors I’ve interviewed about effective promotion. And I’ll be presenting another online author PR workshop in Sept., in case you’d like to check that out. The details are on the “Schedule” page of my Web site.

Thanks for your question!
-- Marcia ;-)

Marcia James said...

Hi, Kimberly! Thanks for the kind words!
-- Marcia ;-)

Marcia James said...

Hi, Lori and Lisa! {{waving from Columbus}} I look forward to seeing you both at Lori's June event!
-- Marcia ;-)

Debbie Kaufman said...

Love the tri-fold brochure idea. Takes a lot of the expense out of it. I'm going to pass this one on to my fellow Georgia Romance Writer's!

Marcia James said...

Debbie -- I have gotten brochures from Vistaprint (25 free ones each time I place an order), but there are plenty of printers who are less expensive, if you place a bulk order for brochures. Also, you can get brochure stock and print your own, but I think (given the cost of the stock, ink and your time), it's probably worthwhile to pay a printer to do the brochures.

Happy promoting!
-- Marcia ;-)

Rick said...

Great ideas thank you. I'll add hand your business card out when you first meet someone not just before you say goodbye


Marcia James said...

Thanks, Rick! I know some authors who use their bookmarks as business cards. I like having a business card that isn't linked to a specific book.

By the way, I think one of the hardest things to do for some authors is to stop using their "real name" and start using only their pen names in any publishing industry event. One's pen name is who one is in this publishing world, so it's important to be clear and consistent. Once an author has a pen name, that's the only name that should be on business cards, name tags, etc.

-- Marcia ;-)

Patricia Sargeant said...

Hi, Marcia!

Thank you so much for taking the time and effort to share so much great PR insight.



Marcia James said...

Thanks, Patricia, for stopping by! Patricia is one of my fellow authors in the June anthology, Tails of Love, and has a Kensington release of her own in June. So she's promoting up a storm right now. And I'm always learning PR things from her.
-- Marcia ;-)

Jessa Slade said...

Thanks, Marcia, for sharing your ideas and experiences. Do you have any tips for tracking efficacy of particular marketing efforts, or do you just go with the theory that anything that gets your name out there is an improvement?

Marcia James said...

Hi, Jessa! I'm technologically challenged, so I can't speak to things like software that track the number of hits on your Web site, which site pages your visitors read, and how long they spend on your site. I’ve heard that some authors can track their Web site hits back to the visitor, which helps them get an idea of which PR efforts were effective.

One low-tech thing that I do is my Web site contest, which helps build my author newsletter “subscriptions”. The contest entry form includes the question, “How did you hear about my Web site?” The answers give me an idea of which of my PR efforts drew people to my site. Some authors run special contests on “hidden” pages on their Web sites for different groups of people – for example, RT Convention attendees – to see how many visits they get from this or that group. Another author uses an Excel spread sheet to track her book sales after each of her big PR pushes; this is possible because her e-publisher sends out monthly royalty checks.

The bottom line for me, however, is name branding. My PR materials all feature my dog logo (which has proven memorable), my tag line, and my Web site URL. The tone of my Web site, my author newsletter, my PR trinkets (thumbcuff keychains), etc. all reinforce my “reader promise” that my books will be hot and humorous. It’s important to promote one’s books, too, but they have a limited shelf-life. So I put a lot of effort into promoting author Marcia James and drawing potential readers to my Web site.
-- Marcia ;-)

Marcia James said...

This is a follow-up to Jessa’s question about tracking PR efforts: Author Debbie Kaufman emailed me privately to give my poor technologically challenged self some information about the tracking software she uses for her Petit Fours & Hot Tamales blog ( and which her daughter and son-in-law use for their One/Six Studios (

Debbie’s email:

Here is a great site that both Petit Fours and One/Six Studios uses: Sitemeter ( With just a couple of clicks, we can see our traffic patterns, visitor locations (by state, city, country), how long they stayed on site, weekly patterns, etc. When my daughter and son-in-law installed this on their One/Six Studios site, it actually pulled up information from BEFORE their install. They could clearly see major spikes in traffic after some of their advertising.

BTW, One/Six are the folks that did Dianna Love and Sherrilyn Kenyon’s killer book video and we are tracking hits there. After the 3rd day out, it jumped to more than 800 hits in one day! (To see the video, go to or, and scroll down a little to the video.) Having the site meter has helped One/Six see how much traffic ultimately comes back to their site after video viewings.

Bottom line: easy to install and lots of good information from using Sitemeter.

Note from Marcia: Anyone who needs a great, but reasonably priced book video ($600 through August 30, 2009) or author interview ($800), contact Debbie (

-- Marcia ;-)

Kat Sheridan said...

Great article, Marcia, and lots of great info! I'm so glad this got posted on the COFW loop. I'm passing the link on to other writer's groups I know. See? LOTS of FREE PR!

Marcia James said...

Hi, Kat! Thanks for passing along the link! ;-) Word-of-mouth is a great PR tool.

-- Marcia ;-)