Welcome all dreamers, fantasists, bibliophiles, and romantics. Join me Mondays and Fridays for speculation about other worlds, exploration of the human heart and soul in fiction and fact, sojourns in history and science, advice and tidbits in the realms of story, and thoughts on everything in between...

Friday, September 27, 2013

Worldcon Treasures: Self-Promotion: Everything You Know About It Is Probably Wrong

Last Friday, we began a series of posts where I share the treasured bits of knowledge and experience I gathered from agents, editors, and authors at this year’s Worldcon in San Antonio, Texas, Lone Star Con 3. We began this series with How to Obtain an Agent. Today, we’ll shift to a new topic: Self-Promotion: Everything You Know About It Is Probably Wrong.

Now, that title, taken directly from the name of the panel at Worldcon, might be a bit of an overstatement, but there’s so much information out there, sometimes it can be difficult to decide who to believe. On this panel spoke Julie Barrett, Gini Koch, Joshua Bilmes, Genese Davis, and Teresa Neilsen Hayden. All have promoted themselves successfully, made mistakes, and seen others do the same. Combined, they offered a great depth of real world wisdom that I hope you too will glean something new from.

So, with no further ado, here are the notes I took from the pearls they offered on this panel, organized and far more legible.

Social Media

  • When using social media, your focus is not promotion, so remember the following:
    • Social 1ST
    • Media 2nd
    • Promotion 3rd
  • People engage in social media because they either like you or your books


  • It should accomplish multiple things, be versatile.
  • Keep the design simple. Think of the Nike swoosh. The eye can take it in all at once and people remember it.

Press Releases

  • They don’t do any good unless the person has your book in hand. (By this, I interpret that to mean a potential buyer. Let’s face it, we get advertising thrown at us so much, we remember very little of it.)

Book Cover

  • Cover is key.
  • The cover is like a poster to sell your book, not an image of your book.
  • A book’s cover and title have only 1 job: to get the person to pick up your book.
  • The back cover copy/blurb has only 1 job: to get the person to open your book.

The Biggest Reasons People Buy Books, in order:

  • 1st: They’ve read and liked the author before.
  • 2nd: The book was recommended to them by someone they know.
  • 3rd: They liked the cover.

Book Trailers

  • Some say they’re a waste of time.
  • The new--some say more effective way--to do it is with live action, which brings the book to life.
  • Joshua Bilmes suggested that trailers may be generational. The older generation tends to like them far less than the younger. The only trailer he likes is the one for Brandon Sanderson’s Steelheart.
  • One audience member suggested that we should call book trailers “Book Teasers.” Most everyone, including me, thought this a much more appealing name. After all, that is what the purpose of it is, to tease a potential reader into checking out the books.

Other Helpful Things

  • Teresa participates in Absolute Write, which is full of additional advice.
  • People don’t place as much value in things they don’t pay as much for.
  • Talk to people about themselves.
  • Baen is a great example of using free books.
  • Create things online that are in the book if possible.
  • Whatever you may hear, publishers do promote books. Tor is a great example.
  • Do what you enjoy.
  • Think like a reader sometimes.
  • Be open.

This Monday, we’ll resume our read of Across the Nightingale Floor by Lian Hearn, which includes writing tips using Hearn as an example.

Next Friday, Mae Clair will be joining us for an interview on her new release, Twelfth Sun. Think Clue and Indiana Jones meets contemporary romance.

The Friday after that, we’ll pick back up with Worldcon Treasures and go over the business side of writing. Until then, have a great weekend!


  1. Great post, Laura. It sounds like you left Worldcon with a host of information. When it comes to Book Trailers, I'm not much of a fan. I made one for WEATHERING ROCK, my first novel because so many other authors seemed to be doing them and even my publisher was promoting them, but I don't think I'd do a second one. As a reader, I rarely ever look at a trailer, but a book cover - - I completely agree that it's a poster for the book. In fact, I'd switch number 2 and 3 around in order when it comes to why I buy books. :)

    Thanks for the tips!

  2. Wonderful post, Laura. Thank you so much for taking the time to write up your notes and share them. This is so informative!