January 11, 2012

Guest Post: Lois Winston

Filed under: The Writing Life — jenny @ 8:21 am

Contest Update: Congratulations to reader Lynn Demsky who won an e copy of DEATH BY KILLER MOP DOLL! Thanks to all of you for entering, and here’s to many more giveaways to come!

Death By Killer Mop Doll

Today’s guest post (please welcome back to the blog the incomparable Lois Winston) reminds me of a Billy Joel song I frequently find myself humming:

But if I go cold
I won’t get sold
I’ll get put in the back
In the discount rack
Like another can of beans.

Have a listen, and then read on below to see what Lois says about the gig she and all authors must play when their books come out. Is this role at odds with being a writer? Does it work for some authors and not others? Or is the act of writing a book, to paraphrase Stephen King, an unclosed circle and all the readings and signings and tweeting and blogging a way of reaching the only people who can close it–readers like the good folks who stop by here? Please weigh in on Lois’ lively discussion topic!

Lois Winston

National Book Blitz Month
by Lois Winston

Did you know that January is National Book Blitz Month? I didn’t. But apparently the month-long observance was created by a public relations executive “to encourage authors to promote their own books” and “focus attention on improving the relationships between authors and the media in order to create a best-selling book.”

Huh? As I sit here scratching my head, I have to wonder how much that public relations executive knows about the world of publishing. Or maybe the observance was first established many years ago, back in the golden years of publishing when all an author had to do was write great books and her publisher took care of everything else. A Google search turned up very little information on the subject of National Book Blitz Month, and there doesn’t seem to be a National Book Blitz Month website.

In today’s publishing reality, authors are expected to pound the pavement both literally and cyberly, promoting their books. Unless you’re a bestselling author (and sometimes not even then), your publisher will devote very little effort and dollars to tell the world about you and your book. It’s mostly up to you.

So we authors, the majority of us who are shy by nature and prefer to hole up in our writer caves, are forced to take a deep breath, pull up our big girl pants, and become a sales force of one. We book talks and signings and jump on the social network bandwagon. Whether we want to or not. We have no idea if any of it will help sell our books, but if we don’t get the word out about those books, there’s a good chance we won’t sell many of them. And if we don’t sell many books, chances are, we won’t be offered another contract to write more books.

All I want to do is write!I don’t know an author who hasn’t uttered that lament from time to time. But the truth is, we have to do a lot more than just write. And that’s why I’m visiting Suspense Your Disbelief today (thanks for inviting me, Jenny!) In celebration of National Book Blitz Month and the release of Death By Killer Mop Doll, the second book in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries, I’m on a month-long blog tour.

So whether you’re a reader or a writer, tell me how you feel about author promotion. Post a comment, and you could win one of 5 signed copies of Death By Killer Mop DollI’m giving away as part of my blog tour this month. The full tour schedule can be found at my website, http://www.loiswinston.com, and the Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog, http://www.anastasiapollack.blogspot.com. In addition, I’m giving away 3 copies of Death By Killer Mop Doll on Goodreads, http://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/15173-death-by-killer-mop-doll.

Also, for anyone attending The American Library Association’s Mid-Winter conference January 20-24 in Dallas, Midnight Ink will be raffling off the hand-crafted mop doll shown in the photo during the opening reception Friday evening. Register for the drawing at the Midnight Ink booth #1459.

Lois Winston is the author of the critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries published by Midnight Ink. Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun, the first book in the series, received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist. The new year brings with it the release of Death By Killer Mop Doll, the second book in the series. Read an excerpt here. Visit Lois at her website and Anastasia at the Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog. You can also follow Lois and Anastasia on Twitter @anasleuth.


  1. I enjoy connecting with fellow authors and readers on the web, yet I’m much more comfortable mentioning other authors’ books than my own. It’s hard to disregard everything I ever learned as a child about not bragging and commence to brag about my own books and what I know about writing. Despite that, because of the current climate, with every author in the trenches fighting to make any kind of sales, I’m out there doing my best to get noticed as an author entity. I’m also on a Blog Book Tour and will be back here on this blog on January 31, telling everyone about my new paranormal romantic thriller, Forever Young: Blessing or Curse.

    Morgan Mandel

    Comment by Morgan Mandel — January 11, 2012 @ 8:43 am

  2. I think it’s great for authors to promote their own books! In the past couple of years I have found so very many wonderful new authors because of their trailers, free e-books, bookmarks, postcards and bookstore stops! Thanks!

    Comment by LYNN DEMSKY — January 11, 2012 @ 8:48 am

  3. There are so many great writers out there and unless they learn the art of self promotion they won’t be heard. Thats why blogging is great, you don’t actually have to see your target audience. So the fear isn’t as bad as standing behind a table hoping someone doesn’t actually stop by to question your work. I guess for those authors that seem to do it so well, it’s about living the American dream and learning how to keep it alive.

    Comment by Jeffrey Barbieri — January 11, 2012 @ 8:59 am

  4. I’ll offer a slightly different view … Making a successful transition from creative writer to creative marketer forces you out of your comfort zone, and that’s not a bad thing. There’s a different challenge in writing blurbs, press releases, tweets, blog posts and even trailer scripts. I’d argue that when you work at this and learn to do it well, you become a better, more interesting writer overall. Turning your novel inside out so that you can explain plot and characters on a ride up to the tenth floor tightens your thinking, which makes for better “real” writing next time you sit down at the keyboard. (Plus I didn’t have anyone who would do it for me :)

    Comment by Steve Piacente — January 11, 2012 @ 9:09 am

  5. My most favorite time for connecting to readers – kids & parents – is at events. I can’t stand online promotion. It’s become too overwhelmed by every author and their brother, mother, sister, agent, publicist promoting them, people turn a deaf ear on Twitter, toss the emails in the spam folder or turn off the FB feed.

    I tried a blitz in December for my latest historical fiction – with limited success. I don’t see how January, when people are weary from holiday shopping and every sales pitch possible, can be of any help. I rather see it as an annoyance and people crying STOP, enough already.

    Comment by Shawn — January 11, 2012 @ 9:10 am

  6. Publihers expect you to have an active web presence, but twitter, facebook and blogging, really eat into your precious writing time. Throw a 9-5 job into the mix, and the occasional battle with the dust bunnies – it’s a wonder we have time to write at all!

    Comment by Caroline — January 11, 2012 @ 9:12 am

  7. I’m really in promotion and not very good at it. However, I have been promoting like crazy ever since my book has appreared in Kindle three months ago by Fantasy Island Book Publishing. The paperback version will come out soon. It has sold double digits so far. So I haven’t found an effective way of doing it. But I’m motivated. My book: Last Kiss In Tiananmen Square.

    Comment by Lisa wharton — January 11, 2012 @ 9:33 am

  8. I can tell you that I heard about your books through the NYC Writers list and just finished Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun and loved it! So it helps. But it is hard. I’m an erotica book editor and I do my best to run online campaigns and do events, but sometimes I just want to turn it all off and write. I think trying to balance it out with the creative side and not doing things you’re truly not comfortable with is part of the key.

    Comment by Rachel Kramer Bussel — January 11, 2012 @ 9:38 am

  9. Once you write a book and have it published, it is no longer your “book”… it’s your product. As with any product, marketing and sales are the key to success. To believe that you can write a good story and that’s enough, is foolish. It doesn’t matter how wonderful it is the “product” needs to find it’s way into the hands of the consumer, and that means someone has to do the footwork.
    Personally, I prefer to hold my destiny in my own hands, so I don’t mind pounding the pavement. Granted it can become tiresome at times, but I still trust no one more than me to work hard on something I care deeply for, and believe in.

    Comment by Brian D. Anderson — January 11, 2012 @ 9:40 am

  10. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. It’s so difficult for people to part with their money these days, I almost feel as if they are looking for an excuse not to do so…if an author is too self-promoting, they look askew at their self-interest, if they hear little about a book or product, then it’s not ‘trending’. Good blog post, thanks.

    Comment by Robin K. Blum (@inmybook) — January 11, 2012 @ 10:05 am

  11. On the ‘eve’ of releasing Shelfstealers’ first four books on February 16 at the San Miguel Writers’ Conference (Margaret Atwood is the keynote speaker), the issue of promotion, both ours and our authors’, weighs heavily on my mind. But it weighs on my heart, too, for I have grown to love these four authors and their books.

    As an individual, I am inundated with requests to watch trailers, read blog posts, follow blog tours, blah, blah, blah, and buy books – I can’t possibly buy them all, although I do try to buy the books of authors I have come to know on Facebook and other places, and I always buy the books of my BFF’s. Do I read them? Sometimes, but mostly I read submissions.

    But at various times I do wonder how an author or publisher should go about promoting a book, especially fiction (it’s far easier to identify and find the markets for a non-fiction book) because at some point all the posts to FB and other places feel like spam to me, and I fear that the really good books get lost in the clutter. (Admit it; not all books are really good books.)

    I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be doing blog tours and posting news about our books on FB and other sites, along with a host of other activities, because I believe we must, both as publishers and as authors. In the end, in spite of mega-promotion efforts, if a good book does find its audience, it’s largely a matter of luck. That’s right; it’s largely a matter of luck.

    I tell our authors that ten minutes a day, every day, is enough. If you can manage 30 minutes, fine (as long as you’re writing your next book.) How you spend those minutes is key.

    1. You should have a plan that divides your time among various promotion activities, and never, not ever, spend money on advertising if you cannot measure the results: the organization you advertise with MUST provide analytics, i.e., the number of click-throughs to an actual purchase, or you should not spend the money.

    2. You should try to identify your audiences and reach those audiences… other authors are not necessarily your audience, although cross-promotion does help. Yet we tend to hang out more with other authors. Misery loves company; we share at least the common interests or passions in writing, and the need to get the word out there about our books. We understand each other – but it’s too comfortable.

    3. Write your next book. One-book wonders are rare; you’ll sell more books overall if you are a productive writer. If you find your promotion efforts are robbing all your time for writing, you’re doing something wrong. Perhaps you’re putting all your dreams and efforts into one book; perhaps you’re too impatient to find ‘success.’ I’ll say it again: write your next book because it will be better than the one you’re promoting now, and that is success for a writer.

    Comment by Sheryl Dunn — January 11, 2012 @ 10:16 am

  12. Good topic of discussion. Yeah, I think it’s at odds, not to mention
    cutting into writing time. What I’m going through now feels even worse.
    Write a book about someone you care about who dies from an embarrassing,
    dignity-sucking disease that most people don’t like to talk about or even
    acknowledge and then try to get it out there so it makes a difference. You
    feel like the worst kind of exploitative scumbag. So, yeah, at odds. A

    Then there’s the whole thing about being your own biggest fan and being
    all ME, ME, ME. I hate that. But what’s the alternative? These things
    definitely don’t promote themselves.

    Sheesh! What a conundrum.

    Comment by Bob — January 11, 2012 @ 10:36 am

  13. Speaking as a reader, I’m attracted to promotion that reveals the personality of the author and/or various unique aspects of the book (setting, unusual characters, plot twists, etc.). As a consumer on a budget, I’m always asking myself, “Do I really need that? What will it do for me if I buy it?” So one-note buy-my-book promotion doesn’t work for me. Hearing that a book will make me laugh will at least make my finger hover over the “buy” button on a dreary NW night. Hearing from other readers that they loved the book because _____ (fill in the blank) will make me click that button.

    Comment by Carolyn J. Rose — January 11, 2012 @ 10:52 am

  14. Writing fiction nourishes my soul; self-promo sucks it dry. Is it worth selling 10-20 copies for that?

    Comment by Sara — January 11, 2012 @ 10:56 am

  15. It is true that every month is National Book Blitz Month for all authors, not just indies! The trick is keeping it real, and not becoming a pest. I use twitter, but making what you tweet really count for something is important, so that you are not just a voice lost in a mountain of spam.

    Comment by Connie J Jasperson — January 11, 2012 @ 11:02 am

  16. Some days my head whirls from all the opportunities/challenges arising from what I agree is the need for author promotion. However, I think Internet promo can be overdone since some authors bombard us with links, information, blog announcements, and even unasked for newsletters to the point I now delete many of these the minute I see them. (I admit I don’t want to hurt feelings by asking for removal.) Where will it all shake out?

    In the meantime, I follow paths new and old, (face-to-face book events and Internet commentary) and try to promote most in venues that have proven most fruitful for me. I simply can’t do them all. Makes me think of the working mother who, in times past, tried to do it all by being a good employee, an excellent cook and housekeeper (maybe yard, too) and a nurturing mother. (Thank goodness for today’s quality freezer meals and all those terrific mixes! Are we approaching the equivalent in book promotion yet?)

    Comment by Radine Trees Nehring — January 11, 2012 @ 11:10 am

  17. Great blog post, Lois, and for my money, you’re doing a great job promoting. I read somewhere (wish I could remember where) that most of the famous authors of the 1900s and early 1900s actually had to do book tours, including Dickens (think he died on one, as a matter of fact). I think it’s never been easy, but the worthwhile things never are.

    I wish you HUGE sales!

    Comment by Jess Lourey — January 11, 2012 @ 11:35 am

  18. Great post, Lois, and I loved some of the comments. My book was just released on January 6th and I’m on a blog tour for three months. Although I just started out on this tour, it does make one wonder whether it’s doing any good since you see so few comments on the websites. But I know that I never commented on the things I read until a few months back, so who knows? Blogging and reading others’ blogs and FB and Twitter can be such a time suck that you end up not writing books. And one-book wonders are rare indeed.

    Comment by Patricia Yager Delagrange — January 11, 2012 @ 12:32 pm

  19. I enjoyed your post, Lois. Congrats on your new book!

    Comment by Judy — January 11, 2012 @ 12:46 pm

  20. One of the problems is getting through to a wider circle than just friends and family. Writers can–and should–help each other by clicking the share button on FB or RT on Twitter when a friend who’s an author posts a link to a book or an interview or a book trailer. One time, at least. No obligation after that, especially if the friend posts links three times a day.

    Comment by Dave Thome — January 11, 2012 @ 12:47 pm

  21. I love connecting with readers and writers on social sites, but with a full-time job, there’s not much else I can do. And without the 15-20 hours a week spent promoting, I don’t think my son’s book would have sold the first copy. Who knows what works, what’s worth your time, if there’s a better place, better time, better approach. And in the meantime, the second book is slowly gathering dust until time can be found to get it published. It’s a real catch-22.

    Comment by mountainmama — January 11, 2012 @ 12:55 pm

  22. i think authors should promote their books. That’s what I’m doing.


    Comment by Arthur Levine — January 11, 2012 @ 1:09 pm

  23. Some days I love all the social connectivity. Some days it’s a drag. The problem is that I feel like I can’t opt out of it on those days when it’s a drag…too much guilt…too many tweets, etc.

    That said, I have to add that I LOVE the title of your book and would love even more to win a copy!!

    Comment by Johanna — January 11, 2012 @ 1:14 pm

  24. Thank you all for your very thoughtful comments! I spent this morning at a book signing (how coincidental is that?) and just came home to 23 comments on my guest post. For those of you who mentioned having read ASSAULT WITH A DEADLY GLUE GUN and liking it, double thanks! And I hope you’ll enjoy DEATH BY KILLER MOP DOLL as well. For those of you who haven’t read GLUE GUN, it’s free this month as a Kindle download from my very generous publisher.

    I really appreciate the time everyone took to respond to the post. You’ve all made excellent points. Thanks for stopping by.

    Comment by Lois Winston — January 11, 2012 @ 2:31 pm

  25. Add me to the writers that just wanna write. I’m humming, Jenny’s tune, too, though. I remember when I used to be able to read for pleasure and surf the net for an hour at a time. No more!

    Comment by Kaye George — January 11, 2012 @ 2:59 pm

  26. I’m another “just wanna write” person, although I enjoy visiting on blogs and forums and learning what everyone else has to say. I often wonder, however, if we’re reaching the right people to read our books. Although it seems writers are also terrific readers and buyers.

    Comment by C.K.Crigger — January 11, 2012 @ 3:23 pm

  27. It’s not quite as bad as it was 19 years ago, when I first e-published. Many readers do know authors must self-promote. However, the number of books available makes it more difficult to be ‘seen,’ so we have to do more. Am I good at it? No, and I know it’s because I dislike it. I’ve marketed a great many other things quite successfully. Some of that is growing up in the 50’s, when saying “Look what I did!” incurred instant punishment for bragging. Only other people could mention what you did.

    That’s part of the problem in reaching readers. Far too many are immediately ‘put-off,’ by what is still considered socially unacceptable. Trying to reach your market places you know they are is even more difficult. Quite often, the cost of advertising a book on a website is higher than to advertise other things. Quite often, when you say you’re an author, you’re attacked for ‘promoting,’ before you’ve said anything about your work.

    Comment by Spinner — January 11, 2012 @ 3:28 pm

  28. Lois, I was interested in what you had to say since I have a blog post out today on my publisher’s website (Second Wind Publishing)about publicity, and how, sometimes it happens unexpectantly. I loved your post and the comments submitted.

    All in all, promotion is necessary and works, in my humble opinion.

    Comment by Coco Ihle — January 11, 2012 @ 3:39 pm

  29. Thanks for popping in and commenting, Kaye, C.K., and Coco. I think a grand solution would be if we authors were all paid well enough to be able to afford personal assistants and full-time independent publicists. Wouldn’t that be nice! Hey, a girl can dream, can’t she?

    Comment by Lois Winston — January 11, 2012 @ 4:48 pm

  30. Nice post Lois and Jenny:

    You have to promote. How is each author’s individual process. I also agree that the best promotion is another book up on the real or virtual shelf! The juggling act is tough.

    Best of luck on your new book, Lois!

    Comment by Pamela DuMond — January 11, 2012 @ 4:59 pm

  31. I understand the need to promote.
    That doesn’t mean I like doing it. I usually don’t.
    In the right forums it’s cool. With people who know and respect me. (Hi, Jenny!)
    Everything I need to say is in the book I’ve written, though. And if it isn’t, well, that’s my failing. That’s on me.
    I find that sometimes in promoting a book–this goes for big-time releases as well as indie–there can oftentimes be an awful lot of overstepping as far as what the book is, what it claims to be, and the experience the reader is promised.

    Comment by D — January 11, 2012 @ 4:59 pm

  32. I really don’t like to ‘self-promote’. I’m actually very shy and don’t do much tooting of my own horn. So when the time comes to push a published work — hopefully soon — I will feel like I did when we used to go to the very cold river to swim in April. I’ll wade up to my ankles and shiver a lot.

    Comment by Jeff Salter — January 11, 2012 @ 6:03 pm

  33. In this day and age promoting your book is probably almost a necessity. There’s so much competition out there. At the same time, there are more ‘vehicles’ that can be used for promotion than ever before. As an avid reader, I have found some new authors along the way. I’m not sure I would have been aware of them if it hadn’t been for their various promotions.

    Comment by Jane R — January 11, 2012 @ 6:26 pm

  34. Pamela, you’re so right. The best promo is another book.

    Interesting comment, D.

    Comment by Lois Winston — January 11, 2012 @ 7:03 pm

  35. Wow! You guys are incredible! Suspense Your Disbelief readers are the absolute best, and props, Lois, for a fascinating topic.

    Let me say first that for authors for whom promotion is not natural (D), akin to a cold river (Jeff), or a vampire suck (Sara) and I hope I haven’t missed anybody, please consider this blog your home-away-from-home. I love books–and authors–and will do the promoting for you. Well, a little of it anyway, because as others of you acknowledge, the task can be literally infinite.

    I like the nods to practicality many of you make, how much can realistically be done–how to prioritize, always, the next book. I don’t even have a book of my own to promote, and I’m having to juggle things so that the writing can come first. I understand what a–clash it must be at times.

    Thank you, everyone, for giving a little of that rare time to a) not writing and b) not promoting by coming here today. It’s not promotion, but in the end what feeds our souls in addition to writing is, I think, the community of readers and writers.

    PS: Spinner, did you e-publish 19 years ago?? Wow, were you ahead of your time. I didn’t even know it was a possibility.

    PPS: Coco, I wanted to visit your blog on Second Wind, but don’t have the right url from DL. Going to try to find it!

    I’m sorry not to respond individually to each comment. I hope I chatted with many of you on FB and other groups (thank you for repeating your comments over here :) One of the things I would like to do, again, not promotion but more on that community level, is sit down in person with all of you and talk the day away. There is so much to say–it’d be worth giving up a day of writing for!

    Comment by jenny — January 11, 2012 @ 8:44 pm

  36. I don’t like the time it takes to promote,nor do I have any clue if what I do works. It is a terrible drain on time. You can’t promote and write, unless you do all your writing for the day before you get sucked into the social media, blog etc etc whirlpool. Personally, I enjoy many of the folks I’ve “met”. Professionally, I hate it. Not too strong a word…

    Comment by Alex Lukeman — January 11, 2012 @ 8:56 pm

  37. Jenny, you are the most fantastic champion authors could possibly have. Your generosity and sincerity are so genuine, and I’m honored to be someone who has had the good fortune of being able to sit down with you in person and talk about writing and books.

    Alex, I totally understand. You’re certainly not alone in your feelings about promotion.

    Comment by Lois Winston — January 11, 2012 @ 9:42 pm

  38. Ha! I just hope to GET to the promotion phase!! :)

    But seriously, I do find a lot of the online networking overwhelming. I see writers on Twitter sending links to books and events and such, and I don’t even know where to begin with all that!! I agree – I do want to have the time to “just write,” but I know the promotion will be (hopefully!) a necessary evil.

    I think I’ll always prefer live events; even though I’m shy when walking into a room full of people and need to make small talk, I LOVE public speaking. Is that weird? Probably so. But that’s ok…I imagine all us writers are at least a LITTLE weird, right?

    Thanks for posting this, Jenny and Lois – good to know I’m not alone in worrying about issues like these!

    Comment by Leah Rhyne — January 12, 2012 @ 9:20 am

  39. LOL, Leah! I think we writers are a LOT weird. And I mean that in the nicest way. ;-)

    Comment by Lois Winston — January 12, 2012 @ 12:28 pm

  40. I’m involved in a blog tour this month too, and I don’t know if people realize how much time it takes. I gave thought to each post and how I could make them different, studied the sites for their slants, and then wrote each piece. On the day of the guest blog, you have to show up periodically to answer comments. When I began writing, all we had to do was write the book. Now we’re writing these essays, too. I don’t mind, because it gives me the chance to offer new insights to readers, but it’s incredibly time consuming. It would help if we writers could clone ourselves!

    Comment by Nancy J. Cohen — January 12, 2012 @ 4:39 pm

  41. Enjoyed the post very much, Lois. I think most writers struggle to find that balance between the need to promote and the need to write. At least all the ones I know are juggling that daily. There is no way to avoid the work of marketing and promoting unless we are a top writer with millions of fans already. I would love to be James Patterson for a day. Wonder if I could get him to hawk my next mystery? LOL

    Comment by Maryann Miller — January 12, 2012 @ 5:13 pm

  42. Maryann, you could always ask him. The worst that could happen is that he’d say no. ;-)

    Comment by Lois Winston — January 12, 2012 @ 11:48 pm

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