I Just Want to Write the Book

By Nancy Cochran

A while back I was talking with a friend about how I was learning to put up my own website, getting a blog, looking into promotional material for the future and researching the market.  She looked at me and said “Why don’t you just write the book and forget the rest.”

I sat there stunned and after a few minutes realized that “just writing the book,” isn’t good enough anymore.  Let me explain.

Throughout the late 70’s, 80’s and even in the beginning of the 90’s, writing a good book was enough to get you a publishing contract and make some money.   Admittedly the business wasn’t as competitive as it is now, and there wasn’t other media that competed against books.  Yet, there was a change in the mid 90’s that by 2006 I realize has made an impact even if people don’t realize it.  And that is self-promotion.

In years gone by, the publisher took care of almost all promotion for you books (now remember there wasn’t much promotion needed, books were flying off the shelves), even some publishers sent you promo materials for any talk you were to give, or to give to your local bookstore, or to give out at signings.  Some author did their own promotional material, but on a much smaller scale than today.  Now, publishers are looking for the authors to do that.  Authors are now more responsible for selling their books and themselves.

More and more publishers are looking for authors who are willing to do promotion on their books, be it by a website, a blog, participate in a publisher sponsored website or blog, or other media.  I’ve noticed a trend lately where if an author doesn’t “promote” herself, that the publisher is more reluctant to renew a contract.

While a part of me understand why an writer doesn’t want to do this, as it takes away from the actually writing of the book, I can also see why its necessary.

There are a few basics things an author can do that won’t cost you a lot of money, just some time and effort.  And I can already hear people saying, “But time is money.”  I agree with you, just think about devoting a few hours a week.  Even ½ hour a day on the some of the basics listed below.


You don’t have to have an elaborate website or a fancy one.  A simple website can go a long way in promoting an author’s books.  You could get away with a website that has your bio, back list of books and upcoming books, plus a guestbook so you know who your readers are.  Make sure to do updates at a minimum every 3 months (4 times a year) to let people know what you’re up to.  There are plenty of sites that have free web hosting, and even software to help you create your own website.

Publisher Blog/Website

Almost every publisher has a website now; make sure you are a link on their website.  And they also have blogs that they invite their authors to participate in.  Some publishers like eharlequin have reader boards, on-line reads and such that they ask their authors to participate in.

Now here are some items beyond the basic’s and can cost you more time and money.

Professionally designed web site

Not all professionally designed websites will cost you fortune.  Many professionals offer their services for reasonable costs.  Plus if you’ve already designed the basic site, they are able to update or redesign much easier.


Not everyone wants to wants to blog and that’s fine.  It is another way to get your name out there.  But only blog if you want to or if you’re not going to update your blog regularly make sure you say that in your blog, because there’s nothing more annoying to a reader than to go out to a blog that haven’t been updated in months.


I didn’t put this under basic, because you have to cultivate readers before you can really use this tool to its fullest potential.  This doesn’t have to be something big.  A simple newsletter announcement when your new book is being released, to announce a book signing, that your giving a workshop, things like that.  And you can do this either by using a Yahoo Group or other list server.

Promo Items

While some people do very elaborate promo items, you don’t necessarily need to do that.  It’s simple and relatively inexpensive to do things like:

Return address label with the name of your book, your name and the ISBN and release date.  You put that on every piece of mail you send out and think about how many people see it.  You never know who reads the books you write.

Business cards/calling cards.  It’s the same concept, the name of your book, your name, ISBN, release date and possibly even upcoming books.  I’ve know people who use these to give out at book signings, workshops, and conferences.  I’ve also seen people who will leave it with the tip at a restaurant.  It’s an easy and quick way to promote your self.


Now these can be a little more expensive depending on what you want.  Again, you can give these out wherever you want.  Grocery store clerks, at a book store, conferences, workshops, to your neighbors, at the day job, anywhere someone needs a pen.

There are more expensive promotions items such as: full color postcards, mouse pads, key chains, magnets, notepads, etc.  But remember the more expensive you get the less money you have.


Many writers run contests on their web sites and offer prizes.

Chat Sessions

Now this could come under basic, but I know that some people are not comfortable doing chat sessions.  Again, this is a way to get your name out there, talk with readers and other writers.  Plus many of the chat session have giveaways to those who attend, usually the author’s participating book.  It’s a great way to pick up a new reader.


Now depending on your personality you may want to do talks or workshops at your local RWA chapter, conferences, at you local library, hold reading groups at a bookstore, on-line workshops, it all depends on you.


I know time is a precious commodity to a writer.  This is where your own determination and drive come into play.  You are in control of your schedule (most of the time anyway).  Decide how much time you can take to spend on the basic items.  The initial set up of a website, getting on your publishers blog, sending a link to your website out to everyone, and cultivating readers for a newsletter may take more time, but once its done, the updates won’t take you any time at all.
You may choose in the beginning to spend 5 hours on Saturday a night between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m. designing your website, because the house is quiet, and you don’t have to get up on Sunday morning.  Or you may spend a half-hour for two weeks straight.  Then you go on to the next non-writing project.

They key is, writing and doing what you need to promote your books and your self.  Being a writer is not easy and as the old cliché goes: “if it was easy everyone would be doing it.” 

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