Book Promotion: Do This, Not That – April 2017

by | Apr 12, 2017

By Amy Collins

This month, three separate authors who launched books recently gathered together and shared some great stories. Use their tales and learn from their experiences!

Laura Heffernan – America’s Next Reality Star

What She Did

She spent a lot of money on bookmarks and other printed SWAG. Laura was told that authors buy and give away bookmarks and print material during their book launches. Because she was promoting online these printed SWAGs were pretty much useless. She was told that she could “give away” the items as part of her promotions to bookstores and readers.

What Happened

Laura did a giveaway campaign for the bookmarks and only three people asked for them. It was an expensive and costly use of resources. She could have used that money to give away more ebooks to readers.

What She Should Have Done Instead

If she used the money spent on printed materials (that even when taken, get thrown away) on online promotion and ebook giveaway, then she would have found more new readers. She is now, giving away Amazon gift cards. THIS use of marketing dollars gets her a lot more attention and she will be focusing on print and ebook giveaways in the future.

Remember what I always say… “Nothing sells a book like a book!”

Martha Miller – Times New Roman

What She Did

She choose Extended Distribution on CreateSpace. CreateSpace has an option in their distribution page that offers to make your book available to bookstores and libraries. She checked the box so she could have her books sold into those markets.

What Happened

After she checked the Extended Distribution option, she called bookstores all over the US. She was told over and over that the bookstores would not order from Amazon-owned CreateSpace. She also found out that the discount offered through Extended Distribution is so low and non-returnable that stores won’t take it. CreateSpace uses IngramSpark to offer the books in this program to bookstores and libraries. But they use a very low discount and make the books “non-returnable” (unable to be returned.) Martha shares:

The non-returnable factor was just awful. B&N told me she loved the book, but she could not order it because she could not return it.

What She Then Did Instead

She fixed it. She signed up for IngramSpark AND kept CS for Amazon. She unchecked the Extended Distribution option and contacted CreateSpace and requested that they remove the book from their IngramSpark account. Then she used the transfer form found here:

Melinda Martin – Hope for the Heart of the Homeschool Mom

What They Did

Melinda is an accomplished author and a graphic designer. She has seen a number of authors make the same errors and when asked which one was the most frequent, she had this to say:

They used an image for the cover that they were emotionally attached to.

At the core of our beings, we are very self-reliant on our own opinion. We often want what we want because we want it. Because we like something, we seldom give a thought to if it is the best choice. Authors are not immune from this creature-concept.

What They Should Have Done Instead

Let their designer design. Being a professional author means that they (and their editors) should write for their audience, the author/publisher should work together with their designer to create a cover with only the audience in mind.

Not all “emotional attachment” images are bad for a cover design (but most are.) Before settling it in their hearts that “I am using this photo on my cover,” the author should have kept a more realistic approach. “I love this photo, and I would like to be able to use it if at all possible, but I need to get a professional designer’s opinion first.”

A professional cover designer is going to look for certain elements when she is conceiving the cover: subject placement, color palette, quality of the photo, and that good ol’ standby–gut reaction. Just like you, the author, know when you have written a compelling story, your designer will also have a “this is it” moment when she is assembling your cover.

What They Can Do Now

Start fresh. Perhaps seek out referrals for a new designer. Neither authors nor designers are created equal. You not only want to find a designer that is talented, but you also want one who will be honest with you (without being rude.)

Granted, you may have used a “professional” designer who just did what you told her to do. “I want you to use this photo, use this font, put this here, move this there.” If you are going to start fresh, you will want to work with a designer who is going to be able to stand up for your project, who isn’t going to let you get in the way of what is best for your book. Or who is at least going to be able to advise you against making bad decisions.

So there are my three tidbits for this month. I hope you find them helpful. See you in May!

tbd advanced publishing starter kit


  1. Margaret Lake

    I would like to know the results of Martha Miller cancelling expanded distribution and going with Ingram Sparks.

    • Amy Collins

      Hi Margaret, I will have Martha weigh in here, but I was wondering what sorts of results you were asking about? Financial? Distribution depth? Happy to answer, but I am not quite sure what direction to take the answer.

      • Margaret Lake

        Did the transfer from CS to IS result in expanded distribution sales through B&N? I’m using CS and I do get ED sales and my paperbacks are on the B&N website.

    • Martha Miller

      Hi Margaret,

      I will be able to answer your question better in a few months. I missed a cut off period for making changes by a few days. Changes are effective the first of the following month, so on May 1 I will be able to tell bookstores that Times New Roman is available from Ingram and is returnable. My local B&N is ready to purchase so I’ll be calling to remind her that day, and then calling, calling, calling other bookstores too!

      • Margaret Lake

        Best of luck to you. I’ll look forward to your results.

  2. Kathy Steinemann

    Excellent information, Amy. Thanks. I’ll be sharing this via social media.

  3. Michelle Pavlou

    Thanks for the great info. I do have an added statement about the bookmarks. I think bookmarks have specific uses for writers and if you don’t truly have a need for them, it is an unnecessary cost. My husband has a middle grade book coming out. When he goes to schools for readings, children will not have available cash. But a bookmark that the author personalized with an autograph gets shown to parents. It is tough to throw away anything that is autographed. So odds are, that bookmark will hang around for longer.

    If you haven’t done so already, go to your State’s website and start a company (aka an LLC). Then, make sure you get a resale license. You’ll have to report your earnings on a quarterly basis and collect and pay taxes on books sold. But, you’ll also get the added benefit of being able to purchase items wholesale. All of a sudden, getting thousands of bookmarks printed at cost isn’t so expensive anymore.

    • Amy Collins

      FANTASTIC advice! And yes, bookmarks, postcards and other printed materials DO make sense if you are not an ebook author. Great take on this and I love the idea of getting a resale certificate.

      • Michell Pavlou

        Thanks, Amy. I’m glad that helps. A lot of people don’t realize that a resale license can go a long way. You also don’t have to purchase items related to your book. I have friends who used to use their license to go to the flowermart in L.A. so they could have beautiful floral arrangements at business related events. They would buy flowers wholesale and then do their arrangements when they got home. Think outside the box! Most printing, photo processing companies have special prices for resale. I have a resale license because i am a photographer. My lab also prints good quality card stock business cards, postcards, banners, posters, etc. Think outside the box!

  4. Michael N. Marcus

    Uppercasing “SWAG” makes it seem like acronyms SCUBA and RADAR. It’s not an acronym.

    It used to mean the stuff that burglars burgled. Swag is now slang for promotional products, also known as “tchotchkes,” “trinkets” or “loot” often given away at trade shows, conventions and book signings.

    The Australian song “Waltzing Matilda” mentions a jolly swagman—an itinerant laborer who carried his belongings in a bedroll (“Matilda”).

    I’ve read of SWAG being a back formation of “Stuff We All Get” but I doubt that this explanation is commonly accepted.

    My father was a retailer and often returned from clothing trade shows with lots of “loot” for my sister and me in the 1950s. Typical items were pens, pencils, key chains, small flashlights and Tootsie Rolls.

    Bookmarks used to be common at Book Expo, but they seem to decrease every year. Barnes & Noble stores used to have boxes of promotional bookmarks at the checkout counters, but I have not seen any recently.

    Ebooks don’t use cardboard bookmarks. I distribute business cards for my books that can be used as bookmarks, or to gather crumbs on a tablecloth.

    • Amy Collins

      I am glad you had such a great eye for SWAG/swag. I am glad, to, to hear about your experiences with “swag”… Now I don’t know how to say it! lol…

    • David Todd

      SWAG is also an engineering acronym, for when we do cost estimates for a project. It is a refinement of WAG, which stands for wild-ass guess. SWAG is scientific wild-ass guess. WAG is what we do when we have no earthly idea of what something will cost. SWAG is what we do when we have an earthly idea of what something will cost, but when the thing is still so undefined that you can’t pin a cost down very well.

  5. Anne Hagan

    Re: Expanded distribution at CreateSpace – According to the link you’ve provided from IngramSpark, under ‘CreateSpace Transfers’ the book may not be transferrable.

    “If CreateSpace owns the ISBN or if it is CreateSpace exclusive, it cannot be transferred.”

    if the book was done by an indie who used an ISBN provided by CreateSpace rather than purchasing his or her own ISBN, they’re likely out of luck with any backlist titles already with CreateSpace.

    If we remove expanded distribution, is there any way to buy back rights from CreateSpace?

      • Michael N. Marcus

        Another reason for publishing authors to own ISBNs for their books is to establish the author’s one-person publishing company as the publisher of the book. Otherwise CreateSpace or one of its competitors will be the “publisher of record.”

        This may not matter for some writers, but it does for others.

        I established Silver Sands Books in 2008 with the intention of publishing one book. The number is now over 40. This would not have worked if I used ISBNs from CreateSpace, Lulu and eBookit, who distributed some of my books.


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