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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Article: Promotional Tools for the Faint of Heart (And Light of Budget)

By Allie Boniface

It's the dirty little secret no one tells you: once you become a published author, you will need to be your own biggest promoter. Unless you are one of the lucky few who signs with a big-name agent and a big-name publishing house, it's likely that your publisher won't spend a lot of time or money promoting your book. That means it's up to YOU to spread the word. But in the huge world of published authors, how can you make yourself and your work stand out? How can you find readers outside your immediate friends and family?

Well, you can spend a lot of money buying ads in major publications, or printing bookmarks and flyers to send to every writers' conference in the country. You can mail press releases to a host of radio stations and newspapers, on the off-chance they'll want to do a story on you, or you can try to convince a local bookstore or library to pay you to speak to a group of interested fans. But what if you aren't the kind of person who likes to speak in front of crowds? What if you cringe at the very thought of making a public appearance? Most of all, what if you don't have thousands (or even hundreds) of dollars to spend marketing your work?

The best advice I ever received from a fellow author has little to do with dollars and more to do with getting your name “out there,” in as many creative ways as you can. Thanks to the Internet, here are 10 that are virtually free of charge and won't require you to show your face anywhere in public:

** Create a signature line for yourself. This is called “branding” and involves coming up with a slick catch phrase that describes you and your work. Visit some different authors' websites and see which have signature lines, or brands, and which really stick out. Two I can think of off the top of my head are “Because a little spice is nice” ( and “Writing with Cattitude” (

**Get that signature line on anything you can: Amazon reviews, yahoo groups, chats, blog comments, etc. Every time you send an email, post a comment, or write an online review, make sure your signature line/brand and your contact information is right below it. People will start associating your name with that brand, and they'll remember it.

**Get yourself a blog, website, MySpace, Facebook, or Bebo page (or all of the above!) We exist in an electronic age, so if you aren't taking advantage of the opportunity to let potential readers find you on the Internet, you're missing out. Blogs are free to set up, if you can't afford a website. So are MySpace and Facebook pages.

**Participate in chats, contests, interviews, and blog chains. There are so many ways in which you can interact with people online that will maintain your privacy. Sign up for chats with your publisher. Find fellow bloggers who will interview you. Do the same for them. Again, the more people see your name, the more they will remember you.

**Join online writers' groups. There are many out there, in different genres, and you can join them (usually) free of charge. Again, no one has to see your face when they're critiquing your work (or vice versa).

**Submit short stories or articles (see what I'm doing right now?). Even if you're a novelist, writing short pieces can boost your reputation. Write a “how to” article for a website. Write a letter to the editor of a local paper. Enter short story contests. Submit vignettes of your experiences to niche sites. Again, the more places your name appears, the more people will become familiar with it.

**Give something away. If you're an author, give away a free copy of your book in a contest. If you aren't yet published, hold a contest anyway and give away a basket of lotions and soaps. Or a gift certificate to Amazon. Or a pair of handmade earrings. Collect “falling in love” stories from your readers, choose the best 3, and post the winners on your blog, along with the prize. People love to win things, and if they associate your name with a contest or potential freebie, they'll remember you.

**Judge a contest, or become a reviewer. This might not get your name in front of a lot of people, but you never know. Many review sites have backlogs of novels that publishers have sent over, and they are desperate for new reviewers! Plus, your review clip might appear on a book cover or publisher's website…thus increasing your cross-promotion and getting your name in front of new and different readers.
Enter a contest. The chance of winning a final read by a well-known agent, an advertising spot, or a similar prize ups your chance of getting your name in front of people who make book-buying decisions.

**Make a trailer or mini-video for your work. Book trailers are HOT right now - visit or to see how many authors are using this marketing strategy. This is the only suggestion that might cost you some money, though, especially if you pay someone else to make one for you. However, you can make a trailer yourself using Windows Movie Maker or Power Point and downloading free photos from and free music from

Bottom line: explore every possibility, and be ready and willing to roll up your sleeves and participate in your own promotional efforts. No advertising opportunity is too small, in my opinion. Good Luck!

About The Author: Allie Boniface is a romance novelist and high school English teacher living with her husband in the northern New York City suburbs. She’s had a soft spot for love stories and happy endings since the time she could read, and she’s been caught scribbling story ideas on scrap paper (when she should have been paying attention to something else) too many times to count. When she’s not writing, shoveling snow, or grading papers, she’s traveling the United States and Europe in search of sunshine, back roads, and the perfect little pub.

Visit Allie’s website at to find out release dates and all the latest news, or hear what’s on her mind today at her blog,