Marketing Essentials Every Writer Should Know About

Author and marketing guru (and former WD columnist) MJ Rose capped the day of ThrillerFest sessions off with “Buzz Your Book: And the New Reality.”

… So what’s the new reality?

According to Rose:

  1. No book ever really dies—they can all live on the internet forever.
  2. An old book is a new book to anyone who hasn’t read it before.
  3. No one really cares if a book is new. The key is that it’s good.

So what does all that mean? Rose said that essentially you can promote your book for as long as you want. There will always be new readers out there, and it’s just a matter of reaching them.

With that in mind, here are some marketing essentials from Rose and her co-presenter, publicity expert Meryl Moss. As Rose said, “There’s no one thing you can do to have success, but if you have a plan and you keep doing things, you’ll eventually build to a success.”

A website: But, you just want a simple static page. After all, Rose said, nobody is going to wake up and go on a hunt for an author they don’t know about yet. So save some money on your site so you can spend the rest on other things.

Giveaways: Rose noted that word of mouth is the holy grail of selling books. But, people need to know about your book to spread the word about it. So early on, do some giveaways. Handpick key people who would be good to spread your word to the right readers.

A newsletter list: This is vital. Rose pointed out that people tend to regard collecting email addresses as an antiquated strategy, but they’re wrong. For instance: She collected oodles of MySpace friends, but then MySpace faded into obscurity. Which wouldn’t have happened with email. So collect those addresses, and spread the word when your book is about to debut—after all, she said, presales count toward your first week sales, which publishers have their eye on.

A YouTube channel: Also key nowadays. And, in fact, Rose said there’s talk among marketing circles that YouTube channels will be the next Facebook.

Blogs: Blogs are a simple way to engage with your audience, and anyone can blog. Joint blogs—blogging alongside other authors to expand your collective reach and narrow the workload, also is a great strategy. But, content is key: Rose said you don’t want to have five writers blogging together about “our first novel”—readers don’t want to read about writers writing. Instead, blog on a topical hook that readers care about.

Newsfeeds: Establish yourself as a go-to source on your topic. Rose said to set up a Google Alert ( so that every time your topic is mentioned, Google will send you an email notification. Then, provide those on your blog. Sooner or later, people will come to you for the info, and moreover, will be led to your book.

Flexing your expertise: Moss said to pitch articles on different topics related to your novel. For instance, if your thriller is about China and you’re well-versed on the subject, pitch a nonfiction article on something that hasn’t been written about before—and, of course, at the end of the piece, include your byline with your name and book. Rose added that for example you could do pieces on how Americans order food in China, or even log into Twitter and do a Chinese Custom of the Day tweet.

Pinterest: Pinterest is a social network based on visuals. People basically post images that they like, and then others repost them on their pages, disseminating the image. But authors can take it a step further (as we covered in the September 2012 issue of WD [LINK]): Rose said she has a Pinterest board for one of her characters, one about roses (given her last name), one illustrating the first chapter of one of her books. “It’s really a fabulous thing to explore, and everybody should be looking into it,” she said. At the end of the day, when someone reposts your content, they’re spreading your authorial brand.

Ultimately, as Rose said, “Don’t quit your day job. This really is a lottery.” And when you’ve got a day job, you have money to put into your new book. As a cautionary tale, she added that she was once asked to change something in one of her books that she didn’t want to, but she had to because she was living off her book income. And so she went back into advertising—so she could really write what she wants.

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38 thoughts on “Marketing Essentials Every Writer Should Know About

  1. ilzy

    Thank you for the post! I especially enjoyed those 3 “wise sentences” at the top which are true!
    I see Rose has pointed out newsletter lists – I am currently working on one of those. But I’m struggling to find the perfect email service which would give me all the functionality and be gentle to my budget. Any of the readers, authors could give me an opinion on this? I’m struggling to choose between Mailchimp, Mailerlite and Convertkit. I’d appreciate your help!

  2. rokki

    I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.I’ll use this information for my essays.

  3. brenniewinters

    Good helpful article. I am happy if I sell one book a day and I have been an author since age 12 and that was long ago. Word of mouth has been the best way for me to sell and most of my books are about politics and how to. i recently published a paperback about the life of Lady Gaga-he biography and it should sell as it is fun and interesting to read. I do social media,blog, have a web site and enjoy writing. I come from a family of writers, authors and even journalist teachers. it helps me to write every day and I am taking a course in literature to stay fresh. I have won some awards but do not see myself getting wealthy soon but there is hope. Maybe one of my political books will become a best seller.

  4. loardsmith

    I definitely enjoying every little bit of it. It is a great website and nice share. I want to thank you. Good job! You guys do a great blog, and have some great contents. Keep up the good work.

  5. loardsmith

    Great post full of useful tips! My site is fairly new and I am also having a hard time getting my readers to leave comments. Analytics shows they are coming to the site but I have a feeling “nobody wants to be first”.

  6. mayazoe

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  7. KM Rider

    MJ is awesome! She’s been a mentor of sorts for me and a resource for articles I’ve written about websites author and freelance writers. (Take Your Website to the Next Level, Writer’s Digest 2011)

  8. esparhawk

    I belong to a critique group online (, where I found three chapters of a really great book. After critiquing those first three chapters, the author started posting her manuscript in a private critique queue, to which I was not invited.

    But she already had me hooked. So I started following her Amazon author page, waiting impatiently for the book to get published. When it did, I was an instant sale.

    What a great marketing technique this lady is using. Wow! There are many ways to skin a cat, as the saying goes…


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