Friday, September 5, 2008

NOT Your Grandmother’s Book Promotion

Murder by 4 welcomes Carrie Runnals, Producer/Blogger/Podcaster and host of Words to Mouth.

Carrie produces and hosts an author interview talk show, called Words To Mouth, "Where Readers Meet Authors Beyond the Printed Page...and Win FREE Books." She interviews new and seasoned authors about their lives and the books they write. She offers a Quick & Wordy series of short fast-paced conversations and longer more in-depth author interviews. Her website complements the audio interviews with additional written interviews, book reviews, and contests. Authors provide copies of their books that listeners/readers can win simply by commenting on the website or calling in and leaving a voice mail message at 206-309-7318. a

Carrie merged her freelance writing experience ( and her recording experience from another talk show she co-hosts, called TheDivaCast ( ~ "Five fabulous forty-something friends who get together and dish about life and encourage other women to forge friendships." Carrie is passionate about digital media's promotional possibilities, especially for authors. Carrie lives south of Atlanta with her husband and two adolescent daughters and hopes to one day publish and promote a book of her own...but, that would entail actually finishing one.

NOT Your Grandmother's Book Promotion

copyright 2008, Carrie Runnals. All rights reserved.

Nowadays, authors simply can’t afford the “If I write it, readers will come” mentality. Some novice writers still have the misconception they can plop their finished manuscript on a publisher’s desk and sit back and wait to hit the New York Times bestseller list. “No doubt about it. Getting people to buy the books is the greatest challenge,” says Ellen Meister, author of The Smart One. “As hard as it is to write a book, it turns out, that's the easy part.”

As an author interview talk show host, I speak with countless writers and their promoters and it’s evident to me, today, more than ever, novel approaches are necessary to reach and relate to readers.

The trick is getting new book releases in front of as many eyes as possible and these days, those eyes are often staring into a computer screen. Not that hitting the conventional book circuit isn’t worthwhile—making appearances and getting face-time with fans is vital, but as any seasoned author can tell you, book readings and signings do not necessarily equate to book sales.

Certainly, at this very moment incredible literary works sit collecting dust on bookshelves, simply because the potential of 21st century promotional tools go virtually untapped.

It’s doubtful anyone needs to be convinced that a professional website is paramount in complementing any new book release. Where the missing link tends to occur is making that website interactive through ever-sprouting online alternatives such as:

· Blogging and micro-blogging (i.e., Twitter);
· e-Newsletters;
· Forums;
· Podcasts, social radio networks, and vidcasts;
· Social media networks (i.e., Facebook, MySpace, Ning, and Gather);
· Reader/author -specific networks (i.e., GoodReads and BookTour; and
· Social bookmarks (i.e., Stumbleupon,, and Digg)

Well-recognized new media expert, Jason Van Orden shared with me the importance of these tools in creating a community of raving fans. Van Orden suggests providing an inviting website where visitors can share opinions by commenting, subscribe to a regularly released e-newsletter, and connect via email. All of this builds relationship between reader and writer and once a critical mass of loyal followers is achieved, a forum can be provided where fans can relate, not only with the author, but one another. The power of building these types of real-time conversations can mean the difference between mediocre book sales and a blockbuster.

“Trust is the foundation of relationships and relationships are the foundation of the community,” says Van Orden.

If you nurture the reader-author relationship through new media tools, you’ll build a sense of community and your book sales should grow exponentially. Give your fans credit and trust them as much as you want them to trust you. They inherently want you to succeed and it’s simply human nature to share through word-of-mouth. So give your followers something to talk about. Let’s face it, readers have voracious appetites and asking them to wait patiently, sometimes two-years between books, can simply be, well, too much to ask. As with a good book, if you provide fans with a thought-provoking blog post or an interesting/funny podcast or vidcast, they’ll good-heartedly pass it along…and so on and so on, until your popularity and book sales increase.

Forward-thinking authors not only provide podcasts and vidcasts on their own websites, but reach out and interact with independent and bookseller book review blogs, interview blogs, and internet talk shows listed in directories such as iTunes and YouTube. These options shouldn’t be pursued exclusive of conventional newspaper, radio, and television spots which are inarguably important in drawing attention. But think about it, the promotional opportunity of TV and radio spots last exactly as long as they’re on-air, unless these spots are also distributed by downloadable media. The beauty of new media is podcasts, vidcasts, and blog posts live on the computer forever. Viewers can tap into them wherever and whenever they want, share them with others, and aren’t held captive to television and radio schedules.

In my interview with The Friday Night Knitting Club and Comfort Food author Kate Jacobs, she shared an increasingly popular approach to building community where authors call in to book clubs and field questions from readers. An added suggestion is to take this tactic one step further and record the conversation via Skype, then post a downloadable MP3 file on your website that has a perpetual shelf-life and can be shared with visitors indefinitely.

Interacting on widely popular social media networks like Facebook, MySpace, and Ning can complement authors’ efforts and more literary-specific sites like GoodReads and BookTour are priceless in reaching out directly to readers eager to embrace new releases.

That being said, quality and consistent content are key.

Blogger Beware
Janelle Brown, author of All We Ever Wanted Was Everything, confided in our recent interview that blogging just wasn’t “her thing” and she felt it took time away from writing her books. She had heard blogging was something authors should do, so she gave it a try, but her heart wasn’t in it and both she and her readers realized it early on. Like Brown, when you dabble in new media, you’ll discover your own limitations. There are only so many hours in the day and the possibilities of the Internet are limitless, so there’s risk in spreading yourself too thin and getting sucked into that proverbial hamster wheel of doing a million things, but none of them well.

Avoid this pitfall by following new media expert, Chris Brogan’s suggestion to build a specific set of tools that meet your audience’s needs and that you can effectively maintain. Pick and choose a few of the options listed above and become fully engaged in those few options. If you blog, blog consistently and provide quality content. If you promise an e- newsletter, make sure it comes out regularly and has something to say, besides “Buy my book.” And if you join social networks or forums or more ambitiously create one of your own, have something worthwhile to share and do it on a regular basis with authentic intention. Be present. Be connected. Your fans will eat it up and will sincerely desire to snatch up whatever you offer, including your next book.

Opposite-Ends-of-the-Spectrum, but right on track
Two notable authors—J.C. Hutchins (sci-fi thriller), and Debbie Macomber (romance/women’s fiction)—know how reliable and quality digital content spreads virally and organically increases fan base. Both novelists expertly utilize new media to capture and retain loyal readers and both are reaping lucrative results.

Debbie Macomber, her latest release, Twenty Wishes, has been on the scene for over twenty years. One look at this grandma and you’d never guess she’s at the cutting edge of technology—she stays current and connected with her readers through a regular e-newsletter, contests and clubs, and she even provides a place where readers can swap recipes. Plus, she posts vidcasts offering viewers a glimpse into her books’ real-life settings and willingly shares a bit about her home life.

J.C. Hutchins came at the publishing industry from the opposite angle and initially recorded his The 7th Son thriller trilogy as an audio-serialized podcast before ever going to print—trekking well-known podcast-to-print author, Scott Sigler’s parallel publishing path. Through an interactive website, where he enables fans to join in and become content creators, J.C.’s followers have skyrocketed to over 40,000. His innovative approach recently snagged the attention of progressive publisher St. Martin’s Press who plans the print release of The 7th Son “thrilogy” in early 2009.

Above all, both authors know the key to building a loyal fan base is sincerity and, of course, good writing. Beyond that, they’ve both captured audiences countable in the tens of thousands by refusing to get stuck in prehistoric promotional practices—embracing change and implementing the newest technologies to enhance readers’ experience.

“The End” is only the Beginning
Gone are the days when an author types “The End” and closes the book on promotion. Creating community through nurturing relationships via a few new media tools can make all the difference in how well your book is received. Develop a place for fans to gather, to read, to listen, and to communicate with you and “The End” is just the beginning.

-Carrie Runnals



Kim Smith said...

Hey Carrie, thanks so much for being a part of Mb4 today. Being a part of a radio/podcast is my most anticipated section of the "getting the word out". I cannot wait to try.

I am going to tune in to you!

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Carrie, it's a delight to have you here today. I've visited Words to Mouth and enjoyed the verbal and audio interviews so much! You've got a great assortment of features and authors on board. Thanks for this wonderful advice, and come back again soon.

Anonymous said...

Carrie, this is all so true. I particularly responded to the author who felt a blog was taking too much writing time. On my "Dr. Romance" blog, I answer letters from readers who have relationship questions. I'm answering anyway, so removing identifying info and posting on the blog is not much extra work.

We're discussing all things romance on the "Dr. Romance" blog.

Anonymous said...

Thank YOU for this opportunity. It's my pleasure and I will definitely promote this site. Stay tuned for Aaron's written interview on Words To Mouth coming "soon."
Dr. Tina Tessina, who commented above was interviewed on Words To Mouth as well...for her fabulous book about marriage.
**Congrats for "Best Blog of the Day" too!