Sunday, March 3, 2013

Guest Post from Author Cindy Keen Reynders

I have a guest post for you today from author Cindy Keen Reynders.  In my last post I had the pleasure of interviewing Cindy about her work in both the Mystery and Paranormal Romance genres. 

Here's what Cindy had to say on the topic of: Book Promotion. 

Recently I read a Writers’ Digest article written by a literary agent. The piece delved into the reasons why many published novels fail to get noticed. The agent claimed only well written novels would ever be catapulted to fame and best-seller status. Really?

Regardless of this individuals experience in the publishing industry, in my humble opinion, this is not always the case. Over the years, I have read books written by popular authors with huge followings and the writing is lukewarm at best, disorganized, and is quite droll until the story possibly begins to pick up and go somewhere. My opinion may not be worth beans, but other fans of these authors have made similar comments about the shoddy quality of the books and the poor writing. On the other hand, I have read books by lesser known authors, whose work is not as widely seen or promoted, and it has knocked my socks off. I find myself amazed and intrigued by these novels, and the stories stay with me for a long time. I go out of my way to find these books, even though they aren't as easily accessible as the big dog authors' books are.

This is entirely at odds with what the agent said in a five-page spread. What's going on here? Well, here's what I think. The success or failure of any product depends on the type of promotion it receives. That's why marketing and advertising is a multi-million dollar business. People are paid mega bucks to come up with campaigns to sell stuff like hair care lines, nail polish, tires, clothing, fast food and much more.

Heck, with the right type of promotion, even plain old rocks can sell like hotcakes. Anyone out there ever hear of The Pet Rock? Yeah, it was a crazy fad back in the 1970s, but the ad campaign was so intriguing, everyone JUST HAD to have one. Pet Rocks were simple gray stones that were marketed like live pets in decorated cardboard boxes along with straw and breathing holes for the "pet." This fad was pretty short lived, about six months. But guess what? The inventor sold 1.5 million Pet Rocks and became a millionaire.

Now, back to the marketing of books. Regardless of their content (good or bad) books written (or probably ghost written) by big celebrities are typically big sellers. Titles written by "The Factor" host Bill O'Reilly, movie stars like Sandra Bullock and Drew Barrymore, sports stars like Magic Johnson and political figures like Bill Clinton, Al Gore, George Bush (senior and junior) are good examples. Is it any surprise these books rocket to the heights of bestseller Dom? I'm not in a position to comment about whether or not these books are awesomely written because I don't purchase this genre.

What I am saying is these individuals have huge media machines behind them, which practically guarantees instant success. Venues these entertainment personalities have at their disposal are things like nationally syndicated TV programs, talk shows or myriad other powerful media outlets. Big bucks buy big promotion.  
It's not surprising these novels sell huge numbers of copies. People have a tendency to buy things that are front and center, right where they can see them. As for that "Fifty Shades” book, since the author's story idea was originally rooted in "Twilight" fan fiction, many readers went straight from the Twilight insanity and trotted right into the Shades craziness. Some folks (even movie stars like Molly Ringwald who was interviewed in an L.A. Times newspaper article) decided to read Shades because of all the hype, but later felt like a sheep led to slaughter. Oh, well. Live and learn, right?   

So, to the writer of the Writer's Digest article, I would simply share this nugget of wisdom. I realize many people would like to give writers the idea that unless your book is perfect to a T, you might as well give up ever selling it. But most authors are able to see through this ridiculous smoke screen. The only thing that type of silly advice ever does is make writers want to give up, which lessens the stiff competition in the writing world. That's great for the big dog authors, but not good for the writer of an awesome book that doesn't have a huge marketing campaign behind it. Many of us have spent long enough in the business world to realize there's a whole lot more that goes into churning out a bestselling novel.

Let me clarify the point I'm attempting to make here. We all need to work as hard as possible to write intriguing characters and good, solid plots. We need to work at writing the best damn books ever, and continue to develop our craft. As always, we need to do as much self-promotion as possible and search for unique opportunities to expose our work to readers. However, just because a book is awesome doesn't mean everyone's going to see it and buy it. And just because a book has a large advertising campaign that catapults it to fame, that doesn't mean it's any good. ("Cloud Atlas" comes to mind, and as far as I've heard, both the book and the subsequent movie sucked and people found both very disappointing.)

We need a good old-fashioned marketing machine behind our books, the kind that brings our books out of darkness and into the light. That's how people will find them among the zillions of titles out there, along with word of mouth, which is always very effective.

In a nutshell, we need some a solid promotion campaign for our books, like that of the pet rock. Does anyone out there have any suggestions? If you do, please leave a comment. I'm all ears.

What types of lost cost, reasonable promotion can an author do? Here are a few ideas. Social media like Facebook and Twitter are great. Websites are awesome and professional. Some can be pretty pricy, others less so, and there are lots of sites that allow you to maintain your own content and updates. I just switched my website to one I handle myself, and I love it. Blogs are great if you have the time to maintain one and if not, guest posting on other people’s blogs is good. Blog tours can give an author exposure to readers as well. I’m currently experimenting with Pinterest to see how it goes. There are many other worthy social media opportunities, but since I work full time, I only have time for so much. You can join with other authors in offering writing workshops and develop a good relationship with your local library so they are more likely to carry your book titles. Set up book signings and interact with the public; whether or not they purchase your book. Always be on the lookout for unique opportunities for promoting your work. For example, be willing to donate a few copies of your books for giveaways. If the folks who read them are impressed, they’ll more than likely tell their friends about you. As far as book promotions go, the sky’s the limit!


  1. Excellent post, Cindy! The mystery of promotion hangs over our heads like a big black cloud. I tend to think that it's celebrity that attracts a big audience more than good writing, and that's one of the reasons I've stopped reading many of the name authors and now seek out newer and/or lesser known writers to read. Anytime I can help promote one of those writers on my blog, I do so.

    The Writer's Cabin looks like a good place for readers and writers to hang out. I'll help spread the word.

    1. Thanks Patricia. It's nice to know you're enjoying the Blog and will pass it on to others. It seems like the greatest challenge for most authors is getting their work in front of perspective readers. I really enjoy getting the chance to meet new authors and find out what they're up to.