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January 2008 Musings

Promoting on a Budget



After I wrote my two articles on author promotion, Promote Like a Parrot 1 and 2, (Musings February and April 07), a writer contacted me with her problem. She liked some of the suggestions in my column, but worried that others were beyond her budget. Although a publisher had not yet accepted her novel, she wanted to begin getting her name out there. She was particularly interested in discovering low-cost tips from other successful writers.


Jill McDougall ( ) has published almost 100 books for children, and a delightful book for writers, Become a Children’s Writer: Insider Secrets. Jill stresses the importance of school visits for a children’s writer. These can have an added bonus, when an author is paid for her appearance! A visit to libraries to introduce herself usually results in her books being ordered. Jill also supplies articles to suitable sites, including the link where her book for writers can be found. After her articles appeared on Writer’s World and Absolute Write, Jill noticed a leap in hits at that address.


Another successful writer willing to share low-cost tips is C. Hope Clark, (Editor, FundsforWriters, Writer's Digest 101 Best Web Sites for Writers - 2001 through 2007). Hope stresses the importance of using an email signature. She says that even in a list group, where she is well known, she still uses one. Underneath where she signs ‘Hope’, she has a signature block containing her website(s).”Writers who do not use them are saying they have no pride in their worth and aren't capitalizing on an easy freebie means to self-promote,” Hope advises.


Using web tools to check, Hope has determined that she gets even more hits at her website than to her newsletters. To her, a website “means credibility” and she warns writers not to even consider one of the free sites. “It's too cheap to have a domain name for the author or book title to let that ripe opportunity go by.”


Labelling herself as an expert has worked well for Hope. She recommends that writers consider submitting columns or articles about the writing process to suitable publications. A bio at the bottom of an article brings traffic to a writer’s website.


If a writer decides to put out a newsletter, Hope says, “…nothing sells better than good customer service, respect for the customer and consistency in delivery. If the customers know what you are delivering, and when you'll deliver it, they'll support you forever, because so few people respect the customer anymore.”


Kim McDougall is a rising star on the writing horizon, with several publications to her credit and more due out next year. Here are Kim’s favourite budget promo ideas:


  1. Newsletter: Newsletters and mailing lists are easier than ever to create and maintain. They are valuable tools to reach readers and keep their interest over extended periods, if done properly. Newsletters can take the form of websites, email updates or blogs. I transformed my website into Between the Cracks Digest, an ezine that highlights my own achievements among the padding of fun articles, reviews, interviews, contests and fiction. I recently added a serial novel, in an attempt to lure readers back month to month. This ezine is a lot of work--so much so that most months I consider giving it up at least once, but I think its benefits far outweigh this downside. I could send a simple newsletter each month tooting my own horn, advertising my latest story publication, but how many people would subscribe to that? The digest is the sugar that makes the medicine go down. Read Between the Cracks Digest at


  1. Freebies: Everyone loves freebies. As a writer and self-promoter, it’s important to understand the value of the freebie and its limitations. Is giving away your book really going to help you sell more books? I don’t think so. Done properly, freebies and contests can generate interest in a book or be used to thank faithful buyers. Many authors put together fun give-aways of dollar-store items to readers who can answer simple questions about the book. This works best, of course, in conjunction with a blog or newsletter. For my upcoming picture book, “Rainbow Sheep” I illustrated the text with felt “paintings.” I plan to make mini rainbow-colored sheep out of felt to give away at readings and over the internet for contests. I think it’s important to keep the freebies fun and relevant to the story. You can see some samples of my fiber art at (this website will be the eventual home for “Rainbow Sheep” as well.)


  1. Write, write, write: This might not seem like a promo idea, but I believe that the single best tool in a writer’s promotional kit is her ability to write. Just like any other product, your writing can benefit from name-branding. A person who is browsing in the bookstore or online is more likely to pick up a book with a name that is familiar. So how do you brand your name? Write, write, write. Submit, submit, submit. Not as easy as it sounds. I’m terrible for overloading myself with the whole business of writing. We all do it: the writers’ groups, chat groups, blogs, newsletters, conventions…it goes on and on. Take time away from those lures to write everyday! Never turn down an offer to write for somebody’s newsletter, blog or website. Write flash fiction and short stories and submit them often and repeatedly. Even non-paying markets have the benefit of advertising your name. If you have a hobby or particular skill, find magazines that specialize in your interest and write for them. Even book reviews on Amazon and other sites can help get your name out there. In the past few months, I have written articles for Michael Geffner’s newsletter, two articles on needle-felting for and flash fiction for Pen Pricks, Flash Shot, Twisted Tongue and Drabblecast. Some of these are paying markets; the others top notch advertising of the Kim McDougall brand name.


Jan Verhoeff, from All about Marketing Online -

agrees with Hope, Jill and Kim about the value of article marketing. Jan adds that she is “…an active participating member of several online groups and networks. I often give them links and ask for referrals or offer them various incentives to purchase my information or join my marketing list.” Jan also stresses the importance of maintaining that marketing list, “…a list of targeted visitors to my website, who are interested in reading my work over the years, and that list will often buy about anything I put before them. I'm very careful to maintain that trusting relationship. Marketing to my list offers a venue for putting my work out there, and getting reviews and referrals.”


Karina Fabian, editor of Infinite Space, Infinite God, suggests using media releases as a low-cost way to promote a writer’s work.  "For, say half an hour’s work (finding addresses and writing the media release), I can potentially reach thousands,” Karina says. She also advocates sending sell sheets (a single sheet with cover art, blurb, review and ordering information) to bookstores, or taking them to conventions and book-signings. Karina believes virtual book tours, while time-consuming, “…pay off in terms of exposure… but it’s hard to tell exactly how much (income) they generate.” She offers a virtual book tour mini-class at her website,


There would be little point in discussing frugal tips for writer promotion without consulting the Frugal Guru, Carolyn Howard-Johnson. Carolyn, author of The Frugal Book Promoter and The Frugal Editor, ( ) shares her three favourite frugal ideas for promotion. Don’t miss her special offer for readers below!


Carolyn says:


  1. The number one idea is to edit well. That means everything from your first query letter to your manuscript. First impressions are important to branding. Learn my hard-won secrets in The Frugal Editor: How To Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success.


  1. I love Amazon! I would carve that into the sides of trees if I weren't a tree-hugger. They offer all kinds of perks that help authors not only target readers, but also focus in on the specific reader who might find your book fits them to a "T."  Learn more about that in The Frugal Book Promoter, the chapter on Amazon, of course.


  1. Make book fairs and other events work for you.  These kinds of things are going to cost you a little money so from there it is up to you to make sure you do enough promotion around them to make them worth the money you spend.  Go to for my bookfair-focused blog on making a humdrum event into one that is sizzling hot.  If you want to know more about promotions offered by Authors' Coalition to help make book fairs better, e-mail me at  Be sure to put "SUSAN'S MUSE MARQUEE ARTICLE--Book Fairs" in the subject line.


You don’t need to adopt a life of crime before becoming a successful writer, but you do need to promote your name and your product. When money is tight, a writer needs to work hard and think smart. Every chance you get, seize the opportunity to write and chat about your book, hand out bookmarks and cards, send emails to friends and colleagues. Start a buzz with your website and expert articles. Above all, write and edit well, and soon you’ll reap the rewards of budget promotion.




Have you been to these sites?



InkSpotter Publishing's newest anthology, Holiday Writes, is now available at


Holiday Writes is an eclectic mix of essays, poetry and fiction. It features a host of international writers tackling the various holidays celebrated throughout the year and around the world. Look out for Susan Stephenson’s essay, Australian Christmas Holiday inside.


Interesting article by author Marion Cuba about what worked and what didn’t with her book promotion.


That First Line 2008 Fall/Winter Contest

(due March 1, 2008; no entry fee; win $500) 


Duotrope’s Digest


An online database for writers with current markets for short fiction, poetry, and novels/collections. You can search for publications by: genre, length, pay scale, media, submission by post/email, themes, country, word/phrase. You can sort by alpha, payscale, response time and accept/rejection rate. Frequent updates. Access to the database is free.


*Flash Fiction Online* is a new venue that publishes
stories up to 1000 words in length. Pays: $.05/word
for first electronic rights and non-exclusive one-time
anthology rights. See for more


Between the Cracks Contest


Free to enter.


Theme: Big Love, Big Humor.


The winning entry will receive $10 by check or Paypal and a free ebook, The Cross of Tarlis by Julie Darcy (Eternal Press). The winner and runner up will be published in the February issue of Between the Cracks. Entries must be received on or before January 15th, 2008.


Entries will be judged on original use of the prompt as well as Between the Cracks qualities.


Until next month, write on!