Is there a method to your promotional madness? by PJ Nunn

PJ Nunn

PJ Nunn

I find when many authors consult me, whether to hire my firm for representation or to just get an idea of what they should be doing, that’s the first question to ask. Most have an idea that certain things to be done, but if I ask a few more questions, I often find they don’t really know what now? What next? At what point have I done everything (is there such a point?)?

It’s a rare thing to find an author who sits down long before the book sees the light of day and makes a plan for a reasonably effective promo campaign. The good news is it’s not too late. A book is new until a reader sees it, so even if the release date is long since passed, you can still take some of these ideas and make them work for you.

Obviously, we can’t got through the whole process here, but here are a few things that seem to get overlooked a lot. Determine who your target audience is (who do you think will like to read your books?) then start planning ways to get information about yourself and your work in front of them. Here are some things to keep in mind:

Keep collecting reviews. Make it a plan to send out 2 – 3 copies of your book each month so there’ll be a steady stream of reviews coming in. Use them to keep your website fresh, in your newsletters, on your promo material. It’s important that when people take time to stop by one of your hot spots, they don’t find the same thing they saw there six months ago.

Update your photos. I’ll never forget the clutching feeling in my chest when I sent a client for a television interview and she almost didn’t get on the program because the producer took a look around and didn’t see her there. He was looking for the dark haired beauty in the photo I sent instead of the white haired woman in the waiting area. Yikes! I completely understand that when you get a nice photo you hate to give it up, but I too, have bitten the bullet and have two appointments in coming weeks. One at the hair salon, a second at the photographer. Ouch.

Get blogging. How many blogs are there out there that you haven’t read yet? Oh. Millions. True not all of them are appropriate to your book, but let’s face it, there’s no shortage of blogs that might either run a review, an interview or a guest post from you to help you let folks know your book is out there. I’ll give you a hint. If you offer a guest post, they’re a lot more receptive. Reviewers tend to have a backlog, just sayin. Plan ahead and space them out. It sounds easy to write a guest blog two months away but it’ll be here before you know it and you don’t want to do too many in too short a time. Slow and steady wins the race.

That ought to keep you busy for a week or so. I’ll talk more on this topic later. Do you have any thoughts or ideas along these lines that you can add? Or maybe a question? Love to hear from you!

54 thoughts on “Is there a method to your promotional madness? by PJ Nunn

  1. I think the one thing that discourages people from blogging is that nobody reads or leaves comments. My solution? Get a Posse. I collected one by offering to lead members to great posts like this one where they will learn something to help in their career. They also are encouraged to respond to each other’s blogs, especially when someone is guest blogging. It impresses the site owners. I always hope they mention Oak Tree Press or the Posse. Plus, I post the blog URL’s on the Weekly Round-Up at the Oak Tree Press blog. That usually gets 130 hits. Promoting what you’re writing is the name of the game.

    Good post, PJ!

  2. pjnunn says:

    So true, Sunny! I’m always surprised to see how many people have read a post and how few left a comment. And it’s all about being seen and knowing that people are learning about your work. Thanks for stopping in. Now the rest of you, please speak up!

    • Thank you for the great PR advice.
      I got discouraged about the lack of comments on my Blog initially, but then I started paying attention to the daily stats. On a day when I got only 4 or 5 comments, I could see that 70 people read the Blog. Also, I started promoting my Blog on Facebook. That helped–people would leave comments on Facebook who wouldn’t put their 3-mail address on my Blog (worries about privacy?) I think Blogging is a great way to communicate ones ideas and books.

  3. The amount of Blogs out there is insane. Most offer little to no substance. To me, the amount of traffic to my blog is not important, it’s getting people to actually put their fingers on the keys and comment.

    INTERACTION is the KEY to selling books, mastering social media, and becoming an expert in promoting. If people like you, your message, and what you stand for, they will buy your book. This is difficult for many authors because they don’t see themselves as being outgoing and engaging (for some this is true). However, if people plan to be successful locked in their homes blogging all day instead of being seen and having their voice heard, they need to change their mind set. That, or be “just another author.”

    Great blog PJ

  4. J W Nelson says:

    Thanks for this advice, PJ!

  5. Great post! I wonder sometimes if blogging, as a promotional device, and as a medium of expression, is still in its adolescence. Just as readers are slowly getting comfortable leaving reviews on Amazon and other sites, they may still be wary of leaving comments on blogs. But as the medium matures, the value of the comments becomes critical to the expression itself.

  6. Amy Reade says:

    Hi, PJ,

    I loved your post. I think the idea of sending out books every month in order the keep the reviews coming is one of the best I’ve heard, and one that I hope to use.

    I have a question…do you recommend that bloggers post on a schedule, or only when they have something earth-shattering to say? I can see the value of both, and I’m wondering what your take is.

    I am a grateful member of Sunny’s Posse, and I can’t count the number of great sites, blogs, etc. that she and other members of the Posse have introduced me to.

    Thanks again,

    Amy Reade

  7. pjnunn says:

    Hmm not sure if it’s in its adolescence but it is certainly underutilized. Like with so many methods of promotion, it’s often treated as if showing up is the point, when in reality it’s just the first step. It’s what you say or do after you get there that makes the difference!

  8. pjnunn says:

    Hi Amy,

    Thanks! To answer your question, I’ll give a modified answer. Find something earth-shattering to say on a schedule lol. If I waited till I had something “earth shattering” to say, I’d rarely ever post. Not because I honestly had nothing good to say, but because I get so busy. If I have a schedule, I have to take time to get quiet and find something to say. Don’t push too hard or make your schedule too tight. Even once every two weeks is ok if you make it count. And note, I’m talking about blogs other than your own.

    I’ll have to check out this posse of Sunny’s. I’ve heard things =)

    • The Posse is 96 strong. It’s free, and I try to post some assignment to them every day. I also monitor who comments as instructed. That’s part of the requirements: to post, to support each other’s blogs, to learn. I usually post URL’s about marketing, promotion and industry news. I tell people I can cut 5 years off their career path if they just do as I instruct. This is also my way of training authors who want to be part of Oak Tree Press.

      Anyone can check out Posse Posts on my website to see the ones on file. It’s not a clickable site (too much spam) so readers have to cut and paste the URL’s into their browser. Good info there. My site is

      Oh, and many of the comments you’re getting–those are from Posse members. I put the word out this morning.

  9. P.J., This short and sweet blog is to the point. If one can relate to one aspect of your comments, it is getting home. Each one of your points has meaning for me. And not always the best. Regarding reviews, I still find it difficult to get without paying for a review, I feel like a “blockhead” on reading your comments on reviews. That must be a weak area for my efforts, for which I will try to improve. Blogging – doing, but I must say not daily, and not 10 per day when I post. And for the photo changes and photo update points, thank you. Wonderful tip. While I haven’t changed my “perm” lately, there have been aging changes.

  10. elainefaber says:

    I try to leave comments on blogs and process all the advice given, As for a way to promte your book I’ve read that a good idea is to Plan an Event pertaining to your story. Find a location, such as in the setting in your book. For me it might be the Pet Club since my book has a cat protagonist. So’s I goes to the Pet Club, see, and I sets up my purr-fect book display. Maybe I brings my cat, because he’s a fine looking fellow, and maybe I have a drawing for a free bag of Friskies for everyone who signs up! LOL. I have an opportunity to sell my book to CAT owners (who might also be Cozy Mystery readers). and give a percentage to a local Cat Rescue organization. Such events would be fun, might generate some sales and would be an opportunity to promote your book and get your name out to the public. Every book setting would suggest a different location to promote their book.

  11. corajramos says:

    PJ. I don’t think authors should be discouraged if people coming to their blog don’t comment. I find that readers don’t often comment as often-or at all, as writers do, but they may very well be paying attention (a good reason to post to your blog/site regularly whether you think you are being heard or not). . . . .from a soon to be published Oak Tree Press author who is trying to focus on my target audience–thanks for the good tips.

  12. Rob Wylie says:

    Excellent advice. I do have a question, though. As far as sending out 2-3 copies a month of your book, what sorts of places do you send them to? Do you have any reccomendations of sites/places/reviewers who have helped you out?

  13. Great tips, PJ! I’m constantly looking for new ways to promote my Malone mystery series. I’ve been a member of Sunny Frazier’s Posse for almost two years and everything she wrote about it is true. As a bonus, I’ve found some wonderful friends in the group and I treasure those friendships.

  14. pjnunn says:

    So Elaine, it sounds fun! Have you tried it? If you do, let’s talk about a guest post so we can all learn from you. It is true that thinking out of the box this way can be great. One client of mine ended up as the guest of honor at Chicago’s National Basset Waddle after a pet day in the park. You just never know!

    • elainefaber says:

      I am a member of Sunny’s posse by her invitation. My book, Black Cat’s Legacy is not yet publisher (or the two sequels). My plan to hold an event at the Pet Club is still in the planning stage. As I work on my presence on the social media, I check out Sunny’s advice and visit blogs and articles, continue to read, study, comment and write. If you need a guest blog by a writer-lady-in-waiting, I’m your girl. LOL

  15. Dac says:

    I Blog once or twice a week, to keep my name out there. Local appearances, too, in varied spots. You just gotta keep showing up, in person and among the electrons.

  16. pjnunn says:

    Rob, there are far too many to list. Do a Google search for book review sites, use the genre in the search. When you find a site that reviews your type of book, look to see if they have a blog roll of similar sites. I do searches for client books all the time and have never run out of options. They’re out there. Contact me off list if you need help.

  17. John Addiego says:

    As a recently deputized member of Sunny’s posse (even though I can’t ride a horse) and a promotional greenhorn, I appreciate getting this sort of advice. I have a question to pose to you and anybody reading this: I’ve been writing both mystery and literary fiction for years and managed to publish two in the latter category. If I should publish mystery, would it make sense to use a pen name?

  18. pjnunn says:

    Cora, You’re right – we shouldn’t be discouraged if they don’t comment, because what counts first is the number of hits that show us how many have seen the post. And some posts are enjoyable or informative, but you don’t know what to say. Still, I have to admit it’s a lot more encouraging when people do post, don’t you think?

  19. Paula Petty says:

    Thank you for your input. I just wanted to add that in guest blogging, I am trying to think outside the box as to what kind of blogs I could post on that would increase readership–not just the publishing industry. My protagonist sells lingerie which opens up a whole new world blog-wise for me.

    I have not thought about reviewers and would like to have some scheduled. I, too, would like to know who to contact for reviews. I was asked once to review a book for a fellow writer, and the book was awful. I have since avoided them.

    Since I have a hectic schedule, I have been contemplating something like Hoot Suite to schedule postings and such to help manage the posting times. I would appreciate your input on that, as well.

    Thanks again for the great information.

  20. So, Sunny requests, I comment. Good advice, PJ and others commenting. I like blogging, Google + and Pinterest, though I use other modes of social media as well. My first mystery, The Purloined Skull will be published by OTP in September.and I’m already making lists and working on ideas to get hopping and soon. As to sending out copies for reviews, is it best to make a PDF copy and get that rolling before OTP sends ARCs?

    • Velda–that’s what I did. I offered reviewers PDF advance review copies. Some wanted that, others didn’t. A few wanted Word documents. Just a heads-up on that, though: over the course of five books (mysteries, YA, mainstream), I never heard a peep out of about 3/4 of the people who got free copies, PDF or paper. Either they didn’t like the book, didn’t ever read it, or chose to do other reviews before that one and eventually decided it had been too long to review the book. I think an Amazon review at ANY time would be great, but not everyone will do this for you. Just to let you know–in case this happens–you’re not alone.

  21. Cora/PJ, you said what I’ve been thinking: most people won’t comment, but they’re probably out there reading your blog. (You will hear from these people when you accidentally trip over one of their hot buttons, probably unintentionally!)

    You can look at your hit counter to check traffic. Often, you’ll have traffic on days that have no comments, simply because not everyone has a need to be heard (they’re not writers–they’re readers, we hope, but they don’t automatically start typing or scribbling when a thought comes to them or when they have something to say, the way we do. Hee!) My husband is like that; he silently takes it in (he’s a computer nerd and engineer) and may have a strong and cogent reaction, but he keeps it to himself unless I pry it out of him.

    The first author I knew who was promo-savvy, YEARS ago, was Deborah on Prowrite, a division of FidoNet. She wrote articles for Reader’s Digest at $1K a pop until several of us (fellow Prowrite subscribers) suggested that she could novelize some of these ideas (kids in danger based on true stories) and make a far larger splash. Her agent agreed, and she published a stack of short MG novels using the true-story kids’ adventure/danger ideas. She got a publicist and was using the postcard/newsletter method. Nowadays we have to do a lot more than that to get noticed. But because most of us won’t rob banks or pull a huge con to get that fifteen minutes of fame (which would make your platform!), it’s difficult to know what to do.

    I’ve been blogging for years, but on a personal level. I also have blogs for public consumption and a couple of Facebook accounts. However, it’s difficult to walk the tightrope and keep from being obnoxious about how often you post about yourself/your books. If you become tiresome and tedious, FB friends will drop you. You have to offer content that is beneficial to them as well as interesting in order to keep them reading. It’s good to post photos and graphics often, as so many people are highly visual and love a pic or two. Recipes run a close second, even though most people today are dieting or diabetic or gluten/soy/milk intolerant and can’t actually make the goodies. (LOL) Reports on conventions or book signings seem to interest some readers and bore others. Excerpts from your writing seem as if they’d do well, but they can crater big-time with readers who don’t like that excerpt. (Been there!) Embedded video generally doesn’t get my click, as I am “surfing” when I read your blog. I prefer a long, thoughtful post, whereas many want only about 300 words before they move on.

    Unless you start out as Hillary Clinton or Micky Dolenz, with a built-in audience, you have a tough road ahead in promoting a book. Some people are born salesmen and hucksters . . . but most writers are not, even if we’re not pegging the meter as introverts. It can cost a lot to hire Hunter Public Relations (frex), too. So I wish everyone out there a lot of luck. *I* know I’m going to need luck!

  22. John Brantingam says:

    Hey PJ, great advice. In your experience, where are the most effective places to send your books for review?

  23. OK, so I’m an idiot. I left a great comment and lost it because I didn’t remember my password. What I WANTED to say was that it helps when publishers ask for a marketing plan along with the submission. Makes the writer think ahead. Also, with Sunny’s Posse, members can read and write reviews for each other on their club newsletters, Goodreads, GB and other places they have influence. Writing a good review is a skill that improves with practice. Great post.

  24. Rick Johnson says:

    Posting photos of me now instead of then makes the cringe muscles start jumping, but I see now it is a necessary evil. I need to spend more time with blogs than I have in the past. It was a great column with great advice.

  25. Marja McGraw says:

    I blog once a week on my own blog, and guest blog whenever possible. Someone mentioned the numerous blogs out there, and they can be overwhelming. I read as many as possible, but I don’t always comment. However, along those lines, I think it’s important to comment because people begin to recognize your name.

    Patti knows what she’s doing, and I appreciate the post.

  26. Eileen Obser says:

    PJ – Nice to meet you here, thanks to Sunny. Great message. My own Oak Tree book will be out late this year and I do have a file called Promotion filled with ideas for getting the word out there and for selling books. I’m redoing my website shortly, with a blog attached. I’ve resisted blogging but do send out a regular newsletter that gets a great online response from colleagues and students. I respond to most blogs but, as Chris Swinney points out, there are so many out there, and it’s so time-consuming. I expect to guest blog — and anything else helpful to the cause — marketing myself as a writer, teacher and editor. Who knows? I may belong a regular blogger, as well.

  27. Sarah Venezio says:

    Good post. The photo story made me cringe, mostly because I’m one of those people who use the same photo for years on social networks. Time to change that.

    I do have a question about blogging. Should your blog have a niche, and if so, how closely should you stick to it? And should it always be in the same area as your book?

  28. sirsteve says:

    Always ready to blog and to read other blogs. However, I read a post that discussed how blogging does NOT sell books. I’ve been ‘gotten after’ by others that said that referring to my blog won’t sell books. I wonder sometimes if we’re preaching to the choir sometimes. I love the Posse (go Posse!), but I also want followers and fans who aren’t necessarily other authors. That’s why I’ve backed away from always giving writing tips on the blog and posted other material. Not to say this blog isn’t worthwhile and authors should read others and other interviews. Thanks.

  29. I like your tip about sending out 2 to 3 books a month for reviews, but worry about the expense. I like to host authors on my blog because I believe we should help one another. It’s a great way to promote their books and I usually get an inviteto their blogs. Good for everyone.

  30. pjnunn says:

    Paula, readers are found almost anywhere and there are all kinds of blogs. I’ve had some of the best reception pitching client books to blogs that have nothing to do with reading. For instance a book that includes boating, might go on blogs about boating. Pets about pets, cooking about cooking. It’s pretty simple.

    Start with blogs that regularly post reviews, but never be afraid to search for other keywords. You may even find you get better reception because those sites/blogs don’t get nearly so many requests for reviews. Do be sure you keep a log of who you contact and when so you can follow up. As with any type of review, follow up is crucial and may take months before you finally get a review. Persistence pays.

  31. pjnunn says:

    Steve, you’ll hear lots of things. Take most of them with a grain of salt. If all you do to promote your book is blog, you probably won’t sell many books. But if all you do is go on the radio or do book signings or write non-fiction articles, the same is true. In other words, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. It’s repeat exposure that builds name recognition and that’s what ultimately sells any product. One ingredient would make a pretty tasteless cake.

    I’ve bought books because of what I’ve seen on a blog, so whoever told you that is wrong. BUT as you say, variety in anything is important and if you narrow your focus too much it’s bound to affect sales. So blog, about your book, about hobbies, about other things, get reviews where you can get them, make appearances, write articles, be a guest, do as much as you can to keep your name active and let people know you have a book out there. Effective promotion is always cumulative. Enjoy yourself!

  32. Good post, P.J. Thanks. And good advice on the photos. I ran a writers conference for many years. Once I got a picture of one of the presenters. On the back, she had written, “I USED to look like that.” I took a sign to the airport so we would be able to connect. I would have missed her. And if anyone wants to do a guest blog on my site, just send me an e-mail at:

  33. PJ:
    First, welcome to the OTP “family.” And it does seem like a family.
    Second, I find that I do quite a bit of what you recommend, although not as frequently as I should.
    Third, the lack of comments does not mean the lack of interest. I am often surprised when I bump into someone I haven’t seen in a long time, whom I know in real life and who is also a Facebook friend, and she (it’s usually a “she” for some reason) says, “I know all about what you’re up to from Facebook.” Or “I loved your blog about XYZ.” Or, best, “I loved your new book.”
    Fourth, I need to stop checking amazon rankings. They are very discouraging.
    Fifth, also discouraging is when I do all the “right” things, but am not generating new reviews.
    Looking forward to exchanging views with you!

  34. Sam Clegg says:

    I like the idea of sending books out to be reviewed. I’m not finished with my first novel, but pretty damn close. I’m wondering if is a good place for reviews. Yes, some just say it’s a good or bad book, but I’ve seen others take the time to comment on a particular book, which has increased sales. I did a short review of the video game Resident Evil 6, which I then got an email from Amazon saying that said review helped to get someone to purchase that game.

  35. Great post, PJ. Thanks for sharing. I love the idea of thinking about reviews not as something that should be gathered solely at the launch of a book. Considering them from a steady-state standpoint is a great nugget.
    From a promotional standpoint, the ideal is of course to find “talkers,” those who don’t just passively consume your work but are actively promoting it by sharing with their friends or family or an online community. I don’t have a magic answer, but I do try to respond to each and every comment I get when an article is published. That personal touch means a lot, I think.
    Thanks again for posting!


  36. Gloria Getman says:

    Thanks for taking the time to post such an encouraging blog. So many great points to think about and plan for.

  37. Walter Luce says:

    Our OTP handbook covers most of these. It’s nice to revisit them though. Walt

  38. Thanks for the good advice–esp. about having a stream of reviewers. I’ve noticed that too about books on Amazon… often there hasn’t been a review for a year, etc.

    I’m afraid I must also heavily agree with the pix advice. (sigh)

  39. I like the idea of sending out books on a regular basis for reviews. I also agree it’s a plus when people comment on a blog. But people are often discouraged from doing so by all the hoops you have to go through–Captcha, for instance. I understand the purpose, but let’s at least make the letters readable.

  40. pjnunn says:

    So true, John. Sometimes I admit I’ve given up after trying several times to post something.

    Thank you all for stopping by! I hope to see you again here and there…

  41. Virginia Loer says:

    Thank you so much for all the advice. I especially want to explore the idea of googeling those book reviewing sites that are out there. I am trying to get my site and blog going and it’s going to be a challenge, being so far behind with technology and all, but gotta put the shoulder to the wheel, so to speak, and press onward!

  42. ocjs says:

    PJ, thank you for offering great advice as well as reading your comments back to your responders, that says a lot about you (I’m a Posse too) . augie

  43. marilynm says:

    Hi, P.J. good advice, of course. What really makes me wonder is when I have a guest on my blog and that person not only doesn’t promote it, but never comes around to leave a comment themselves. By the way, I would love to have you for a guest. Email me anytime.

  44. pjnunn says:

    Thanks all! And Marilyn I wonder the same thing sometimes. I see a huge difference from one guest to another, some that never show up with a single comment as you say. But then I know time gets the best of me, especially on busy phone days and so I gather planning and time management have a lot to do with it. I can sure tell the difference in the number of hits both ways, though.

    And yes, I’d love to visit your blog. I’ll email you!

    • radine says:

      Hi, PJ, Don’t forget libraries — many more libraries than bookstores in the USA. Give them a reason to want your book. But then, knowing you and your terrific promotion abilities, you already know this.
      From a client of PJ’s, Radine Trees Nehring (Now, hope I can figure out how to get this site to take my comment. Usually I can’t get it to.)

  45. […] or Busyness and I want to share it with you along with a couple of her other posts:  Is There a Method to Your Promotional Madness and A Publicist’s Day. PJ Nunn owns BreakThrough Promotions. She shares a lot of great tips […]

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