Saturday, March 5, 2011

ASK PZM: Mar 2011

Q. Authors can't possibly do it all in this age of self-marketing. Is there a list of must-dos?

I’m going to give you what I think is a must-do list, keeping in mind a self-published author who has a limited amount of money to spend on marketing.

First, let me tell you what I think you should no longer be spending money on: bookmarks and postcards.

I mistakenly spent money on this in the spring of 2008 for my novel “Mrs. Lieutenant” because this is what my Jewish holiday book co-author and I had done in 1992.

In 1992 it made sense when we sent postcards to Jewish organizations throughout the United States.

In 2008 I unexpectedly learned about online book marketing when “Mrs. Lieutenant” was a semi-finalist in the first Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award competition. That’s when I realized how much cheaper and more efficient it was to use online marketing. (And I still have all those postcards and bookmarks I purchased for the novel.)

One offline item still worth having is business cards with the URL of the book author website. You want something to hand out when you talk to people in person. But I think it is better to hand out something that people are still used to getting rather than hand out a postcard that they probably don’t know what to do with.

And now we come to what I consider the most essential element of all book author marketing – the foundation for everything else:

An effective book author website that you control yourself (see below). In addition, this is a website that is NOT built to win a design contest (please, no Flash) but is built to be user friendly and search engine friendly and attract people to your book.

I walked away from the first website for “Mrs. Lieutenant” because, each time I wanted a new page added, I had to wait for the webmaster to do this – and pay him for his time. (Yes, it is fair to pay him for his time.)

I wanted to be able to do this for myself.

And just when I wanted to be able to do this, some smart people had figured out how to use WordPress blogging software to create websites with static pages as well as a blog section.

The co-founder of my company (and my younger daughter) Yael Miller taught herself how to build WordPress websites and then built a WordPress website. (She also built a WordPress website for her own Middle Grade novel project – see

While you probably don’t want to spend the time to learn how to set up your own self-hosted WordPress site, once it is set up and you have learned to do such simple tasks as clicking the button that says “add page” – you are in control of your own site.

Of course on that site you have, at the minimum, a link to the book’s Amazon sales page and questions for book club discussion. (Yes, write these questions.)

Plus now you have a URL to use throughout the online universe to encourage people to visit your book author website and learn more about your book.

For example, if you leave a comment on someone’s blog post, you can put the URL of your website underneath your name at the end of the comment. Be sure to include the http:// because some sites require this in order to make the link hot.

And now this link can be used on your Twitter profile, your Facebook personal profile, a Facebook (business) Page, your LinkedIn personal profile, and your YouTube channel (where you upload a 1-2 minute video of you talking about your book).

All of these sites are important for interacting with your prospective book fans. But you don’t have to start participating on all of them all at once. You can add a new social media site to your repertoire one at a time.

Do take advantage of the free options at – a company I’ve been connected to (NOT financially) for two years. Starting in January BookBuzzr (see @BookBuzzr on Twitter) has been offering free social media webinars for authors. You’ll find good book author marketing content on the company blog at

Finally, as you are a writer, I would highly recommend you yourself blog.

While nonfiction authors appear to have an easier time finding a topic on which to blog (whatever their book is about), fiction authors (hey, you are on Joylene’s blog right now) have numerous topics on which to blog.

Author Carolyn Howard-Johnson and I have written a free report on ideas for blogging if you are a fiction writer. You can get the report at (yet again a WordPress website built by Yael).

I’ve covered a great deal of information in this guest post. Just take it slowly and be willing to learn as you go along. (I did say on a BookBuzzr panel about Twitter to NOT wait until your book comes out to start harnessing social media opportunities. Instead start now making online relationships.)

And if you get the free report that Carolyn and I wrote, you’ll be on the Miller Mosaic email list. You’ll get about one email a week from me with information that can help you use social media to market your books.

The most important thing? Start now doing something from the above “list” that will get you in front of your prospective book fans.

Phyllis Zimbler Miller (@ZimblerMiller on Twitter) is the co-founder of the social media marketing company Miller Mosaic, LLC.  The company also builds WordPress websites for clients – see – and Phyllis is working on the novel “Lt. Commander Mollie Sanders” (see – yet another WordPress book author website built by Yael).


  1. A very useful post, Joylene. Hugs..

  2. Hi Carole. Bet you could write a book on your marketing adventures. Are you taking the day off? Hope so. I'm exhausted just thinking about your schedule. Thanks for taking time to stop by. It's so appreciated.

  3. Thank you for these tips.
    Particularly the one about post cards. I've been reading so much about them lately, and just wasn't sure what I would do with them. If I were attending a conference, I could see the usefulness of something to give away as promos. But otherwise? I just wasn't sure?

    Enjoyed your advice!

  4. Thank you, Carol, for stopping by. When i read the part about the postcards and bookmarks, I was surprised too. But it makes sense. I wish I could figure out my computer enough to make my own, but it's a b/w laser.

  5. Great post! I hope to have a professional website one day as well!

  6. I know you will, Lauren. Your blog is already very kewl and easy to read.

  7. Lots of great information. I found this interesting and helpful. Thanks!

  8. I'm so glad, Laura. Ask PZM is one of my favourite columns. Have a wonderful week!

  9. Thanks to all of you who left a comment that you appreciated this advice! I know how difficult it is to decide how to spend a very small book promotion budget.

    I'm trying something new thanks to featuring my novel as the first book in the club.

    You might like to check out the recording of the webinar we did today at


  10. UGH! I think I'll just keep writing, put out more books & let the chips fall.... ABSOLUTELY DETEST PROMOTION & don't have the time to spare. I used to post on my blog frequently - not now. Lucky to post once a month. It was a great post, but I'm buried.

  11. @Phyllis, thanks for the info. I'm checking the site out first thing tomorrow. Have a super-duper week.

    @Dave, you're not alone. Lots of writers have day jobs. You do what you can when you can. Meanwhile, you have friends who'll be there when you need 'em. Just shout.

  12. Lots of good advice here, thanks! I started wondering about the value of postcards last year when I received one from an author I follow. I used it for a bookmark. LOL. I do quite like bookmarks, however, ones that can double as business cards... a little smaller than traditional bookmarks, but a little bigger than the average business card, combining the info. That's what I'd like to have to distribute.

  13. Carol --

    May I offer a cautionary note about a business card that is either larger or smaller than the usual size?

    When people are exchanging business cards at a networking event, they are collecting several cards at once.

    You don't want a card that is so small it gets lost in someone's pocket or purse. And you don't want a large card that is too awkward to fit into someone's pocket or purse.

    In addition, a bookmark offers valuable "real estate" for promoting your book (including at least one testimonial) as well as your social media accounts if you have these, etc.

    If you have need of both a business card and a bookmark, I would consider getting these as separate items rather than trying to combine two functions into one.

    P.S. And whatever you do, please don't use am extra small type size. You want to make it easy for people to read what is on your business card or bookmark.

  14. Hi Carol. I like bookmarks too, until it comes time to pay for them. That's why I wish there were a way to do them free. For Dead Witness I received a discount because I had the printers advertise on one side.

  15. Phyllis, I had the same amount of business cards and bookmarks made when I first published Dead Witness in 2009. A year later I still had a box of business cards, but less than 30 bookmarks left. Readers, given the choice took the bookmark every time. And it was nice to add a bookmark to the book when I shipped them out of the country. But I still wish they weren't near as expensive.

  16. Joylene --

    Did you do the bookmarks in black-and-white or color? And was there a difference in price?

    I'm still not convinced that any of these physical promo items are worth the money if an author has a small promo budget.

  17. I'm sure you're right, Phyllis. The cost is far too expensive. I think it's something to do with having a pretty thing to hand out. Seeing your cover on a bookmark has a lot to do with it. The whole experience makes for a surreal feeling. "Wow, I really do have a novel in print!" But you're right, it's not worth the money if your budget doesn't cover it.


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